Julköttbullar (Swedish Meatballs for Christmas)

1/3 lb very lean ground beef
1/3 lb ground pork
1/3 lb ground veal*
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/3 cup milk (or, more traditionally, cream)
1/2 small onion, grated
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon allspice
pinch ginger
pinch nutmeg
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350.

Place the breadcrumbs and milk (cream) in a medium bowl. Allow to soak 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until well combined. Form into very small (walnut-sized) meatballs. Heat some oil in a oven safe pan (I used a cast-iron skillet). Add the meatballs and saute until browned on all sides. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 10-20 minutes or until the meatballs are fully cooked. Serve immediately.

*Or you can use a mix of just beef and pork. I had all three so that is what I used. I found that Swedish cookbooks often suggest a mix of beef and elk(!) but that’s a little difficult to find here.

My thoughts:

Last year we went to Lucia Fest at the American Swedish Historical Museum in Philadelphia and it re-sparked my interest in making Swedish foods at home. We don’t have much in the way of Swedish cuisine here in Baltimore beyond Ikea but whenever I am in NYC, I always visit Swedish restaurants and even better, Sockerbit, the Swedish candy store. I love it but it is much more affordable to make the food at home.

I had read up on (and made a couple!) traditional Christmas foods last year but it was a little too late to share most of the recipes. This year I tracked down some julmust (Swedish Christmas soda) to fortify myself and went about creating some recipes for these Swedish treats.

Perhaps the easiest and most “friendly” recipe are these meatballs. Very similar to köttbullar, the more everyday Swedish meatballs, these are heavily spiked with allspice and are found on the julbord, the Christmas smörgåsbord. Or if you are not up to hosting a full julbord, served with some potatoes, gravy and lingonberry preserves for lunch or dinner. They are so good and simple to make. Some recipes call for just pan frying the meatballs but I think they get crisper and cook more evenly with the method I shared here.

I’m hoping to tackle some more Swedish dishes this season so look for them later this month. In the meantime, check out pepparkakor, a tasty cookie for Christmas and Ärtsoppa (Swedish Yellow Pea Soup) and Kåldolmar (Swedish Stuffed Cabbage) which aren’t Christmas recipes per se, but very tasty!


  1. Having a Swedish mom, we ate these every year at Christmas. I still make them for my family. In fact, while I was visiting my mom over Thanksgiving (she's 95 and has had a stroke), I made her a big batch of them for us to eat on as well as freeze. They were wonderful. Such fond memories of my Swedish heritage….thanks