Swedish Meatballs

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Growing up, my family spent every Christmas Eve with friends at the home of our neighbors, Pat and Paul Swanson. Though my family is Jewish, we loved being part of this tradition—the white lights, crackling fire, and, best of all, the annual appearance of Santa Claus. Always on the menu were Pat’s Swedish meatballs, rich mini meatballs made from beef and pork in a light cream sauce. The meatballs were standard cocktail party fare back in the 70s, but they’re still a huge hit at any party. They also make a fantastic and kid-friendly weeknight dinner served over mashed potatoes or egg noodles.

This easy Swedish meatball recipe is adapted from Cooks Illustrated. To achieve the right springy yet delicate texture, similar to everyone’s favorite store-bought Ikea Swedish meatballs and ideal for spearing with toothpicks, the meatball mixture is made from ground beef, pork and cream, and combined in an electric mixer with the addition of baking powder. I know it sounds odd, but it works. That said, if you don’t have a mixer, it’s perfectly fine to mix the meatballs by hand. The original recipe calls for pan-frying the meatballs, but I prefer to bake them; it’s easier and healthier, both welcome over the holidays.

What you’ll need to make Swedish Meatballs

ingredients for swedish meatballs

Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Make the Meatballs

Begin by making a panade, a mixture of bread and cream that binds the meatballs together and makes them tender. Place the cubes of bread in a small bowl. Whisk together the eggs and cream, and add to the cubed bread.

bread for panadeMash with a fork until the bread is dissolved into the liquid.

panade for meatballs in bowl

Next, combine the ground pork, garlic, baking powder and spices in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip until the mixture is smooth and pale. Add the egg/cream mixture and beat until smooth, then add the ground beef.

making the Swedish meatball mixture in a mixer

Mix again until just combined.

Swedish meatball mixture in mixing bowlUsing moistened hands, form the mixture into meatballs and place on a rack over a foil-lined baking sheet. (The rack is useful because it allows the fat from the meatballs to drip down but if you don’t have one, don’t worry about it. It’s fine to just place the meatballs directly on a greased baking sheet.)

Swedish meatball mixture rolled into balls on baking sheet

Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes, until lightly browned. The rack will leave little marks on the bottoms of the meatballs, but they are not noticeable once the meatballs are covered in sauce.

baked Swedish meatballs

Step 2: Make the Sauce

While the meatballs bake, make the sauce. Begin by melting the butter in a large sauté pan, then whisk in the flour.

butter and flour in saucepan

Whisk constantly until the flour turns golden and fragrant, and then add the chicken broth and brown sugar.

chicken broth and brown sugar added to sauce in skilletCook for about ten minutes, until slightly thickened and reduced, then add the cream, soy sauce, and pepper. I know it seems odd to season this dish with soy sauce — think of it as salt but with a bit more flavor.

adding the cream to the Swedish meatball sauce

Let the cream sauce simmer until thick enough to coat a spoon, then add the meatballs and simmer until heated through.

Swedish meatballs in cream sauce in skillet

Spear the meatballs with toothpicks or serve over rice, mashed potatoes or egg noodles. Lingonberry jam on the side is traditional, but it can be hard to find. You can order it online here.

Video Tutorial

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