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Is IKEA serving Swedish meatballs?

IKEA is one of the most well-known furniture retailers in the world. Originating in Sweden, IKEA has become synonymous with affordable and simple Scandinavian style furniture and home goods. One of IKEA’s claims to fame is the meatballs served in their in-store cafeterias – large, round balls made with a mix of beef and pork and served with cream sauce, lingonberry jam, and mashed potatoes.

The History of IKEA’s Swedish Meatballs

Meatballs have long been a staple of Swedish cuisine. Traditional Swedish köttbullar were often made with a mix of meats like beef, pork, and sometimes veal or venison, served with egg noodles or mashed potatoes and brown cream sauce. Meatballs were considered everyday, humble food in Sweden and were a good way to stretch meat for many families.

When IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad opened the first IKEA store in 1958 in Älmhult, Sweden, he knew he needed to offer food for shoppers in the self-service furniture store. IKEA’s restaurant decided to put the classic Swedish meatball on the menu, albeit with a tweak – they added some spice to the traditional recipe. The meatballs were an instant hit with IKEA customers and became an iconic part of the IKEA dining experience.

Over the years, IKEA’s meatball recipe changed and expanded as the company went global. Different regions produced their own variations based on local tastes. It wasn’t until 2009 that IKEA decided to streamline the meatball recipe across its restaurants to create better consistency. The result was the uniting of all the different regional meatball recipes into one for all IKEA stores. IKEA now produces around 150 million meatballs globally per year!

IKEA’s Swedish Meatball Ingredients

IKEA is famously secretive about the full list of ingredients that go into their coveted meatballs. However, they have revealed that the main ingredients include:

  • Beef and pork – The exact ratio is unknown but beef is likely the primary meat
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Milk
  • Onion
  • Egg
  • Spices and seasonings

The meatballs contain beef, pork, potato flour, wheat flour, whey powder, and vegetable oil according to the listed ingredients. Beyond that, the proportions and exact blend of spices are a carefully protected secret!

Where IKEA Sources its Meat

IKEA uses over 100 suppliers across Europe to source the beef and pork for its iconic meatballs. This includes Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Italy, the Netherlands and more. IKEA maintains that despite sourcing meat globally, the meatball recipe remains consistently Swedish in taste and texture.

Here is a breakdown of some of IKEA’s major meat suppliers for Swedish meatballs:

Country Meat Supplier
Sweden Scan, HKScan Sweden
Denmark Danish Crown
Poland Pini Polska, Gobarto
Italy Argentina
Netherlands Vion Food Group

By sourcing meat locally across Europe, IKEA can reduce transportation costs and emissions while supporting local economies and agriculture.

The Production Process

While IKEA keeps their recipe secret, they have given some insight into how they make the millions of meatballs served globally each year. The process includes:

  1. Meat delivery – Meat is delivered to production facilities chilled or frozen
  2. Ingredient mixing – Dry ingredients like breadcrumbs and flour are mixed, then combined with raw meats in large mixers
  3. Forming meatballs – Portions of the mixture are shaped into balls, both by hand and with machines
  4. Cooking – The meatballs are cooked in large ovens
  5. Freezing – After cooking, meatballs are immediate frozen for storage and transportation
  6. Distribution – Frozen meatballs are sent to IKEA stores globally and kept frozen until reheating

The cooking and immediate freezing process helps keep the consistency and quality of the meatballs even after transport and storage.

Meatball Nutrition & Ingredients Controversy

IKEA’s Swedish meatballs pack a decent protein punch but are also high in saturated fat and sodium. Here’s the nutrition breakdown for 5 IKEA meatballs (about 5.6 oz or 160g):

Calories Protein Carbs Fat Saturated Fat Sodium
569 18g 36g 40g 14g 881mg

IKEA has faced some controversy over the healthiness and ingredients of their iconic meatballs:

  • High sodium and saturated fat levels – Despite reformulating to reduce sodium, the meatballs still contain very high levels along with a good amount of saturated fat from the beef and pork.
  • Use of additives – IKEA uses additives like wheat flour, whey powder, and vegetable oil rather than just pure meat and spices.
  • Sustainability and environmental impact – The large-scale meat production required has raised concerns around sustainability.
  • Horsemeat scandal – In 2013, IKEA had to pull meatballs from stores after testing found traces of horsemeat, which sparked an investigation into its supply chain.

While not the healthiest choice, IKEA’s meatballs remain broadly popular and an iconic menu item for the brand.

Are the Meatballs Really Swedish?

Despite being branded as a Swedish specialty, IKEA’s meatballs straddle the line between Swedish tradition and global adaptation. Some key points around the “Swedishness” of their meatballs include:

  • Adaptation of seasoning – IKEA’s meatballs have more spice than a traditional Swedish köttbullar recipe.
  • Use of pork – Pork is traditionally not common in Swedish meatballs. IKEA adds it for texture and cost.
  • Non-Swedish ingredients – Additives like potato starch and vegetable oil are not authentic to Swedish cuisine.
  • Mass production – IKEA meatballs are made in factories for consistency vs homemade.
  • Global supply chain – The multinational sourcing of meat is far from a Swedish mom-and-pop production.

However, IKEA’s meatballs do remain linked to their Swedish heritage in important ways:

  • Flavor profile – The flavor balance of the spices used is distinctly Scandinavian.
  • Cooking method – The cooking technique yields tender meatballs with browned crusts, like Swedish tradition.
  • Popular sides – Lingonberry jam and mashed potatoes are quintessentially Swedish pairings.
  • Cultural role – Meatballs in Sweden are an everyday, commonplace food meant to be affordable.

So while IKEA’s meatballs may not be completely authentic to their Swedish roots, they retain the spirit and culinary role of traditional Swedish meatballs – everyday, familiar, and budget-friendly.


In the 60+ years since IKEA first put köttbullar on the menu, the meatballs have become forever linked to the IKEA experience globally. While the recipe has evolved over time and across regions, IKEA has managed to create consistency and maintain the core flavors of Swedish cuisine. The meatballs are central to the IKEA brand and their Scandinavian heritage. Questions around health, sustainability, and authenticity will continue, but the iconic status of IKEA’s meatballs remains cemented in popular food culture.

So next time you’re furniture shopping and stop for a meal, you can feel confident that the serve-yourself meatballs, lingonberry jam and mashed potatoes offer a taste of Sweden no matter what corner of the world your IKEA is in.