I learned this Swedish meatballs recipe from a friend whom I used to study with. It was the first time I had ever tasted the dish. Verdict? I was stunned by the juicy tender meatballs and the creamy flavorful gravy.
What Are Swedish Meatballs?
Meatballs are one of the most popular foods in America, and Swedish meatballs are one of its varieties.
Traditionally, the authentic Swedish meatballs, or köttbullar, are made with ground meat— usually beef and/or pork, onion, sometimes vegetables, bread and egg, and a few spices. The dish is served with a type of roux-based brown sauce, mashed potatoes, pickled cucumber, and lingonberry jam. The sweet and sour jam might seem like an odd combination for a savory dish, but it balances out the fat of the minced meat.
The roux-based brown sauce is actually similar to American gravy. If you want to see how to make a killer American country gravy, check out my biscuits and gravy recipe right here.
Back to the meatballs. The techniques used in making Swedish meatballs are simple, but there is one problem that many people have encountered: the meatballs keep breaking into pieces and don’t hold their shape. Here’s a few tips on how to prevent that from happening.
How To Keep Meatballs From Falling Apart
If you’ve done a lot of research on meatballs like I have, you’ve probably come across many different theories about why your meatballs keep breaking. Personally I could only think of two reasons: over-stuffing the meat and the wrong binder.
Let’s talk about over-stuffing first. When it comes to making meatballs, there are many ingredients that you will put in the meat to keep it moist and juicy such as eggs, onions, milk, and bread. However, putting too much of them can prevent the meat from sticking together and make it fall apart.
How do we avoid this situation then? Simply add more ground meat to the mixture, mix it again and check. If you form a ball and it still breaks, chances are your binder isn’t working.
In meatballs or meatloaf recipes, binders are those ingredients that act as a glue and keep the meat together. Now some recipes might call for breadcrumbs, or even panko— a type of Japanese breadcrumbs, which I wouldn’t recommend. Panko should be used for coating. This coating, when fried, will become crispy, giving the dish a nice and crunchy exterior.
As for regular breadcrumbs, they can be too fine and won’t hold together as well as fresh bread can. So, instead of breadcrumbs, what I like to do is roughly tear a couple of bread slices into pieces, soak them in milk, and they’re ready to be added to the meat mixture.
I learned all this from personal experience only, so if there’s anything you’d like to add or correct, feel free to do so. I would love to read your comments. 🙂
Homemade Swedish Meatballs Recipe
- 2 slices fresh white bread
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 3 tbsp butter divided
- 1/2 cup finely diced onion
- 3/4 lb ground beef chuck
- 3/4 lb ground pork
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tsp kosher salt plus a pinch
- 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups beef broth
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
How to make
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a clean bowl, add milk and tear the bread directly into the bowl.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring until the onions become soft and golden brown. Take off the heat and set aside.
- Using a stand mixer, add the ground meat, egg yolks, cooked onions, bread and milk mixture, 1 teaspoon of salt, and all of the spices. Turn on the machine and beat for 1-2 minutes on medium speed. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can mix it with your clean hands.
- Using a scale, divide the meat mixture into 1-ounce portions. Put on a baking sheet.
- Oil your hands slightly. Pick up the dollops of meat with your hands and form into balls.
- Heat up the remaining butter in the skillet on medium-low heat. Sear the meatballs for about 7-10 minutes until golden brown on all sides. Turn off the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meatballs to a baking dish and put it in the oven for 10 minutes. Check for doneness.
- Once cooked, turn the heat down to low.
- Add flour to the residual fat in the skillet. Cook for 2 minutes or until lightly browned on medium-low heat, whisking constantly. Add beef stock gradually, whisking vigorously to avoid any lumps. Once the sauce is thickened, add heavy cream and cook until the sauce reaches your desired consistency.
- Place meatballs on a serving platter and spoon over the sauce. Serve warm.