Köttbullar… These meatballs coming out of Sweden are as famous as IKEA and Abba. So much so that about two million of them are gobbled down each day in IKEA stores alone.
These succulent, juicy, slightly spiced balls are cradled in a rich, buttery, savory gravy. This is seriously something that’s quite high on the indulgent level. That sauce is the BOSS here.
Do it like natives of Scandinavia, serve Köttbullar on a bed of mashed potatoes with plenty of sauce. Don’t forget their beloved lingonberry jam and a sprinkling of parsley. And say Köttbullar correctly, like this:
Yup, we teach you a thing or two… 🙂
Meatballs have been around for ages and transcend cultures, known and devoured in different names. Most of the time they are basically ground meat (one or more varieties) rolled into balls or oblong shapes. They’re bound together with a little egg, milk, and maybe some bread crumbs and seasoned with some herbs and spices.
They can be fried, sautéed or baked. They can be served straight or doused in sauces, soups and gravies. Simple and delicious!
They have different names and variations around the world, from kofte to bitterballen to albondigas to lions head… and so many more. They are enjoyed and celebrated all over the world.
GypsyPlate is looking forward to bringing many varieties straight to your kitchen. All in good time… let’s talk about the Scandinavian favorite today.
What are Köttbullar, AKA Swedish Meatballs?
Every Swede has fond memories of these roundels, growing up with their mom’s homestyle meatballs. They’re the ultimate comfort food, from everyday nights to celebrations and festival times. People take pride stating how their family recipe is the Best, with little nuances passed from one generation to the next.
Simplified, it’s ground meat, mostly beef and pork together (though sometimes veal and venison finds their way in too), seasoned with mild Nordic spices. They’re browned up for a crispy exterior, retaining a juicy and tender inside.
They can be served stand alone or as part of their famous smorgasbord, which is like a Swedish charcuterie board.
They are often served as Köttbullar med graddsas, meaning meatballs with cream sauce. We absolutely love them all soaked in one of the best tasting gravies in the world. They are a One-Pot Genius!
What you need is regular meatball stuff and some more…
- Ground meat – The most common mix is a 50-50 ratio of ground beef and pork. Saying that some recipes have more beef than pork. You can also make them with ground chicken for a lighter dish.
- Binders – Breadcrumbs and eggs (we just used egg yolks).
- Onion – Finely chopped.
- Spices – Garlic powder, allspice & nutmeg.
- Parsley – Finely chopped
- Salt & pepper
- Butter & Olive oil – For frying.
For that out of this world Yummy Sauce
- Beef Broth
- Worcestershire sauce
- Salt & Pepper
Get those meatballs rolling… A few tips and tricks
- Mix in all the ingredients for the meatballs and roll them into nice and tight balls. Make them good and firm rounds so they can retain the shape when frying.
- When you fry your meatballs, don’t overcrowd them. This ensures they get a nice brown sear, instead of steaming.
- To get the more flavors into the meatballs, we suggest using a dash of olive oil and plenty of butter when you fry them. It makes for a nice brown crispy exterior.
- All the brown bits and stickings in the bottom of the pan are like gold to the sauce. They impart not only beautiful color to the sauce, but amazingly delicious flavors.
- Plate your meatballs out onto a bowlful of mashed potatoes. Sprinkle on some green like parsley and some red like lingonberry jam.
- Take a bite… you are already in food heaven!
Can I use a crock pot?
Absolutely, slow cooking makes for extra tender and succulent meatballs. This is also a great way to prepare them ahead of time for a party.
You can first brown your meatballs as you normally would in a skillet to give them a little color. Or for a faster prep, they can be added raw to the crock pot.
Rather than making a roux, make a slurry by slowly stirring the beef broth into the flour. Once this is done add all ingredients into your slow cooker.
Cook 2 hours on high or 4-5 hours on low, until internal temperature of the meatballs is 165°F. You can keep them on the warm setting until ready to devour.
How to cook them in the Instant Pot
Start by browning the meatballs. Set your Instant Pot to Saute mode. Brown up your meatballs in butter and olive oil and then set aside.
Build up your sauce just as you would on the stovetop, omitting the cream.
Add meatballs back in, seal the lid and set on Manual for 8 minutes. Let pressure release naturally for 10 minutes.
Stir in the cream and you are ready for a feast!
How do I make them Keto friendly?
Simple! For the meatballs, replace the breadcrumbs with 1/4 cup almond flour.
For the sauce, replace the flour and butter with 1 cup of sour cream. Rather than making a roux, first stir in the beef broth and get all those bits from the bottom of the pan mixed in. Then just mix in the remaining ingredients.
- Try playing with the meat ratio, or even different ground meats. Accordingly, the taste would vary a bit.
- Some people add milk into their meatball mix to make them juicier. To do this, first mix the milk with breadcrumbs, or even with plain white bread. Soak it a few minutes and then add this mixture to the meat.
- Instead of raw onion, sauté the chopped onion in a little butter till light brown before adding to the mixture. Most of the time, I make some onion free to make Jason happy.
- The IKEA recipe uses a little soy in their sauce, mostly to add in more color. Another option for adding color is a few drops of Kitchen Bouquet.
- Try different sides, like some other form of potatoes or egg noodles. I also like some veggies on the side, like peas, broccoli or pickled cucumber (very common in Sweden).
The cooked meatballs can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 3-4 days. You can freeze for a couple of months, but afterwards the quality of the sauce begins to diminish.
A great option is to make a giant batch, doubling the recipe, and freezing the uncooked meatballs. After forming them, first freeze the meatballs on a tray lined with parchment paper. Once they are completely frozen, store them in freezer friendly ziploc bags.
They last frozen this way for 3-4 months. Whenever you are in the mood for meatballs, you are in for a very quick and easy meal night. Just thaw them in the fridge for several hours before cooking. This is a great meal prep option!
Fun Facts about Swedish Meatballs
1. A few years back, a confession from Sweden hit the world when they announced that Swedish Meatballs are not actually Swedish. They have their origins in Turkey, where they are known as “kofte”.
The version we call “Swedish” are actually based on a recipe King Charless XII brought home from his exile in Istanbul in 1713. Some felt heartbroken about this surprise, while others celebrated the truth coming to light.
2. IKEA believed that their customers shouldn’t have empty stomachs while doing their furniture hunting. Keeping that in mind, they wanted to offer a quintessential Swedish food with a budget friendly price in their stores. The IKEA Swedish meatballs debuted in stores in the 1980s.
Today they sell for just $5.99 per plate, which comes loaded with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam. Along with the standard meatball, IKEA also offers vegan and chicken options.
3. What is lingonberry jam, you may ask? It’s Köttbullar’s favorite condiment. Please don’t skip it. Its tart sweetness is a perfect compliment to the savory gravy. Besides IKEA stores, you get this in specialty food stores like Whole Foods (that’s where we got our bottle) or you can order online.
Lingonberries are a wild berry that grow in the cold northern climates of Scandinavian countries. They are similar to cranberries, but more bitter and tart. That’s why they are typically not eaten raw, but turned into jam or a sugared form for the perfect combination of bitter + tart + sweet.
Besides meatballs, it is often served with other savory Swedish dishes like stuffed cabbage rolls, potato pancakes or fried herring.
4. The Swedish word “Köttbullar” first appeared in print around 1754 in Cajsa Warg’s cookbook. She is one of the famous and legendary cooks in the Swedish history.
Well, well… I’m sure many of you might have jumped straight to the recipe after seeing how amazing and delicious these meatballs look in my bowl. I don’t blame ya… As long as you keep on coming back to GypsyPlate. That’s the only thing I want out of you besides trying our food and letting us know how you like it.
Give this a try once and you are going to end up just like us… whenever you think of meatballs, you are going to go the Swedish way… 🙂 … Köttbullar way!!
Köttbullar, on my Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
Try these other great comfort foods from around the world!
Cajun Shrimp and Grits
Loaded Cauliflower Soup
Fasolada (Greek Bean Soup)
Grillades & Grits
Kottbullar (Swedish Meatballs)
These Swedish meatballs are the ultimate comfort food. Tender, perfectly cooked meat spheres smothered in the most delectable sauce. You'll keep coming back for more!
- 1 lbs ground beef
- 1 lbs ground pork
- 1/2 cup bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
- 1/2 tsp allspice powder
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp butter, for frying
- 1 Tbsp olive oil, for frying
- 4 Tbsp Butter
- 3 Tbsp flour
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tsp mustard
- Salt & pepper to taste
Stove top directions
- Mix in all the meatball ingredients except butter and oil and mix well. Roll them into meatballs.
- Heat olive oil and 2 Tbsp butter in a skillet and place meatballs without crowding them and fry till golden brown on all sides. Plate them out and set aside.
- In the same pan, melt remaining 4 Tbsp butter. Gradually stir in flour to create a roux. Cook until flour starts to brown.
- Slowly stir in beef broth, mixing all those bits stuck to the pan into the sauce.
- Add in cream, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes, until sauce starts to thicken up.
- Add in meatballs. Simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking.
- Serve it over bed of mashed potatoes. Garnish with chopped parsley and lingonberry jam.
Crock Pot directions
- Mix all meatball ingredients, omitting butter and oil. Roll them into meatballs.
- Optional: If you want to add a little color to the meatballs, you can sear them in a skillet with oil and butter.
- Make a slurry by slowly stirring beef broth into flour in a bowl. Mix in remaining sauce ingredients.
- Place meatballs in crock pot and add in sauce mixture.
- Cover and cook on high for 2 hours or low for 4-5 hours, until internal temperature of the meatballs is 165°F.
Instant Pot directions
- Set your Instant Pot to Saute mode. Add butter and olive oil, then and meatballs. Cook for a few minutes to brown them up, then remove and set aside.
- Add remaining butter to Instant Pot. Once melted, gradually add flour to create a roux.
- Stir in beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and pepper. Mix well, making sure to get the bits stuck to the bottom mixed into the sauce.
- Seal lid of the pressure cooker.
- Set to Manual setting for 8 minutes, then allow pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes.
- Remove lid and stir in cream.
- This recipe can be made Keto friendly. Replace the bread crumbs with 1/4 cup almond flour. For the sauce, omit butter and flour and replace with 1 cup sour cream. rather than creating a roux, simply mix all sauce ingredients together at once.
Nutrition InformationYield 8 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 579Total Fat 44gSaturated Fat 21gTrans Fat 1gUnsaturated Fat 19gCholesterol 206mgSodium 801mgCarbohydrates 10gFiber 1gSugar 2gProtein 34g
Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.
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2 thoughts on “Köttbullar (Swedish Meatballs)”
This was AMAZING! A-MAZ-ING. I ate so much I shocked myself. This is absolutely goi going not our family meal recipe rotation of regular meals!
Hey! Interesting take on the Swedish meatball. I do regret to inform you that not only is a lot of technique missing for these to actually be Swedish meatballs but also key ingredients.
Not only is the bread crumbs not soaked in cream but creams is entirely missing from the recipe and so are cloves. It also is not mentioned that the onion is supposed to be finely minced and cooked before adding to the mixture. (Using garlic powder is unorthodox but it’s tasty so who cares)
You also put it down to two egg yolks, whereas this is preferential it should be noted that traditionally whole eggs are used.
Leaving out the key ingredients of creamed bread crumbs, cloves and cooked onion you are missing out on complexities and textures of actual Swedish meatballs by making them this way.
For the technique that’s missing: it’s the actual mixing of the ingredients with the meatballs. The mixture should end up almost like a pâté that naturally can settle into a shape in your hand. When it comes to Swedish meatballs, this technique is basically what makes it what they are. You want to work your meat mixture until it’s quite smooth and almost like a tender meat batter or loose dough.
It should also be noted that the ingredients listed for a “gräddsås” are not actually what you would put into a cream sauce. (Although sauce doesn’t necessarily change the dish entirely)
A more traditional (although not old) cream sauce would be consisting of making a roux with a very small amount of flour and butter, then adding heavy cream, mushroom soy sauce (also known as chinese soy sauce in Sweden), calf bouillon, white pepper and some parsley for garnish. You also sometimes add blackcurrant jelly in a small amount (about a teaspoon) to the sauce and mix it in.
And to end it all: this dish MUST be served with all the balancing acts of the key flavour players when you’re plating it.
Lingonberries, potatoes, meatballs and pickled cucubmer. The pickled cucumbers and the lingonberries are extremely important to balance out the dish, the bitterness from the lingonberries and the sourness from the pickled cucubmers to a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to enhancing the heavy meatballs.
I’m very happy that people from outside of the nordic kitchen are starting to embrace and adapt some of our dishes but I feel like they are doing themselves and everyone else a disservice by not providing the correct information about technique and ingredients.