Making authentic gluten-free Swedish meatballs with gravy does not have to be complicated or time-consuming! This easy, no-fuss recipe uses a hands-off oven baked method for browning the meatballs (no messy frying). Additionally, gluten-free quick oats acts as a binder for the meat, meaning these Scandinavian meatballs are made without breadcrumbs and requires no speciality ingredients!
Are Swedish Meatballs Gluten-free?
Swedish meatballs, made internationally famous by Ikea, are not naturally gluten-free because breadcrumbs are added to the meat mixture to bind the ground beef and pork.
To make a gluten-free Swedish meatball recipe, the breadcrumbs would have be replaced by homemade gluten-free breadcrumbs, a store-bought substitute, or in the case of this easy recipe, using quick oats to bind the meat.
Other possible gluten-containing ingredients to look out for would be in the meatball sauce, which is often thickened by flour. Also beware of if a gluten-free beef broth has been used, and any flavor additions, such as Worcestershire sauce, which can contain unsafe additives.
Baked Gluten-free Swedish meatballs recipe
When developing a recipe for gluten-free Scandinavian meatballs with gravy, I researched some of the best traditional recipes. I knew replacing troublesome ingredients with those safe for a gluten-free diet wouldn’t be a problem. But, I also wanted to make sure the recipe was equally flavorful with a more hands-off, streamlined approached.
To replace the breadcrumbs, I borrowed a technique in this community-favorite juicy gluten-free meatloaf recipe – using gluten-free oats. Why?
First, oatmeal is a staple ingredient I always have on hand. I don’t have to make a batch of breadcrumbs from gluten-free bread or pick up a pricy ready-made box. Also, oats are a great binder with a neutral, wholesome flavor. While traditional breadcrumbs also work, gluten-free versions can lack the binding power.
Next, when testing gluten-free recipes, I always aim to simplify the cooking method. Many of us are responsible for cooking endless weeknight dinners, while juggling families and other commitments. Therefore, I prefer quick, easy, and a hands-off approach.
Therefore, to cook the meatballs I utilized the same technique not only used for decades by my Italian family, but also adapted into these Italian meatballs without breadcrumbs. After shaping the meatballs they are quickly baked in the oven, omitting the need to fry in messy batches.
The high oven temperature quickly seals in the juices, while browning the exterior. While the meatballs bake, the Swedish gravy comes together in less than 10 minutes. A rich, flavorful gluten-free dinner is on the table in less than 45 minutes, start-to-finish!
Homemade gluten free Swedish meatballs requires 1/2 pound each of ground pork and ground beef to make the meatballs, which serves about 4 people. Since meat is usually sold in 1 pound packages, I double the meatball ingredients and freeze half, unbaked, for a future meal.
Swedish Meatballs without Breadcrumbs:
- Ground Beef and Ground Pork – Traditional homemade Swedish meatballs contain both beef and pork for an authentic flavor. All beef can also be used, if preferred.
- Spices – For copycat Ikea flavor use a combination of nutmeg, allspice, and garlic powder.
- Worcestershire sauce – This can be a red flag ingredient because some brands contain wheat starch. I recommend Lea & Perrin’s Original, but for other brands read the label to make sure it’s safe.
- Gluten-free quick oats – Ideally use gluten-free quick-cooking oatmeal because the smaller flecks binds the beef mixture better. If you only have old-fashioned oats on hand, pulse them briefly in the food processor first before combining with the other ingredients.
- Egg – Adds moisture and helps with binding
- Butter – Since the meatballs are baked, there no drippings to amplify sauce flavor. Melted butter not only helps create the roux to thicken the gluten-free gravy, but provides a rich taste.
- Gluten-free flour – I prefer to use GF flour, over cornstarch, because it does not thin out while reheating and toasts to a deep brown color to darken the sauce.
- Beef Broth – Another ingredient to read labels carefully. Swanson brand broth and stock are clearly labeled and verified to be safe. College Inn also has a variety of gluten-free broths to choose from. Imagine, Kitchen Basics, and Pacific Foods are also safe to consume.
- Half and Half – Swedish meatball gravy is creamy so it requires dairy with a higher fat content than milk. I tested the recipe with half and half and heavy cream. The half and half won out because the cream overpowered the spices in the gravy. See below for gluten-free dairy-free Swedish meatballs adaptation.
how to make Gluten-free Swedish meatballs
Making Swedish meatballs without breadcrumbs is quick, easy, and requires minimal hands-on time. First the pork and beef meatballs are shaped and baked. While they brown in the oven, the creamy gravy is quickly whisked together.
(Below shows step-by-step photos and modified instructions. For the complete recipe, along with ingredient amounts, scroll down to the recipe card.)
- In a large mixing bowl lightly whisk the egg. Add the oats, onions, Worcestershire, nutmeg, allspice, garlic powder, and salt. Stir to combine.
- Mix in the ground beef and ground pork. You can use a wooden spoon, but at this point I find using my hands to combine the meatball mixture works a lot better.
- Swedish meatballs are a smaller size, so shape into 1½-inch balls. You could also use a level 1½ tablespoon medium cookie scoop to portion out the meatball mixture. Place 1-inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes in a 400℉, or until the internal temperature reaches 160℉. While the meatballs are baking, prepare the gravy.
- In a large, deep skillet add the butter, GF flour, salt, and pepper. Heat over medium heat and whisk continuously until the mixture turns golden brown, about 2 minutes.
- Slowly whisk in the beef broth, until no lumps remain. Allow the broth to come to a simmer and thicken. Whisk in the Worcestershire, nutmeg, and half and half.
- Once the meatballs are done, add to the sauce and stir to combine everything. Serve over mashed potatoes.
To make a dairy-free recipe, two ingredients will have to be modified. Swap out ghee or refined coconut oil for the butter. To add a creaminess to the gravy, use an equal amount canned coconut milk, which has enough fat to flavor the sauce.
I also recommend adding any meatball drippings from the baking sheet to the sauce to develop a richer flavor.
storing and reheating
These Scandinavian meatballs and gravy will have the taste and texture as the day you made them following these easy tips! Once the meatballs and sauce have cooled completely, store in an airtight container up to 3 days.
When ready to serve again, it’s best to reheat on the stove top over low heat. This way the meatballs and sauce can be stirred frequently and the heat is more controlled. Also, the sauce will thicken upon storing. Add additional milk or broth to thin out the gravy to your desired consistency.
Since additional liquid will be added to thin the sauce, I recommend adjusting the seasoning to taste. I usually add a bit more salt, pepper, and small dash of nutmeg.
Freezing and Make-ahead Tips
GF Swedish meatballs are freezer-friendly and made an easy meal prep dinner! To save half the meatballs for a future meal, double the meatball ingredients. Bake half for now and freeze half for a future dinner!
To freeze the unbaked meatballs, place on baking sheet lined with wax or parchment paper. Once they are frozen solid, transfer to a ziplock freezer bag and freeze up to 3 months.
When ready to serve place the frozen meatballs on a baking sheet and bake from frozen. You will need to add a few minutes to the baking time. To be sure they are baked through, check the internal temperature, which should read at least 160ºF.
While the meatballs are baking, prepare the gravy and serve. Dinner is served in less only 20 minutes!
If you would like to enjoy an authentic meal, serve GF Swedish meatballs over mashed potatoes or gluten-free egg noodles. They are also traditionally served with lingonberry jam, lingonberry sauce or sliced pickled cucumbers.
Some simpler, more affordable serving suggestions include rice, gluten-free pasta (such as penne or elbow pasta), or cauliflower rice for a low carb option.
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Easy Gluten-Free Swedish Meatballs (No Frying!)
Gluten-Free Swedish Meatballs
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup gluten-free quick-cooking oats
- 2 tablespoons minced onions
- 1 teaspoon gluten-free Worchestershire sauce Lea & Perrin's Original recommended
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ pound ground beef see recipe notes for double recipe
- ½ pound ground pork see recipe notes for double recipe
- Preheat the oven to 400℉. In a large mixing bowl lightly whisk the egg. Add the oats, onions, Worcestershire, nutmeg, allspice, garlic powder, and salt. Stir to combine.1 large egg,¼ cup gluten-free quick-cooking oats,2 tablespoons minced onions,1 teaspoon gluten-free Worchestershire sauce,¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg,¼ teaspoon ground allspice,¼ teaspoon garlic powder,¼ teaspoon salt
- Mix in the ground beef and ground pork. You can use a wooden spoon, but at this point I find mixing with my hands uniformly combines the mixture better.½ pound ground beef,½ pound ground pork
- Shape into smaller 1½-inch balls, or a leveled 1½ tablespoon medium cookie scoop. You should have about 20 meatballs. To do this quickly, I portion out all the meat, place on the baking sheet, then go back to roll into even balls, and space 1-inch apart.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160℉. While the meatballs are baking, prepare the gravy.
- In a large, deep skillet add the butter, GF flour, salt, and pepper. Heat over medium heat and whisk continuously until the mixture turns golden brown, about 2 minutes.5 tablespoons unsalted butter,5 tablespoons gluten free all purpose flour,½ teaspoon salt,⅛ teaspoon ground pepper
- Slowly whisk in the beef broth, until no lumps remain. Continue to whisk and allow the broth to come to a simmer and thicken.3 cups gluten-free beef broth
- Whisk in the Worcestershire, nutmeg, and half and half. Taste adjust seasonings to taste. Keep on low heat, stirring occasionally, until the meatballs are done.1 ½ teaspoons gluten-free Worchestershire sauce,¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg,½ cup half and half
- Transfer the baked meatballs to the gravy. Stir to combine and then serve over mashed potatoes.
Double Recipe / Freezer TipsSince the meat is usually sold in 1 pound packages, I double the meatball recipe and freeze half for a future dinner. To freeze the unbaked meatballs, place on baking sheet lined with wax or parchment paper. Once they are frozen solid, transfer to a ziplock freezer bag and freeze up to 3 months. When ready to serve place the frozen meatballs on a baking sheet and bake from frozen. You will need to add a few minutes to the baking time. To be sure they are baked through, check the internal temperature, which should read at least 160ºF. While the meatballs are baking, prepare the gravy and serve.
How to ReheatWhen ready to serve again, it’s best to reheat on the stove top over low heat. This way the meatballs and sauce can be stirred frequently and the heat is more controlled. Also, the sauce will thicken upon storing. Add additional milk or broth to thin out the gravy to your desired consistency. Since additional liquid will be added to thin the sauce, I recommend adjusting the seasoning to taste. I usually add a bit more salt, pepper, and small dash of nutmeg.
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