Move over, IKEA

These meatballs in gravy don’t just make do without eggs, dairy, and gluten; they make mouths water

gluten-free Swedish meatballs

Photo: Daytona Strong
These meatballs are comfort food offering comfort to those with food sensitivities.

Daytona Strong
Taste of Norway editor

It wasn’t that long ago that food allergies and sensitivities were something real, to be sure, but something that I had little connection with. In recent years, however, I’ve been accumulating recipes and techniques that allow me to extend hospitality to those with dietary restrictions. Some months ago, that idea led me to create a recipe for Swedish meatballs—the ultimate in Scandinavian comfort food—free from several major food categories: gluten, dairy, and egg.

A loved one was on an elimination diet, and I believe that food shouldn’t be stressful. Rather, it should be something that nourishes and nurtures us. If we have to restrict food categories at any point, it might as well be pleasurable and delicious in the meantime.

Prior to developing this recipe, I would have thought nothing of the bread, milk, or eggs present in many meatball recipes. Those ingredients help to combine and bind the ingredients, after all. While the Internet is full of ways to convert just about any component into anything one wants, I didn’t want to just create a serviceable substitute. I set out to create something superb, something that would be just as good as—if not better than—the original.

As I wrote and tested the recipe the first time, it was clear that I was on to something—it was pretty damn close to perfect. I’ve been playing around with the recipe, tweaking things a little here and there, over the months to make sure it’s just right. And now it’s ready to share.

So the recipe that I created as a gift for a loved one is now a gift to you.

Swedish Meatballs
(Gluten-, Egg-, and Dairy-Free)

This recipe uses higher-fat beef than I would otherwise use, as it has no eggs or breadcrumbs as typical binders. Also note that this “dairy-free” recipe calls for butter. Not all dairy-free diets restrict butter, but if yours does, feel free to swap it out as indicated in the ingredient list.

gluten-free Swedish meatballs

Photo: Daytona Strong
This recipe for Swedish meatballs contains no wheat, egg, or dairy ingredients, the perfect taste experience for those with food allergies or sensitivities.

¼-1⁄3 cup dried porcini mushrooms*
3⁄4 cup room-temp. water*
butter or oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 lb. ground beef (85% lean, 15% fat)
1 lb. ground pork (80% lean, 20% fat)
½ lb. ground veal (90% lean, 10% fat) (substitute chicken for veal if desired)
¼ cup potato starch
½ cup beef stock
2 ½ tsps. salt
¼ tsp. ground allspice
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
pinch ground white pepper
brown sauce/gravy:
½ cup red wine
2 ½ cups beef stock
3 tbsps. butter or dairy-free butter substitute
3 tbsps. potato starch
a few sprigs fresh thyme
½ tsp. salt, or to taste

Prepare the dried mushrooms: rinse then soak in a shallow dish with the room temperature water for about 30 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon; reserving both mushrooms and broth. Chop mushrooms finely and set aside.

Heat butter or oil in a large pan and sauté onion until just beginning to color. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine onions, mushrooms, and remaining meatball ingredients (saving the mushroom liquid for the sauce), mixing gently to incorporate everything without overworking. Chill for about 30 minutes.

When it’s time to form the meatballs, wet your hands and shape them into balls about an inch and a half in diameter.

Heat more butter in the pan over medium heat and pan fry the meatballs in a single layer, working in batches if necessary, until they’re brown on all sides, about 4 minutes per side. Remove to a platter and cover to keep warm while you make the sauce.

Deglaze pan with the wine, scraping the brown bits. Simmer for a minute, then add the beef stock, reserved mushroom water, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to keep warm.

Meanwhile, in a medium pot, melt butter. Add potato starch a tablespoon at a time, whisking constantly, until smooth. Add the heated stock a little at a time, whisking all the while, until the sauce has the consistency of a good gravy and is still thick enough to coat the spoon. (It should be thin enough to consider a sauce but still have some viscosity left. Reserve any remaining broth, as it will come in handy when reheating leftovers.)

Season with salt, to taste.

Wipe out the pan you initially used to cook the meatballs and return the meatballs to the pan. Pour the sauce over them, stir gently to coat, then simmer until cooked through.

Serve with lingonberry jam, quick cucumbers, and dill-and-butter potatoes. Serves 6.

* The dried mushrooms (and 3⁄4 cup water) are optional, but I hope you’ll try them. While not exactly “traditional,” Magnus Nilsson writes in The Nordic Cookbook that people in Sweden sometimes add Chinese mushroom soy sauce, so my addition isn’t entirely unorthodox.

Daytona Strong is The Norwegian American’s Taste of Norway Editor. She writes about her family’s Norwegian heritage through the lens of food at her Scandinavian food blog, Find her on Facebook (, Twitter (@daytonastrong, Pinterest (@daytonastrong), and Instagram (@daytonastrong).

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 26, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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