Meatball Stroganoff with Braised Red Cabbage and Spaetzle

Oh my goodness. This recipe! My kids adore beef stroganoff. Creamy, protein-filled sauce poured over noodles or rice? It’s a universal favorite at our house. So when Lindsey told me she had come up with a new, easier recipe, I was very much in the yes-please-we-need-to-share-this-asap camp.

Here’s what Lindsey says:

I’m finding myself yearning for comfort foods lately. It’s probably not too hard to figure out why. Things get stressful and I head into the kitchen, my happy place. And I start cooking, and baking, and feeding people. It heals my heart a little bit every time I do. So maybe that’s kind of selfish in a way, but I truly enjoy it. I’m not good with words a lot of the time, but I can make good meal that will fill your belly and hopefully soothe your soul at the same time.

Stroganoff is one of those ultimate comfort foods. And it’s one that my family loves and I love that they love it. And I love making it. In my younger years the only kind of stroganoff I was familiar with came out of a box. Sigh. The 80s, right? Well, as an adult I quickly learned how to make the real deal, eventually utilizing the slow cooker for an ever better stew.

One day I had this idea — stroganoff purists, avert your eyes — maybe I was a little crazy, but I wanted to see if I could make a good stroganoff using frozen meatballs instead of stew meat or hamburger. (I still kind of shudder thinking about ground beef stroganoff. Sorry.)

Easy Meatball Stroganoff

Here’s the thing. Some weeks I’m so good at planning meals out and grocery shopping. Other times, I’m so busy and things are falling apart around the house. You know, normal stuff. But this! This dinner is so easy. I usually have a bag of frozen meatballs in the freezer (along with a bag of frozen ravioli) for a quick meal. If you can believe it, sometimes I get groans when I tell my kids we’re having spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. They get bored of it. So meatball stroganoff was going to be a test.

Creamy, delicious Meatball Stroganoff |

This is hands down the easiest stroganoff I’ve ever made. (I’m not counting the box kind from my childhood.) And believe me when I tell you my family — even my pickiest eaters — gobbled this right up. (Even if there were a few mushrooms pushed to the side. I can’t win them all.) I’ve declared this recipe a winner.

Buttered homemade spaetzle

Usually stroganoff at my house includes buttered noodles or homemade spaetzle. When I’m feeling in a good mood and I have a bit of extra time, it’s spaetzle. Always. It’s really easy to make, but egg noodles do the trick too, as does rice.

Braised Red Cabbage

The other thing we often do is braised red cabbage. That is normally my husband’s job. He grew up eating a crazy mix of German, Brazilian, and Portuguese food, but there was always rotkohl.  He adds a lot more sugar and butter than I do, but I can’t complain when my kids lap it up. (I’ve included the simple recipe in the notes below in case you want to make it too.)

Okay, so let’s get into how easy it is to make this meatball stroganoff!

Ingredients for Meatball Stroganoff

If you can make gravy, you can make this. It’s nothing more than cooking onions and mushrooms in butter until they’re nice and brown, removing them temporarily, making a simple roux (butter and flour), whisking in some beef broth, and adding everything back into the pot. It takes maybe 20-25 minutes tops.

mushrooms and onions

I usually use a combo of white and cremini mushrooms for stroganoff. Sometimes I use the big portobellos. It’s kind of whatever I have or looks good at the market. It would also be excellent with some wild mushrooms added in.

white button and cremini mushrooms for stroganoff

Mushrooms have a lot of water in them. The key to get them to brown nicely is to help them release that liquid by seasoning them with a little salt as they cook. The liquid will then evaporate and you’ll end up with that delicious dark brown fond on the bottom of the pan. Fond = mega flavor.

perfectly browned mushrooms and onions

Don’t worry, all that brown stuff will melt into the gravy once the broth is added.

making a roux for gravy

The meatballs cook in the gravy and kind of absorb those yummy mushroom and onion flavors as they simmer. I add fresh thyme too. Oh, it just makes the whole house smell amazing!

meatballs with mushroom gravy

Probably the best part is the sour cream. I love the tang and creaminess it adds. You can add as little or as much as you like. I feel like 1/2 to 3/4 cup is a good amount, but sometimes it’s nice to have a little extra dollop on top.


And that’s it! In a fraction of the time you can have stroganoff, albeit not very traditional, but just as tasty.

Ultra creamy and flavorful meatball stroganoff |

Meatball Stroganoff with Egg Noodles

5 tablespoons butter, divided
1 large onion, diced
1 pound mushrooms (white button or cremini), sliced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups beef broth
1-2 sprigs fresh thyme
One (24 ounce) package frozen meatballs
1 cup sour cream, divided
Salt and pepper, to taste
For serving:
Hot, buttered egg noodles, spaetzle, or rice
Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish

1. In a Dutch oven or large 5-6 quart saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Add the onion and let cook, stirring often, until it starts to soften, about 3-5 minutes.
2. Add the mushrooms and season with a little salt. Saute, stirring often, allowing the mushrooms and onions to brown nicely. Remove the onions and mushrooms from the pan. Set aside and keep warm.
3. To the pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and melt. When foaming subsides, add the flour and stir well. Cook the flour, stirring constantly, for 30-60 seconds. Add beef broth. Whisk well to remove any lumps.
4. Bring gravy to a simmer. Add the thyme sprigs to the pan along with the reserved onions and mushrooms.
5. Add the frozen meatballs to the pan. Stir to coat with the sauce. Cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until meatballs are heated through. Be sure to stir occasionally to prevent the sauce from burning on the bottom of the pan.
6. Once meatballs have cooked through, stir in 1/2 to 3/4 sour cream, depending on preference. Taste sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste.
7. Spoon the meatballs and sauce over hot noodles, spaetzle, or rice, with remaining sour cream on the side.

Yield: 4-6 servings

– For a richer flavor, substitute 1/4 to 1/2 cup red wine for some of the beef broth and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes before adding the meatballs.

– We like the mini meatballs from Trader Joe’s or the ones from IKEA. They tend to have a milder flavor than the frozen Italian meatballs, and work better for this recipe.

– To make braised red cabbage: cut a large red cabbage into quarters and remove the hard white core. Slice each quarter into thin ribbons. Melt 2-4 tablespoons butter in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Add the cabbage along with 2-3 tablespoons sugar (white or brown), 3 tablespoons apple cider or red wine vinegar, a pinch of ground cloves, a good sprinkle of salt, and a pinch of caraway seeds. Cover and let it cook over medium-low heat for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 1/2 hours until the cabbage is very tender.

– If you want to make homemade spaetzle, you can see my how-to post here.

Dinnertime hack: stroganoff made with frozen meatballs |


Oh my goodness, Lindsey. I can’t wait to make this! And I love that you included a lesson on how to cook mushrooms and get the most flavor from them. I’ve never heard the cooking term “fond” before! I always learn something new from your recipes. Thank you.

What do you think, Dear Readers? Have you ever served stroganoff to your family? And how do your kids (or you!) feel about mushrooms? Our little June loves them, but Betty usually pushed them to the side. : )

Credits: Recipe and photos by Lindsey Rose Johnson for Design Mom.