Swedish Meatballs

These Swedish meatballs are made with beef, veal, pork, allspice, cream gravy, and cranberry sauce. You’ll never go to IKEA for lunch again.

A white tray filled with Swedish meatballs--a combination of veal, pork, and beef--filled with cranberry sauce and topped with a white cream sauce

Before I cook these 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 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 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 meatballs are a first course, but they would make a good main course, too.–Cindy Pawlcyn

Swedish Meatballs

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 50 M
  • 1 H, 15 M
  • Serves 12 as an appetizer
5/5 - 1 reviews
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  • For the Swedish meatballs
  • For the gravy
  • For the cranberry sauce


Make the meatballs

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.

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.

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and lightly brush with olive oil.

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.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned all the way around but still tender and pink on the inside.

Make the gravy

[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.

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

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 meatballs

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

I love how flavorful and simple these meatballs are. 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.

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.


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  1. These 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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. 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).

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