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What are Swedish Meatballs?

Skillets are used to make Swedish meatballs.
Swedish meatballs traditionally include fresh ground nutmeg.
Swedish meatballs are the national dish of Sweden.
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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2014
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Unlike dishes such as French onions and Vienna sausages, Swedish meatballs actually are a national dish of Sweden. They are often served during holiday seasons and at smorgasbords, the Scandinavian inspiration for all-you-can-eat buffets. The traditional version of the dish is usually accompanied by boiled egg noodles and topped with a sour cream and beef broth sauce. Swedish-style meatballs are rarely used in Italian pasta dishes — they are generally smaller in size and softer in consistency than Italian meatballs.

Basic recipes for Swedish meatballs begin with either ground beef, ground veal or a combination of ground beef and pork. Almost all meatball recipes call for some type of extender, and in the case of Swedish-style meatballs the preferred ingredient is bread crumbs. Bread crumbs are soaked in milk to add volume and moisture to the dish. Some recipes only call for salt and pepper to be added to the bread crumbs, but authentic versions contain a surprise ingredient — fresh ground nutmeg. The nutmeg gives the meatballs a distinctive sweetness not found in Mediterranean-style meatballs.

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The ground meat and spiced bread crumbs are combined in a bowl, using one raw egg as a binder. Once the mixture has been thoroughly blended, it's time to form the meatballs. Traditional Swedish meatballs are on the small side, generally no larger than an inch or so in diameter. This process can be time-consuming, and it helps to keep your hands covered with cooking spray or butter. The finished meatballs are now ready to be pan-fried in butter.

Swedish meatballs need to be browned on all four sides before removing them from the skillet. A side dish of egg noodles should be prepared according to directions and set aside temporarily. Once the meatballs are done, they should be placed over the noodles.

A sauce consisting of sour cream, beef broth and some of the pan drippings should be warmed in a saucepan and drizzled over the meatballs and noodles. The entire dish can be heated in the oven until it is warmed through, then served like any other pasta dish or casserole. Some recipes call for a final sprinkling of paprika or freshly milled white pepper.

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anon262021
Post 4

Serving these with egg noodles is common in America. Traditional pairings are boiled or mashed potatoes for the starch. Either is delicious, though. In the US, you can get dry packets of the cream sauce and frozen meatballs at IKEA if you are not a good cook or need to prepare the dish quickly.

anon56539
Post 3

actually yes, a sour cream and beef broth sauce is authentic. And it's extremely common, although a lot of people, to make things easier, will use a cream soup.

anon42278
Post 2

Egg noodles and sour cream? Is this a joke? I'm Swedish and I've never heard of that combination.

obsessedwithloopy
Post 1

Adding a dash of baking powder to the meatball mixture will add lightness to the final product. Also one can use good quality white bread torn in pieces and soaked in milk.

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