20 Different Traditional Finnish Food You Must Try in Finland

by | Oct 19, 2016 | 11 comments

Hey y’all, not sure if you know but I’ve been living in Finland for a decade (!!!) now and that, if ever you wonder, the reason I’m here was to pursue my culinary arts studies a.k.a cooking school where they teach a bit about cooking but not really about being a cook. Well, since moving to Finland when I was 16, I’ve learned a lot about this country and its traditions that I adapted quite a lot of it as my own! Finnish food is one thing, I love it! In my opinion, traditional Finnish food is simple, comforting and delicious.

I’ve also worked in few restaurants specializing in traditional Finnish cuisine and from there I had the opportunity to get in touch with what is Finnish. What I’ve noticed so far is that traditional Finnish food is rather filling, but they use ingredients that go along with the season and that the Finns enjoy their traditional home cooked meals more than anyone else.

So, what’s Finnish food, for reals?

Well, as we all know, Finland is located in Northern Europe and have four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Each season has amazing treats to serve the citizens, my favorite being the summer because it is not only warm but also because fresh vegetables and fishes are in season while early autumn is perfect for berries, late fall is my favorite because of the abundance of mushrooms. Winter, however, is great because you get to enjoy wild meat and as well all the preserves you’ve done from the previous seasons.

On a side note…

Personally, at home, we cook a mixture of Finnish, Estonian, and Filipino food every day. I love going to the market and shopping for seasonal ingredients and head home to cook a delicious dinner. From time to time, I even bake traditional Finnish bread such as rye bread or simple Finnish bread rolls. So, you can safely say I love Finnish food quite a lot. Potato is life, man. Potato is life.

Anyway, I’ll stop the blabber and read along about the different traditional Finnish food you’ll have to try if you visit Finland!

20 Different Traditional Finnish Food You Must Try in Finland

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Common Finnish food for breakfast


Traditional Finnish Food

Ruisleipä (Rye bread)

What is it?

It 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, that is crazy expensive for something simple – trust me, I wouldn’t pay for it.

Traditional Finnish Food

Riispuuro (Rice porridge)

What is it?

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 which 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 in 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.

READ: Helsinki Points of Interest and Top Attractions to Visit

Traditional Finnish soups


Traditional Finnish Food

Hernekeitto ja pannukakku (Pea soup and pancake)

What is it?

Ah, hernekeitto! Basically, it is pea soup made from either fresh peas if it is summer and dried peas during winter. 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 dish 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 grocery shops which aren’t the best, but they are not so bad either.

Traditional Finnish Food

Lohikeitto (Salmon soup)

What is it?

The basic 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 their 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 restaurant such as Ravintola KuuKuuRavintola 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. Here’s the recipe: Lohikeitto.

Traditional Finnish Food

Siskonmakkarakeitto (Sausage Soup)

What is it?

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 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.

Common Finnish food for lunch or dinner


Traditional Finnish Food

Lihapullat muusilla ja puolukkahillolla (Meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam)

What is it?

Ah, Scandinavian meatballs! No pun intended, I swear. You all know IKEA, right? Well, the meatballs you get from there is 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 was the most popular dish in 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 to try this dish not only because it is good and it is usually rather cheap and as well really 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 restaurants in the whole country. This is a famous dish and trust 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.

Traditional Finnish Food

Makaronilaatikko (Baked macaroni with minced meat)

What is it?

This Finnish baked macaron with minced meat could easily be comparable to the American mac and cheese – only this dish don’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 students possible have this every single day – three times a day. Why may you 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 a popular broke student meal.

Why should you try this Finnish food?

It is comfort food 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 on 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.

Traditional Finnish Food

Karjalanpaisti (Meat Stew)

What is it?

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 some to Finland during winter, I’m sure you’ll love this stew after touring outside in the cold.

READ: What to do in Helsinki in Winter

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! This dish can easily cook this dish in the comforts of your home by using a crock pot or a pressure cooker. Also, karjalainpaisti is best served with mashed potatoes!

Traditional Finnish Food

Pyttipannu (Pan fried potatoes with sausages)

What is this?

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 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 as a 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.

Traditional Finnish Food

Kaalikääryleet (Stuffed cabbage)

What is this?

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 dishes, 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 for a cheaper price. Obviously, 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.

Other common foods eaten in Finland


Traditional Finnish Food

Paistettu muikku (Fried vendace)

What is this?

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 town. You’ll see how popular this dish is amongst foreign and locals alike. I make it a goal to eat fried vendace at least three times a year during summer time; it is a crispy treat you’re looking forward to having since it is only available at 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, and they’re shit. Also, in market halls, you’ll find some small stalls that sell fried vendace as well!

Traditional Finnish Food

Lihapiirakka (Meat pie)

What is this?

Oh, lihapiirakka or meat pie! One of my after party favorites! Finnish meat pie is one of the bomb 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 ones 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 or shops. I highly suggest getting them from kiosks as they are usually naughtier than the ones you get from shops. Remember, the greasier, the better.

Traditional Finnish Food

Lasimestarin silli (Marinated Herring)

What is this?

Marinated herring is one of those winter food which you prepare during summertime. Lasimestarin silli or marinated herring is a kind of preserved food which 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 spring time 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?

Obviously, 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.

Traditional Finnish Food

Graavilohi (Cured Salmon)

What is this?

Ah, Finland and their love for salmon! Graavilohi is pretty straightforward, you rub the fresh salmon with a mixture of salt, sugar, dill and rose peppers then you let it cure for few days until you like the texture and flavor – done! You’ll see this a lot when you visit Finland, and you’ll find cured salmon on top of rye bread with dill and boiled eggs; it is delicious!

Why should you try this Finnish food?

Cured salmon is one of Finland’s oldest traditional food; they got this influence from Scandinavian countries, and the locals love it a lot. I suggest trying Finnish cured salmon not only because I think it is pretty awesome, but also for the experience if you haven’t had cured salmon before. You’ll be surprised with the flavor it has!

Where can you get it?

If you just want to cure salmon as it is, you’ll find packaged ones from shops, and you can buy rye bread at the same time, it is the perfect combo! However, most cafe’s in town serve their version of cured salmon bread topped with dill and boiled eggs. They can be a bit expensive, but it is a healthy and tasty snack to go with coffee or lemonade.

Traditional Finnish Food

Karjalanpiirakka munavoilla (Carelian pie with egg butter)

What is this?

Karjalanpiirakka or Carelian pie originated from the Carelian side of Finland, located on the eastern side of the country, bordering to Russia. Carelian pie is perhaps one of the traditional Finnish food you’ll find that roots back to Finland. This pie is made out of rye dough which is rolled till it is paper thin and filled with rice porridge, or mashed potatoes. This is best served warm topped with a mixture of softened butter and boiled eggs.

Why should you try this Finnish food?

Oh, indeed this is something you shall not miss! I often eat this for breakfast topped with cheese and ham, and it is so heavy and filling and you’ll for surely have a right amount of energy for the rest of the day after eating a couple of this deliciousness. Although this dish is time-consuming, there are still Finnish grannies or mothers who make this dish from time to time! I personally never made it just because I barely have time for anything else, let alone make Carelian pie from scratch.

Where can you get it?

There are many cafes, notably Fazer Cafe, that sells Carelian pie topped with smoked salmon or egg butter. I prefer buying Fazer produced Carelian pies from the grocery store and make egg butter from scratch, but you know, it’s because I prefer it cheaper and I eat this a lot if I have it available! I also have the impression that most Finnish hotel’s, especially the luxury ones, have Carelian pie in their breakfast buffet. If not, the shops always have them.

Traditional Finnish Food

Makkara (Finnish Sausage)

What is this?

Finnish people love their local sausages, and I don’t wonder why because their sausages in Finland is splendid! I’m sure a lot will argue about this, but I have a firm opinion about this fact. You’ll see a variety of sausages when you stumble upon any shops in Finland and have tons options to choose from. Personally, I prefer the regular ones, and I like them grilled. It is a tradition also to cook sausages in the sauna in here anytime of the year, and they’re delicious! Also, it is common to find people grilling sausages in parks during summer with friends!

Why should you try this Finnish food?

It ‘s nice to try a variety of sausages all throughout Europe, and I think it is nice to compare and see which ones you find best. Also, if you visit summer cottages in Finland, it is common to bring sausages and beers with you as part of the basic needs, or at least that’s what the Finns will tell you.

Where can you get it?

From shops, you’ll find a lot of different types of sausages! Otherwise, in market squares where they have food stalls, you’ll also find food vendors that sell grilled or fried sausages, and they’re excellent.

Traditional Finnish Food

Savulohi (Warm Smoked Salmon)

What is this?

Savulohi or smoked salmon is yet another famous Finnish food which the locals rave about. This dish is just fresh salmon either smoked over an open campfire or in a traditional smoking box. There are many ways you can use smoked salmon, and the popular one is using it as a filling for bread or eaten with potatoes. Also, you can also use it in creamy pasta sauce or however you want. The sky is the limit.

Why should you try this Finnish food?

Like any other salmon dishes in Finland, smoked salmon is delicious and worth your money. It is also a traditional Christmas dish for some families in Finland, and you’ll often see all sorts of cured and smoked salmon in Christmas buffet’s around town if ever you visit during Christmas time.

Where can you get it?

Again, local grocery shops have a variety of smoked salmon to choose from, and they’re delicious, it is pretty much the same ones they sell in cafe’s and restaurants. However, if you’re feeling fancy, most cafe’s and restaurants have some smoked salmon dish on their menus, and it is either stuffed in sandwiches or some dish.

Finnish sweets and desserts every locals love


Traditional Finnish Food

Korvapuusti (Cinnamon rolls)

What is this?

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 it plus it is a delicious snack with coffee! You’ll see a lot of Finns eating this with coffee if you go to cafe’s, 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.

Traditional Finnish Food

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 for des

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 to try. The weird part is that this dish is often eaten as 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 with 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 anytime of the year.

Traditional Finnish Food

Mustikkapiirakka (Blueberry pie)

What is this?

Mustikkapiirakka or blueberry pie is yet another famous Finnish thing, usually eaten for dessert and often found in cafe’s if you’re eager to taste this. The simplest way to make this is by making a simple short crust 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 loves 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 cafe’s, 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.

BONUS!


traditional-finnish-food-ko%cc%88yha%cc%88t-ritarit

Köyhät Ritarit (Finnish French Toast)

What is it?

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 have 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!

Why should you try this Finnish food?

You do love sweets too, right? If not, what is wrong with you!? Just kidding, this is an awesome dessert. I. Kid. You. Not.

Where can you get it?

You have to make it yourself. The awesome Finnish blogger behind Perinneruokaaprkl who 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!


Photo credits go to K-Ruoka.fi, Lidl-reseptit.fi and Perinnenruokaa prkl!


So, it was quite a lot to put on your list, eh? Well, better start thinking 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. You know what I mean? Granny food rocks! Even Anthony Bourdain agrees with that. Hope you liked this long list! It took me a while to compile it.

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