The Ingredient That Will Change Your Swedish Meatballs Forever

You're probably familiar with Swedish meatballs from trips to Ikea, and while this is a well known and widely available version of the dish, these savory bites are much more than just a furniture store staple. Named köttbullar, according to, the meatballs are considered by many to be the country's national dish (although they may have a more complicated origin).

In their most traditional form, Visit Sweden says these meatballs are made with ground pork and beef, egg, onion, and cream. But köttbullar isn't just the one ingredient — the meatballs usually come accompanied by mashed potatoes, thick gravy, lingonberry jam, and pickled cucumbers for a complete meal. However, not even this traditional version of Swedish meatballs includes the secret ingredient we think will significantly improve the flavor of the meat and give your dish an absolutely distinct touch that will have people begging for your recipe.

Try adding fennel seeds to your Swedish meatballs

The secret ingredient you should consider adding to your Swedish meatballs is fennel. While you may be more familiar with the flavor showing up in Italian cooking (like in, say, meatballs with tomato sauce), the spice adds a surprising, pleasant flavor to the Swedish dish as well.

According to Healthline, the plant (both the fresh bulb and seeds) tastes similar to licorice. It explains the seeds in particular are quite strong, so you should be careful not to add too much, as the ingredient may overpower the rest of your dish. Per, for every two pounds of meat, one teaspoon of fennel seeds is enough to spice up your meatballs and subtly change the culinary experience of this express trip to Sweden. Food52 suggests using even less, calling for just ¼ teaspoon mixed into over two pounds of ground meat. We reccomend experimenting a little and finding the right balance for you, starting with a smaller amount and working your way up each time you cook until you find the perfect flavor.