Swedish Meatballs are baked in the oven and then simmered in a skillet of easy homemade gravy for a delicious, family-pleasing dinner!
There's just something appealing about meatballs. They're versatile and hearty...easy to make and fun to eat. It didn't take me long to figure out that my family will eagerly eat pretty much any variation of meatball, so it was just a matter of time before I added Swedish Meatballs to our repertoire.
Anyone who has ever strolled through the IKEA food court is probably already familiar with these guys. Tender, lightly spiced, homemade meatballs get smothered in a creamy gravy, sprinkled with parsley, and optionally served with lingonberry jam (another Swedish delicacy akin to cranberry sauce). They're homey, comforting, and oh-so-good!
I actually have a funny story about lingonberry jam. If you have my Real Food Slow Cooker Suppers cookbook, you may recall that it includes a crock pot version of Swedish Meatballs. In the process of perfecting that recipe, I served it to my chief taste testers -- AKA, my family. And my kids thought it was so strange when I offered them lingonberry jam with their meatballs.
My ever-picky (then-3-year-old) daughter is skeptical about new foods in general. But something about jam on her dinner plate apparently piqued her interest so she conceded to try it. And wouldn't you know...she loved her Swedish Meatballs dipped in fruity preserves!
However, I wasn't expecting that the next time I made ground beef patties, she asked me if I could put jam on her plate again. Same thing the next time I made meatloaf muffins. You can probably see where this is going...my daughter started insisting on dipping anything related to a meatball in lingonberry (or, okay, sometimes strawberry) jam.
And honestly? As long as she's ingesting protein at the same time, I don't even care. What's a spoonful of jam going to hurt her? 😉
So today's Swedish Meatballs recipe is an oven + stovetop version of the slow cooker recipe I developed for my cookbook. What can I say? I like having both options...for the days I plan ahead as well as those days during which I'm operating a little more last-minute. 😉
So what goes into these better-than-IKEA Swedish Meatballs? It's pretty simple:
- Ground beef. I prefer using 90% lean.
- Plain bread crumbs. You can use dried (store-bought) or fresh (homemade).
- Milk and egg. To add moisture to your meatballs!
- Spices. Certain spices are what give this recipe its unique flavor...namely, onion powder, allspice, and nutmeg.
Equally important as the meatballs? The easy homemade gravy:
- Butter + flour + beef broth. The secrets to your gravy base.
- Worcestershire sauce + apple cider vinegar. For savory flavor and a touch of pucker.
- Sour cream. The key ingredient for that ubiquitous gravy in all of its silky, luxurious glory!
And finally, for serving:
- Egg noodles. The perfect vehicle for soaking up all of the scrumptious gravy. Alternatively, you could serve this recipe over mashed potatoes.
- Fresh minced parsley. This meal would still be tasty without a sprinkle of parsley, of course. But I highly recommend including this fresh herb garnish, if at all possible. Parsley adds a pop of bright freshness to the rich, savory meatballs and gravy.
How to Make Swedish Meatballs
I thought about cooking the meatballs on the stove and then making the gravy in the same skillet to reduce dirty dishes.
But the truth is I prefer baking my meatballs in the oven. It's less messy (no splattering oil all over your stovetop!) and it's less work (no flipping and turning meatballs in the pan!).
Baked meatballs don't necessarily get those dark, crispy edges, but they do bake up beautifully as the grease drains out. And since I line my baking pan with heavy duty foil, there's nothing to clean there anyway.
So here's how to put together this recipe, from start to finish:
- Mix up the meatball mixture.
- Roll into balls and arrange 'em on a sheet pan.
- Bake until golden brown and remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
- While the meatballs are baking, prepare the gravy on the stovetop.
- Transfer the cooked meatballs into the pan of hot gravy and allow to heat through.
To Cook Meatballs on the Stove Instead
If you prefer frying your Swedish Meatballs in the skillet as opposed to baking them, you may certainly do so.
But if you decide to go that route, I suggest removing the meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate to drain them while you make the gravy.
If there's fat left in the skillet, pour it into a measuring cup and then add enough butter to equal 6 tablespoons.
This can be used for the base of your gravy instead of solely butter, since everyone knows that grease = flavor. 😉
However you prefer to cook your meatballs, the end result will be the same...enjoying them!
You can spoon your Swedish Meatballs over egg noodles or mashed potatoes. (Don't forget that garnish of fresh parsley!)
Or you can serve them with boiled new potatoes on the side.
Just don't forget the lingonberry jam! My daughter offers her personal guarantee that it makes the dish. 🙂
More Meatball Love
- Hawaiian Meatballs
- Parmesan Meatball Skillet
- Porcupine Meatballs
- Slow Cooker Meatball Sub Sandwiches
- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 1 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs, dried or fresh
- ¼ cup milk
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
FOR THE GRAVY:
- 6 tablespoons salted butter
- 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 cups beef broth
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- ⅓ cup sour cream
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 8 ounces egg noodles, cooked per directions (OR prepared mashed potatoes)
- Fresh minced parsley
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine ground beef, breadcrumbs, milk, egg, salt, onion powder, allspice, nutmeg, and pepper. Use your hands to gently mix ingredients until thoroughly combined but not packed down. Scoop meat into 3-tablespoon mounds (I use a 3 T. cookie scoop) and gently roll into balls (which should measure between 1 ½ and 2 inches across).
- Arrange meatballs on the prepared baking sheet, at least an inch apart. Bake meatballs for 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through to the center (cut into a meatball to check for doneness). Remove meatballs to a paper towel-lined plate to drain any grease.
- While meatballs are baking, prepare the gravy. Heat a large pan or deep skillet over medium-high heat; add butter. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes while continuously whisking. Continue to whisk while slowing pouring in the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, and apple cider vinegar. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, still whisking, for about 5 minutes or until it has thickened. Measure the sour cream into a bowl or large measuring cup and stir in a ladle full of hot gravy. Stir in another ladle full of gravy until smooth. Then pour the sour cream/gravy mixuture into the skillet of gravy and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning of the gravy with salt and pepper, adding ¼ teaspoon salt at a time until adequately seasoned.
- Once meatballs are cooked and drained, carefully place them in the skillet of warm gravy, turning each meatball so that all sides are coated. Serve hot over pasta or mashed potatoes. Garnish with fresh minced parsley, if desired.
- I make my Swedish Meatballs with all ground beef because that's what I typically have on hand. However, traditional Swedish Meatballs are often made with a mixture that includes half ground beef and half ground pork. Feel free to use this ratio, if you wish.
- Adding hot gravy to the sour cream (before stirring the sour cream into the skillet of gravy) tempers it. This prevents the sour cream from curdling, which can happen if you add cold sour cream directly to hot gravy.
Originally published May 4, 2017.