Swedish Meatballs (homemade Ikea Meatballs)

Author: Marthinus Strydom
Category: Beef
Serves/Qty: 5.00
Heidi Strydom

Succulent meatballs luxuriate in a velvety gravy, infused with the subtle spices that are the hallmark of classic Swedish meatballs. The secret to their exquisite tenderness and unparalleled flavor? Fresh bread soaked in grated onion - a time-honored technique that has earned rave reviews from readers across my meatball recipes. Prepare to be enchanted by this tried-and-true crowd-pleaser.

Marthinus Strydom

The Story

The origins of Swedish meatballs can be traced back to King Charles XII in the early 18th century. During the Carolingian campaign when the king and his army were fleeing after an attack, they were forced to survive on dried meat, bread, and whatever could be foraged. The king's chef created the first version of Swedish meatballs by mixing the dried meat with breadcrumbs and spices.

This practical and tasty meal became popular fare for the king's army. As the recipe spread across Sweden over time, cooks began adding their own regional twists with varied spices and cooking methods.

In the early 20th century, Swedish meatballs emerged as a beloved dish served in households across the country, often for special occasions like Christmas or Midsummer celebrations. Traditionally, they are made with ground beef or a beef-pork mixture, milk or cream, breadcrumbs, egg, and flavored with allspice, nutmeg, and sometimes lingonberry jam.

Swedish meatballs gained international fame in the 1960s when they appeared on the IKEA restaurant menu. As IKEA expanded globally, the dish became an iconic Swedish culinary export adored by many for its homey, comforting flavors.

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Ingredients
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2 slices white sandwich bread (crusts removed, chopped into small cubes)
1 onion
ground beef
ground pork
1 egg
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp all spice powder
¼ tsp black pepper
¾ tsp salt
1 tbsp (3 Teaspoons) oil
unsalted butter ( )
3 tbsp (9 Teaspoons) flour
2 cup (96 Teaspoons) beef broth/stock ((salt reduced), or sub with chicken)
½ cup (24 Teaspoons) heavy / thickened cream ((note ))

Method

  • Grate onion using a standard box grater.
  • Scrape onion and juices into bowl. Add bread and mix well - onion juice should make bread soggy (if not, add a tiny splash of milk). Set aside to soak for 1 minute.
  • Add remaining Meatball ingredients EXCEPT oil. Mix well.
  • Using a tablespoon measure and measure out a heaped tablespoon (or use ice cream scooper), dollop on work surface. Repeat with remaining mixture: 20 - 30 meatballs (depends on size). Then roll into shape.
  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add half the meatballs and brown all over (but raw inside still) - about 3 minutes. Remove onto plate, then brown the remaining batch.
  • If there is lots of oil, pour off excess and discard. Lower heat to medium.
  • Add butter into skillet and melt. Add flour and stir in. Cook for 1 minute.
  • While mixing, add about 1/4 of the beef broth - it will thicken quickly. Then gradually add remaining beef broth, stirring as you go. Switch to whisk if required to make it lump free.
  • When the liquid is simmering, add meatball and juices pooled on plate.
  • Turn up heat slightly to keep it at a rapid simmer. Cook for 8 - 10 minutes or until the liquid thickens into a thin gravy, stirring occasionally.
  • Add cream, simmer for a further 2 minutes then remove from stove.
  • Serve over mashed potato (or Cauliflower Mash for low carb). For a truly authentic experience, add a dollop of ligonberry jam on the side!

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