No trip to Ikea would be complete without grabbing a plateful of flavorful Swedish meatballs. Although the Swedish retailer helped popularize these tasty morsels, also commonly known as köttbullar in Sweden, this comforting dish actually arrived in the United States along with Swedish immigrants who brought their beloved recipes along. No matter how many variations exist, the key ingredient for this classic dish is love, according to the Swedish Institute.
The Meat Mixture
Whatever recipe you follow to make Swedish meatballs, the one thing that they have in common is the mixture of ground beef and ground pork. Some recipes may throw a little veal in the mix but, for the most part, it's all about beef and pork. The ratio of the 2 differs among recipes. In Sweden, you typically find the meatballs contain less pork as you travel north. Food blog Serious Eats recommends using a ratio of 2 parts beef to 1 part pork -- each with 20 percent fat content. This ratio gives you ideal texture and juiciness while creating meatballs that are springy enough to hold up to serving on a toothpick.
Forming the Meatballs
Other common ingredients that go into the meatballs themselves include beaten egg and breadcrumbs soaked in milk or cream, a mixture also known as the panade. The panade helps hold the balls together and give them their characteristic softness. Some recipes also call for the addition of grated or finely minced onion to the mixture. Once you've assembled all the ingredients, it's time to combine everything together. Mix the ingredients in a large bowl; or follow the Serious Eats recommendation to use a food processor or a stand mixer to aggressively mix all the parts, which gives the meatball a springier texture.
To form the meatballs, use an ice cream scoop for evenly sized morsels. After scooping each meatball out, simply roll it gently between your hands and set it aside; then, repeat the process.
Like any type of meatball, you can choose from a variety of cooking methods, including baking or pan-frying, to achieve meatball perfection.
To pan-fry the Swedish meatballs: Grab a large heavy-bottomed skillet and warm it over medium heat. Add a drizzle of your favorite cooking oil over the heat until the oil shimmers. Begin cooking the meatballs, in batches if necessary to optimize browning. Toss the meatballs every few minutes and cook them for 10 to 15 minutes, until they are golden.
To bake the Swedish meatballs: Arrange a rack on top of a baking sheet lined with foil. Place the meatballs on the rack and bake them for approximately 20 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit, or until the meatballs are golden and completely cooked through.
Sauce or No Sauce
You may be most familiar with this dish when it's served topped in a comforting, creamy gravy-type sauce. According to the Swedish Institute, it may also be served with a thin drizzle of the pan juices.
If you choose to make the gravy, start by melting butter and whisking flour into the pan to make a roux. Allow the flour to cook for a few minutes and then add chicken or beef stock, whisking the mixture to get rid of any lumps of flour. Some recipes call for a little lemon juice and heavy cream to round out the flavors. Others rely on sour cream to give the sauce added body and creaminess. Allow the sauce to simmer until it's thick enough to coat the meatballs. Season it to taste with salt and pepper, and add the meatballs to the pan, tossing to coat them in the gravy.
Sprinkle the Swedish meatballs with a little minced fresh parsley for color. Place these tasty nuggets on a toothpick or skewer and you have a delicious appetizer. When you make Swedish meatballs as a main dish, try serving them with egg noodles; dumplings; boiled and buttered potatoes; or mashed potatoes. A classic addition to the plate -- whether you're serving them as the star of your meal or as passed-around hors d'oeuvres, is a dollop of lingonberry jam, which adds a delightful touch of sweetness.
Caryn Anderson combines extensive behind-the-scenes writing experience with her passion for all things food, fashion, garden and travel. Bitten by the travel bug at the age of 15 after a trip to Europe, Anderson fostered her love of style and fashion while living in New York City and earning her degree at New York University.