How To Make Better-than-IKEA Swedish Meatballs

updated Jan 29, 2020
Swedish Meatballs

How to make easy Swedish meatballs (better than Ikea!) any night of the week.

Serves6 to 8

Makes32 meatballs in gravy

Prep35 minutes

Cook25 minutes

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Swedish meatballs are one of the easiest, most delicious ways to switch up your weeknight meatball routine. Unlike their Italian counterpart, Swedish meatballs are warmly spiced (think: nutmeg and allspice) and simmered in a creamy gravy, perfect for ladling over mashed potatoes or egg noodles.

These meatballs are too good to only be enjoyed inside the IKEA food court. Here’s how you can make an even better version any night of the week.

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

What’s the Deal with IKEA’s Swedish Meatballs?

It’s said that IKEA’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, believed no one should shop on an empty stomach, and thus began serving affordable plates of Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, and lingonberry jam (among other cafe dishes) to customers in the 1960s. These days, IKEA sells an estimated 150 million Swedish meatballs from both the store cafes and the freezer case in the marketplace, according to Fast Company.

If you’ve ever gotten your meatball fill while sofa shopping, you understand the appeal: Swedish meatballs are made with a succulent combination of beef and pork, are warmly spiced, and are crisped and browned before being smothered in a creamy, savory gravy. This recipe shows how to achieve all of that at home.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Can I Make Swedish Meatballs in My Slow Cooker? What About My Instant Pot?

We prefer making Swedish meatballs on the stovetop for two reasons: the hot skillet helps with browning, and makes for an easy-to-build gravy (plus, you only dirty one pan). That doesn’t mean you can’t cook Swedish meatballs in the slow cooker or the Instant Pot — it just means you’ll need to follow directions from another recipe to do so.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

What’s in Swedish Meatball Sauce?

Swedish meatball sauce is essentially brown gravy swirled with a bit of dairy (in some cases sour cream, but in this recipe, half-and-half), and it’s made in the same pan the meatballs cook in. After browning the meatballs, you’ll thicken the pan juices with a bit of all-purpose flour, then deglaze the pan with some beef broth. Simmer the gravy with the meatballs until thickened, then stir in the dairy off the heat.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

How Do I Serve Swedish Meatballs?

At IKEA, Swedish meatballs are always served over mashed potatoes with lingonberry jam on the side. If you’re looking for a faster weeknight version, my family loves these over egg noddles. You could also serve them over rice or other grains, or with a side salad or a steamed vegetables for soaking up the gravy.

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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Swedish Meatballs

How to make easy Swedish meatballs (better than Ikea!) any night of the week.

Prep time 35 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes

Makes 32 meatballs in gravy

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info


For the meatballs:

  • 12 ounces

    lean ground beef

  • 12 ounces

    ground pork

  • 3/4 cup

    panko breadcrumbs

  • 1/4 cup

    whole or 2% milk

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1

    large shallot, grated

  • 2 cloves

    garlic, grated

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    freshly grated nutmeg

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    ground allspice

For the gravy:

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil, divided

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter, divided

  • 3 tablespoons

    all-purpose flour

  • 2 cups

    low-sodium beef broth

  • 1/2 cup


  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • Cooked egg noodles or mashed potatoes, for serving

  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for serving


  • Measuring cups and spoons

  • Chef’s knife and cutting board

  • Box grater

  • Large bowl

  • Scoop

  • Baking sheet

  • 12-inch high-sided saute pan


  1. Make the meatball mixture. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and use your hands to gently work everything together into a homogenous mixture.

  2. Shape the meatballs. Scoop the meatballs into 2 tablespoons portions — about the size of a ping-pong ball — and use the palms of your hands to press and roll into smooth balls. Set aside on a baking sheet.

  3. Brown the meatballs. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 12-inch high-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half of the meatballs and cook, turning them every 1 to 2 minutes, until browned on all 4 sides, about 8 minutes total. Transfer the meatballs to a plate and repeat with the remaining oil, butter, and meatballs.

  4. Make the gravy. Sprinkle the flour over the remaining fat in the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits. Cook the flour until it no longer appears dry, about 1 minute. Add the beef broth and whisk until smooth and just beginning to simmer.

  5. Cook the meatballs in the gravy, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Return the meatballs to the pan along with any juices from the plate, snuggling them in close together. Simmer in the gravy, uncovered, until the meatballs are cooked through and the gravy has thickened, about 10 minutes.

  6. Add the half-and-half to the gravy and serve. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the half-and-half and gently shaking the pan to combine. Tatse the gravy and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve the meatballs and gravy over cooked egg noodles or mashed potatoes and sprinkled with parsley if desired.

Recipe Notes

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.