Monday, June 18, 2012

Swedish meatballs: A classic dish for the Grand Tour

Because this Friday is Midsummer Night's Eve in Sweden, I decided this week would be a great time to teach and learn more about Sweden during my son's and my Grand Tour summer project. Obviously I know a lot about Sweden, having spent much of my childhood and some early adulthood there, but it's always valuable to approach your own country or city as though you were a tourist and knew nothing about the place. You can often learn things that you never knew before. And it can be a lot of fun.

So I started doing some planning and research, trying to figure out what to serve for Midsummer, but also what we were going to eat throughout the week. Swedish meatballs were one obvious choice (who doesn't think of Swedish meatballs when they hear the words "Swedish food"?). 

Now, Swedish meatballs is one of those dishes that every cook does in his or her own way. Similarities exist among them all (they are all recognizably Swedish meatballs), but each recipe has its own tweak. In some cases, meatballs are served with a creamy brown sauce, as I have done here. Some people prefer a thin beef broth with some chopped onions. And sometimes the meatballs aren't served with any kind of sauce at all, which is usually the case at a smorgasbord (cleaner to snag one with a toothpick that way).

And the accompaniments vary a bit as well. Boiled potatoes are definitely typical. (By the way, I learned a nice tip about adding dill to the cooking water from this Swedish food blog.) Many serve their meatballs with lingonberry sauce, which is very good. But I usually prefer to serve mine either with pickled beets or with Swedish cucumber salad. The acidity of the pickles combines so well with the richness of the sauce.

Most Swedish meatball recipes start with a mix of ground beef and ground pork, but I don't see any reason to get too hung up on that. If you've only got some ground beef, use that. Heck, I am sure that the addition of ground lamb would be tasty too.


  • 1 lb ground pork     
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • about 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 tsps salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley (or 1-2 Tbsp chopped fresh, if you have it)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1-1 1/2 cup beef broth or stock 
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
  • Additional parsley, salt, and pepper to flavor the sauce

  1. Combine the ground meats, egg, bread crumbs, onion, salt, pepper, and parsley in a bowl. Have a plate ready to receive the prepared meatballs. 
  2. With clean, bare hands, knead the ingredients in the bowl until they are just evenly incorporated. There should be no major clumps of ingredients, but you don't want to overdo it either. 
  3. Roll the meatballs by picking up about one heaped tablespoon of the meat mixture (or thereabouts) and rolling it between your hands until it comes together into a ball. Once again, don't overdo this step. They don't have to be perfect and the more you work them the drier the meatball will be. Make sure your meatballs are pretty even in size.  
  4. Continue rolling until you have run out of meat mixture, and you have a plate full of meatballs. 
  5. When you have finished rolling your meatballs, heat the butter in a large pan over medium high heat. When the butter is foamy and starting to brown a bit, add half the meatballs to the pan. Roll them around from time to time, cooking them until they are brown all around and no longer pink in the middle (check by cutting one of them open). (Should take about 10 minutes.) 
  6. Remove the first batch from the pan (either set these aside for another time and purpose, such as a meatball sandwich, or add them back to the sauce at the end). Repeat the cooking process for the second batch of meatballs. 
  7. When the second batch is cooked through, add two tablespoons of all-purpose flour to the pan. Roll the meatballs in the flour until it soaks up the grease in the pan and let it cook for a minute or two. (This is probably weird, but I love the smell of hot flour in a pan.) 
  8. Add the beef stock and the vinegar. Lower the heat if it boils up too fast. Let the sauce cook until it's quite thick. If it gets too thick, just add a little more broth or cream. 
  9. Lower the heat and add the cream or half-and-half to the sauce. Taste the sauce and add salt, pepper, and parsley as needed. Add the first batch of meatballs back in at this point if desired and incorporate them into the sauce. Serve with potatoes and pickled beets, Swedish cucumber salad, or lingonberry sauce (if you can find it).      


  1. I adore Swedish meatballs, but only homemade. I really am not a fan of people buying the bag of frozen meatballs at the grocery store. They really are not that hard to make:-) Your recipe looks full of flavor, and really delicious! Take care, Terra

    1. Thanks Terra, they are very yummy. I prefer homemade too. The texture of storebought is just too weird.

  2. Thanks Tora, I loved these homemade Swedish meatballs. Just wondering is the plate (meatballs) in the picture made by Gustavbergs Proslin Factory? Like the design of the plate it suits the food served on it.