THE GREAT EUROPEAN FOOD ADVENTURE | Zealand | What the frik, is that a meatball? | The Story of Meatballs, Part 3

Frikadelles and Potatoes

Tell a Dane their meatballs are burgers with a French origin and you’ll have a row before you can say ‘frikadeller‘.

The combination of minced pork, flour, egg, onion and milk formed with a tablespoon into an oval shape has tantalised Danes for centuries. While it looks like a burger, to the Danish eye it is a moist and succulent meatball that can be eaten hot or cold.

It is shallow fried quickly on each side in hot oil to caramelise the pork, then cooked over a low heat for no more than ten minutes – turned once. The result should be a spongy caramel-brown squashed meatball.

If you overcook it, and it is said some Danes secretly prefer it hard and dark-brown, you might have to explain that the menu has changed. ‘We are having köttbullar, the frikadelles are off the menu.’

The frikadeller is not just anyone’s meatball, it is a Danish meatball cooked to perfection. If it isn’t you have no right to serve it as a frikadeller.

Of course if your guests ask you what köttbullar are, you will have to admit that yours are meatballs that look like burgers. Real köttbullar are small round … err … meatballs, generally associated with neighbour Sweden.

Then you might run into trouble with the Bavarians in your company, who will point out that you have actually served fleischpfanzerl, meatballs that closely resemble the shape of burgers.

Whatever you do, don’t claim to be serving burgers. This will have the Bavarians in stitches, not to mention your Berliners who will remark that your Berliner buletten look nice. ‘Pity they are squashed, they should be perfect discs.’

‘What! Like burgers?’

Of course this is your problem. Danish frikadelles are not burgers, or dumplings or croquettes or patties. They are made from pork with a subtle amount of flour, egg and milk to make the mix ‘thack thack’ when stirred (plus onion, salt and pepper for seasoning), left in the fridge for at least an hour, then shaped into ovals and squashed in the frying pan.

Hakkebøf is what you are looking for if you want a burger in Denmark.
Called hakkebøf med bløde løg og brun sovs, it translates as chopped beef with soft onions … and brown sauce, the very same one you can put on your frikadeller!

As for its French origin, Danes with a knowledge of French will admit that the dish once known as fricot is a clue.

A frikadeller is a popular tasty dish, a fricot in other words, which is nothing remotely like a burger … or a meatball.

Frikadeller DENMARK tasty pork meatballs

  • 500 g pork, minced
  • 100+ ml milk
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 30 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 heaped tbsp of flour
  • Butter, small piece
  • Salt, large pinch
  • Black Pepper, ground, pinch

Combine mince, onions, egg, flour and seasoning. Mix thoroughly and add the milk, little at a time. When the mixture makes a thack thack sound when you beat it, then it is the right consistency. It should be moist. Put in fridge for at least an hour.

Heat the oil in a pan and add butter. When the oil is warm, dip a big spoon (a tablespoon would suffice) in the mixture and form the frikadelles into an oval shape using the spoon and your hand. They should be more oval than round shaped.

After each frikadelle, dip the spoon in the hot oil so that the next frikadelle slips off the spoon into the pan.

Flatten the frikadelles slightly.

Fry gently until cooked though, about five minutes on each side. They should be still moist and spongy when served.

Danes serve frikadelles with potato salad and eat them cold on rye bread the next day.

Variations are more or less flour and oatmeal or breadcrumbs.

Hakkebøf DENMARK burger

Traditionally made with soft onions and served with a brown sauce *1 on boiled potatoes, an equal amount of veal is sometimes used with the beef to increase the meat to fat ratio.

  • 500 g beef, minced
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper, ground

Thoroughly work the seasoning into the meat, divide into four equal balls, flatten and criss-cross with a sharp knife. Fry until cooked or brown in frying pan, and bake in a 175ºC oven.

*1 Traditionally made with beef bouillon or stock cube, the sauce calls for kulør (brown caramel colouring) but thick soy sauce works as an alternative.

In Liechtenstein frikadellen are served in small bread rolls

Frikadellen EUROPE meatballs

Eaten as a national dish in several European countries, frikadellen is usually made from minced meat, onions, egg, herbs, seasoning and breadcrumbs, fried, baked in the oven, cooked in a sauce or soup.

Its variations are largely regional, but they also reflect cultural differences.

In Poland, Ukraine and Russia, the influence is the Berliner Bulette.

Belgium, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and western Germany share the same recipe. The differences are with additional ingredients, which may include cheese, e.g. mozzarella, olives, tomatoes, brandy, whiskey or wine, spices like paprika.

Frikadellen come in various shapes.

  • 350 g beef, minced
  • 150 onions, chopped
  • 150 g pork, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 50 g white bread, soaked in milk
  • Parsley, chopped small
  • 1 tsp traditional Dijon mustard
  • Marjoram, large pinch
  • Seasonings
  • Butter, clarified or oil

Incorporate soaked bread with the egg, onions, parsley, mustard and marjoram. Add mince and seasonings. Mix by hand. Shape into large balls.
Brown in butter or oil over a medium heat. Cook for seven minutes on each side.

Then there are meatballs for children, and that is a story (and a recipe) for another day.


(In alphabetical order)

Abdigör Köftesi TURKEY beef, bulgar, onions, butter, paprika flakes, green pepper, seasonings meatballs
Abkhazura აფხაზური GEORGIA beef, pork, caul fat, vinegar, black pepper, garlic, onion, cayenne, coriander, fenugreek, salt, sumac meatballs
Albóndigas SPAIN pork, veal / beef, lamb / pork, garlic, manchego cheese, scallions, thyme, seasonings + almond sauce / almond and saffron sauce
Albóndigas en Salsa de Almendras SPAIN pork, veal / beef, lamb, garlic, manchego cheese, scallions, thyme, seasonings meatballs in almond sauce
Albóndigas Mozárabes en Salsa de Almendras y Azafrán SPAIN pork, veal / beef, lamb, garlic, manchego cheese, scallions, thyme, seasonings meatballs in almond and saffron sauce
Atriaux / Attriaux FRANCE SWITZERLAND pork, liver, garlic, onion meatballs
Attignole FRANCE pork, pork fat, white bread soaked in milk, eggs and flour, onion, pepper, shallot meatballs
Ballekes BELGIUM beef / pork, braised onion, white bread soaked in milk, egg, parsley, seasonings meatballs
Baharat TURKEY EUROPE spice mixture for meatballs, sausages and other preparations
Bayerischen Fleischpflanzerl GERMANY beef / pork, Dijon mustard meatballs
Berliner Buletten GERMANY beef and pork / veal, milk, egg, onion, bread soaked in milk / water, nutmeg, seasonings / bacon, caraway, garlic / marjoram meatballs
Boller i Karry DENMARK meatballs in curry sauce
Breslauer Klopse POLAND beef, white bread, onions, Polish mustard, egg, capers, anchovies, seasonings meatballs in sauce from beef / vegetable stock, potatoes, apples, pears, Polish mustard, anchovies, lemon juice, sugar, seasonings
Cevapcici SERBIA beef, water, paprika, olive oil, seasonings rissoles
Chicken Kiev Meatballs EUROPE chicken thigh meat, seasoned breadcrumbs, egg, butter, seasoned flour, garlic meatballs
Çiğ Köfte TURKEY bulgur, walnuts, onion, garlic, tomato paste, red pepper paste, salt, red pepper flakes, olive oil patties
Ðevrek SERBIA doughnut meatball
Ekşili Köfte TURKEY beef, rice, onions, carrots, potato, seasonings meatballs with egg-lemon sauce
Etruscan ITALY pork caul, pork, crustless bread, wine, ground pepper, garum, myrtle berries, pine nuts and whole peppercorns meatballs
Fellah Köftesi TURKEY bulgur, semolina patties, garlic, flour, olive oil, red pepper paste, salt, cumin, parsley patties
Fleischpflanzerl Bayerischen GERMANY beef / pork, Dijon mustard, egg, milk, onions, breadcrumbs, marjoram, parsley meatballs
Fresse Piemonte ITALY pork liver, pork offal, red wine, raisins, seasonings meatballs coated in cornmeal meatballs
Frikadellen Brötchen LIECHTENSTEIN meatballs in bread roll
Frikadellen fur Kinder GERMANY meatballs for children
Frikadeller DENMARK pork, flour, egg, onion and milk meatballs
Galettes di Viande FRANCE beef, pork, lard, egg, bread, parsley, onions, garlic, milk, flour, seasonings burgers
Gehaktbal NETHERLANDS beef and pork, egg, breadcrumbs, garlic, onion, nutmeg, seasonings meatballs
Gehacktesbällchen GERMANY beef, onion / shallots, hard bread roll soaked in milk / water, egg, mustard, herbs, seasonings meatballs
Hakkebøf DENMARK beef and veal, butter, oil, seasonings burger
Holländische Frikandel NETHERLANDS beef, chicken / turkey, chicken / meat jelly, eggs, breadcrumbs, onion pureé with garlic, dried herbs, smoked paprika powder, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, coriander, ginger, seasonings sausages
Içli Köfte TURKEY crust – bulgur, semolina, walnuts, cumin, sweet paprika, salt; core – double minced veal, onions, walnuts, mint, parsley, olive oil, pomegranate molasses, paprika flakes, red pepper paste, sumac meatballs
Inegöl Köftesi TURKEY finger-shaped meatballs
Izgara Köfte TURKEY beef and lamb, onion, breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, salt, black pepper, green pepper, olive oil patties
İzmir Köfte TURKEY Izmir-style meatballs
Kadınbudu Köfte TURKEY egg-laced meatballs aka lady’s thighs meatballs
Kaliningrad Klopse Калининград Клопсе GERMANY RUSSIA beef / pork, bread roll soaked in water, onion, eggs, breadcrumbs, anchovies / mustard, seasonings/spices meatballs
Keftédes CYPRUS lamb / pork, potatoes, egg, onion, mint, parsley, vinegar, seasonings / cumin / oregano / garlic meatballs
Keftédes GREECE beef / chicken / lamb / pork / veal, eggs, onions, bread soaked in water, flour, potato, seasonings, parsley, mint, oregano, thyme / garlic meatballs
Khabîsa SPAIN sweet patties
Kjøttkaker NORWAY beef / chicken, egg, potato flour / starch, oats, onion, milk / water, ginger, nutmeg, seasonings meatballs
Klopsiki w Šmietanie POLAND beef / beef-pork / pork, breadcrumbs, egg, flour in sour cream sauce
Klopsiki w Sosie Niebieski Ser POLAND beef, mustard, boullion, garlic powder, sweet paprika, seasonings meatballs with blue cheese sauce
Klopsiki w Sosie Pieczarkowym POLAND beef and pork, milk, egg, breadcrumbs, flour, parsley seasonings meatballs with mushroom sauce
Klopsiki w Sosie Sery Pleśniowe POLAND beef / beef-pork / pork, breadcrumbs, egg, flour in blue cheese sauce
Köfte TURKEY beef and lamb, onion purée, green pepper, cinnamon, salt, butter, water meatballs
Kolokithokeftedes GREECE courgette, onions, eggs, feta cheese, kefalotiri cheese, mizithra cheese, mint, flour, white pepper balls
Kolokithokeftedes CRETE courgette, onions, egg, feta cheese, carrots, onions, potatoes, breadcrumbs, parsley, paprika, seasonings balls
Kotletki NORTHERN EUROPE beef / veal / chicken / turkey / lamb / pork, bread, milk, onions, breadcrumbs / flour, egg, butter, sour cream, white pepper, salt, potato starch patties
Köttbullar DENMARK beef / pork / veal, milk meatballs
Köttbullar SWEDEN beef / pork / veal, onions, breadcrumbs soaked in milk, egg, parsley, pureed potato, seasonings
Lihapullat FINLAND beef, sour cream, onion, flour, egg, mustard, paprika, seasonings meatballs
Mercimek Köftesi TURKEY bulgur, red lentils, onions, olive oil, garlic, tomato paste, red pepper paste, salt, cumin red pepper flakes patties
Mesne Okruglice s Umakom CROATIA meatballs with sauce
Ntomatokeftédes Ντοματοκεφτέδες GREECE Santorini tomatoes, feta / kefalotyri, semolina, puréed onions, egg, dried onion, baking powder, boukovo flakes and seeds / red chilli flakes and seeds, cinnamon, dried mint, dried marjoram, thyme, oregano, chives, seasonings burgers
Palamut Köftesi TURKEY fried fish patties
Perişoare în sos de Smântână ROMANIA double ground beef / lamb, rice, paprika, parsley meatballs in sour cream sauce
Polpette ITALY beef / veal, egg, cheese, breadcrumbs, sausage / salami / herbs, seasonings meatballs
Pulpety POLAND beef / pork / veal / turkey, rice, onion, hard-boiled egg, semolina, seasonings meatballs
Qofte ALBANIA minced beef / lamb, breadcrumbs / bread, egg, feta cheese, flour, garlic, mint, milk, olive oil, onion, oregano, parsley, sunflower oil, seasonings meatballs
Qofte Elbasan ALBANIA lamb, rice, onions, eggs, oregano, paprika, seasonings meatballs in chilli pepper and red pepper sauce
Qofte Shtëpie ALBANIA household meatballs
Revithokeftedes GREECE chickpeas, onions, feta cheese / breadcrumbs, eggs / no eggs, parsley, dill, oregano, seasonings balls
Soutzoukákia GREECE beef / veal, bread soaked in white wine, egg, garlic, cumin, flour, meatballs in spiced tomato sauce
Srpska Pljeskavica SERBIA shoulder beef, neck beef, flank beef, onions, garlic, paprika flakes, Vegeta (bouillon), salt, baking powder burgers
Tefteli Тефтели MOLDOVA meatballs
Uštipci SERBIA stuffed meatballs
Youvarlakia Avgolémono GREECE veal, onion, rice, eggs, parsley, garlic, seasonings meatballs in egg-lemon sauce
Yuvalama TURKEY beef meatballs and chickpeas in yoghurt soup

Zrazy Зразы BELARUS LITHUANIA MOLDOVA POLAND RUSSIA UKRAINE chicken, egg, meat broth, onions, hard cheese, hard-boiled eggs, vegetable oil, dill, parsley, seasonings, breadcrumbs rolls

Recipes in the book BALLS & BURGERS.