The first time I shopped at Ikea, I was fresh out of college and buying furniture for my first apartment with money I made at my first real job. I totally felt like an adult. I walked around the showroom, picking out pieces that reflected my newfound passion for Swedish home design, all with unique names I couldn’t pronounce. And then I discovered the best thing about Ikea. The secret all the other Ikea shoppers knew.
The Swedish meatballs.
Weary of trying to pick between one platform bed and another, I plopped down and devoured a plate of those little Swedish meatballs, and soon I was ready to face the hours upon hours of putting together all my new furniture with my own two hands.
Now that I eat Paleo I know the trick in those meatballs: they’re little nuggets of almost pure protein, which will give you long lasting, steady energy. In some ways, they are similar to Italian meatballs. Just like I would recommend with Italian meatballs, they use a mixture of both pork and beef, to enhance the flavor of the meatballs. And just like Italian meatballs, they can be conveniently cooked in a slow cooker, sauce and all. Finally, just like I skip the breadcrumbs in Italian meatballs to keep them Paleo, I do the same for my Swedish meatballs.
But two things are radically different about Swedish meatballs: the herbs and spices you use to flavor them and the sauce you use to cover them. Swedish meatballs are commonly made with allspice and nutmeg, two spices that lend a subtly sweet flavor to the dish. Allspice, despite its name, is actually its own singular spice but is named “allspice” in English because when the English first encountered it in the Caribbean, they thought that it smelled like a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
As for the sauce, this is no Italian tomato sauce, which makes sense because tomatoes don’t grow very well in the northern Swedish climate. This broth, instead, is a hearty cream-and-broth based gravy. Traditionally, the gravy would be made with butter, beef broth, wheat flour (to thicken it), and sour cream (to make it creamy). To keep our recipe Paleo, we’ve done a few substitutions. We use ghee instead of butter; arrowroot flour instead of wheat flour, and a bit of coconut milk instead of sour cream. These Paleo ingredients will do the exact same thing for the recipe as their traditional counterparts did, but will keep the recipe perfectly Paleo for you.
Over the years, I’ve slowly replaced most of my Ikea furniture, a piece at a time, with more expensive stuff that will last a bit longer. For a few years it meant I had quite a confusion of décor. But pretty much all of that Ikea furniture is gone now. But my love for Swedish meatballs remains. They make a great, hearty meal, any time of the year, especially when paired with a salad full of crisp, fresh veggies.
And they also make a great appetizer for parties! You can serve them right in the slow cooker, on warm, to keep them heated, with a stash of toothpicks nearby. Or if you’re fancy (ie, past the Ikea stage), serve them on a nice platter. Either way, your Swedish meatballs will probably provoke memories of shopping excursions to Ikea and, if you have really cool friends, maybe even memories of a few trips to the real Sweden.
(Make this next: Slow Cooker Italian Paleo Meatballs)
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 egg yolks
- ¼ tsp ground allspice
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- For the gravy
- 2 tbsp ghee
- 3 tbsp arrowroot flour
- 1 ½ cup hot beef broth
- ½ cup coconut milk, warmed
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
- Add pork, beef, egg yolk, onion, nutmeg, allspice, salt and black pepper in a large bowl.
- Mix to combine.
- Shape into 1'' balls.
- Arrange meatballs in slow cooker.
- In a skillet heat ghee over medium heat.
- Add arrowroot flour and stir until smooth.
- Add beef broth and coconut milk, whisking continuously until smooth.
- Cook for 3-5 minutes.
- Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Pour sauce over meatballs, cover with a lid and cook for 4 hours on low.
Hi Harper – This looks like a wonderful recipe – could I use coconut oil instead of ghee – I’m extremely intolerant of any dairy?
Coconut oil would work great! Definitely not a problem to substitute it over ghee.
Everything looks delicious!!
I don’t eat beef or pork. Would this recipe work with chicken or turkey?
Yes it would with either or both chicken and turkey.
Jess, do you make your own ghee? Is it difficult to make? I’ve never seen it in a store.
Yes, you can make your own ghee. You simply melt and simmer butter over medium low heat, and skim off the milks solids that float to the top.
Ghee is available at Trader Joe’s grocery stores, and some other national chains, if those are available in your area. Ghee is very easy to make. In the West, many people use the terms ghee and clarified butter interchangeably, but traditionally, there is a difference.
To make ghee, unsalted butter is heated over low to medium-low heat (keep heat as low as possible so that is does not burn by the end of the process), and any foam that floats to the top is skimmed off, and the sediment that will gather at the bottom is also carefully kept out of the finished product. You will hear little popping sounds as the butter cooks. This is the small amount of water that is naturally part of the moisture in butter. As the butter heats, water is evaporating, and makes the same sound you hear if you drop water in hot oil. You want all of the water to evaporate before the ghee is finished. When all of the water has evaporated, the popping sound will stop. The sediment at the bottom of the pan can be kept out by straining through a very fine sieve (or even a paper coffee filter, if the liquid is hot enough. As it cools, it thickens, which is why it needs to still be hot to use a coffee filter) before pouring into a glass jar or similar container. The ghee can be kept for a very long period of time in a tightly covered container.
Clarified butter, on the other hand, only requires that the foam that gathers on the surface be skimmed off, and will not keep as long.
We love salad with our main meal. Never would have put it with meat balls though,- my adventure for this week, thanks for sharing it with us.
Made this last night and it was incredible. I worked for IKEA for 8 years in Sweden and this smelled exactly like the meatballs there. Very easy to make. My only critique would be to double the gravy recipe and put some on the side for later. The gravy from the slow cooker became a bit too oily. This is great over mashed cauliflower.
Depending on the fat content of the meat you used, I could see how the gravy could be too oily. I would suggest adding more arrowroot powder to bind it.
Thanks James, I’m glade you like it. Extra gravy sounds good. I’ll try next time.
Will almond flour work in place of the arrowroot flour? (Simply because I have almond flour in the cupboard.)
Sorry, it won’t.You can use tapioca flour if you have it.
Have you tried it with cashew “sour” cream? Do you think it would work? I don’t care for the coconut taste of coconut milk.
Sorry, I didn’t.
Do these need to be in a single layer in the crock pot? With two pounds of meat it appears I’ll have more than can fit in the bottom layer!
For the coconut milk, is it canned coconut milk or regular from the carton? The canned is thicker, so just curious before I make them. Thank you!