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Swedish Meatballs with Lingonberry Sauce

Swedish Meatballs: simple decadence at its best!

Looking for the PALEO AND GRAIN-FREE MEATBALLS? See the second recipe below! The first recipe is the traditional version of these scrumptious meatballs. Enjoy!

Maybe it’s because I’m proud of the Swedish part of my heritage or maybe I’m just a sucker for food and festivals from northern climes this time of year, but throughout December, without fail, some of my favorite traditions come from the Swedes.

I love the tradition of Santa Lucia in particular (even though it’s kind of a dark, twisted story of martyrdom), because to celebrate the light piercing the dark in this darkest part of winter, they light a seeming flood of candles and share random acts of kindness throughout the festival.

It’s also a time of feasting, so in addition to the scented Santa Lucia buns delivered by girls wearing wreaths lit with candles, there’s a smörgåsbord laid with scrumptious dishes of all kinds, including lox, rye bread, and these absolutely heavenly Swedish meatballs. (Accompanied, of course, by lots of traditional sweets and cupfuls of glögg, a sweet, spiced mulled wine.)

If you’ve ever been to IKEA and had their meatballs, those barely even HINT at the deliciousness of classic Swedish Meatballs. Try this recipe. You won’t regret it for a second.

So, since Santa Lucia Day, which is celebrated on December 13 each year, is just around the corner, I thought this the perfect time to share these Swedish meatballs with you, one of my all-time favorite recipes.

And of course, they’re accompanied by both a cream sauce and lingonberry sauce. Lingonberries are easy to find in some parts of the world, including parts of Sweden, but they’re quite difficult to find in other parts, so if you can’t easily find lingonberries where you are, you may either serve these with a simple, classic cranberry sauce or you can buy frozen lingonberries online – but be forewarned, they’re pricey. (And rightfully so, when you consider everything that goes into getting those tiny little berries to your door.)

You can also fairly easily find lingonberries already made into either lingonberry sauce or lingonberry jam, either of which is fine for these purposes.

Oh, and I give you full permission to lick your plate after eating these Swedish meatballs. I’m guilty as charged on multiple counts. 🙂

(By the way, if you’d like to see how to make a Santa Lucia crown using real boughs and real candles, you can see our tutorial here.)

 

How to Make Classic Swedish Meatballs

Now, just a few quick notes:

You’ll notice the recipe below makes a fairly large quantity. I’ve listed it this way for two reasons:

1. Meatballs tend to disappear quickly on a buffet table, so you want a large number.

2. Swedish meatballs make a fabulous meal and if you make this entire batch, then freeze them in meal-size portions according to your family size, you’ve got several QUICK and EASY meals ready to go. I even put them in the slow cooker so that we can go from walking in the door after a run-around day to sitting down to dinner 15 minutes later.

There are as many recipes for Swedish Meatballs as there are cooks who make them. Some might say that the recipe below is not traditional because it doesn’t contain allspice, while others may applaud it because I’ve made them “correctly” by leaving the allspice out. Truth is – I prefer it without allspice, so I chose not to use it. This is the beauty of cooking – you can make things the way you like them. 🙂 UPDATE FEBRUARY 2015: Due to a number of requests I’ve received, I’ve included a Paleo Swedish Meatballs variation, as well as grain-free notes for those who want to make the traditional cream sauce without the wheat flour.

You’ll notice I don’t call for browning the meatballs on the stovetop, which is traditional. This is largely because it’s a very time-consuming task with this large a batch, but I also find that the meatballs stay together better without browning – surprisingly – and while the flavor is slightly less rich, it’s certainly not enough to warrant the extra 2-ish hours it takes to brown this many meatballs!

Okay, Swedish meatballs, here we come!

Swedish Meatballs: simple decadence at its best!

Swedish Meatballs
makes approximately 13-14 dozen 1 1/2-inch meatballs
see grain-free notes at the end or see the Paleo version below
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For the meatballs
  1. 3/4 pound of day-old sourdough bread, torn into large chunks (this is about half a loaf)
  2. 2 cups soda water, carbonated water, lager, or very bubbly water kefir
  3. 2/3 cup heavy cream
  4. 3 pounds ground pork
  5. 5 pounds ground beef
  6. 4 medium onions, grated or minced very finely
  7. 8 eggs
  8. 2 tablespoons sea salt
  9. 1 tablespoon ground cardamom or allspice
  10. 1 tablespoon freshly ground nutmeg
  11. 4 teaspoons black pepper
  12. fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)
For the cream sauce
  1. 6 tablespoons butter
  2. 1/2 cup all-purpose flour or spelt flour
  3. 3 cups beef stock
  4. 1/2 cup cream
For the meatballs
  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Place the torn bread in a medium bowl and pour over the soda water and the cream. Mash gently to make sure all the bread has contact with the liquid, then let sit for 20 minutes to soften. After 20 minutes, dump the bread mixture into a food processor and blend to a somewhat smooth paste. If your bread was particularly dry and the mixture will not become smooth, feel free to drizzle in another 1/2 cup of any of the liquids listed to create the paste.
  4. Meanwhile, place the meats, onions, eggs, salt, and spices into a very large mixing bowl. With your hands, mash the mixture together until you've created an entirely homogenous mixture. Add in the bread paste and mix again well.
  5. Roll the meat mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls and place on the baking sheet. Bake each batch for 20-25 minutes until no longer pink in the middle. Place finished meatballs in the cream sauce on the stove or set aside to cool to freeze.
For the cream sauce
  1. Melt the butter over medium heat until bubbly. Add the flour and whisk until all the flour is incorporated into the butter, then let cook for 3-4 minutes, whisking frequently. This is the base of a basic roux.
  2. To finish the sauce, reduce the heat to medium-low, then add the beef stock 2-3 tablespoons at a time, whisking after each addition. At first, this will cause the roux to seize up into a sticky clump, but keep adding the stock and whisking and soon you will have a silky-smooth sauce. Add the cream all in one addition, then hold over low heat until ready to serve.
  3. Serve with small boiled potatoes and lingonberry sauce on the side.
To Prepare in the Slow Cooker
  1. Cook the meatballs as directed above, then let cool completely and freeze on a baking sheet. Once frozen, remove to a freezer-safe container and store in the freezer for up to six months. I prefer to freeze them WITH the sauce, so I divvy them all out into one-meal-size portions, which for our family of five is 2 1/2 dozen meatballs and 1 1/2 cups sauce (this is a very flexible amount - change as you desire).
  2. To heat, place the frozen meatballs and sauce in your slow cooker along with 1/4 - 1/2 cup water. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. The sauce will separate, but it's easily whisked together again.
Notes
  1. For grain-free modifications, the following have been recommended to me. (I have not tried any of these, just FYI.)
  2. For the bread in the meatballs, I suggest trying the Easy Everyday Bread in my friend Kelly Smith's new cookbook, Everyday Grain Free Baking. You may want to reduce the liquid the first time you make it, as it likely won't be as absorbent as a wheat flour - and you can always add more liquid if needed.
  3. For the cream sauce, try substituting either sweet rice flour OR a combination of equal parts coconut flour and tapioca flour. In either of these cases, you'll want to have equal parts of fat and flour, so increase the total flour from 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup.
Nourishing Joy http://nourishingjoy.com/
Paleo Swedish Meatballs
makes approximately 13-14 dozen 1 1/2-inch meatballs
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For the meatballs
  1. 3 pounds ground pork
  2. 5 pounds ground beef
  3. 4 medium onions, grated or minced very finely
  4. 2 cups soda water, carbonated water, or very bubbly water kefir
  5. 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder or tapioca starch (optional)
  6. 8 eggs
  7. 2 tablespoons sea salt
  8. 1 tablespoon ground cardamom or allspice
  9. 1 tablespoon freshly ground nutmeg
  10. 4 teaspoons black pepper
  11. fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)
For the "cream" sauce
  1. 3 tablespoons tallow, lard, or ghee
  2. 1/2 yellow onion, finely minced
  3. 1 3/4 cup (14 fl oz) full fat coconut milk
  4. 2 cups beef stock (reserve 1/4 cup to mix with arrowroot)
  5. 3-4 tablespoons arrowroot or tapioca starch (use tapioca if you're freezing the sauce)
  6. 1 teaspoon black pepper (optional - there's lots of pepper in the meatballs)
  7. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
For the meatballs
  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Place the meats, onions, bubbly water, eggs, salt, spices, and arrowroot (if using) into a very large mixing bowl. With your hands, mash the mixture together until you've created an entirely homogenous mixture.
  4. Roll the meat mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls and place on the baking sheet. Bake each batch for 20-25 minutes until no longer pink in the middle. They will be just slightly crumbly. Place finished meatballs in the cream sauce on the stove or set aside to cool to freeze.
For the cream sauce
  1. Melt the tallow over medium heat until bubbly. Add the onion and saute for 2-3 minutes. Do not let it brown.
  2. Add the coconut milk, beef stock, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then mix the arrowroot in with the remaining beef stock until a slurry is formed, then slowly pour it into the simmering liquid. Stir until it thickens, 20-30 seconds. Hold over low heat until ready to serve.
To Prepare in the Slow Cooker
  1. Cook the meatballs in the oven as directed above, then let cool completely and freeze on a baking sheet. Once frozen, remove to a freezer-safe container and store in the freezer for up to six months. I prefer to freeze them WITH the sauce, so I divvy them all out into one-meal-size portions, which for our family of five is 2 1/2 dozen meatballs and 1 1/2 cups sauce (this is a very flexible amount - change as you desire).
  2. To heat, place the frozen meatballs and sauce in your slow cooker along with 1/4 - 1/2 cup water. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours. The sauce will likely separate, but it's easily whisked together again.
Nourishing Joy http://nourishingjoy.com/
Lingonberry Sauce
makes about 2 1/2 cups
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups fresh or frozen lingonberries
  2. 3/4 cup unrefined cane sugar or light-flavored honey
  3. 1 cup water
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and simmer until lingonberries burst, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool completely at room temperature and then chill in refrigerator. Lingonberry sauce will thicken as it cools.
Nourishing Joy http://nourishingjoy.com/

  Swedish Meatballs: simple decadence at its best! #paleo #grain-free #traditional

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This post may contain affiliate links, including those from Amazon.com, which means we earn a small commission off your purchases. And here's the thing: We only mention services and products that we think are truly worth your attention, whether they're free, paid, or otherwise. This site relies on YOUR trust, so if we don't stand behind a product 110%, it's not mentioned. Period.

Comments

  1. Erica E says

    You’re right, there are as many recipes as there are Swedes :). And I totally agree where IKEA is concerned. As a meatball, they’re not bad. As a Swedish meatball? Um, no.

    We go for the allspice and also add a bit of cinnamon to them. Also a bit of veal to the mix if we can find good quality (as in grass fed, humanely raised). We do brown them on the stove in butter. And yes, yes, yes on the crockpot! My mom figured that out a couple of years ago, and not only does it get the meatballs off the stove while we’re cooking everything else, but they are so moist that way. .

    I’ve never been able to find fresh lingonberries where I live, so we do use the jarred ones. But I’m thinking for next Christmas I’m going to have to find the real deal.

    I just found your blog and am loving it! But I had to comment on this one, as the meatballs are very near and dear to my heart :).. Happy New Year!!

    • Kresha Faber says

      Oh, I’m so glad you did. Swedish meatballs are near and dear to my heart too – so maybe we should call ourselves “the meatball sisters.” 🙂

      Happy New Year to you too!

  2. xania says

    I thought these were grain-free recipes…?

    what is your sourdough bread is made with? grain? even if it’s soaked, it is grain… and I can’t eat t,

    Thank you anyway

    • Kresha Faber says

      Xania,

      The grain-free and Paleo versions are BELOW the traditional recipe, so yes, those ones are grain-free. 🙂

  3. Vicki says

    This sounds amazing! I will make this for sure. I just made homemade cranberry sauce for thanksgiving, would that taste as well as the lingonberry sauce for a side?

  4. Tacy Caudle says

    I’ve tried and tried to contact you to tell you how much your blog means to me, so although I love the meatball recipe very much I’d like you to know how much I enjoy and appreciate all of your blog. im a great grandmother who raised 7 kids, I did in home childcare for about 40 years and now I’m taking care of my developmentally brother and sister. I still am learning and it’s wonderful to have you teaching me new things! Also, I love Jesus with all my heart and I pray that God will give you many, many blessings for all you do for others! Hugs from Seattle.

    • Kresha Faber says

      Awww….. thank you SO much, Tacy! Here’s a huge hug right back at you. <3

      I wish you ALL the best and I hope this site will continue to help you and inspire you for years to come.

      --Kresha

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