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.