International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Köttbullar med Gräddsås

Köttbullar (Swedish meatballs with cream sauce)

(Swedish meatballs with cream sauce)

Average: 5 (1 vote)

Swedish meatballs are among the more famous of Swedish dishes, familiar to the world as appetizers on a toothpick or as a cheap meal at your local Ikea.

But in Sweden, köttbullar are a beloved dinner meal, paired with potatoes and a big dollop of lingonberry jam. Finns enjoy the same dish, calling it lihapullat.

Kids are particularly partial to köttbullar, and these tender, juicy meatballs are a must-have on any Swedish Christmas julbord spread.

You can make the meatballs with your choice of ground meat or poultry, and köttbullar can be served with or without the cream sauce.

6 to 8 servings



  • Butter or oil -- 2 to 3 tablespoons
  • Onion, finely chopped -- 1
  • Plain dry breadcrumbs -- 1 cup
  • Sugar -- 2 teaspoons
  • Ground allspice -- 1 teaspoon
  • Milk -- 1 cup
  • Ground beef -- 1 1/2 pounds
  • Ground pork -- 1/2 pound
  • Eggs, beaten -- 2
  • Salt and white pepper -- to season

Cream sauce

  • Water or stock -- 1 cup
  • Heavy cream -- 1/2 cup
  • Flour -- 2 tablespoons
  • Salt and white pepper -- to season


  1. Heat the butter or oil in a large skillet over medium-low flame. Add the onions and saute until cooked through and translucent and just starting to brown. Remove the onions to a large mixing bowl.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs, sugar and allspice. Pour in the milk and stir to moisten the breadcrumbs evenly. Set aside to rest.
  3. Add the beef, pork, eggs and breadcrumb mixture to the bowl with the onions, along with salt and pepper to season. Use clean hands to mix all the ingredients together until smooth. Do not overmix or your meatballs could turn out tough.
  4. Using wetted hands, form the meat mixture into walnut-sized balls and place on a baking sheet or cutting board.
  5. Add more butter or oil as needed to the skillet and return to heat over medium flame. Working in batches, brown the meatballs, shaking the skillet from time to time to make sure the meatballs get browned on all sides and are cooked through. Remove the meatballs to a warm serving dish as they are done.
  6. To make the cream sauce, pour the water or stock into the skillet after the meatballs have all been cooked. Bring to a simmer over medium-low flame and stir to scrape up all the cooked-on bits on the bottom of the skillet.
  7. Whisk the flour into the cream until it is smooth, then whisk the cream into the simmering liquid in the skillet. Bring to a boil and cook until lightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and white pepper, then pour over the meatballs.
  8. Serve immediately with boiled or mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam (cranberry sauce is a great substitute).

Köttbullar Variations

  • Meat: A mixture of ground beef and ground pork will make really tasty, juicy meatballs, but you can use all ground beef if you prefer. Ground chicken or turkey are popular for a lower-fat version. And any hunters out there can try ground venison, reindeer or moose.
  • Gluten-free meatballs: To make gluten-free köttbullar, use cold mashed potatoes, grated, cooked potatoes or rolled oats instead of the breadcrumbs.
  • Dairy: Use milk or half and half instead of the cream in your meat mixture for a lower-fat meatballs. Finnish recipes sometimes use sour cream or yogurt.
  • Seasonings: Dijon or whole-grain mustard; powdered ginger; a pinch of cinnamon.
  • Baked meatballs: If you prefer not to saute your köttbullar, you can bake them on a sheet pan at 350 degrees F until browned and cooked through.
  • Freezing: Make up a large batch of köttbullar and cook them off ahead of time. Freeze them in a single layer on a sheet pan, and then bag them up and enjoy for a quick and easy meal at a later date.


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