The year I put my foot down and told everyone that we were staying home for Christmas (because really, what is the point of having kids, if I can’t enjoy watching them tumble downstairs on Christmas morning, and let them stay in their pajamas until dinner is served), I introduced a new Christmas Eve tradition, a simple dinner of Swedish meatballs with boiled potatoes, cream sauce, broccoli and Ligonberry preserves.

In the past, the meatballs, sauce and preserves came from the Swedish Market at Ikea, but this year I decided we were going to make the meatballs and sauce from scratch. My mom gave me an old Time Life cookbook with authentic Swedish recipes, but I decided instead to use this recipe found in The Boston Globe on Dec 14, 2010 (serves 6)

Use torn bread cubes in place of bread crumbs to make a delicate meatball which absorbs more sauce.


  • 1 cup (about 4 slices) torn bread cubes
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Canola oil (for the pan)

1. Set the oven at 450. Have on hand a large nonstick skillet with an ovenproof handle or a cast iron skillet. Place a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet.

2. In a bowl, combine bread and milk.

3. In another bowl, gently mix beef, onion, egg, parsley, nutmeg, allspice, salt, pepper, and bread mix.

4. Coat the skillet lightly with oil. With wet hands, form 30 small meatballs and place them in the skillet.

5. Bake for 20 minutes, turning once or twice, or until well browned.

6. Transfer the meatballs to the rack to drain. Use the same skillet to make the sauce.


  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon flour
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. In the skillet over medium high heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until beginning to brown. Stir in the flour, and cook for 1 minute.

2. Stir in the broth and cream. Bring to a boil. Add meatballs; lower the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the sauce thickens.

3. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

Karoline Boehm Goodnick

Inspired by The Meal Makeover Moms, I skipped the heavy cream and instead created a roux using flour, butter and milk to create the cream sauce.

Sophie and I spent the afternoon, in our matching aprons (thanks mom!) making dinner. While some of my meatballs fell apart in the sauce, we all agreed that the home made meatballs were much better than the frozen version, and yes, both the kids ate them.

New Year’s Eve is approaching and I’m thinking that Swedish Meatballs to mark the last night of the year might make for another new tradition.


11 Responses to Making Swedish Meatballs

  1. Shana says:

    I love that you decided to stay home this year! We did the same thing. We used travel all over New York for the Holidays (Albany, Rochester, Kingston) Once the kids were old enough to really get Christmas we said, We’re staying put and the grandparents come to us now.
    We have a nice quiet Christmas eve at home and do Christmas morning with just us.

    I would like to start a Christmas eve dinner tradition though. Thanks for the idea.

  2. Ashley says:

    I LOVE food traditions. We have quite a few at our house. Our kids really enjoy them.

    I have a quick tip for your meatballs that would make the dinner sooooo much easier to prepare. Once you form the meatballs, place them on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Then add them to your sauce. The meatballs stay perfectly formed and you don’t have the hassle of sauteeing them in batches. I make Italian meatballs (for spaghetti) using the same cooking method. Easy!!!

  3. Kim says:

    What fun! We celebrate Christmas with my husband’s family on Christmas Eve (thankfully we only have to drive 4 miles) and decided last year that Swedish meatballs would be the new dinner tradition. We do this to honor my husband’s grandma who passed a couple years ago at 94. It is a great meal that everyone loves to eat and a way to remember family no longer with us.
    Happy new year Manic Mommies!

  4. Sara says:

    Yum! Meatballs must be in season. We had them twice this week. :-)

  5. Jugglingmom4 says:

    That’s too precious! We, too hve gotten our Swedish meatballs, gravy, etc from Ikea–we even call it “Ikea meal night!”. Maybe I’ll make that for New Year’s Eve from scratch now…

  6. Cyndi says:

    Looks like you started something GOOD! New traditions … to heck with what other people do.

  7. Kristin says:

    I am so game for this recipe since we don’t have an IKEA within 5 hours of us :( We travelled to friends for Xmas but am thrilled we are staying home for New Years. Night at the Museum 2 and tacos….maybe that will be our new tradition!

  8. Steff says:

    Kristen – what a great new tradition! Thanks for recipe. The photos add inspiration…

  9. Karen says:

    I second the suggestion of baking the meatballs rather than pan-frying them. Much easier and less messy, and healthier too! We have Swedish meatballs as part of our Christmas Eve smorgasbord every year. Try saving some meatballs out of the sauce and having them in sandwiches–I think I like the sandwiches better than the meal. :-)

  10. Sara says:

    I made these for the family last weekend and they were a big hit! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  11. Kate says:

    A few more tips for Meatballs that I have picked up on:
    1. Put all ingredients into a large zip lock bag and squish together in there. Saves you from getting gross stuff stuck under your nails, and is generally a much cleaner practice (for germs and clean up!).
    2. After my mixture is complete, I roll it out into a rectangular shape (as best as you can – I use the zip lock to help keep my hands clean still) and then I cut as many meatballs as I can, just like if you were cutting a cake. Technically they look like little squares, but you can reshape them if you want to be more circular. I try to get mine to be 1in. x 1in. x 1in. The thing is you want your meatballs to be about the same size. I usually take the weird ends and make a few Jumbo meatballs for the Hubs.
    3. I will never again cook meatballs in the skillet. Baking is the easiest way to go. Line your pan with foil for even easier clean up. No breakage will occur. All meatballs can be baked at the same time and will cook at the same rate!