Swedish Meatballs - Köttbullar - Aquavit

Restaurant Aquavit

Aquavit was created and opened in New York by Håkan Swahn in 1987. Aquavit opened a second restaurant in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1999, but it failed to take hold and ultimately closed in mid-2003.
Aquavit was a pioneer in creating two distinct dining rooms, a casual café with modern but rustic fare as well as a cutting-edge modern dining room. This was conceptually based on the Stockholm restaurant, Operakällaren, whose owner, Tore Wretman, was one of Aquavit’s original partners. Aquavit, with the arrival of Chef Marcus Samuelsson in 1995 garnered greater culinary recognition.
In 2002 the cook book “Aquavit and the new Scandinavian Cuisine” was written by Marcus Samuelsson based on the food of the restaurant, and that is where these recipes come from.
For convenience I've included the recipes for Quick Cucumber Pickles and Garlic Mashed Potatoes. You can't have Swedish meatballs without the other two side dishes, so they all might as well be on the same page.

Swedish Meatballs


Patriotisk köttbull

For the meatballs

  • 1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 Lb ground chuck or sirloin
  • 1/2 Lb ground veal
  • 1/2 Lb ground pork
  • 2 Tbs honey
  • 1 large egg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter

For the sauce

  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup lingonberry preserves
  • 2 Tbs juice from Quick Pickled Cucumbers
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For serving


  1. Combine the bread crumbs and heavy cream in a small bowl, stirring with a fork until all the crumbs are moistened. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes until softened. Remove from heat
  3. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, veal, pork, onion, honey, and egg, and mix well with your hands. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the bread crumb and cream mixture and mix well. With wet hands, shape the mixture into meatballs the size of a golf ball, placing them on a plate lightly moistened with water. You should have about 24 meatballs.
  4. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs in batches, and cook, turning frequently, for about 7 minutes until browned on all sides and cooked through. Transfer the meatballs to a plate, and discard all but 1 Tbs of fat from the skillet.


Return the skillet to the heat, whisk in the stock, cream, preserves, and pickle juice and bring to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the meatballs to the sauce, reduce the heat to medium, and simmer for about 5 minutes until the sauce thickens slightly and the meatballs are heated through. Serve hot with the mashed potatoes, preserves, and pickled cucumbers.

Quick Pickled Cucumbers

  • 1 English cucumber 
  • 1 Tbs Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 allspice berries
  1. Slice the cucumber as thin as possible. put the slices in a colander, toss them with the salt, and let stand for about 30 minutes
  2. Meanwhile, combine the water, vinegar, sugar, bay leaf, and allspice in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool.
  3. Rinse the salt off the cucumbers, and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Put the cucumbers in a medium bowl and add the pickling solution; they should be completely covered by the brine. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 6 hours before serving.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

  • 1.5 Lb fingerling or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 large cloves garlic
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbs freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Combine the potatoes, milk, cream, garlic, and thyme in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.
  2. Transfer the potatoes and garlic to a medium bowl and mash with a fork, adding the nutmeg, olive oil, butter, and Parmesan. Add about half the reserved cooking liquid, mixing well, then add additional cooking liquid as necessary until the potatoes are the consistency you like. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.