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The perfect recipe for a busy weeknight – Easy Swedish Meatballs combine ground beef with a creamy sauce that can be made on a grill or smoker
Homemade meatballs are really quite easy to make and with this creamy Swedish meatball sauce, this comfort food will will quickly become one of your favorite recipes that the whole family will love.
Table of Contents
What are Swedish meatballs?
One of the most popular dishes in Sweden, due in large part to the store Ikea, is Swedish meatballs.
Swedish meatballs are traditionally made with ground beef and pork and seasoned simply with breadcrumbs, milk and warms spices like allspice and nutmeg. Sometimes an egg is also added.
They’re served with velvety creamy sauce made with beef stock and heavy cream and a spoonful of lingonberry jam.
- Ground Beef: For the best meatballs, use beef with a higher fat content. I prefer 70/30 beef, which is 70% meat and 30% fat.
- Panko Breadcrumbs: These Japanese breadcrumbs provide a little texture to the meatballs and help keep them moist.
- Milk: For the best flavor, use whole milk or 2%.
- Seasoning: I highly recommend using a combo of my Brisket Rub and Girl Carnivore Ooomami. They are the perfect combination for beef and are both available on Amazon.
Substitutions: You can substitute 1 pound of ground beef for a pound of ground pork. You can also make these with ground turkey or chicken. If you use lean meat, add 1 egg to the meatball mixture. If you don't have my Brisket Rub and Girl Carnivore Ooomami, you can use salt and pepper. Allspice and nutmeg are also popular spices for Swedish meatballs.
Creamy Sauce Ingredients
- Butter: Use real butter, not the stuff in a crock.
- Shallots and Garlic: Both of these are option and not found in traditional Swedish meatball sauce, but I like the aromatics they provide to the sauce.
- Flour: Use all-purpose flour to thicken the sauce.
- Beef Broth: You can use either broth or stock.
- Heavy Cream: Don’t skimp on the cream. This helps give the sauce the luxurious texture.
- Soy Sauce: This will provide ooomami and saltiness and will darken the sauce just a bit.
- Seasoning: I recommend using more Girl Carnivore Ooomami. It is AMAZING in cream sauces. You can also use salt and pepper as a substitute.
How to grill Swedish meatballs
Heat your grill to 350F degrees with a direct heat zone.
- STEP ONE: Place the breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl. Let it soak for 5 minutes.
- STEP TWO: Add the ground beef and seasonings to the bowl. Mix with a spoon or your hands, until everything is well combined. If your hands stick to the meat, wear gloves or moisten them with cold water.
- STEP THREE: Shape the meat into 1-inch balls by rolling it around in your hands, and place on a baking sheet. Refrigerate until your grill is ready.
PRO TIP: If you chill the meatballs for at least 30 minutes before grilling, they'll hold together better on the grill.
- STEP FOUR: Once your grill is ready, place the meatballs on the grill grate over direct heat and close the lid. Keep an eye on them, watching for flareups. Grill for about 20 minutes, flipping once.
Cook meatballs to an internal temperature of around 160F degrees. They’ll cook a little more in the sauce.
PRO TIP: If the meatballs stick to the grill, use a metal spatula to release them. Then use tongs to flip them over.
- STEP FIVE: Remove the cooked meatballs from the grill and add a large skillet on top of the grate. (You can also do this on the stovetop over medium heat.) Add butter to the skillet. Once melted, stir in the shallots and sauté, until tender. Then, add in the garlic.
- STEP SIX: Stir in the flour and let it cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring often. This will create the roux that will help thicken the sauce.
- STEP SEVEN: Pour in the beef broth, cream, soy sauce and seasonings. Let it continue cooking on the grill or stove, stirring often, until thickened. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon.
- STEP EIGHT: Add the grilled meatballs to the pan of sauce. Stir gently to coat. Close the grill lid and reduce the temperature to low. Just let it simmer for a few minutes to reheat the meatballs.
PRO TIP: To add a little smokey flavor to the sauce, add a few more Cowboy Charcoal cherry wood chips to your smoke box.
How to serve Swedish meatballs
The traditional way to serve Swedish meatballs is over a pile of mashed potatoes or pureed potatoes. But they’re also delicious over a bed of egg noodles.
Another authentic touch is adding in a spoonful of lingonberry jam. If you’ve been to Ikea and had their meatballs, you know exactly what I mean.
Well, lingonberry jam taste great with meatballs and creamy gravy sauce. If you have trouble finding it, I like cherry jam as an easy substitute.
I recommend storing the potatoes or noodles separate from the meatballs and gravy. Otherwise, the noodles will absorb all of the gravy and you won’t have much sauce.
You can store these in the refrigerator for up to five days in an airtight container. You can also freeze them separately for up to 6 months.
As an alternative, you can form the meatballs in advance, keep them refrigerated for 3 days or freeze them in a freezer bag for a few months. When you’re ready to make this star-studded meal, thaw them and grill them and make the sauce when it’s convenient for you.
GCG Pro Pitmaster Tips
- The secret to tender meatballs is adding breadcrumbs and milk to the meat
- Add smoke chips to your gas grill to add a smoky flavor to your meatballs
- Your grill can be used like a burner so you can make your sauce in the skillet outdoors
Frequently Asked Questions
The foundation of the traditional sauce is veal stock and cream. Sometimes it’s cooked for a long period, until those two ingredients are reduced down. When using veal demi glace, versus stock, that process is very effective. If you beef stock or broth, it’s usually thickened with either flour or cornstarch. For this recipe, I made a roux with butter and flour and added shallots and garlic as aromatics. Soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce are also sometimes added for umami.
Both are usually made with beef, but Swedish meatballs are made with minced meat like ground beef and pork. Beef stroganoff, which comes from Russia is made with thin strips of beef. Both are made with a creamy beefy sauce, but beef stroganoff sauce is made with beef stock, sour cream and mustard and often has sliced mushrooms mixed in.
They taste very similar. The main difference is Ikea meatballs have onions and garlic mixed into the meat. You can definitely add those ingredients, if you’d like. They also add a little Dijon mustard to their cream sauce.
Whether you’re making Swedish meatballs or Italian meatballs, the best way to create tender and juicy meatballs is to use a high fat ground meat and to combine the meat with milk and bread crumbs.
Sweden is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. It’s located between Norway and Finland along the Baltic Sea just north of Denmark, Germany and Poland.
More Meatballs Recipes
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Easy Swedish Meatballs on the Grill or Smoker
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1/4 cup shallot, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp Girl Carnivore's Ooomami Rub*
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat Grill: Heat your grill to medium heat (350F degrees) with a direct heat zone. Use Cowboy Charcoal cherry wood chips or chunks for a smokey flavor.
- Mix: Place the breadcrumbs and milk in a bowl. Let soak for 5 minutes. Mix in the ground beef, shallots and seasonings. Shape into 32 one-inch meatballs. Chill while the grill heats up.
- Grill: Grill for 20 minutes, flipping at least once. Remove from grill and set aside.
- Sauté: Place a skillet on the grill or stove over medium heat. Melt butter. Add the shallots and sauté, until tender. Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
- Make Roux: Stir in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring often.
- Thicken Sauce: Whisk in the beef broth, cream, soy sauce and seasoning. Continue cooking, stirring often until thickened.
- Heat Meatballs: Place meatballs in the sauce. Gently stir to coat. Turn the grill or burner to low, and let the meatballs reheat.
- Serving Suggestion: Serve over a bed of mashed potatoes or egg noodles with a side of lingonberry or cherry jam. Garnish with fresh parsley.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.