Köttbullar are traditional Swedish Meatballs served smothered in a rich and creamy brown gravy.
The popular entree is also known as Köttbullar med Gräddsås (meatballs with cream sauce) and Svenska Köttbullar (Swedish meatballs).
Considered Sweden’s national dish, Köttbullar are quick and easy to make, ready to serve in under an hour. They’re often served at special celebrations like Christmas and Midsommar.
Authentic Köttbullar are traditionally served with creamy beef gravy, mashed potatoes, cucumber pickles and lingonberry preserve.
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What Is Köttbullar?
In Sweden, meatballs are called köttbullar, literally translating to “meat buns.” The K sounds like a ‘sh’ when it stands before an ö – Shöttbüllar.
The dish is also known as Köttbullar med Gräddsås (meatballs with cream sauce) and Svenska Köttbullar (Swedish meatballs).
Swedish meatballs or köttbullar are thought to have been brought to Sweden by King Charles XII after his exile in Istanbul in 1713. A few decades later, the traditional Swedish recipe appeared in a cookbook by the legendary Cajsa Warg, published in 1755, and has been a comfort food favourite across Scandinavia ever since.
They became popular in the United States after the immigration of Scandinavians to the northern Midwest States in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. During that period, more than 1.3 million Swedes migrated to the US (and plenty live in Canada too!)
Köttbullar are smaller and have a different flavour than Italian meatballs. The traditional side dishes served with kottbullar include pressgurka (pressed cucumber), rårörda lingon (lingonberry sauce) and potatismos (mashed potatoes). The Swedish meatball recipe is often served with boiled potatoes or egg noodles as well.
Travel To Sweden by Cooking Köttbullar med Gräddsås at Home
I love traveling to Europe!
During my first visit to the continent I traveled for 3 months by train and plane. I had the opportunity to eat my way through Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, Russia, Estonia, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Croatia, Bosnia, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
I first ate traditional Köttbullar at a Teaterbrasseriet Restaurant in Stockholm, a hip eatery at one of the city’s trendiest hotels. Considered Sweden’s national dish, a plate of plump meatballs arrived smothered in beef gravy, creamy mashed potatoes, tart lingonberry and crunchy cucumber pickles.
Once back home from a Scandinavian holiday you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the flavours of Sweden and can impress friends and family by making your very own Svenska Köttbullar recipe!
Where To Eat Authentic Köttbullar
Haven’t traveled to Scandinavia before? It may be helpful to first sample Svenska Köttbullar at a local restaurant to better understand how the meaty main course is served. You’ll get an idea for how many meatballs to serve on each plate, thickness of the gravy and ideal garnishes.
My Family Loves Swedish Meatballs
After encountering Köttbullar on a visit to Sweden during Midsommar I thought I should introduce the comfort food favourite to family back home.
I knew my family would rave for Köttbullar med Gräddsås because they love meatballs, creamy sauces, mashed potatoes and pickles. My father also has an affinity for doing impersonations of the Swedish Chef from the Muppets Show who loves cooking Köttbullar.
I prepared this Köttbullar recipe at the cottage in Muskoka during a cold winter day. While we enjoy the dish year round, it’s nice to cozy up to a hearty plate of steaming meatballs and gravy with mashed potatoes when it’s chilly out.
Köttbullar are traditionally made with pork or beef, a combination of both, and sometimes include veal or venison as well. Meatballs are usually served at buffets and smorgasbords in Sweden but at our house we like to serve the dish decorated nicely on a pretty plate.
I always double this Svenska Köttbullar recipe so I can store leftovers in the freezer to enjoy later. Love saving time cooking in the kitchen!
Köttbullar Health Benefits
Our Swedish Meatballs recipe is packed full of healthy ingredients!
Onions are a humble vegetable packed with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Regular consumption of leeks can help boost digestive health and reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
Eggs contain two vital nutrients that are not present in many foods: iodine and vitamin D. Eggs are also rich in tissue-building protein and vitamin B12, which helps your body manufacture blood cells.
Consuming dairy products (such as milk and cheese) provides health benefits — especially improved bone health. Dairy foods provide nutrients that are vital for health and maintenance of your body. These nutrients include calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein.
Nutmeg is said to relieve pain, soothe indigestion, strengthen cognitive function, detoxify the body, boost skin health, reduce insomnia, increase immune system function and improve blood circulation.
An excellent source of vitamin K, as well as vitamin C, folate, and iron, parsley helps keep your bones and blood healthy, and protects your skin from damage by free radicals.
Pork is an excellent source of protein and provides several important vitamins and minerals. It’s an excellent source of thiamin, selenium, niacin, vitamin B-6 and phosphorus, zinc, riboflavin and potassium.
Beef is a great source of protein and minerals like iron as well as an excellent source of the amino acid L-carnitine. Beef also features antioxidant glutathione known for its anti-aging benefits.
Swedish Meatball Tips
This homemade Köttbullar recipe is quick and easy to make at home.
- Use a large cast iron dutch oven with a high rim to reduce splatter when cooking.
- We suggest using a high quality rubber spatula spoon so you can easily stir, scrape down the side of the pot and sip to check if the sauce needs to be seasoned further with more salt.
- We’ve created a classic and simple Köttbullar recipe featuring a mix of ground pork and beef. You can also use a mixture of veal or game meats like venison.
- 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.
- Transform your gräddsås cream sauce into something truly decadent by adding sliced mushrooms or grated onion.
- If you like a foamy gräddsås, use an immersion blender to incorporate air into the sauce after adding the cream. If you’ve don’t have an electric blender, whisk by hand for 2-3 minutes.
- For an authentic julbord Christmas buffet, grated potato and cream are usually added to the meat mixture. Known as Julköttbullar (Christmas meatballs) these savoury holiday treats are often baked.
- If you are making large quantities for a dinner party prepare the meatballs in advance and then reheat them in an oven for 10-15 minutes 350°F. Use aluminium foil trays with lids, as the lids help to prevent the meatballs from drying out.
- Use leftovers to make delicious köttbullesmörgås med rödbetssallad, open meatball sandwiches with beetroot salad.
What To Serve With Köttbullar
Köttbullar can simply be enjoyed as a snack all on its own. You’ll sometimes see Swedish meatballs passed around as an appetizer at a party with toothpicks available for easy eating.
If you’re serving a proper seated dinner, the traditional side dishes served with kottbullar include pressgurka (pressed cucumber), rårörda lingon (lingonberry sauce) and potatismos (mashed potatoes). The Swedish meatball recipe is often served with boiled potatoes or egg noodles as well.
Other Swedish recipes we love: Smorgastarta Swedish Sandwich Cake, Kardemummabullar Swedish Cardamom Buns, Jordgubbstårta Gluten Free Swedish Strawberry Meringue Cake, Flaky Swedish Rhubarb Cherry Pie and Swedish Pickled Rhubarb.
After dinner why not dazzle your guests with one of our popular desserts such as Oat Flour Cookies with Chocolate Chips, Dark Chocolate Lindt Lindor Cookies, Maraschino Cherry Cupcakes Recipe or Cinnamon Babka For Chocolate Lovers.
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How To Store Meatballs
If you have leftover Köttbullar med Gräddsås you can store the dish in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days. To reheat simply warm in the microwave or oven.
We love doubling our Köttbullar recipe so we can store leftovers in the freezer and save time on cooking in the kitchen. We suggest storing leftovers in Pyrex freezer safe containers that have a snug lid so there’s no spilling. You can freeze the creamy gravy and meatballs in the same container.
Be sure to let the Swedish meatballs reach room temperature before storing in the freezer. If you add a hot container to a cold freezer it will significantly reduce the interior temperature and potentially spoil your food.
Köttbullar Recipe Video
Köttbullar Traditional Swedish Meatballs
- measuring cups
- measuring spoons
- mixing bowl
- Nonstick Skillet
- Spatula or Wooden Spoon
Swedish Meatballs (Köttbullar)
- 1 Small onion grated
- 1/2 lb Lean ground beef
- 1/2 lb Lean ground pork
- 1/4 cup Breadcrumbs
- 1 Large egg
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp Ground Black Pepper
- 1/4 tsp Ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp Ground allspice
- 1/4 cup Butter
Swedish Meatballs (Köttbullar)
- To the mixing bowl with onions, add the ground beef and pork, breadcrumbs, egg, nutmeg, allspice, salt, and pepper.
- Mix, using your hands, until the meat mixture appears fully incorporated. Roll the meat into medium-size balls, approximately an inch in diameter.
- Heat the remaining butter until melted and sizzling in the pan. Fry the meatballs, often turning, until they're golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.
- Over medium heat, whisk 2 tablespoons flour in the remaining butter until lightly browned, about 1 minute. Gradually stir in beef broth and milk, constantly whisking, until slightly thickened.
- Add soy sauce, Worcestershire Sauce and heavy cream. Return to simmer and cook for a couple of minutes until the gravy thickens to your liking.
- Return the meatballs to the skillet with the sauce and stir to cover and warm thoroughly.
- Garnish with parsley and serve with quick dill pickles, mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam.
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