My Norwegian Grandmother's Meatball Recipe (2024)

May 28, 2016

posted by Haley


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A legendary recipe in my family: My Norwegian grandma’s meatballs are perfectly seasoned. Serve with lingonberry jam on the side and a plate full of lefse!

My Norwegian Grandmother's Meatball Recipe (1)

(I just realized that I am writing this post on what would have been my grandmother’s 94th birthday. She passed away in 2005. I still think about her often. She was the greatest.)

When it comes to cooking, my grandma was known for one thing: Her meatballs.

I’ve noticed that Italian grandmas get a lot of attention for their cooking – and rightly so. But you don’t often hear about Norwegian grandmas and their recipes.

Today, I’m on a mission to shine light on my grandma and all the other Norwegian grandmas who probably don’t get the attention they deserve for their cooking.

Every Christmas, my grandma would make a HUGE batch of these meatballs (kjøttkaker or kjøttboller in Norwegian) – and we would devour them. Other components of the Christmas meal were:

  • Oyster stew
  • Mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Cooked corn
  • Cranberry salad
  • Norwegian lefse, with lots of butter and sugar

My Norwegian Grandmother's Meatball Recipe (2)

Norwegian Roots

My grandma was born in the U.S. but she was Norwegian through and through.

  • I distinctly remember her and her sister speaking in Norwegian when they didn’t want me to understand what they were talking about.
  • She would utter Norwegian words and phrases and call us cute Norwegian names when we were young.
  • She enjoyed traditional Norwegian foods like lefse, sweet soup and head cheese.

She wasn’t crazy about cooking, but she took pride in her meatballs – probably because she could see how much we enjoyed them.

My Norwegian Grandmother's Meatball Recipe (3)

I am excited and proud to share this special recipe with you.

It isn’t fancy or difficult to make. You probably have most of the ingredients on hand.

These meatballs can be eaten plain, but also work well in spaghetti. Personally, I like to eat them with a little bit of lingonberry (or strawberry) jam on the side.

My Norwegian Grandmother's Meatball Recipe (4)

Here is a picture of my grandparents in 1963:

Don’t Take My Word For It…

Grandma’s meatballs are legendary in our family. Here’s what other family members have to say about them:

  • My brother: “They were perfectly seasoned, juicy, and just the right size: It wasn’t just a huge glob of meat. They were perfectly proportionate. They were great with or without gravy. And they mixed well with the other dishes: Mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, and lefse. I’m getting hungry just thinking about them.”
  • My mom: “Oh my. Her meatballs were so moist. You know how meatballs can get dry sometimes? Well hers weren’t. They were just really moist and really good.”
  • My dad: “They had a different taste to them. Boy, they were seasoned just right. She would just dump this and that in there… I don’t think she even had a recipe. But they sure were good.”

My Norwegian Grandmother's Meatball Recipe (5)

I’m going to leave you with that. Bon appetite – orshould I say, “Vel bekomme!”

Looking For More Traditional Norwegian Recipes? Check These Out:

  • Sweet soup (sot suppe)
  • Potato dumplings (klub)
  • Lutefisk
  • Flatbread (flatbrod)
  • Lefse
  • A platter of Scandinavian snacks
  • Swedish meatballs
  • Open-faced sandwiches
  • Norwegian Christmas bread
  • Norwegian cream pudding (rommegrot)
  • Rommegrot bars
  • Norwegian rice pudding (risgrot)
  • Almond kringler
  • Almond cake
    • Almond cake with cranberries and orange zest
  • Krumkake
  • Kringla
  • Sandbakkelse
  • Goro cookies
  • Pepperkaker (spiced sugar cookies)
  • Danish pancakes (aebleskiver)
  • How to make Norwegian egg coffee
  • Scandinavian gløgg (made with juice instead of wine)
My Norwegian Grandmother's Meatball Recipe (6)

Yield: 33 meatballs

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

If you plan on making gravy, add 1/2 cup water to the pan before baking. Then drain the pan sauce after baking the meatballs and proceed with making the gravy.


  • 2 pounds ground beef (I used 85% lean)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 slices day-old bread, torn into small pieces (omit for paleo or Whole30 diets)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes (or 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon Beef Base)
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. With clean hands, mix all ingredients together until evenly incorporated.
  2. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch cake pan. Take a golf-ball sized scoop of the ground beef mixture and form into a ball. Repeat with remaining mixture. You should get about 33 meatballs in all.
  3. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes. Use pan juice to make gravy, if desired. Store any uneaten meatballs in the freezer for up to two months.

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Recipes International Main course Paleo

posted by Haley on May 28, 2016 (updated December 19, 2023)

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13 comments on “My Norwegian Grandmother’s Meatball Recipe”

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  1. Sonya Reply

    Delicious! I have had the good fortune of tasting these . . .

    • Haley Reply

      You certainly did 🙂 Thanks Sonya!

  2. pam hawn Reply

    I think this recipe is pretty true of the meatballs My grandmother used to make. with a few exceptions. She used a little nutmeg in the meatballs. Which added a savory characteristic. She fried them in bacon grease in a hot skillet until they were brown on all sides. Then she put them in a . heavier Pan with a lid.She cooked them in LOW Oven and covered them with milk and cream. Then grandma would make a slurry of milk and flour and thicken the gravy.

  3. Kim Reply

    That. Sounds good. My. Son loves. Meatballs. I look forward to. Making them

  4. Gayle Barbur Reply

    Hi my Norwegian Grandma made hers with beef veal and pork all ground up with shredded potato for filler. I’m 1/2 Norwegian this is how I do them, Very good

  5. Cheryl Ristow Reply

    Do you mix even the heavy cream into the meat mixture?

    • Haley Reply

      Yes, the cream is mixed into the meat mixture.

  6. Dana Fuchs Reply

    Should I crush up the beef bullion cubes or put them into a bit of water to make them soft?

    • Haley Reply

      Crushing them up is fine.

  7. Nancy Reply

    Love Norwegian meatballs…my mom always made meatballs and gravy…she was a great cook….everything she made was the best…her gravy was the best gravy I have ever had…always came out perfect…made alot of Norwegian foods…lutefisk at Christmas…(never did care for that) and also lefse…which I still make myself once in awhile…especially when I am up North visiting my kids in Ohio for the holidays…they all enjoy lefse.. we would go to my Aunt’s house as she would make the potatoe dumplings (Klub) and invite the sisters over lunch! yummy….my husband does the cooking here and I have an old cookbook from my hometown in ND and the recipe is in there…so he has made them for me…One thing I really miss that my mom made every Christmas is Blo Klub..I think that is how you spell it…not sure…but I loved that….so many childhood memories…100% Norwegian….

  8. Eric Fretheim Reply

    Your mother reminds me of my grandmother. She was born in the US at the turn of the century in a Norwegian-speaking community and didn’t learn English until she started school. I remember her chattering with my great-aunts in Norwegian, which my grandfather didn’t speak. I’m also married to a foreign-language-first speaker and I can kind of guess what they were talking about in front of him! Haha.

    Your recipe looks more complex than hers, so I may give it a try out of curiosity. She didn’t use an oven; she browned the meatballs on her griddle first and then put them in a saucepan to cook them on the stove. When they were almost ready, she would make a roux for the gravy, mix it with water and milk and pour it into the pot to let the gravy cook right in there with the meatballs.

  9. Kris Reply

    yup, that’s the way my nana made them. Browned in the pan, then you make gravy and cook them fully in the hot brown gravy. To me, it’s not Norwegian unless there’s ginger and/or nutmeg in the recipe. My mother adapted this recipe (which I’m sure was Meatcakes recipe!) when she’d brown it as one big round (american meatloaf) in the dutch oven then cover it with diced tomatoes to cook more and serve like that!

  10. Alice Eggers Reply

    These ain’t them damn svedish meatballs!

Leave a Reply

My Norwegian Grandmother's Meatball Recipe (2024)


What is the difference between Swedish and Norwegian meatballs? ›

Norwegian recipes are made with all beef, while some Swedish recipes also use pork. Norwegian meatballs tend to be larger and flatter than their Swedish cousins.

What are Norwegian meatballs made of? ›

It's a dish that's best made at home with lots of love! So what makes a kjøttkake? In Norway, they are traditionally made from minced cattle, pork, lamb, or game meat, and shaped into thick, flat patties and fried.

What is the secret of a tender meatball? ›

Egg and breadcrumbs are common mix-ins to add moisture and tenderness. Another binder option that people swear by is a panade, which is fresh or dry breadcrumbs that have been soaked in milk. “The soaked breadcrumbs help keep the proteins in the meat from shrinking,” as food writer Tara Holland explained in the Kitchn.

What's the difference between meatballs and Swedish meatballs? ›

Swedish meatballs are slightly smaller than traditional meatballs — think the size of a golf ball — so that they can be easily picked up by a toothpick and popped into your mouth. As for the sauce, Swedish meatballs are cooked in a rich, creamy gravy that is most often created from bone broth and cream.

What is a typical breakfast in Norway? ›

The Norwegian breakfast doesn't look anything like a traditional American breakfast. Breakfast is a light affair often involving Norwegian rye bread cheese, jam and butter. There's also often meat and fish, like salami, ham, smoked salmon or pickled herring.

Why do Swedish meatballs taste so good? ›

The Seasoning

While both varieties include ingredients such as grated onion and panade (milk-soaked bread) or bread crumbs, plus the usual salt and pepper, Swedish meatballs traditionally use spices like allspice, nutmeg, white pepper, and sometimes ground ginger as flavoring.

How do Swedes eat meatballs? ›

Meatballs are as quintessentially Swedish as it gets. In their most traditional form Swedish meatballs ('köttbullar') are made of ground pork and beef, cream, egg and onion, and are served with creamy mashed potatoes, a thick, brown gravy, lingonberry jam and pickled cucumber.

Why do Swedish meatballs taste different? ›

These meatballs tend to be a bit smaller in size and are more savory than their Italian counterpart. They are seasoned with aromatic allspice that balances out the rich flavor of the white, gravy-like sauce they're served in.

Do Swedish meatballs have horse meat? ›

Swedish furniture giant Ikea has withdrawn some of its meatballs in 14 European countries after horse meat was discovered in the Swedish-made product in the Czech Republic.

Is it better to fry or bake meatballs? ›

Baking will result in meatballs with a crunchy exterior, though the caramelisation achieved from frying will be superior. Baked meatballs take the least amount of effort, as you'll only need to turn them once or twice throughout the cook and you can make a larger batch at once.

Do meatballs get more tender the longer they cook in sauce? ›

As the collagen in the meat dissolves over time, it transforms into gelatin, which not only adds a silky texture to the sauce but also contributes to the overall richness and depth of flavor. The longer the simmer, the more tender and succulent the meatballs become.

What is the best binder for meatballs? ›

An egg is usually a good start, as that can help with the tenderness and texture, but the king of meatball binders is breadcrumbs soaked in milk (also known as a panade). Soaking the breadcrumbs first makes them pliable and soggy, which allows them to easily and evenly mix into the ground meat.

Are homestyle meatballs the same as Swedish meatballs? ›

While they are all balls of meat, the ingredients, the meat mix, the spices (perhaps the biggest difference) and the way they are served and the sauces used for service are very different.

Why are IKEA Swedish meatballs so good? ›

They're made with all-natural ingredients

The Ikea website lists the ingredients of their meatballs (which Ikea calls ALLEMANSRÄTTEN), and the rundown is surprisingly simple: Meat (a combination of pork and beef, for texture, flavor, and juiciness), onion, breadcrumbs, egg, water, salt, and pepper.

Why are my Swedish meatballs falling apart? ›

But too much bread crumbs make them too loose, and not enough bread crumbs won't help them hold together either. Similar issues can be caused by eggs: Too many eggs, and the meatballs will be too soggy.

What is the difference between Swedish and Norwegian cuisine? ›

For example, Norwegian cuisine is more seafood-centric, while Swedish cuisine has a greater variety of meat dishes. In addition, Norwegian cuisine puts more emphasis on traditional cooking methods such as smoking and pickling, while Swedish cuisine is known for its fried dishes and use of sauces.

What's the difference between Swedish and Finnish meatballs? ›

"Finnish meatballs are meatier and bigger than Swedish meatballs. They are also served with lingonberry jam and boiled/mashed potatoes, and a gravy, but they are juicier and yummier.

Are Swedish meatballs the same as Italian meatballs? ›

The major difference between Swedish and Italian meatballs is what they're accompanied with. Swedish meatballs are traditionally topped with a creamy gravy and served with mashed potatoes and lingonberry sauce to cut through the richness, similar to how they're cooked at the two-Michelin-starred restaurant, Aquavit.

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