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How to Make Swedish Meatballs: Classic Köttbulle Recipe

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Aug 14, 2020 • 2 min read

Homemade Swedish meatballs are a classic comfort food.



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What Are Swedish Meatballs?

Köttbulle are Swedish meatballs made from ground beef (and sometimes ground pork) combined with milk-soaked breadcrumbs, onions, and beef broth. The best Swedish meatballs are small, about one inch in diameter. Traditionally cooked over an open fire, Swedish meatballs are now most often fried in a large skillet.

Italian Meatballs vs. Swedish Meatballs: What’s the Difference?

The most obvious difference between the American Italian meatballs served with spaghetti and Swedish meatballs is that Swedish meatballs are typically much smaller (around one inch in diameter). And then there's the flavor: Swedish meatballs are highly spiced, seasoned with allspice, nutmeg, and sometimes cloves or ginger. These are all spices associated with baked goods in the United States, but in Sweden, they can lean savory. American Italian meatballs, in contrast, are typically seasoned with Italian herbs such as oregano. Swedish meatballs are typically served with a creamy sauce made from pan drippings, while American Italian meatballs are often served with a tomato-based sauce.

How to Serve Swedish Meatballs

Almost every Swedish meatball recipe will include an easy recipe for meatball gravy. This tasty Swedish meatball sauce uses the drippings from the pan-fried meatballs to build a creamy gravy sauce. You can serve these smothered meatballs as a main course with boiled or mashed potatoes or egg noodles, or as an appetizer or smörgåsbord. Traditional accompaniments include lingonberry jam (or try cranberry sauce), boiled or mashed potatoes, and pickled cucumber (or other pickled veggies).

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Classic Swedish Meatballs Recipe

Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
45 min
Cook Time
30 min


  • 1 cup panko-style breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup whole milk, warmed
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper (or substitute black pepper)
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ cups beef broth or beef stock (or substitute chicken broth)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup heavy cream (or sour cream)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley (for garnish)
  1. Soak breadcrumbs in milk. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and ½ teaspoon salt and sauté until golden and softened, about 10 minutes.
  2. Transfer onions to a large bowl. Add ground beef, ground pork, eggs, pepper, allspice, nutmeg, and garlic powder. Using your clean hands, mix to combine. Add the soaked breadcrumbs to the meat mixture and mix to combine.
  3. Roll meatball mixture into 1-inch balls and place on a baking sheet. Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Working in batches if necessary, brown the meatballs on all sides, about 8 minutes. (Tongs will help you rotate the meatballs; add butter as needed.) Transfer cooked meatballs to a baking sheet.
  4. Once all the meatballs have browned, make the cream sauce. In the same Dutch oven, reduce temperature to medium heat and add flour to pan drippings, whisking constantly to make a smooth roux. Use a wooden spoon to slowly stir in beef broth. Bring to a simmer, stirring all the while. Once the sauce thickens, add Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce and stir to combine.
  5. Transfer meatballs to the gravy and bring to a simmer. Cover meatballs and simmer over low heat until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add heavy cream or sour cream and stir to coat meatballs. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

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