These easy Crock Pot Swedish Meatballs are smothered in a homemade gravy that beats the pants off IKEA.
If you love Swedish Meatballs, you'll also enjoy similar flavors in this Chopped Steak and Gravy!
Why You're Going to Love Swedish Meatballs
I love cooking meatballs for dinner, because it's one of the few meals I know everyone in my family will gobble up without complaint. Whether it's BBQ Meatballs or classic Italian Meatballs, we all love a saucy meatball served with pasta or mashed potatoes.
These Crock Pot Swedish Meatballs are certainly no exception. Swedish meatballs are best identified by the light, creamy gravy they're served with.
The gravy is rich but not too heavy, thanks to an unexpected squeeze of lemon juice. Both the meatballs and gravy have their own unique flavor that set them apart from other kinds of meatballs.
I prefer to make Swedish meatballs from scratch. While it does take a little more time to prep, it pays off big in flavor. The prep work can all be done in advance, then you can let the slow cooker do the rest!
Today, I'll walk you through how to make the best Crock Pot Swedish Meatballs, and share some helpful tips for short cuts, freezing, side dishes, and more!
For the meatballs:
- Ground Beef - We typically stick to 80/20 ground beef.
- Ground Pork - I add pork to a lot of my meatball recipes. It lightens the flavor a bit, and the slightly higher fat content adds extra moisture.
- Onion- For flavor and moisture. Have I mentioned we're trying to keep these meatballs nice and moist?
- Spices- I use garlic, salt, pepper, and allspice to season the meatballs. Nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger are also used in Swedish meatballs sometimes, but I prefer just the allspice.
- Egg- An egg is used as a binding ingredient so they don’t fall apart.
For the gravy:
- Butter and flour form the base of the roux. (*See "What is a Roux?")
- Beef Broth- I usually use low sodium broth.
- Soy Sauce (OR WORCESTERSHIRE??) adds depth. If you prefer gluten free, you can swap it for tamari or coconut aminos.
- Lemon juice- The secret ingredient to the bright, light flavor of Swedish meatballs!
- Heavy Cream - You don’t want to skimp on the cream—it makes the sauce extra rich and velvety.
How To Make Swedish Meatballs in the Slow Cooker
- Form the meatballs- All you need to do is gently mix the ground meat with the spices and shape the balls with either a cookie scoop or by hand.
- Sear meat- The meatballs need to brown on the outside so they don't fall apart in the slow cooker. My favorite way to do this is in the broiler. It’s fast, hands off, and virtually mess free. If you prefer, you can sear them in a skillet with some oil to brown the outsides.
- Make the roux- The gravy for Swedish meatballs starts with a simple roux. First, melt butter in a saucepan, then whisk in the flour. Next, add in beef broth and soy sauce. Increase the heat, and continue stirring until it’s boiling. Once it's slightly thickened, season to taste with salt and pepper
- Combine the ingredients- Place the meatballs in the crock pot, then pour the gravy over top.
- Simmer until cooked- Let the crock pot do all the work! Cook for 2 hours on high heat or 4-5 hours on low heat.
- Serve - Stir in the heavy cream and lemon juice, then serve with a sprinkle of parsley.
Tips & FAQs for Making Slow Cooker Swedish Meatballs
What is the Difference between Meatballs and Swedish Meatballs?
Italian meatballs and Swedish meatballs are different in taste and size. Swedish are usually smaller. They’re typically cooked in a roux and use half pork and half beef for a lighter taste. They also use spices like allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger. Italian meatballs tend to use ground beef or veal, and are made with Parmesan cheeses, oregano, and garlic.
Can you freeze Swedish Meatballs?
Yes, you can freeze the meatballs before adding the gravy. I don't recommend freezing the finished dish, as the gravy can separate when thawed.
To freeze, bake the meatballs at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until cooked through. Allow to cool completely, then place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Flash freeze for 1 hour, then toss all the meatballs in an airtight container or zip top bag. Freeze for up to 6 months.
The meatballs can go straight from the freezer into the crock pot, just pour the gravy over top and cook as usual!
I like to make a double batch of the meatballs and freeze half so I have a quick dinner option available for busy weeknights. It's like a gift to my future self!
What to serve with Swedish Meatballs
Swedish meatballs are traditionally served over potatoes, and this guide on How to Make Creamy Mashed Potatoes Without a Ricer gives you all my tips and tricks for the perfect potatoes. You can also serve them with rice, egg noodles, or pasta.
A Gluten Free Swedish Meatball Option
The good news is, the meatballs are already naturally gluten free. If you want to make the gravy gluten free, replace the flour with a 1 to 1 gluten free flour blend--one that doesn't use bean flours as a primary ingredient. Replace the soy sauce with tamari sauce, and be sure your beef broth is labeled gluten free.
You may also be interested in this recipe for Gluten Free Meatballs without Breadcrumbs.
Can you overcook meatballs in a slow cooker?
Meatballs have a high tolerance for slow cooking. They can generally cook for eight hours on low and be just fine. However, the gravy they are cooking in can dry up after eight hours. I recommend switching the slow cooker to WARM after four hours on low. It can stay on warm for another few hours without any issues.
Crock Pot Swedish Meatballs
- 1 small onion (finely diced or grated)
- 1 pound ground beef
- ½ pound ground pork
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- 1 large egg
For the gravy:
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 Tablespoons all purpose flour
- 2 ½ cups beef broth
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup half and half (or heavy cream)
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- In a large bowl, combine the onion, ground beef, ground pork, garlic powder, salt, pepper, allspice, and egg. Mix together until the ingredients are well combined.
- Preheat the broiler.
- Scoop the beef mixture into 1 ½” balls (about the size of a golf ball). I use a #40 (Tablespoon sized) cookie scoop to do this. If desired, round out the shape of the scoop in the palms of your hands.
- Place the balls on a parchment lined baking sheet, then broil for 8-10 minutes, or until just browned on the outside.
- Add them to a slow cooker that holds at least 4 quarts.
Meanwhile, prepare the roux.
- Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until smooth, cooking for about 1 minute. Slowly pour in the beef broth and soy sauce, whisking constantly, until combined. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until gravy is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Pour the gravy over the meatballs.
- Cover the slow cooker, cook for 4 hours over low heat or 2 hours over high heat.
- Once the meatballs are done cooking, turn off the slow cooker and stir in the half and half or cream and the lemon juice. Serve immediately or keep on the warm setting until ready to serve.