To start, I hope you’re not reading this hungry because what you’re about to learn about traditional Finnish food is going to make your stomach growl.
What is traditional Finnish food? In a nutshell, this Nordic cuisine consists of different staples which locals enjoy on a daily and this includes rye bread, different types of porridge eaten for breakfast, sweet bread pastries such as pulla and cinnamon rolls, sweet pies and pastries, cured meat and fishes, smoked meat and fishes, potatoes cooked in different ways, stewed meats, and cream-based sauces.
But let’s face the facts first, Finland food has had a bad rep for being bland amongst tourists, and that’s because they don’t know where to go, and they often go to overpriced tourist traps that are located around the tourist areas of the cities.
I can’t blame them, I’ve been a tourist in a lot of places I’ve visited, and it is unavoidable, especially with lack of research. This is the main reason why I compiled this list so that I can justify traditional Finnish food to anyone who wants to visit Finland.
I’ve been living in Finland for over a decade now, and I went to cooking school here and had the opportunity to learn about what is the real traditional Finnish food; therefore, I can attest to the fact that it is not as bland as what people claim it to be.
Traditional foods in Finland go according to the season: winter, spring, summer, and autumn and as a chef who trained mostly in Nordic kitchens specializing in Finnish cuisine, I’m telling you now – do some research of what is in season and choose your dishes according to that.
Now, what is Finnish food, really?
Well, truthfully, it is very simple. Like, salt and pepper simple. Nothing fancy, just basic raw ingredients cooked with the basics of the basics. But, isn’t that what makes something really good? Seasonal, fresh, and simple.
They don’t use a lot of spices; therefore, for every bite you take, you’ll taste the flavors of the ingredients as they are and not masked behind different aromas, spices, and whatnot. Again, the flavor is clean.
If the dish says it is a creamy salmon soup with potatoes and root vegetables, that is exactly what you will get. Salmon in broth, cream, onion, potatoes, and root vegetables with a bit of salt and white pepper. Some grannies might put allspice and bay leaf, but those are optional and very personal.
Alright, now that I’ve explained to you what Finland food is. Please read along and see what real Finnish cuisine is!
Table of Contents
- Top 21 BEST Traditional Finnish Food You Should Try
- 1. Ruisleipä (Rye bread)
- 2. Riispuuro (Rice porridge)
- 3-4. Hernekeitto ja pannukakku (Pea soup and pancake)
- 5. Lohikeitto (Salmon soup)
- 6. Siskonmakkarakeitto (Sausage Soup)
- 7-8. Lihapullat muusilla ja puolukkahillolla (Meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam)
- 9. Makaronilaatikko (Baked macaroni with minced meat)
- 10. Karjalanpaisti (Meat Stew)
- 11. Pyttipannu (Pan-fried potatoes with sausages)
- 12. Kaalikääryleet (Stuffed cabbage)
- 13. Nakkikastike (Hot dogs in Sauce)
- 14. Paistettu muikku (Fried vendace)
- 15. Lihapiirakka (Meat pie)
- 16. Lasimestarin silli (Marinated Herring)
- 17. Korvapuusti (Cinnamon rolls)
- 18. Leipäjuusto lakkahillolla (Cheese bread with Cloudberry Jam) What is this?
- 19. Mustikkapiirakka (Blueberry pie)
- 20. Pulla (Sweet bread)
- 21. Köyhät Ritarit (Finnish French Toast)
- FAQ about Finnish food
- Are you on Pinterest? Pin these for later read!
Top 21 BEST Traditional Finnish Food You Should Try
1. Ruisleipä (Rye bread)
Rye bread is the most basic breakfast sandwich you can get, it is basically two slices of Finnish rye bread, a slice of ham, and a slice of cheese on each side – that’s how most people in Finland eat this. However, if you’re feeling fancy, you can also eat it with a slice of tomato, a salad leaf, and a slice of cucumber.
Why should you try this Finnish food? You need to eat breakfast too, correct? Unless you’re one of those weird people I know (like myself) who doesn’t eat breakfast because it is overrated, then you can also eat this anytime you wish. It is not strictly just for breakfast. I eat this for dinner sometimes because why not.
Where can you get it? If you’re staying in one of the many awesome luxury hotels in Helsinki, then you can almost make sure they have rye bread in their breakfast buffet. If not, you can buy rye bread, cheese, and ham from the local grocery store (they’re decent, don’t worry) or a ready-made ham and cheese rye bread sandwich.
A lot of cafes have them too, but they are like €5 a sandwich, which is crazy expensive for something simple – trust me, I wouldn’t pay for it.
2. Riispuuro (Rice porridge)
Riisipuuro is your basic rice porridge made with a mixture of water, full-fat milk, and rice. If you’re feeling a bit naughty, you can add a slab of butter and sugar on top of it, and if you’re feeling a bit Christmas-y – add cinnamon! I prefer it with a slab of butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Yes, I like my porridge naughty sometimes.
Why should you try this Finnish food? It is heavy and delicious – or at least I think. Plus, like what I said, you need to fuel up for a day of walking, and rice porridge is a common breakfast food that a lot of Finns love.
I do think though that since people are busier nowadays, they don’t make rice porridge at home anymore. However, they have a tradition at Christmas where everyone gathers around to eat rice porridge for breakfast.
Where can you get it? I’ve mentioned that the locals are rather busier these days, right? Yes, well, because of that, big food chains started producing rice porridge ready for consumption. Although rice porridge on its own is easy to make and delicious when fresh, then again, it is time-consuming – nobody has time for that nowadays, unfortunately.
Great luck to you, though, you can buy ready-made ones (they’re not that bad) from local grocery shops or, again, if you’re staying in a hotel that serves breakfast, they might have it there too.
3-4. Hernekeitto ja pannukakku (Pea soup and pancake)
Ah, hernekeitto! Basically, it is pea soup made from either fresh peas if it is summer and dried peas during winter. It is typically cooked with smoked pork shanks, onions, bay leaf, salt, and pepper.
Simple, right? Well, cooking it is simple, but you have to always remember to soak the dried peas first in water overnight; otherwise, cooking it would be a major pain in the ass – tried and tested. Soak it in water.
Why should you try this Finnish food? Finnish pea soup is an ultimate favorite amongst Finns, especially the older people. Most young people hate this, but personally, I think Finnish pea soup is splendid, especially if there’s smoked ham!
This soup is typically served every Thursday in Finnish restaurants, and alongside it, you’ll also get a slice of oven-baked pancake with jam (and sometimes whipped cream). Oh, and, of course, rye crackers or rye bread with a thick layer of butter – with this soup is just wow.
Where can you get it? You can get Finnish pea soup from typical Finnish restaurants, but it might be tough to find it as this dish is seasonal (usually popular during winter). However, from time to time, lunch restaurants like Moko have it on their menu.
Otherwise, if you want to taste Finnish pea soup but don’t want to spend too much money on it, again, they have it available in the canned goods section in all grocery shops, which aren’t the best, but they are not so bad either.
Do you want to experience Helsinki on a more personal level? Hire a private tour guide and explore the city!
5. Lohikeitto (Salmon soup)
The basics out of all the basics. Finnish salmon soup is an ultimate favorite regardless of the season! It is a timeless classic made with salmon, potatoes, carrots, onions, and cream or full-fat milk and typically season with allspice and dill. Simple right?
Why should you try this Finnish food? This is one of my favorite Finnish food since arriving in Finland. Also, this is eaten with rye bread with a slab of butter. Plus, Finland is known for its salmon culture influenced by Scandinavia.
Whenever I have guests from abroad visiting me here in Finland, I always make sure to bring them to a restaurant that sells this, and all of them loved this creamy deliciousness. So I recommend you should not miss this either!
Where can you get it? You’re in luck because there’s a lot of restaurants in Helsinki that have this on their menu! Unfortunately, I am not sure which one serves it best. I know that traditional Finnish restaurants such as Ravintola KuuKuu, Ravintola Lappi, and Restaurant Story have traditional salmon soup in their lunch or dinner menus.
I would say you can get this from grocery shops as well, but man, unless you can’t pay 10-15€ for a bowl of nice salmon soup from the restaurants I mentioned then, please make it at home instead because the ones you get from shops are not good. You can try my recipe from my food website, The Kitchen Abroad’s simple but delicious Salmon Soup!
If you’re planning your trip to Helsinki, we recommend staying at Hotel Fabian as it is right smack in the center of the city and you’ll get easy access to a lot of tourist areas and as well amazing Finnish restaurants.
6. Siskonmakkarakeitto (Sausage Soup)
Siskonmakkara is a raw sausage, and if I would translate siskonmakkarakeitto to English, it means, “Sister’s sausage soup” – which is an odd name and I am not sure what is the history behind why they called that sausage type like so.
Why should you try this Finnish food? Siskonmakkarakeitto is one of those unusual dishes you’ll encounter while in Finland, and I think you should give it a try. The sausage used in this specific soup is specially made just for this specific soup – nothing else, or at least not that I know of.
The sausage is raw, and to get those little balls of sausages, and you’ll have to sort of… hmm, squeeze them out from the sausage casing, you get me? I really can’t explain it well, but this video can certainly tell you exactly what I mean(It is in Finnish though, but I just want you to see the part when they squeeze them balls out!)
Where can you get it? Unfortunately, there aren’t many restaurants that sell this as most Finnish people cook this regularly at home since it is easy to make it. However, if you stumble upon one restaurant that sells this, go for it without a doubt.
If you like basic but good hotels, Hotel Clarion is a newly opened hotel just a bit off the center of Helsinki if that is more of your jive.
7-8. Lihapullat muusilla ja puolukkahillolla (Meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam)
Ah, Scandinavian meatballs! No pun intended, I swear. You all know IKEA, right? Well, the meatballs you get from there are traditionally obviously from Sweden. But! Finland also has a traditional Finnish meatball, which every single child in this country loves. I love it too, and it is damn good. It is quite similar to the Swedish version: Meatballs, brown sauce, mashed potato, and lingonberry jam – the bomb.
Why should you try this Finnish food? Ah, the famous lihapullat or meatballs! I remember when I was working in this one famous traditional Finnish restaurant here in Helsinki, their meatballs were the most popular dish on the whole menu. Everyone’s coming to that restaurant to have that dish more than anything else and guess from where are their customers?
Finland! Yes, Finns love meatballs! They were getting a lot of foreign diners too since the restaurant was a well-known traditional Finnish restaurant. I think it is worth trying this dish not only because it is good and it is usually rather cheap and as well as heavy and filling. Your €€€ will be all worth it!
Where can you get it? Again, you’re in luck because you’ll find this dish pretty much everywhere in Helsinki or any other Finnish restaurant in the whole country. This is a famous dish and trusts me, not every restaurant serves it good! You’re in even more luck, though, because I know where you can get the best meatballs in Helsinki, and that is Ravintola Tori have the most raved meatballs in town.
Do you like hiking? Maybe a quick calorie burn before your next big carby Finnish meal? Here’s an amazing tour that will take you from the city to the wild – Nuuksio National Park day tour from Helsinki
9. Makaronilaatikko (Baked macaroni with minced meat)
This Finnish baked macaroni with minced meat could easily be compared to the American mac and cheese – only this dish doesn’t have cheese, but instead, it has minced meat and full-fat milk. I think every child in this country had this every other day or at least once a week, and every single University student possibly has this every single day – three times a day.
Why you may ask? Well, makaronilaatikko is exceptionally easy and cheap to make! Plus, almost everyone in Finland ate/eat this dish. I don’t necessarily suggest you eat this if you’re in Finland, but it is up to you if you wish, I think this dish is nothing special but popular amongst broke students.
Why try this local favorite? It is comfort food for locals, and it is cheap! If you’re on a budget, this is your go-to meal if you’re in Finland – or anywhere in the world!
Where can you get it? From the grocery shop. This dish is not too fancy for it to be included in a restaurant’s menu. However, if you’re lucky and stumble upon any lunch restaurants that have this on their menu, I’d still stay rather make it at home and try something else. I like this dish because if I’m busy and broke, then I think this dish is awesome.
Do you want your trip to be a little bit more personal? Perhaps, you want to cook at home? Why not stay in an apartment hotel so you can test out local produce and make a dish of your own – Aallonkoti Apartment Hotels.
10. Karjalanpaisti (Meat Stew)
Karjalanpaisti or meat stew is one of the simplest comfort food you can have in your life! It is cooked in a special pot quite the same as a crockpot only you can cook it in the oven; it is usually cooked for several hours or even overnight so you can only imagine how soft the meat can be – it melts in your mouth.
Why should you try this Finnish food? This meat stew is one of those meals that would warm up your heart and soul! If you come to Finland during winter, I’m sure you’ll love this stew after touring outside in the cold.
Where can you get it? It is not common for restaurants to have this dish on their menu because it is so time-consuming to make it. However, this can easily be done at home if you want to make it! You can easily cook this dish in the comforts of your home by using a crockpot or a pressure cooker. Also, karjalainpaisti is best served with mashed potatoes!
If you’re staying in Helsinki, you must not forget to visit Porvoo, which is a city not far from the capital itself. There are few traditional Finnish restaurants in that city that may have karjalanpaisti on their menu so keep an eye on that!
They do have a lot of day tours you can partake in if you want to visit this lovely small town by the coast! Helsinki to Porvoo day tours is what we recommend.
11. Pyttipannu (Pan-fried potatoes with sausages)
Pyttipannu is a dish made of leftover dishes that you put together from yesterday’s dinner. It is a good way to get rid of old food! Pyttipannu is typically made with old potatoes, onion, and sausages and topped with a fried egg. However, you could always put whatever leftover food you have and fry them in a pan and serve it with ketchup and mustard – done.
Why should you try this Finnish food? Again, I find this dish comfort food. If I made something with potatoes from the day before, I usually just fry them in butter with onions the next day, and that’s pyttipannu. If you’re a foreigner, you might find this dish odd, but I dare you to try it, I think it is awesome. Come on; it is fried potatoes! Who doesn’t like fried potatoes – in butter?
Where can you get it? From regular shops, you can find this in the frozen section, and all you have to do is, well, fry them in a pan. Or, if you’re keen, you can fry old potatoes with onions and sausages and voila, pyttipannu. Again, this dish is something restaurants don’t serve, but there’s a possibility you’ll find this randomly from some restaurants.
Are you on a quick layover and want to see Helsinki in only a few hours? Well, that’s possible! Get this 3-hour Helsinki Airport layover tour!
12. Kaalikääryleet (Stuffed cabbage)
Kaalikääryleet is stuffed cabbage, the best translation you can get. This dish is done by blanching the cabbage leaf, filling it with minced meat and cooked rice, roll it and then cook it in the oven and serve with mashed potatoes. Some people eat it with lingonberry jam, because why not.
Why should you try this Finnish food? I am not so sure if this is traditional Finnish as I’ve eaten stuffed cabbage from other countries in Europe, notably in the Balkan and Baltic areas. But, if you’re interested in this sort of dish, I recommend trying this dish here in Finland. It is still somewhat different than I’ve eaten from other countries!
Where can you get it? Again, Finnish grocery stores are good places to find traditional Finnish food at a cheaper price. It is best to make this fresh or eat this from restaurants. But then again, it is either a Finnish grandma or ordering this from a restaurant would be your only choice – the latter might be tough as, again, most restaurants don’t serve this dish.
Here’s another apartment hotel you can stay at in Helsinki: Uudenmankatu Apartments.
13. Nakkikastike (Hot dogs in Sauce)
If you ask a Finn what dish reminds them of childhood, there is a big chance they’ll say nakkikastike which is a very basic dish that consists of Finnish sausages, cream, and a bit of tomato paste.
I’ve made this a few times for my sister’s children and my partner and even wrote a recipe for it as it seems like a mystery for a lot of people and there’s a chunk of them who actually tried this out of curiosity.
They liked it and as most Finns say, ei siitä vikaa (it’s okay, nothing is wrong with it).
Why try this Finnish dish? I honestly don’t know why but if you’re curious enough, why not? It is quite an easy food to eat and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. I think that is why a lot of kids like it and a lot of parents cook it at home – it is an easy dish that is ready in less than 20 minutes which the little humans will devour in 5.
Where can you get it? Most shops sell this ready-made and all you have to do is heat it up and voila. Some old-school Finnish restaurants also sell this from time to time and it surprisingly goes fast. I suggest you just simply get this from the shop as it is less hassle and it honestly tastes alright.
14. Paistettu muikku (Fried vendace)
Paistettu muikku or fried vendace is a typical summer dish where you cover the vendace with a dry mixture of rye and regular flour; then, you fry the fish in butter or ghee until golden and crispy. This dish is usually served with aioli and a slice of lemon on the side.
Why should you try this Finnish food? If you come to Finland during the summer season, you’ll find fried vendace in summer food markets near the ports or towns. You’ll see how popular this dish is amongst foreigners and locals alike. I make it a goal to eat fried vendace at least three times a year during summertime; it is a crispy treat you’re looking forward to having since it is only available at a certain time of the year!
Where can you get it? You can get fried vendace in food markets near the ports or market squares! Some shops have this as well in packaging but don’t buy those, they are not as fresh. Also, in market halls, you’ll find some small stalls that sell fried vendace as well!
15. Lihapiirakka (Meat pie)
Oh, lihapiirakka or meat pie! One of my after-party favorites! The Finnish meat pie is one of the bombs you can have when you visit; it is greasy, salty, and delicious. The dough is quite similar to doughnut dough, and it is filled with minced meat and cooked rice – then it is deep-fried in greasy oil to goodness.
Why should you try this Finnish food? If you’re up for some street food, this is the one you’ll get from the streets of Finland. Only they don’t have street vendors, but instead, they have small kiosks where you can buy these bad boys. You can have them either filled with more goodness or plain as it is, your choice – I suggest trying both.
Where can you get it? You can buy meat pies from street kiosks. I highly suggest getting them bad boys from kiosks as they are usually naughtier than the ones you get from shops. Remember, the greasier, the better. If you want it, you can buy this from the ready-made fridge section in any grocery store, just warm them up in the microwave and eat it with ketchup.
16. Lasimestarin silli (Marinated Herring)
Marinated herring is one of those winter food which you prepare during summertime. Lasimestarin silli or marinated herring is a kind of preserved food that you typically store for the upcoming winter.
Traditionally made with herring caught from the summer, you make a concoction out of vinegar, sugar, and some spices, and you store it in jars and keep it marinating or preserving till the winter season. Marinated herring is also a traditional Christmas food for some families here in Finland.
Why should you try this Finnish food? If you’re adventurous enough, I think you will like this odd dish. During springtime, Finns usually eat marinated herring with new potatoes, the perfect combination of old and new. I like marinated herring, and as we speak, I have a jar in my cupboard ready for next year as I wait for the new potatoes!
Where can you get it? You don’t have enough time to cure your herring if you’re only visiting Finland for a short while, but you’re in luck because in shops you can easily buy a jar of marinated herring for few euros! Or you can go to market halls and try them from there.
17. Korvapuusti (Cinnamon rolls)
Korvapuusti is a sweet pastry with cinnamon, butter, and sugar filling and baked to perfection! It is quite similar to the American cinnamon roll, but not quite, korvapuusti is simpler and in my preference, better.
Finnish cinnamon rolls are easy to make and so lovely to smell while baking them, plus it is a delicious snack with coffee! You’ll see a lot of Finns eating this with coffee if you go to cafes, they love this sweet bun!
Why should you try this Finnish food? I don’t know if I should explain why you should eat this. I mean, who doesn’t like sweet pastries!?
Where can you get it? Local grocery shops have this, actually, scratch that – you’ll find korvapuisti everywhere you go in Finland. The best ones I’ve tried in Helsinki are from Fazer Cafe and Cafe Regatta – the latter I highly suggest going to; it is one of the best places in Helsinki.
18. Leipäjuusto lakkahillolla (Cheese bread with Cloudberry Jam) What is this?
Leipäjuusto is a type of squeaky cheese baked over an open fire, and with the direct translation to English, it is called “bread cheese.” This is traditionally eaten with cloudberry jam as dessert.
Why should you try this Finnish food? Again, leipäjuusto is a traditional Finnish food you’ll probably only find in Finland and is one of those odd sorts that are worth trying. The weird part is that this dish is often eaten as a dessert and goes well with coffee! I love this and often buy it from shops whenever I cravings for this lovely squeaky cheese.
Where can you get it? Few restaurants might have this on their menu, but it is easy to get this from a regular food store, even the cloudberry jam you’ll find in jars, and they are pretty decent. I don’t go to restaurants for this and just buy the ones ready from shops; they’re easy and not so expensive.
For instance, a jar of cloudberry jam is about €5, and I think it is quite a steal considering how rare you’ll come across this berry from forests. They’re well known to be quite hard to find; thus, the price of cloudberries could depend on how abundant they’ll be for that year.
Leipäjuusto, on the other hand, is easy to produce and you’ll find them easily from the shops any time of the year.
19. Mustikkapiirakka (Blueberry pie)
Mustikkapiirakka or blueberry pie is yet another famous Finnish thing, usually eaten for dessert, and often found in cafes if you’re eager to taste this.
The simplest way to make this is by making a simple shortcrust pastry, laying it on a pie baking round, mixing frozen blueberries with powdered sugar and potato flour, place them on top of the pastry, and bake it till the crust is cooked. So simple and so good, especially if served warm with vanilla sauce or vanilla ice cream.
Why should you try this Finnish food? Oh, you’ll love this simple dessert! Every time I make this at home or work, it is gone before the day ends. Finnish people love this simple pie; it is one of those things they devour, especially if the berry season is on.
Where can you get it? You can get mustikkapiirakka from cafes, and some restaurants have them on their menu if the berry season is on. Otherwise, it is easy to make this at home wherever you are in this world as long as blueberries are easy to get.
20. Pulla (Sweet bread)
Finns love a good sweet bread to go with their coffee during their break times and although a good cinnamon roll is favorable, there are still some who enjoy a good simple pulla which is a simple cardamom sweet bread topped with sugar crystals.
I made this pulla in February in time for “laskiainen” (mid-winter holiday) where I made laskiaispulla, a pulla filled with jam and whipped cream.
Why try this Finnish dessert? It is an easy-to-grab pastry that you can easily get everywhere. Also, it is a lovely treat along with your coffee or tea!
Where can you get this? Most stores have this fresh in their pastry section or somewhere in the bread section, you can find ready-made packed sweet bread pastries.
21. Köyhät Ritarit (Finnish French Toast)
Köyhät ritarit or your basic French toast with a twist! So what makes this sweet toast any different from the regular French toast? Well, instead of old bread, you use old sweet bread! There’s this thing in Finland called “Pulla” or sweet bun in the form of bread; it has cinnamon, cardamom, and butter.
All the goodness in one bun! Just like your regular French toast, you make köyhät ritarit the same way and serve it with whipped or ice cream, and if you’re feeling fancy, you can add seasonal berries or fruits!
Where can you get it? You have to make it yourself. The awesome Finnish blogger behind Perinneruokaaprklwho also took that amazing photo of this dessert has an awesome recipe that goes with it. Unfortunately, it is in Finnish, but google translate can somewhat do the job for you!
So, it was quite a lot to put on your list, eh? Well, better start thinking about which ones you’ll hunt once you visit Finland! I only wrote down 21 traditional Finnish food in here, but trust me – there’s a lot more!
Finnish food is so simple, especially the traditional Granny-style ones, but there’s nothing more delicious than dishes your Granny can make best. Do you know what I mean? Granny food rocks! Even Anthony Bourdain agrees with that. Hope you liked this long list!
FAQ about Finnish food
Do Finnish people eat reindeer?
Yes, Finnish people do eat reindeer and one of the popular dishes made out of this meat is called “Poronkäristys” which is reindeer stew typically served mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam. This dish is usually more popular in Northern Finland.
What is a typical Finnish breakfast?
There are different ones but here are the most popular ones:
- Oats porridge with milk, butter, sugar, and cinnamon powder
- Rice porridge with milk, butter, sugar, cinnamon powder, and occasionally some people add jam in it
- Rye bread slathered with butter and topped with cheese slices, ham, and cucumber slices
What is Finland’s most popular food?
If you ask a Finn, you’ll probably get one of these dishes:
- Makaronilaatikko (baked macaroni)
- Karjalanpaisti (Stew from Karelia usually with beef and pork chunks, carrots, onions, and turnips) usually served with mashed potato
- Finnish meatballs (Quite the same as the famous Swedish meatballs: meatballs with gravy, mashed potatoes, and lingonberry jam)
- Creamy Salmon soup served with rye bread
What is traditional Finnish food?
The most traditional ones which you’ll probably only find in Finland:
- Karelian pie
Are you on Pinterest? Pin these for later read!