Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs Recipe

Before I cook these Swedish meatballs, I gently press a little indentation in the top of each one, to make a little holder for some of the fruit sauce. After the Swedish meatballs are cooked, I roll them lightly in the “gravy” (as my Minnesota Swedish neighbors called it), then spoon a little cranberry sauce in the indentations. The trick with this Swedish meatballs recipe is to have everything ready and waiting for the meatballs the moment they come out of the oven. I prefer cranberry sauce, but lingonberry jam is classic and any tart jelly or jam would be good. I like the hint of allspice in meatballs. That spice isn’t used much anymore, and it should be. Here, the Swedish meatballs are a first course, but they would make a good main course, too.–Cindy Pawlcyn

LC Face Your Meatball Fears Note

Time to banish forever that fear-instilling nightmare some of us have on a recurring basis—you know, the one in which you’re about to sit down to a plate of dry, tasteless meatballs. (Uh, you have that nightmare, too, right?) We promise, there will be no nightmares with this Swedish meatballs recipe. The only thing left to feel uneasy about is potentially running out of the accompanying gravy—and overcoming that is as simple as doubling the recipe. If your nightmare is more along the lines of someone playing whack-a-mole with your Swedish meatballs, perhaps you’re confusing your dreams with one of the original Swedish chef skits from The Muppets.

Swedish Meatballs Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 50 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Serves 12 as an appetizer


  • For the Swedish meatballs
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons (1/2 to 1 ounce) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup minced yellow onion
  • 2/3 pound ground beef
  • 2/3 pound ground veal
  • 2/3 pound ground pork
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 large egg yolks, or 1 large whole egg
  • Olive oil, for the baking sheet
  • Dill leaves, chopped, for garnish
  • For the gravy
  • 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups homemade chicken stock or canned chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped dill leaves
  • For the cranberry sauce
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen cranberries
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon, preferably organic
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus more if needed
  • 1/4 cup water, plus more if needed


  • Make the Swedish meatballs
  • 1. In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter. When the foaming subsides, add the onion and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. If the pan seems too dry, add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  • 2. In a big bowl, combine the beef, pork, veal, bread crumbs, salt, a few grinds of pepper, nutmeg, allspice, milk, and egg yolks and gently mix together with your hands until the ingredients are evenly distributed. When the onion is cool, work it into the meat mixture.
  • 3. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly brush with olive oil.
  • 4. In a small skillet, sauté a smidgen of the meat mixture and then taste and adjust the seasoning of the mixture accordingly. When you’re happy with the flavor, form the meat mixture into balls 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter and place them on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. You should get about 36 meatballs. Press a little indentation in the top of most or all the meatballs to form a groove to hold the cranberry sauce later.
  • 5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned all the way around but still tender and pink on the inside.
  • Make the gravy
  • 6. [Editor’s Note: If you like gravy, you may wish to double this recipe.] While the meatballs are in the oven, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour and then stir constantly with a whisk or wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth and the color of caramel, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • 7. Still whisking or stirring constantly, gradually pour in the stock in a slow, steady stream and bring to a boil. Add the cream, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the gravy is a nice, thick consistency. Remove from the heat, stir in the dill, and set the sauce aside until you’re ready to serve the meatballs.
  • Make the cranberry sauce
  • 8. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer the cranberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and water, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until every cranberry has burst. Take a taste and, if desired, add more sugar. If the mixture seems dry, add more water. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
  • Serve the Swedish meatballs
  • 9. Bring the gravy back to a gentle simmer. Arrange the meatballs in a dish or deep-sided serving platter and pour some of the sauce over and around the meatballs. Top some of the meatballs with a bit of cranberry sauce (in the little indentation), leaving some without for variety. Sprinkle with the dill. Serve any remaining gravy and cranberry sauce on the side.
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Recipe Testers Reviews

Recipe Testers Reviews
Testers Choice
Anne Petito

Dec 04, 2014

I love how flavorful and simple this Swedish meatballs recipe is. Baking the meatballs in the oven is so much easier than pan-frying, and they still get nice and brown. The gravy is so simple to make but tastes rich while the dill adds a bright flavor and color.

Testers Choice
Natalie Reebel

Dec 04, 2014

I’d never made Swedish meatballs before. Where have they been all my life? These were delicious! The gravy is a snap to make and comes out beautiful. It took about 4 1/2 minutes cooking to achieve the caramel color. The cranberry sauce on its own is tart, tart, tart but is perfect with the finished meatballs. I could only find a 12-ounce bag of cranberries, so I increased the sugar to 1/3 cup and the water to 1/3 cup. Because the meatball mixture was very sticky to work with, I used my cookie dough scoop to form the meatballs and place them on the baking sheet. This worked very well. When all 3 components of the recipe are put together, the result is a stunning presentation with an incredible balance of flavors. The creamy, silken gravy is complemented so well by the tart cranberry sauce, and the meatballs are filled with flavor. These are even better the next day. Watch the heat while cooking the gravy and cranberry sauce. I had to lower it a couple of times.

Testers Choice
Steve Dunn

Dec 04, 2014

Those of you rolling your eyes at the thought of whipping up some Swedish meatballs, please take a breath and hear me out. If, like me, your memories of this classic recipe are dominated by dense, dry, flavorless meatballs drowning in an equally uninspired and overly thick béchamel, then this recipe will be a revelation. Each element of the dish comes together quite quickly and with little fuss. The cranberry sauce requires nothing more than a few quick measures and an occasional stir while it cooks on the stove. The gravy, with only 5 ingredients, demands only about 3 minutes of active time while you darken the roux to a lovely caramel brown; from that point on, an infrequent whisking while it thickens to silken perfection is all that's required. As for the meatballs, they’re perfectly seasoned and tender, delicious on their own and positively addictive with a generous coating of the gravy. My one slight complaint about the dish would be this: the sauce is so good that the next time I make it, I'll be tempted to make a double batch so that there's plenty to be sopped up with the bread that always accompanies our dinner. Put aside your chafing dish nightmares of Swedish meatballs past and make this recipe yourself. You'll be so glad you did.

Testers Choice
E. Wagner

Dec 04, 2014

My family loved this Swedish meatballs recipe so much that I’m thinking of making this for Christmas Eve dinner. The meatballs were light and flavorful (though don't expect a round meatball). The cranberry sauce added just the right amount zing to brighten the flavors. The gravy was deceptively good given its simplicity. I just wish there had been more gravy to go with the meatballs and egg noodles. I also was surprised at how quickly everything came together. It really took no more than an hour to get it on the table, but the dish looked like I had spent all day in the kitchen.

Testers Choice
Charnel Benner

Dec 04, 2014

These Swedish meatballs have an excellent texture—soft enough to be tender yet dense enough to hold together when pierced with a fork. The gravy was easy and excellent and just the right contrast to the meatballs and cranberry conserve. I added a little nutmeg and allspice to the gravy to carry the flavors throughout the dish. Even better the day after!

Testers Choice
Kristen Kennedy

Dec 04, 2014

These Swedish meatballs are simple to make, easy on the eyes, and bursting with flavor. I used 2 pounds meatloaf mix and made bread crumbs from a 2-day-old bâtard. I didn't make the cranberry sauce, as no one in my house will eat it. I questioned whether the gravy should have salt and pepper added, but after tasting it with the meatballs I discovered it's the perfect accompaniment as-is. Definitely the best Swedish meatballs I've made. Lovely over egg noodles (or zucchini noodles for the health-conscious).

Testers Choice
Kim M.

Dec 04, 2014

These Swedish meatballs would be a wonderful make-ahead appetizer or entrée for a party. The flavors only get better after a day or two. I served them with buttered and herbed noodles for dinner. My family snacked on the leftovers throughout the next day. I received a unanimous vote to keep this recipe. If you are a person who loves gravy, make a double recipe of the gravy, but for an appetizer, the single recipe is perfect. When I make this next time, I’ll use beef stock instead of chicken stock. Although the gravy recipe didn’t ask for salt and pepper, I did season it in the end. I also may try these meatballs as a holiday dish and serve them on top of herbed bread “stuffing.” I think with the dab of cranberry and gravy, the meatballs may make a wonderful holiday alternative to turkey.

Testers Choice
Jo Ann Brown

Dec 04, 2014

Meatballs are a wonderful food to explore. Every culture has a version, and then there are the variations of the same recipes within a country, and even variations within a family's repertoire. Sitting at dinner with a Finnish friend, she explained how the Finns don't add allspice to meatballs. “We don't like it,” she said. Ah. There you have it—staunch nationalism over the meatball. Alas, this recipe was delicious—allspice and all. There’s a bit of work involved, but frankly, the cranberries can be done a day in advance if you're sketchy about preparing 3 components for a dish at the same time. Hands down, the gravy was the highlight for me. Perfect instructions and tasted amazing. I served the Swedish meatballs with simple boiled, smashed russet potatoes. I was pleased to experience this food culture.

Testers Choice
Jill R.

Dec 04, 2014

This Swedish meatballs recipe is a little complicated to prepare, but most Swedish meatball recipes are. It's very tart; if you don't like it quite that tart, add more sugar to your taste and perhaps cut back on the lemon a little. The cranberry sauce came together quickly and easily. I found that after simmering for 15 minutes, the gravy wasn't very thick. The flavor of the meatballs was very good. The combination of the meatballs, gravy, and cranberry sauce worked very well together. I decided to complement the meatballs with some homemade egg noodles tossed with butter, dill, and thinly sliced green onion.

Testers Choice
Dawn E.

Dec 04, 2014

When I saw a photo of this eye-catching recipe, I just had to make it for a potluck dinner event I was attending. It received rave reviews. I absolutely love the presentation of this dish and I served it in a similar casserole dish. The flavors of the meatballs, gravy, and cranberry work so well together. I thought this recipe would be on the bland side, but it surprising yields a flavorful and comforting dish. I made a few adjustments: I added the juice of one orange and another 1/4 water and 1 cup sugar to the cranberry recipe to take out the tartness of the cranberries. My only other tweak was to add a tiny grating of nutmeg and black pepper to the gravy and additional salt to taste since I used a low salt chicken stock

  1. Pairing these with cranberry is brilliant, I love that creamy spiced sauce, too!

  2. Jessica says:

    Traditionally, as in Sweden, meat balls are served with lingonberry jam. The best substitution for lingonberries are undoubtedly cranberries. (They’re closely related). Pickled cucumbers also make for a very nice edition. Look up pressed cucumber (pressgurka).

  3. Sarah G says:

    My dad is Swedish and I grew up in NW Ontario (right above Minnesota) so there are lots of Swedes around. The Swedish meatballs I grew up eating (allspice is key!) were delicious and they are definitely a comfort food for me. We generally had them with more of a beef gravy and as an adult I have added cranberry or lingonberry (when I can find it!) sauce. These looks great and I like the looks of the gravy and the indentations! Genius!

    Can’t wait to see my dad at Christmas so we can make our Swedish Rye Bread – it’s not Christmas without it for us. Just too bad they couldn’t get herring this year in Fort Frances. :-( What will we do without our homemade pickled herring and sil salad?!!


  4. Laura says:

    Karma, or is it serendipity, or whatever. I just ran across a jar of lingonberry compote I purchased at IKEA a few months ago and was wondering what I could make with it. Plus, I have to take an appetizer to a party this Friday. And here is this recipe. Yea! I can’t wait to try it.

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