We have been making Swedish Meatballs in our family for decades! This is a new improved recipe that I'm SO excited to share with you. The sauce is homemade with real cream and is the best. It actually comes together really fast and easy. I can't believe we were cheating on the gravy for so many years when it's very simple to make from scratch! I remember Nana rolling out hundreds of these meatballs every Christmas.
Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, tear up 2 pieces of white bread into pieces. Pour 1 cup of milk over the top and smoosh the bread into the milk to get it soaking. Let sit for a while.
Meanwhile, chop an onion small. In a large, high sided 12-inch skillet (preferably non-stick), melt about 1 tablespoon butter (from a 1/2 cup stick of butter, save the rest of it for the sauce) over medium heat.
Add a little more than half of the onions to the butter in the pan, and saute for about 4-5 minutes, until the onions are soft but not yet turning brown. Remove from the heat. (Save the remaining onions for the sauce.)
Meanwhile, stir your soaking bread and use a spatula to break up the bread and turn it all to mush. Add the softened onions to the bowl with the bread (Don't bother washing the pan, we need it later).
Add all the remaining meatball ingredients: 1 and 1/2 pounds ground beef, 1/2 pound ground pork, 2 eggs, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon allspice, and about 10 shakes from a jar of Tabasco.
Put on your big girl pants and mix up these meatballs with your hands. A spoon will just not do. I like to wear disposable gloves for this task. Mixing meatballs with your hands and squeezing all the ingredients together really gives you the best meatball texture. Don't over mix, or your meatballs will be tough. But do make sure the ingredients are fully combined and the meat broken up.
Shape the meatballs. Use a cookie scoop to form the meatballs, You want your meatballs to all be uniform in size so they cook at the same rate. I like to shape them to about 1 and 1/2 inches across. Use your fingers to press each meatball into the scoop, to help it create its shape. These meatballs are very soft and tender, making them a little challenging to work with, but you will appreciate this once you bite into one. If you are planning to fry, and you have a lot of time, chill your meatballs in the fridge for 1-2 hours. This will help the meatballs keep their shape.
Fry the meatballs. (You can skip this step and move straight to roasting them in the oven, if you prefer. See notes)Heat the same pan you used for the onions over medium heat. Add about 1 tablespoon oil and swirl it around. Wait a minute, and when it is nice and hot, start adding in your meatballs. I scoop the meatballs as I go. Do not crowd the pan, you need to leave about 1 inch of space in between each meatball so that they are able to brown. You will fry in several batches.Let the meatballs fry undisturbed for about 1 minute, until the bottom is quite brown. Then use a spatula to gently scrape up the bottom and turn the meatballs onto their sides, not completely flipped. Do your best to keep the meatballs together. The more often you turn the meatballs, the more round the shape will be. Continue this process until the meatballs are browned on most or all of the edges. It should take 2-4 minutes for one batch. They do NOT have to be cooked all the way through. Remove the browned meatballs to a large baking sheet or tray.Continue with another batch of meatballs, repeating the process and adding oil as necessary.
Make the sauce. Once the meatballs are done and removed from the pan, add the rest of the stick of butter (that you used for the onions earlier) to the pan. (Do not remove meatball drippings unless are is more than 1/4 cup). Melt over medium heat.
Add a 1/2 cup of chopped mushrooms (optional) and the remaining onions to the butter. Season with 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Saute over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes until the onions are translucent.
Slowly sprinkle 1/2 cup flour over the onions and mushrooms, using a wooden spoon to stir the flour in a little at a time. Add 1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon Beef Base, and 1 tablespoon soy sauce.
Gradually add 3 and 1/2 cups of water to the mushrooms. Start slow and stir in between every addition of water. You want the water you add to be mostly incorporated into the sauce before adding more.
Add 1 cup cream or half and half to the sauce.
Once the sauce has come together, add the meatballs back into the pan, including any resting liquid. Cook the sauce and meatballs over medium heat, making sure there are some slow bubbles happening, for another 10 minutes, until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees F in the center of a meatball. If the gravy gets too thick, simply add more beef broth, a little at a time, stirring completely with every addition, until it is the consistency you want. The longer you cook, the thicker your sauce will get.
Taste the sauce and decide if you want to add more salt and pepper. An optional and excellent garnish is chopped fresh parsley or dill, either adding it to the pan and stirring in, or topping each plating.
How to freeze: Meatballs and sauce freeze beautifully! Freeze in ziplocks. Thaw in the fridge overnight, then add to a pan with a bit of water. Heat over medium low, whisking the sauce in between meatballs as it heats. Add more beef broth if your gravy has become too thick.
*You can use any combo of meat that you like. Half beef and half pork is sometimes more convenient for me, just depending on what I have. You want that beefy flavor, the pork is added in the recipe mainly to add fat. If you have super fatty ground beef (like 80%) then you can use less pork, but I still would use some if you want really tender meatballs.**Or skip the water and beef base, and use 3 cups of really high quality beef stock.***You can use Worcestershire sauce in place of the soy. I tried it both ways and we liked the soy slightly better, but they are both really good. Baking meatballs instead of frying: Frying the meatballs in a skillet gives you a whole other flavor component from the super crispy blackened edges, but it is definitely a pain. You can skip this step. Place the shaped meatballs on a baking sheet, right next to each other but not touching. Bake at 450 for 12-15 minutes, until the tops are nice and brown. Make the sauce as instructed (there is enough butter in the recipe that you will be okay without meatball drippings) and add the meatballs to the sauce. You don't need to keep cooking the meatballs in the sauce, since they are cooked all the way through already. You can just serve right away once the gravy has thickened to a consistency you like. Make ahead option: if you are cooking this for a holiday meal, you can make the recipe start to finish on the stovetop (frying meatballs or roasting) and then transfer the whole thing to a crock pot and heat on low, or even just the warm setting. For future holidays, I will make the meatballs and sauce a day or two ahead of time, transfer to a crock pot, and refrigerate overnight. Then I will just put the crock pot on low heat, stirring often, until warmed through, I'm guessing it will take about 3 hours. I'll report back when I know for sure the details on this method! Nutrition facts do not include Mashed Potatoes.
EASY SWEDISH MEATBALLS RECIPE
Below is Eric's family's original Swedish meatballs recipe, which I published on the blog back in 2013. It uses canned cream of mushroom soup, because that's what people did in the 50s and 60s! I prefer the from-scratch recipe above, but this one is awfully good too. (the meatballs are very similar, it's the sauce that makes the biggest difference.) Here is the recipe, for all the family members who still like to make it this way (Britta, I'm lookin at you. :)
1 & 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 cup milk
1/2 cup quick oats
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1 & 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3-5 dashes hot sauce
3 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 & 1/2 cans water
5 lbs boiled potatoes
Combine all meatball ingredients (ground beef through hot sauce) in a large bowl. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, then spray lightly with nonstick spray. With moistened hands, shape the meat into balls that are about the size of a ping pong ball. (It doesn't really matter as long as they are uniform.) Place them on the baking sheet; you can put them right next to each other, just make sure they're not touching. Bake in a 450 oven for 12-16 minutes, until they are brown and starting to get crispy on top.
You can cook this in the oven or in the crock pot.
Oven directions: In a 9×13 casserole dish, combine mushroom soup with 1-1/2 cans of water. Add the meatballs and stir. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.
Crock pot: Combine the soup and water in the crock pot. Add meatballs and stir. Heat on low for 5-7 hours, or on high for 3-4. You just need it to get hot.