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Traditional Swedish Food Guide: 19 Swedish Dishes You Have to Try!

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Traditional Swedish Food Guide

Is there any better way to discover a country than through its food? If you want to eat your way through all the very best traditional Swedish food, you’ve come to the right place. 

Much like the rest of Europe, there’s a strong trend at the moment in Sweden for reviving traditional Swedish dishes. Classic recipes and old-school cooking practices are being given modern twists by Sweden’s top chefs. So there’s never been a better time to indulge in the local food scene.

There’s also a strong focus on sustainability, and on using high-quality local produce. As a result, Sweden can boast a pretty exciting food scene. There are also some seriously high-quality new restaurants, especially in the capital of Stockholm. So, it’s with an emphasis on traditional eating that I’ve put together this Swedish food guide. Enjoy…

Traditional Swedish Food: Dishes You HAVE to Try!

1 – Köttbullar / Traditional Swedish Meatballs

Traditional Swedish food Meatballs with Cream Sauce

You can’t write a list of the must-try traditional Swedish food and not include köttbullar – Swedish meatballs. These were brought to the world’s attention by IKEA, so you may have already tried them!

Swedish meatballs are fairly simple, usually made from ground beef and breadcrumbs, broth, onions, and a little cream. Traditionally, köttbullar are served with gravy, boiled potatoes, and lingonberry jam. These are definitely one of Sweden’s most iconic dishes.

2 – Sill & Potatis / Herring and Potatoes

Sill & potatis (herring and potatoes) is one of the most iconic dishes in Sweden, one that’s often served up at family gatherings. It’s another simple dish, and was once classed as poor man’s food. However, these days it’s been elevated by famous Swedish chefs into a must-try local dish.

3 – Smörgåsbord 

Smörgåsbord Sweden

A smörgåsbord is a Scandinavian buffet made up of variety of hot and cold dishes, such as cured meats and sandwiches. In Sweden, no smörgåsbord is complete without pickled herring. These fish are abundant in both the North and Baltic seas, so they’re common throughout the country. And Swedes have been pickling them since the Middle Ages, as this was the best way to preserve herring for storage and transportation. 

4 – Raggmunk / Potato Pancake

Raggmunk traditional swedish freid potato pancakes

Raggmunk is a very traditional Swedish dish so be sure to try it on your trip! Essentially, this is a simple potato pancake. It’s fried in butter and is often served with fried pork of bacon. As well as the ubiquitous lingonberries, of course! 

5 – Wallenbergare

wałlebergare sweden

Supposedly named after the Wallenbergs – one of the wealthiest families in Sweden – wallenbergare is a kind of meat pattie made using ground veal, cream and egg yolks, coated in breadcrumbs. It’s generally served with mashed potatoes, green peas, and – of course – lingonberry jam. 

6 – Smörgåstårta / “Sandwich Cake”

Smörgåstårta Sandwich Cake - traditional swedish food

The name smörgåstårta translates to “sandwich cake” – which is essentially what this slightly bizarre Swedish dish is! It’s a savoury cake made using layers of bread and filling, topped with plenty of garnish. There are lots of varieties so keep an eye out for one that appeals! 

7 – Smörgås / Open Sandwiches

Smörgås - traditional swedish food

Speaking of sandwiches, another traditional Swedish food trend is the smörgås, or open sandwich. It’s basically just a slice of bread topped with your filling of choice – for example, shrimp. Simple, yet very delicious! 

8 – Ärtsoppa och PannkakorPea soup and Pancakes

Ärtsoppa pea soup - Ärtsoppa - traditional Swedish food

Ärtsoppa is a super traditional Swedish food which used to be served for lunch every Thursday in schools and the military. It’s yellow pea soup, usually served with bacon. The tradition is to follow the soup with pancakes and lingonberry jam. 

9 – Kräftskivor / Crayfish Parties

Crayfish sweden

The month of August in Sweden is the month of kräftskivor, “crayfish parties“. The season for these bite-sized freshwater fish is August – September, so warm summer evenings are spent feasting on crayfish. Traditionally, they are cooked in brine with a bit of dill, and eaten cold with Västerbotten cheese – as well as beer of schnapps. Perfect for a party!

Traditional Swedish Food: Snacks and Starters

10 – Knäckebröd / Crispbread

Knäckebröd Sweden

The Swedish history of knäckebröd (crispbread) dates back a thousand years, so its undoubtedly one of the most traditional Swedish foods! Crispbreads come in a variety of shapes, thicknesses and flavours. They can also be paired with all manner of toppings – from plain better to caviar!

11 – Gravlax / Dill-Cured Salmon

Gravlax traditional swedish food

Gravlax is salmon cured using salt, sugar, and dill. In Sweden, it’s usually served as an appetizer – although it can also be found as part of a smörgåsbord. It’s most commonly served with a dill and mustard sauce called hovmästarsås, either on bread or with boiled potatoes. 

12 – Toast Skagen

Toast Skagen - a traditional swedish food made with prawns, roe, and sauteed bread

The final savoury item on this list of traditional Swedish food is toast skagen. This dish consists of sautéed bread topped with prawns in a sauce made of Dijon mustard, mayonnaise and fresh dill. Löjrom (whitefish roe) is often added on top of that for a fancy twist. 

Traditional Swedish Desserts

13 – Prinsesstårta / Princess Cake

Prinsesstårta - a famous swedish dessert

Prinsesstårta (princess cake) is every bit as extravagant as you might expect. This Swedish dessert is a cream-filled sponge cake coated with bright green marzipan and topped with a floral decoration. It’s traditionally a celebration cake – because it’s a tad too decadent to eat on a regular basis. (Although I can’t see that stopping me!). 

14 – Kanelbulle / Cinnamon Buns

Kanelbulle Sweden

You can’t have a list of traditional Swedish food without mentioning kanelbulle, or cinnamon buns. These delicious spiced rolls can be found in every cafe, bakery and food shop in the country! Don’t miss them!

15 – Dammsugare / Punsch-roll

Dammsugare - swedish desserts

Dammsugare, aka punsch-roll, is a super traditional Swedish dessert. These are small cylindrical pastries filled with crushed biscuits, butter, and cocoa, flavoured with punsch liqueur. They’re covered in green marzipan with the ends dipped in chocolate, so they’re instantly recognisable. 

16 – Pepparkakor / Gingerbread

Traditional Swedish Desserts - gingerbread

Pepparkakor translates to “pepper cookie”, but the name actually refers to gingerbread biscuits. Although gingerbread isn’t exclusive to Sweden, it’s exceptionally popular there. Especially at Christmas time, when the markets are filled with shaped pepparkakor. They’re also often hung up as decorations. 

17 – Chokladbollar / Chocolate Balls

Chokladbollar Swedish Desserts

Chokladbollar are simple chocolate balls made using oatmeal, sugar, coffee, cocoa and butter. 

18 – Semlor

Semla / Semlor Swedish Desserts

Traditionally eaten on Shrove Tuesday, semlor (also called semla) are another traditional Swedish dessert. A semla is a sweet bun, flavoured with cardamom. The top is cut off and the bun is stuffed with a mixture of milk and almond paste, topped with whipped cream, then the cut-off top serves as a lid. 

19 – Lördagsgodis / Pick-and-Mix Candies

Swedish Candies

Apparently, the Swedes eat more sweets* per capita than any other nation – consuming about 50% more than the average EU citizen. These are my people! In Sweden, supermarkets have entire aisles dedicated to pick-n-mix, and Saturdays are a day for indulging in lördagsgodis (literally “Saturday sweets”). This was born when the Swedish Medical Board launched a campaign to curb candy consumption to just one day a week. But, by all accounts, it’s now a huge tradition in Sweden.

*Sweets = candies for any North American readers. 

Food Tours and Experiences in Sweden

In my experience, the best way to get to know a country’s food scene is by taking a food tour! So I’ve listed a few of the top foodie experiences below. You could take a cooking class with a local chef, or a street food tour with tastings to give you a quick overview of the local food scene. There’s plenty to choose from, so these are just a few to get started:

Suggestions for any traditional Swedish food I’ve missed will be much appreciated. Scroll down to leave a comment! 

30 thoughts on “Traditional Swedish Food Guide: 19 Swedish Dishes You Have to Try!”

  1. Your video just made me hungry. I am a big potato fan (Most Indians are) and I think I am going to love Sill & potatis. Sweden looks like such an interesting country. I would love to go there someday!

  2. Emily! I’ve been researching Swedish food too. I loved your article and I can’t wait to meet you at TBEX. Are you going to Dalarna or any of the other fam trips?

  3. You have to try the cinnamon buns kanelbullar amazing. My son lives in Stockholm and we visit often. Amazing city. Veta Katen is a must cafe for fika

  4. Both my mother and father were Swedish so I grew up with all these foods and more. My mother used to make the most amazing rye bread. Hope you had a chance to try that also. I also found when we visited relatives all over Sweden that healthy foods were the norm. And as for Fika, no one ever left our house in the afternoon without coffee and pastry–even if we’d had dinner only a short time before! I love being a Swedish American, and hope you had a wonderful trip to Sweden.

    1. Thanks so much for commenting Barbara. I had such a great time in Stockholm, and I was able to try a load of the food. It’s amazing! Not a cuisine I knew much about until I started researching :) I loved the rye bread, had it a few times with dinner and it’s awesome.

  5. You should try potatis karv (potato sausage), Swedish Pancakes, Osta Kaka (Swedish cheesecake) with lingonberry sauce, reindeer sausage, breakfast smorgasbord, pickled herring and much more. I am 100 percent Swedish, plus I visited Sweden in 1999.

      1. Ostkaka is not supposed to be eaten with lingonberry. You eat it with cloudberry jam and whipped cream! And it is amazing.

  6. I believe it’s called Limpa the rye bread you are referring to, I love it too. I am second generation American with all four grandparents from Sweden married in USA. Our family have several favorites I grew up with and continue to enjoy. Limpa is difficult to find here in the USA. I’m not that savy as a baker have never tried to make it myself.

    You must try the Swedish Pancakes ” we use the small round cast iron pans but also grew up making the larger ones like crepes. Served with Lingonberry sauce and as americans we also add maple syrup….yumm

    My other favorite is the Pepparkakor cookies and cake. “Annie’s” make them really well almost like my grandmothers. I have never had the cake other than in our family homes…it’s a memoralbe spice cake moist and delicisous.

    1. Thanks so much for all the tips and recommendations!! I really want to go back to Sweden – I keep hearing about amazing food that I missed when I was there.

      I did try the pancakes though with lingonberry sauce. SO GOOD!! Loved Sweden :)

  7. Hi Emily,
    Did you try the salty licorice candy and ice cream while in Sweden? We loved it! The ice cream we tried at one of the ice cream shops in Stockholm and as a packaged treat in a black licorice edible basket cone. It was good! We brought some of the super salty candies back to Canada with us but our kids didn’t like it – we did, now we need to go back and get more!!

  8. Thank you! I am looking forward to my trip there and can’t wait. I appreciate the tour suggestions and will probably do at least one if not 2 or more.

  9. Coming from a Swedish background we enjoy a traditional. Christmas each year complete with meatballs,rice pudding,korv,which I make from scratch,limps bread,lingo berries pickled herring and different cheeses, this has been our tradition for years. Our children have carried on this tradition also,

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