When we talk about the food in Sweden, most of our knowledge is limited to the famous Swedish meatballs. Still, they are just the tip of the iceberg, as Sweden is a gastronomical paradise and has a wide variety of Swedish dishes that will truly tickle your taste buds.
Most Swedes like to eat their food in Sweden at home and only venture out to restaurants for lunch as most restaurants offer cheap offers at that time. But as a tourist, you are more likely to rely upon restaurants for almost all your traditional Swedish food.
So it is important to be well aware of what to eat in Sweden and where to get it. When you are not in the mood for a heavy indulgence, there are scores of cafes and bakeries at every nook and corner offering some freshly baked treats and Swedish desserts.
In recent years the Swedish cuisine has caught the attention of the whole world. The top-notch Nordic chefs are pioneers of the movement that brings forth a lot of creativity in the culinary domain, especially from a lot of food in Sweden you must try.
The Swedes are health-conscious people, and their diet lays a lot of stress on the consumption of whole grains, greens, Omega 3s, and utilizing healthy cooking methods.
The aroma of freshly baked bread, sweet-smelling cinnamon rolls, and freshly brewed coffee wafting from these cafes fill the alleyways. The next thing you know, you are already inside, striking up a conversation with a local while eating your heart out.
The variety of mouth-watering foods available in Sweden is just overwhelming, and so, coming up with a list of the absolute best and must-try is a little hard. Nevertheless, let us take a look at some of the best and famous ones out there. Each of these dishes tells a different story and is a way to truly get a taste of Sweden’s rich tradition and culture.
Table of Contents
- 1 Food in Sweden: Top 17 BEST Swedish Food to Try
- 1.1 Fermented Herring (Surströmming)
- 1.2 Raggmunk & Lingonberries
- 1.3 Pea soup and Pancakes
- 1.4 Crayfish parties (kräftskivor)
- 1.5 Stekt strömming
- 1.6 Västerbotten Cheese (Västerbottensost)
- 1.7 Prinsesstårta
- 1.8 Cured Salmon (Gravadlax)
- 1.9 Smörgåsbord
- 1.10 Pyttipanna
- 1.11 Shrimp Sandwich (Toast Skagen)
- 1.12 Smoked Salmon (Varmrökt lax)
- 1.13 Knäckebröd: Crisp Bread
- 1.14 Swedish Meatballs (Köttbullar)
- 1.15 Smörgåstårta – Sandwich Cake
- 1.16 Semla
- 1.17 Saffransbullar & Cinnamon Buns
Food in Sweden: Top 17 BEST Swedish Food to Try
Fermented Herring (Surströmming)
The Fermented Herring is not for the faint-hearted. There is about a 50/50 chance that you will either love it or hate it. They are mostly bought in tins off of supermarket shelves. Baltic herring are caught during the spring season and is then carefully salted and fermented.
They are then put in tins where they ferment further. There are many varieties of this dish, but the most famous one is the one with mustard sauce. The taste is a little sharp, and it has a very pungent aroma; because of that, it is always best to open the tin outdoors.
Swedes love to relish it during August, and there is also a festival known as the Surströmming festival in Alfta to honor this dish. If you are someone that loves food and would like to try something adventurous, Surströmming is your call.
To get the best out of this dish, it is recommended to pair it with some buttered flatbread known as tunnbröd, throw in some potatoes, chopped onions, beer, and of course, some friends.
Raggmunk & Lingonberries
Raggmunk is shallow-fried crispy and savory potato pancakes. The potatoes are first grated and then fried, preferably in the bacon fat to get that crispy and golden brown texture. The name Raggmunk is a blend of two words where ”Ragg” means crispy and fried while ”Munk” means a cake or a donut. The dish has been a traditional Swedish staple since the 1900s.
A classic raggmunk is always served with fried and crispy bacon strips and lingonberries. Lingonberries are native to Sweden and are an essential accompaniment to most Swedish dishes like köttbullar (meatballs), kåldomar (stuffed cabbage rolls), and of course, raggmunk.
In the true sense, lingonberries are the Swedish equivalent to ketchup and mustard. These are small, hard-skinned red berries and are quite bitter when unripe. But with some sugar, it is completely transformed.
Pea soup and Pancakes
Pea soup is a hearty winter meal for Swedes. The soup is made of yellow dried peas with some tender pork chunks thrown in for texture. It is then left to simmer for hours and served with some fresh thyme sprigs. The result- you end up with a filling and warming bowl of this Swedish delicacy that takes you closer to its traditions, one slurp at a time.
The Swedish pancakes that are served along with it are more like the thin French crêpe. These are traditionally served with a dollop of whipped cream, and some berries preserve. Pea soup and pancakes are a tradition and is served in almost every restaurant on Thursdays.
Crayfish parties (kräftskivor)
Crayfish parties or kräftskivor is a big event in the Nordic countries. In Sweden, it is associated with people lighting paper lantern outdoors, wearing silly hats whilst singing gibberish songs on top of their lungs.
This party is held every year in August when Swedes spend most evenings with their friends and family, gulping down copious amounts of beer and relishing on bite-sized red saltwater shellfish.
A lot of crayfish are needed for these parties, and on average, a person would consume 1 pound of these little creatures. In the old times, these crayfish were reserved for the elite, but today it is enjoyed by people of every social strata.
Being a Scandinavian country, Sweden’s cuisine is greatly influenced by fish, with herring being the backbone of it. In the States, when it comes to street food, it is normally the burgers and hot dogs that steal the scene. But in Sweden, it’s fried herring or the Stekt strömming.
The fried baltic herring can have various versions, a home-cooked one, a street food one, and a high-end restaurant one. The Herrings are filleted first and then seasoned with salt, pepper along with some aromatic dill.
After covering them with flour and breadcrumbs, these are then fried until crispy and golden. Stekt strömming is served with a side of spoonfuls of buttery mashed potatoes, some lingonberry preserves, and thinly sliced pickled cucumbers.
Västerbotten Cheese (Västerbottensost)
Västerbotten cheese is a hard cow’s milk cheese from the Västerbotten region in the northern part of Sweden. Although there is no dearth of different varieties of cheeses in Sweden, the Västerbotten cheese takes away the crown as the most popular one.
It has a bit of a strong flavor and tastes similar to cheddar cheese but with subtle notes of sweetness and nuttiness to it. The texture is somewhat grainy.
Usually, it is served on bread, but its versatility goes way beyond that. The Västerbotten Cheese is also used to make pasta sauces, added to soups, or can even be an accompaniment to your choice of wine. There is also a Västerbotten Cheese flavored ice cream that you can try when in Sweden.
Prinsesstårta or the princess cake is popularly eaten on special occasions in Sweden like birthdays and even weddings. This cake was debuted in the 20s by King Gustav V’s brother Prince Carl Bernadotte’s teacher- Jenny Åkerström. She used to make this cake for Prince Carl’s daughters, Princess Margaretha, Märtha and Astrid and hence the name Prinsesstårta or the princess cake.
Today these cakes are a colorful addition to the various bakery displays across Sweden. It is made of soft layers of sponge cake that are then lined with vanilla custard and fruit preserves. It is then enveloped in a creamy layer of whipped cream and then sealed with a layer of green-colored marzipan. The cherry on the top is the pink sugar rose.
Although green is the classic color that it comes in, today, there are a lot of other color options to suit individual tastes and styles. There is also a princess cake week celebrated in Sweden during the third week of September to honor this cake and its importance as part of the Swedish desserts.
Cured Salmon (Gravadlax)
The Swedes take their appetizers seriously, and dill-cured salmon or Gravadlax is a notable traditional food in Sweden that is popular in the list of Swedish dishes.
These are thinly sliced salmon that is cured with some salt, sugar, and of course, some flavorful dill. Till some time back, the idea of eating raw fish was something that was frowned upon by many, but today because of the popularity of Swedish cuisine, even the English speaking countries have adopted this strange but delectable dish.
The Gravadlax is usually served with some gravadlax sauce, which is a mix of Swedish mustard, Dijon mustard, vinegar, sugar, and oil. So if you are looking forward to what to eat in Sweden and like to experiment with Salmon cooked in a different style Gravadlax is your dish.
The Smörgåsbord is a Swedish buffet-style meal that has a wide variety of both hot and cold dishes. This is a treasure trove of all the excellent and palatable recipes that Sweden has to offer, all laid out on a big table.
Since pickled herring has always been the absolute favorite of the Swedes, a typical Smörgåsbord is hard to be imagined without it. There are also different varieties of it available in many restaurants in Stockholm food street.
Pickled herring served with a side of mustard, mashed potatoes, dill, to name a few. Apart from the star of the show- the pickled herring, the famous Swedish meatballs, sausages, and various other dishes, including cured salmon, also make an appearance.
Pyttipanna or pytt i Panna translates to ‘’tiny pieces in a pan.’’ It is a Swedish version of hash popular in the United States and the UK. Hash comes from the French word ”hacher” which means to chop. This dish is a very convenient way to use up leftovers, but nowadays, it has become a hit, even inexpensive and high-end restaurants.
The classic Pyttipanna is a dish prepared using chopped pieces of meat, potatoes, onions, and sprinkled with some salt and pepper for taste. Currently, there are various versions of it, including a vegetarian one.
Because of its huge popularity among the masses, you can even get frozen versions of it on the supermarket shelves. The typical way of serving Pyttipanna would be with a side of pickled beetroot or inlagda rödbetor and a sunny side up eggs.
Shrimp Sandwich (Toast Skagen)
Toast Skagen is simply seasoned shrimps or prawns on a toast. This dish is a popular starter at restaurants and dinner parties. A small piece of bread is lightly toasted, and it is then topped with a creamy mixture of shrimps or prawns with a hint of sour cream and some chopped fresh dill.
This is one of the classic dishes associated with Sweden, where a simple piece of bread is elevated and taken to a whole new level. The dish was first introduced by the famous Swedish restaurateur Tore Wretman and is named after Denmark‘s fishing port Skagen.
Smoked Salmon (Varmrökt lax)
One of the things that will surely have you coming back to this beautiful country, again and again, is the Varmrökt lax or smoked salmon. It is a Swedish specialty and loved by locals and tourists alike. Farm grown salmons are smoked using alder wood, which adds a subtle hint of earthy and sweetness to the salmon.
The smoking process is long and can easily take 5-6 hours. When done, the salmon turns golden on the outside and a delicate pink on the inside. The flesh becomes so tender and flaky that you have to be careful while cutting a chunk out of the entire salmon.
When serving this melt-in-mouth dish, it is accompanied by the side of tender boiled potatoes, some caviar sauce, and some greens drizzled with generous amounts of olive oil.
Knäckebröd: Crisp Bread
Knäckebröds are a crispy thin type of bread. These were baked because they were easy to make and needed minimal ingredients; also, they did not perish easily. These crispy bread go well with the standard cheeses and ham combination or as a side dish with the main course.
A breakfast table star, today, there are a lot of options in terms of the type of flour and additions that go into its making. The rye Knäckebröd sprinkled with linseeds is a popular option among the Swedes who like to eat it dipped in caviar.
Swedish Meatballs (Köttbullar)
The one thing that we associate Sweden with when its name pops up is the famous Swedish meatballs made popular by IKEA. The Köttbullar is made with finely ground red meat, preferably beef, and pork as well. It is then mixed in a bowl of milk along with some breadcrumbs and rolled into small circles and fried in butter till crispy.
Traditionally these iconic meatballs are served with creamy mashed potatoes, lingonberry sauce, and thick gravy made of cream.
Smörgåstårta – Sandwich Cake
Smörgåstårta or the sandwich cake is another dish to dig your teeth into when in Sweden. The concept of a sandwich cake is a bit foreign to most parts of the world apart from Sweden, where it is a treat to indulge in this masterpiece of a cake.
As odd as the concept itself might be, the choice of ingredients is equally odd-sounding; all things considered, this dish is as Swedish is as it gets.
The cake is made of layers of rye bread and mayonnaise-based fillings of liver pâté, ham, cheese, olives, and more. For toppings as well, there is a wide range of options. The Smörgåstårta is served as a cold Swedish dessert.
Semla or Semlor in plural is a Swedish sweet bun. Whether you have a sweet tooth or not, once you start indulging in one of these little balls of cream-filled sin, there is no going back for sure. Just one bun and you are hooked, which is why today they are eaten not only on Fat Tuesdays as they traditionally are but as often as one likes.
What makes it so addictive is the list of ingredients and, of course, lots of love that goes into its making. Now you know what to eat in Sweden to stop your craving for something sweet.
The semla is made with dough and has generous fillings of almond and cardamom paste inside. To finish it off, dollops and dollops of vanilla-flavored whipped cream is added on top.
Fill your appetite with some of these best Swedish dishes and Swedish cuisines, whether as an accompaniment to your evening tea or on its own.
Saffransbullar & Cinnamon Buns
The Swedes do have a serious sweet tooth. Whether as a teatime accompaniment, dessert, or on its own, there is a wide range of options available. Saffransbullar is rich sweet rolls made with butter, eggs, milk, raisins, currants, and of course, saffron. These are then shaped into a spiral ‘ ”S” shape with a raisin in each spiral.
To celebrate this traditional Swedish food, these rolls are eaten on St. Lucia Day in early December. Cinnamon Rolls or Kanelbullar are a classic that makes its appearance at almost every coffee shop and cafe and Stockholm food street.
These rolls can be enjoyed all year round on its own or with a steaming hot cup of coffee. Swedish food would surely leave you asking for more.