Köttbullar – the most beloved traditional food of the Swedes 

Ikea has made Swedish meatballs into a well-known concept all around the world. The Swedes have appropriated meatballs as their classic dish, but actually almost all food cultures have their own version of meatballs.

The word referring to a meatball was first used in a Danish cookbook in 1703. In Swedish cuisine, the history of meatballs reaches just as far back as that of coffee and stuffed cabbage rolls, as Charles XII of Sweden fell in love with them while visiting the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century.

Today, when people talk about Swedish meatballs, they are usually referring to the recipe developed by the legendary Swedish chef Tore Wretman. Wretman brought the traditions of Swedish home cooking, husmanskost, to the foreground in the 1950s and 1960s.

Wretman’s authentic meatball recipe combines different types of minced meat, but you can make meatballs out of just minced beef or a combination of minced beef and pork.

Swedish meatballs are traditionally served with mashed potatoes, cream sauce, lingonberries sprinkled with sugar, and quick-pickled cucumbers – known as “granny’s cucumbers”. The whole idea of the dish is the combination of different flavours, not just the meatballs alone.

The cheesy potato mash combines the traditional mashed potatoes with the rich flavours of Le Gruyère AOP cheese. Served with Swedish meatballs, the dish will melt on your tongue.

Tore Wretman’s meatballs
makes about 20
1 dl breadcrumbs
2 dl cream
200 g minced beef (20 % fat)
100 g minced veal
100 g minced pork
half an onion
1 tbsp butter
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp salt
pinch of black pepper or allspice
butter for frying
Cream sauce
3 dl broth from rinsing the frying pan or dark meat stock
2 spsk wheat flour
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 dl cream
  1. Mix the breadcrumbs with cream and leave to swell for a while. Next, mix in the spices, egg, and minced meat with the cream mixture.
  2. Dice the onion and fry it in butter until golden brown. Use a wooden fork to mix the onion in with the meat. In his original recipe, Wretman says that the meatball mixture is ready when a thin layer of grease sticks to the fork.
  3. Roll the mixture into about 20 meatballs: Moisten your hands with water and roll the minced meat into meatballs about the size of a ping-pong ball (30–35 g) and place them on a pre-moistened cutting board to wait for frying.
  4. Fry the meatballs in a frying pan with butter. Do not attempt to cook too many meatballs at a time. Shake the pan occasionally to roll the balls to ensure even cooking. Between each frying batch, pour one decilitre of water on the pan to rinse it and set the broth aside.
  5. After frying all the meatballs, sprinkle some wheat flour onto the pan, pour the broth into the pan and add a few drops of Japanese soy sauce and a dash of cream. Keep mixing and bring the sauce to boil.
  6. Serve the meatballs with the cream sauce, cheesy mashed potatoes, lingonberry jam, and quick-pickled cucumbers.
    You can also cook the meatballs in an air fryer in two batches, at 180 degrees Celsius for 12–14 minutes.
Cheesy mashed potatoes
serves four
1 kg floury potatoes
120 g unsalted butter
2 dl cream
500 g grated Le Gruyère AOP cheese
pinch of black pepper or allspice
  1. Peel, chop, and boil the potatoes until thoroughly cooked. Pour the water out of the kettle and leave the potatoes to cool for five minutes.
  2. Mash the potatoes. Put the mashed potatoes back into the kettle and add in the butter and cream. Mix on medium heat until the butter has melted.
  3. Mix in the grated cheese and keep mixing until the mash is smooth and stretchy. Season with pepper.
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Recipes from Switzerland

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Recipes from Denmark

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Recipes from Finland

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Recipes from Norway

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Recipes from Sweden

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The Stories of Le Gruyère AOP

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