From my Minnesota kitchen, this authentic Swedish Meatballs recipe is easy to make and BETTER than the IKEA version. A traditional family favorite! This uses oats instead of bread making it gluten-free…score! Note: this is the authentic 1/2 ground lamb and 1/2 ground beef recipe, most often my family prefers all ground beef which works great!
Ole and Lena were eating dinner when Ole yelped and exclaimed…”Lena, vat did ya put in da food, it’s dam spicy!”. Lena said “Dat neighbor down da street gave me something and told me it would make da food da best food we ever had. Cripes, I knew he vas no good.” Ole…” What vas da spice?”. Lena…”Pepper.”
And that, my dear friends, sums up the whole spice profile of Swedish cooking. Okay, so there IS pepper and salt used in Swedish recipes. But that’s about all the spices good, traditional Swedish recipes have. They tend to be very bland by most other cuisine standards.
How do I know this? Well, I worked in a local cafe for quite sometime as a teenager in a MN town called Mora. Mora is all things Swedish. Mora is the home of a gigantic Dala horse, and a Mora clock commemorating the town’s Swedish roots. Mora’s sister city and namesake is Mora, Sweden. Mora DOES Swedish. And that little local cafe I worked at knew how to cater to its locals! Which meant it knew Swedish dishes inside and out.
At that cafe, I learned how to make many a Swedish recipe. Yes, even lutefisk. Gah!! Try getting that smell out of your clothes!
Note: traditional Swedish Meatballs require grated or minced onion, not chopped. My kids laugh at me when I’m sitting and grating onion. But, it’s totally worth it!
AND…AND…Nate is 1/4 Swedish. I remember when we first married and I met his great-uncles Raymond and Russell. They were 100% Swedish, spoke Swedish, cooked Swedish, and one was dressed in overalls every time you saw him. And they were huge, tall men. Nate’s grandpa and these great uncles were children of Swedish immigrants.
Quite a few years back Nate’s great-uncle was becoming too elderly to stay in his home by himself and wanted to clean out some of his belongings. I was utterly thrilled to be able to get one of the trunks that traveled with the family on the boat from Sweden. That, along with an original Swedish hymnal and Bible are treasures in our home. The stories and history those items have must be incredible!
Note: soak your oats in milk for a few minutes to help give the oats more sticking power and soften them up.
Nate’s parents stick to meat and potatoes, salt & pepper as the only spices, and lots of cream in their dishes. Standard Swedish cooking. I am often looking for the salt and pepper shakers when we are at their home for dinner. The Swedish roots are strong with those two :).
Swedish Meatballs have their roots as leftovers. No really, it’s true! The meat came from whatever scraps of meat and fat were leftover from the week, and then ground. Which is why Swedish Meatball recipes feature a blend of multiple meats. Onions were readily available because of the ease of storing them in the winter. Breadcrumbs were the leftover pieces of bread that had become stale or not used. And cream? Well, what is a Swede without good cream?
Truly, Swedish Meatballs are the ultimate in leftover use!
Why did they cook them in a pan, you wonder? Well, I’m thinking that they weren’t terribly concerned about perfect ball shapes for their leftovers. AND…ovens. Yeah, they weren’t quite as available, in that time, as a plain ol’ fire or cooktop.
Traditionally, Swedish meatballs use the scrapings of the pan with a bit of cream and flour added to create the gravy that you pour on them. And, of course…serve with mashed potatoes and lingonberries.
Notes about Swedish Meatballs:
- Chilling the meat mixture for about an hour will help the balls hold together while cooking.
- Traditional Swedish Meatballs are soft in texture, this is normal.
- Balls that are only 1 inch in size is traditional. Probably because of how quick they were to cook.
- Traditional Swedish Meatballs aren’t really balls. More like triangles. They are cooked on a side and then turned, resulting in more of a triangle shape. Perfect.
- Traditional Swedish Meatballs are rather bland, almost sweet (because of the nutmeg) in flavor. Feel free to adjust the recipe as you prefer.
This is a larger recipe because…leftovers! I make this large batch and freeze about 1/2 for a later meal. Soooo good!
traditional Swedish Meatballs
- 3/4 pound ground beef
- 3/4 pound ground lamb (totally sub out beef, if you like)
- 1 1/4 cup half & half
- 3/4 cup oats
- 1 egg beaten.
- 1 tablespoon butter.
- 1/2 onion grated
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons pepper
- Put the milk into a large bowl, add the oats, set aside.
- Grate or mince the onion.
- In a large skillet melt the butter and add the minced onion. Cook for about 3 minutes.
- Add the onion, meat, egg, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to the oats and milk.
- Mix everything together and then chill in the fridge for about an hour.
- In the same skillet as the onion, melt 4 tablespoons of butter on medium heat.
- Using two spoons, form the meat mixture into 1 inch balls and place into the skillet. Leave room around each meatball.
- Cook on each side turning to the next side after about 2 minutes. Set cooked meatballs into a pan in a low-heat oven while cooking the remaining.
- To make the gravy, mix 3/4 cup of cream with 1 tablespoon flour and slowly stir into the drippings of the pan. If desired, add beef broth for more liquid.