A plate with meatballs and condiments.
Swedish-style meatballs with brown gravy, mashed potatoes, lingonberries and pressed cucumber. Photo: Lieselotte van der Meijs/imagebank.sweden.se

Swedish meatballs

Meatballs… Nom, nom! Here’s your perfect recipe. Don’t forget the lingonberries!

Swedish meatballs, or köttbullar, must be prepared, above all, with love. This is why homemade meatballs are a widespread concept in Sweden, and there are many different favourite recipes – with and without meat. Some people feel there should be grated onion in the meatball mixture itself, while others prefer to dice the onion and fry it separately. Some people feel that their meatballs should be served with thick brown gravy, while others prefer it with a thin meat juice.

As part of a smorgasbord buffet, it is better to skip the gravy altogether.

Traditionally, in southern Sweden many people prefer their ground meat with a little more fat, and the further north you go, the less pork you will find in the meatball mixture. However, bread or rusk crumbs allowed to swell in milk are as important as the lingonberries – and the optional pressed cucumber – on the side. The breadcrumbs give Swedish meatballs their special soft consistency.

Conversions and abbreviations

1 g = 1 gramme = 1/1,000 of a kg

1 kg = 1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds (lb)

1 dl = 1 decilitre = 100 millilitres (ml) = 1/10 of a litre = 0.4 US cup

1 litre = 10 dl = 0.9 UK quart (qt) = 1.06 US liquid quart

1 fl oz, UK = 1 fluid ounce = 1/33 UK quart = 30 ml

1 fl oz, US = 1/32 US qt = 28 ml

1 lb = 16 oz = 450 ml

1 tsp = 1 teaspoon = 1/6 oz = 5 ml

1 tbsp = 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons = 1/2 oz = 15 ml

°C = degrees Celsius

°F = degrees Fahrenheit

For more online conversions: onlineconversion.com.

Make your own Swedish meatballs

Scroll to find recipes for both traditional meatballs and veggie 'meatballs'.

Classic recipe – ingredients

(4–6 servings)

500 g (18 oz) ground (minced) beef/pork mixture
150 ml (4/5 cup) milk
75 g (¾ cup) white breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 onion
salt, white pepper
ground allspice

Brown gravy
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp wheat flour
4 dl meat stock
½ dl double cream
2 tsp Chinese soy sauce
1 pinch black pepper
1 tbsp apple sauce or jelly (optional)


Finely dice the onion and sauté gently in a little butter without browning. Soak the breadcrumbs in milk. Blend the ground meat, preferably in a food processor, with the onion, egg, milk–breadcrumb mixture and the spices to the proper consistency and taste. Add a little water if the mixture feels too firm.

Check the taste by test-frying one meatball. Then shape small meatballs with the aid of two spoons and place on water-rinsed plates.

Brown a generous pat of butter in a frying pan, and when it ‘goes quiet’ place the meatballs in the pan and let them brown on all sides. Shake the frying pan often.

For the gravy, melt the butter in a pan. Stir in the flour. Add the stock little by little, while stirring. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3–5 minutes. Add cream and flavour with soy, pepper and the optional apple sauce or jelly.

Serve with mashed or boiled potatoes and raw stirred lingonberries.


Vegan 'meatballs'

This vegan version of 'meatballs' comes from Swedish chef Gustav Johansson and his food blog Jävligt gott (‘Darned good’).

Veggie 'meatballs' – ingredients

(4 servings)

Vegan balls
400 g vegetarian mince
2 tbsp oat cream
1 onion
1.5 tbsp vegetable stock
1 tbsp Chinese soy sauce
½ tbsp ground allspice
a lot of dairy-free ‘butter’ for frying (if all-vegan)
salt and black pepper

Cream sauce
3 dl oat cream
1.5 tbsp vegetable stock
1 tbsp blackcurrant jam (without gelatine)
1 tbsp Chinese soy sauce
1 tsp dried thyme
5 dried juniper berries
salt and black pepper


Defrost the mince – about 45 minutes in room temperature. Finely dice the onion. Add the onion and all other ingredients to the mince and mix by hand. Add salt and pepper to taste. Shape into little balls, about 2 cm, and fry in a hot pan until nicely browned and firm.

Take the balls out of the pan, then use the hot pan to make the sauce. Pour all the sauce ingredients into the pan and let boil for 2–3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let the ‘meatballs’ heat up in the sauce, then serve with boiled potatoes and lingonberry jam.