Meatballs with cream sauce

Köttbullar med gräddsås

A dish of Swedish meatballs with lingonberry sauce in the background

Köttbullar med gräddsås (meatballs with cream sauce) is the ultimate Swedish dish. It is the stuff of jokes and it can be awful, but when well made it really is good!

Authentic?

Of course, you might want to know whether the recipe is authentic: is it the same as made by real Swedes? The short answer is that there is not an authentic method.

If you asked ten Swedes about making köttbullar you would get ten different answers. They would be similar for sure, but most Swedes will have their own way and so everyone will use a bit more or a bit less of this or that. Nonetheless, I think most real Swedes would agree that these meatballs are pretty good.

Opinions about the gräddsås (cream sauce) are even more divided. The recipe below for the gräddsås is adapted from Vår Kok Bok (Sweden's most popular cookery book) and I think it strikes a good balance, but of course you can tweak it to suit your own preferences and still feel it is genuinely Swedish

Accompaniments

Even if you don't use this recipe, be sure to serve your meatballs with some pressgurka (pressed cucumber), rårörda lingon (lingonberry sauce) and potatismos (mashed potatoes). They really are the best dishes to accompany köttbullar.

Swedelicious!

I don't know how köttbullar ever became Sweden's national dish, as it is not the most exciting advert for Swedish food. Nonetheless, I hope you will agree that this recipe for köttbullar med gräddsås really is Swedelicious! John Duxbury

Summary

Recipe summary for Swedish meatballs

Tips

• Take your time rolling the meat into balls between the palms of your hand otherwise they will go out of shape quickly when you fry them.
• Fry the meatballs in two batches because if you fry too many at once they will steam rather than brown.
• For a julbord (Christmas buffet), grated potato and cream are usually added and then the julköttbullar (Christmas meatballs) are often baked. More…
• If you are making very large quantities for a party make the meatballs in advance and then reheat them in an oven for 10-15 minutes at 175°C (350°F, gas 4, fan 160°C). Use aluminium foil trays with lids, as the lids help to prevent the meatballs drying out.
• Use any leftovers to make some delicious köttbullesmörgås med rödbetssallad (open meatball sandwich with beetroot salad). More…

Ingredients

Meatballs

4 tbsp   fresh white breadcrumbs
4 tbsp   milk or water
225 g (8 oz) pork mince
225 g (8 oz) veal or beef mince
2 tbsp   grated onion*
1   egg, lightly beaten
3 or 4   whole allspice, crushed
    salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 tbsp   butter, for frying

*The onion is better grated than chopped

Cream sauce

300 ml (1¼ cups) hot water
½-1   beef stock cube
2 tbsp   plain flour (all-purpose flour)
100 ml (7 tbsp) milk or water
½-1 tsp   soy sauce
2-3 tbsp   cream

Method

Köttbullar

1. Put the breadcrumbs in a large bowl and add 4 tablespoons of milk or water. Leave them to absorb the liquid for about 5 minutes.

Mixture of Swedish meatballs being mixed in a bowl

2. Add the mince, grated onion, egg, allspice and seasoning. Mix with your hands or a wooden spoon until evenly mixed. Don’t over mix or the meatballs will be heavy.

Uncooked Swedish meatballs on a plate waiting to be fried

3. Take a tablespoon of mixture and roll it until it is nice and round. (Rinse your hands in cold water if the mixture is too sticky.) Repeat until you have used up all the mixture, by which time you should have between 30 and 40 meatballs.

Swedish meatballs being fried in matches

4. Heat a tablespoon of butter in a frying pan over a medium high heat until the butter stops sizzling. Fry half the meatballs, shaking the pan frequently when you first add them. When they are nicely browned, turn down the heat and cook for a further 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the pan and keep warm.

5. Add another tablespoon of butter and fry the remaining meatballs in the same way as in step 4.

Gräddsås

6. When the meatballs are cooked, remove the pan from the heat and add the warm water and use it to scrap up all the meaty bits in the pan. Bring it up to the boil and let it simmer for a minute or two.

7. Sieve the mixture into a saucepan, add the stock cube and stir until dissolved.

8. Mix the flour with the milk or water and stir until dissolved. Pour into the saucepan, whisking continuously as you do so. Simmer the sauce for 5 minutes.

9. Add the soy sauce and cream. Heat for another couple of minutes, stirring continuously. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Swedish meatballs with pressed cucumber, stirred lingonberries and mashed potato

10. Serve the meatballs with rårörda lingon, mashed potatoes, pressed cucumber and a light coating of the sauce. Pour the rest of the cream sauce into a jug for people to help themselves to if they want more.

Downloads

printer copy sb  printer version.pdf 

Phone and tablet h32  phone & tablet version.pdf

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Julköttbullar

For julköttbullar (Christmas meatballs) the breadcrumbs and milk/water are replaced with grated potato and cream and the onion is finely chopped and lightly fried first.

1   small onion
3 tbsp   butter
2   medium sized cooked potatoes
225 g (8 oz) minced beef
225 g (8 oz) minced pork
1   egg, lightly beaten
1½ tsp   salt
3-4   whole allspice, finely crushed
150 ml 5 fl oz cream


1. Peel and finely chop a small onion and fry in a tablespoon of butter until softened.

2. Grate the two cooked potatoes into a bowl.

3. Add the minced beef, pork, egg, salt, allspice and cream. Mix with your hands or a wooden spoon until evenly mixed. Don’t over mix or the meatballs will be heavy.

4. Take a tablespoon of mixture and roll it until it is nice and round. (Rinse your hands in cold water if the mixture is too sticky.) Repeat until you have used up all the mixture, by which time you should have about 30-40 meatballs.

5. Heat a tablespoon of butter in a frying pan over a medium high heat until the butter stops sizzling. Fry half the meatballs, shaking the pan frequently when you first add them. When they are nicely browned, turn down the heat and cook for a further 10 minutes. Remove the meatballs from the pan and keep warm. Repeat with the remaining meatballs.

For a large party

For a large party, julköttbullar are normally cooked in an oven. Add the butter to a large pan and put it in a hot oven at 250°C (475°F, gas 9, fan 220°C) until the butter is melted and a light brown colour. Add the julköttbullar and cook in the middle of the oven for 8-12 minutes until nicely browned, shaking the pan a few times to ensure that the balls are evenly browned.

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Köttbullesmörgås med rödbetssallad

An open sandwich made with Swedish meatballs and beetroot salad

If you have any meatballs leftover use them to make an open sandwich with a beetroot salad. Butter some bread and arrange on a serving dish. Top with rödbetssallad, slice the meatballs and then place them on top of the salad. Garnish with parsley or chervil, slices of smörgåsgurka (pickled gherkin/cucumber) and some very thin slices of peeled raw beetroot (optional).

Sometimes, as shown above, I make smaller meatballs, using just half a tablespoon of mixture per ball, especially for open sandwiches.

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