There Is A Right (And Wrong) Way To Eat Ikea's Swedish Meatballs

No visit to Ikea is complete without a meal of meatballs. The furniture store serves them in its on-site restaurants and bistros, and they've become as synonymous with the brand as its once-iconic catalog, sadly no longer in print. For a taste of the Scandinavian specialty, you can order the Swedish meatballs plate from the store's food counter, which comes served with mashed potatoes, lingonberry jam, and a gravy-like cream sauce. Usually, you'll also have a choice of vegetables as a side too — like broccoli, green beans, or peas. 

There's actually a right (and wrong) way to eat Ikea's meatballs, based on Swedish tradition. The first thing to know is how not to eat them — don't eat an entire meatball on its own. If you do, you might find the flavor bland and uninteresting, and probably somewhat dry. The correct approach is to cut them in half, then eat each piece together with a bit of the potato and some of the sweet jam. While everyone has their own preferred way of enjoying the classic dish, real Swedes will advise you that the proper way to best enjoy it is with all the flavors together in one forkful.

Traditional Swedish meatballs should not be eaten plain

After first halving a meatball using a knife and fork, use the fork to dip one half in lingonberry jam, then use the knife to top both with some mashed potato. The idea is to get all three of those ingredients into one bite as the jam, meatball, and mashed potatoes play well off each other and enhance the overall experience.

Pairing the sweet with savory as well as mixing textures is key to experiencing Swedish meatballs as they are meant to taste. The mild flavor of Ikea's meatballs comes from allspice, (a spice similar to cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg), which the sweet and slightly tart lingonberry jam goes with perfectly. Together with the tender meat and fruity jam, the potatoes add just the right creaminess to complement and complete the trio. Ikea's bistro, which is more casual than its cafeteria-style restaurant, also offers what it calls a "Swedish meatball sundae." This takeout style order piles the balls, potatoes, jam, and gravy all together into a cup, which makes it even easier to eat everything in combination.

Cook like a Swede with Ikea's frozen meatballs

If you'd like to try your hand at cooking Swedish cuisine at home, Ikea sells all the products for its meatball dish that you can prepare yourself. You can purchase the brand's Allemansrätten mashed potatoes frozen, along with the mix for its cream sauce sold separately. Jars of Sylt lingonberry jam are available too, made from wild organic berries grown in Sweden.

As for the meatballs, which Ikea calls Huvudroll, you've got a variety to choose from. Sold frozen and easily prepared, there are options for everyone. The regular version is made from a seasoned blend of beef and pork, and you can also get them made from chicken. The company also makes two different plant-based Huvudrolls, both vegetarian and 100% vegan. The vegetable balls are made with chunky pieces of chickpeas, carrots, peppers, corn, and kale, while the plant balls are made from pea protein, oats, potatoes, onion, and apple, and have more of a realistic faux-meat texture. 

To skip store-bought and make your own, try chef Marcus Samuelson's Swedish meatballs. His recipe was passed down to him from his grandmother and is served with a traditional side of pickled cucumbers, known as pressgurka. For a different approach, you can make the cumin lamb meatballs with lentils featured in the cookbook "Lagom: The Swedish Art of Eating Harmoniously," by Steffi Knowles-Dellner. The hearty dish is oven-baked in a tomato sauce and served on top of earthy couscous.