When most people think of IKEA, they think of strange-sounding, tongue-twisting Swedish furniture names (with no shortage of umlauts), that one dresser everyone has, and, of course, Swedish meatballs under a thick coating of gravy. Definitely not vegetables.
But that's about to change because IKEA's famed meatballs are finally going vegan. Tomorrow, the GRÖNSAKSBULLAR will debut in the company's U.S. restaurants nationwide (except Carson, CA, for some reason). They're completely meat, gluten, soy, dairy and GMO-free. They even have kale in them.
Along with everyone's favorite cruciferous vegetable, the "veggie balls" are made with chickpeas, pea starch, carrots, corn, red bell peppers, seasonings, onion, and canola oil, and they're served over a sweet potato sauce. You can get 10 of 'em for $4.49. And, so IKEA claims, the meatless ball is more sustainable than the original version.
But is it actually better for you? Check out the nutritional labels, side by side:
The veggie balls have 60 less calories overall per 100 gram serving, and almost half the fat. Note that they do, however, also contain 170mg more sodium than their meaty predecessor — but salt, apparently, isn't that big a deal anymore.
"We wanted to add a really good vegetarian alternative to our menu. More and more people choose vegetarian alternatives for different reasons — some to save the planet, others for health reasons," Annika Pettersson, an IKEA Food product developer, told Gothamist. "Our goal was to create something as appreciated as the loved meatball, but without animal content."
Another spokesperson for IKEA told Gothamist that specific sides for the new platter hadn’t been determined quite yet, but that their chefs were “developing new dishes with fresh ingredients to accompany the veggie balls.”
And to keep the health ball rolling, on April 27, IKEA will be introducing the KYCKLINGBULLAR, a chicken-based meatball that's gluten-, dairy-, and antibiotic-free.
But why, exactly, does a furniture store care about diversifying its menu? Well, in 2013, the Wall Street Journal wrote that the IKEA Food division had $2 billion in annual revenue — rivaling Panera Bread and Arby's (which, of course, exclusively sell food).
In other words, IKEA's got some balls. They've become more of a main attraction than a sideshow.