Today’s recipe for the classic IKEA meatball rolled out from our test kitchen already in 1985. Since then, the IKEA meatball has become an icon on plates around the world and a proud example of traditional Swedish cooking. But, when we asked customers on three different continents what food they prefer, we realised we had to extend our meatball family with tasty alternatives.
“Not everyone eats beef or pork, so we went into the kitchen to create new recipes,” says David Johansson, chef and product developer at IKEA Food Services. First came the chicken ball – an alternative for those who like meat, but not necessarily red meat.
“Like all our meatballs it’s just as good hot as cold, and we’ve seasoned it gently so it fits different cuisines and local flavours.”
Sustainability was a big reason Annika and her team developed new options, too. Meat production contributes to climate change, and one way to combat that is with our food choices. Eating vegetarian meals more often can have a positive impact on our environment.
The chicken ball has a carbon footprint that’s more than five times lower than the classic meatball, and the veggie ball is even more climate friendly, with a carbon footprint 30 times lower. Both the chicken and veggie balls are also lower in fat and calories, making them healthier options too.
“Even if you’re not vegan or vegetarian you may want these options,” says Annika. “People are just looking to find an appealing offer. We are world famous for our meatball, and now we’ve adapted it so everybody can enjoy it.”
Severin threw himself into the job of creating the perfect meatball recipe, a challenge that involved long and passionate discussions with his team and Ingvar Kamprad. Even within Sweden, opinions vary greatly on how a meatball should taste. Between Ingvar hailing from the south, and Severin a couple of dialects north, there were deeply rooted disagreements about what a real Swedish meatball should taste like.
Over the course of 10 months, Severin hardly left the kitchen. He was totally engulfed and put his heart and soul into finding the right recipe. He not only had to create a meatball that tasted good, he had to create one that could be made in batches of more than 300 kg each.
Nearly a year after the project started, IKEA restaurants began serving the IKEA version of Swedish meatballs. Each time a new IKEA store opened, Severin could see thousands of people lining up to be served.
“It warms my heart to know I had a small piece of doing something tasty for a lot of people. The meatball embodies so much of the IKEA culture: it’s convenient, it’s Swedish, and it’s for the many. And after so many years, it’s still on the menu at every IKEA store in the world.”
Sustainability was also a reason to create new options.
“With the veggie ball we wanted to offer something as appreciated as the classic meatball, but plant-based and with less environmental impact,” explains David.
Next came the salmon and cod ball. It contains pieces of salmon that are too small to be used as whole fillets.
“And since it’s very tasty meat, we thought, why not make delicious fish balls of it instead?” says David.
The newest edition to the family is the plant ball. It’s made with pea protein, potatoes, apple, oats and onion, but has the great taste and juicy bite of a meatball – making it perfect for everyone who wants to cut down on meat without losing out on the experience. With a climate footprint that is just 4% of the meatball’s, the plant ball has the power to make a difference.
“A lot has happened since 1985. Now, there are eatable IKEA icons for more of the many people. No matter if you’re flexitarian, vegan, meat lover, have dietary needs or cultural preferences.”