Swedish, Danish or Norwegian Meatballs (Köttbullar, Frikadeller, or Kjøttboller) with Sour Cream Sauce

Swedish Meatballs

Swedish Meatballs

by Cat, Sept 2007 (photo, right, from Food Network.com (2))

Meatballs are common in most every culture, but perhaps the most well-known in the U.S. are  Italian style meatballs, typically served with a rich tomato sauce over pasta. The next best-known are Swedish Meatballs, served in a brown or sour cream sauce. Danish meatballs are very similar, and I recently found a recipe for Norwegian meatballs on Viking Cruises site (4), which is also very similar.

Wikipedia (1) has a great discussion about the different types of meatballs from different cultures.

  • Includes: 1. Swedish/Danish/Norwegian Meatballs; 2. Sour Cream Sauce
  • See also: 1. Italian Meatballs (Polpette)2. Mom’s Meatloaf; Other sites: 3. Alton Brown’s Swedish Meatballs on Food Network (2); 4. Cooks.com: Swedish Meatballs (3); 5. Viking Cruises: Norwegian Meatballs (4).

Swedish (Köttbullar), Danish (Frikadeller), or Norwegian (Kjøttboller) Meatballs

My Mom used to make this recipe for dinner, but she called it Danish meatballs, because she was Danish. Back then, we got all our meat from local farmers, so the veal was not from infant beeves kept in a tight cage, but rather young beeves raised humanely in pasture.

Mom didn’t have a crockpot; she cooked it in her large heavy-bottomed saucepan. I use my 3 quart saucier.

If you don’t want to use pork or veal, you can substitute ground turkey, but pork is essential for authenticity (Danes eat LOTS of pork).  If you use only ground beef, it won’t taste right, nor have the right texture. I usually use ground beef, ground pork and ground turkey. One time I accidentally used Italian turkey sausage by mistake, and that was a mighty strange version….

Don’t substitute fat-free or imitation sour cream or plant-based “milk.”  If you want to cut calories, use buttermilk and a little more flour when cooking the roux. The sauce can be made with milk/cream as in my recipe, or with stock and wine (Viking’s Norwegian recipe (4)).

This recipe is best served the day after cooking, to allow the flavors to blend and intensify.  Reheat before serving.

Makes about 48 small meatballs and serves 4 – 6. Double the recipe and then freeze portions for later.

Danish, Swedish, or Norwegian Meatballs

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • Meatballs:
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ½ pound ground veal or turkey
  • ½ pound ground pork or turkey
  • 2 eggs
  • ⅔ cup cream or milk
  • 1 ½ cups soft bread crumbs or torn pieces of stale bread or panko , or ½ cup regular rolled oats (not quick-cooking, preferably soaked overnight in milk)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley and more for garnish
  • 1 large shallot, minced (or ¼ red onion, minced), or more to taste
  • 1 tsp Unrefined sea salt or Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ tsp ground ginger or cardamom (optional)
  • ½ cup homemade beef stock
  • Sour Cream Sauce
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp unbleached flour
  • ½ tsp Unrefined sea salt (or to taste)
  • ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce (I know, this is English, not Scandinavian, but my Mom used it for her Danish meatballs)
  • 1 cup homemade beef stock
  • 1 cup real sour cream
  • Equipment for meatballs
  • 2 small bowls
  • large bowl
  • cookie sheets OR cast iron fry pan
  • crock pot or 3 quart saucier
  • Equipment for cream sauce
  • saute pan
  • medium bowl


  1. Prep meatballs: In small bowl, soak bread or oatmeal in cream or milk until most of the liquid is absorbed; or soak oatmeal overnight to improve the nutritional quality.
  2. In a separate small bowl, beat eggs with a fork, and then add soaked bread mixture.  Add salt, pepper and spices.
  3. Put the meat in a large bowl.  Add the shallot/onion, egg mixture, and parsley.  Mix well with hands; mixture will be a bit wet.
  4. Shape into small balls, about the size of a half-dollar.
  5. Cook meatballs:  Either place them on a cookie sheet and cook in a hot oven (4500 F) for 15-20 minutes, or brown in melted butter (in batches) until browned. I prefer the latter.
  6. As they are browned, place the cooked meatballs in the crock pot or 3 quart saucier.  Pour beef broth over, and cook on low (or simmer) for 1 ½ to 2 hours (or crock pot on Low, 4 to 6 hours; or on high, 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours).  Check occasionally to ensure they don’t cook dry; add more water or beef broth as necessary.
  7. Prepare Cream Sauce: Make roux:  Melt butter in saute pan.  Stir in flour and blend well.  Cook over medium heat for a few minutes.
  8. Add beef stock.  Continue to cook, stirring, until thickens.
  9. Add salt and worcestershire sauce and stir well.  Taste and adjust seasoning.
  10. Stir sauce into the sour cream in a medium bowl.
  11. Assembly: When meatballs are done cooking, add sour cream sauce, stir well, and cook 30 minutes more.

Serving Suggestions

  1. This recipe is best if it sits overnight in a refrigerator, and is then reheated before serving.
  2. To serve: Spoon meatballs and sauce over mashed potatoes, steamed brown or wild rice, or noodles;
  3. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley, and pickled beets on the side.
  4. Serve with a nice green vegetable such as brussels sprouts, green beans, or braised broccoli.


  1. Wikipedia on meatballs (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meatball)
  2. Food Network.com (foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/swedish-meatballs-recipe/index.html)
  3. Cooks.com recipe (cooks.com/recipe/wi21g023/swedish-meatballs-for-the-crockpot.html)
  4. Viking Cruises recipe (vikingcruises.com/oceans/why-viking/community/viking-recipes/all-recipes/norwegian-meatballs.html)

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