Swedish cuisine is the traditional food of Sweden. Typical dishes are based on a sometimes unique domestic tradition and on traditional ingredients. Swedish cuisine is part of itSwedish culture. Since these dishes are associated with Sweden, it is also natural that they are served in international contexts such as at state visits, conferences or to tourists.
Due to Sweden’s large north-to-south expanse, there are regional differences between the cuisine of North and South Sweden. In the far north, meats such as reindeer, and other game dishes were eaten, some of which have their roots in the Sami culture, while fresh vegetables have played a larger role in the South. Many traditional dishes employ simple, contrasting flavours, such as the traditional dish of meatballs and brown cream sauce with tart, pungent lingonberry jam (slightly similar in taste to cranberry sauce).
Swedish cuisine today centres on healthy, locally sourced produce, while certain preparation methods can be traced back to the Viking era. As a Scandinavian country with four distinct seasons, Sweden’s food culture has been shaped by its climate. The frost free season between May and August, was historically geared towards producing what could be stored through the winter months. However, southern regions enjoy twice as long a season due to milder temperatures.
Swedes have traditionally been very open to foreign influences, ranging from French cuisine during the 17th and 18th centuries, to the sushi and caffé latte of today. During the 20th century, Swedish cuisine received many foreign additions of so-called fast food. Thus, pizza has been an essential part of Swedish food culture since around the 1960s.
Swedish cuisine could be described as centered around cultured dairy products, crisp and soft (often sugared) breads, berries and stone fruits, beef, chicken, lamb, pork, eggs, and seafood. Potatoes are often served as a side dish, often boiled. Swedish cuisine has a huge variety of breads of different shapes and sizes, made of rye, wheat, oat, white, dark, sourdough, and whole grain, and including flatbreads and crispbreads. There are many sweetened bread types and some use spices.
Many meat dishes, especially meatballs, are served with lingonberry jam. Fruit soups with high viscosity, like rose hip soup and blueberry soup (blåbärssoppa) served hot or cold, are typical of Swedish cuisine. Butter and margarine are the primary fat sources, although olive oil is becoming more popular. Sweden’s pastry tradition features a variety of yeast buns, cookies, biscuits and cakes; many of them are in a very sugary style and often eaten with coffee (fika).
Until industrialization, Swedish household food was based on almost exclusively domestic ingredients, with the import of salt and pepper as important exceptions. Everyday food was simple and uniform, such as gruel, porridge, herring, pork, soup, cabbage, peas, potatoes and bread. The importance of fish has governed Swedish population and trade patterns far back in history. Food preservation was practiced in Sweden as early as the Viking times. For preservation, fish were salted and cured. Salt became a major trade item at the dawn of the Scandinavian middle ages, which began c. 1000 AD.
Cabbage preserved as sauerkraut and various kinds of preserved berries, apples, etc. were used once as a source of vitamin C during the winter (today sauerkraut is very seldom used in Swedish cuisine). Lingonberry jam, still a favourite, may be the most traditional and typical Swedish way to add freshness to sometimes rather heavy food, such as steaks and stews. Richer households used methods such as salting and smoking, while the less wealthy would typically opt to dry, ferment or pickle their fish and produce. Pickled and fermented foods remain a part of the Swedish diet even to this day, and popular variants are cucumber, cabbage and other vegetables and root vegetables. The pickled herring (sill) is a staple for the national holidays of Easter, Midsummer and Christmas.
Porridge and bread have also been staples for over a millennium. The population relied on water mills, whose wheels only turned twice a year, and the bread therefore had to last for a long period of time. Hence the rise of crisp bread (knäckebröd) that could be stored until the next production. In the south, where windmills were used, baking was done more frequently, giving southerners access to softer bread. Protein sources of yesteryear were milk, cheese, pork, fish and game such as elk. Reindeer meat was, and still is, mostly eaten in northern Sweden as part of the Sami culinary tradition.
Sweden’s long winters explain the lack of fresh vegetables in many traditional recipes. In older times, plants that would sustain the population through the winters were cornerstones; various turnips such as the kålrot were gradually supplanted or complemented by the potato in the 18th century. A lack of distinct spices made everyday food rather bland by today’s standards, although a number of local herbs and plants have been used since ancient times. This tradition is still present in today’s Swedish dishes, which are still rather sparingly spiced.
Both before and after this period, some new Germanic dishes were also brought in by immigrants, such as people related to the Hanseatic League, settling in Stockholm, Visby, and Kalmar. Swedish traders and aristocrats naturally also picked up some food traditions in foreign countries; cabbage rolls (kåldolmar) being one example. Cabbage rolls were introduced in Sweden by Karl XII who came in contact with this dish at the time of the Battle of Poltava and during his camp in the Turkish Bender and later introduced by his Ottoman creditors, who moved to Stockholm in 1716. An early version of kåldolmar was first published in 1765 in the fourth edition of Hjelpreda i Hushållningen för Unga Fruentimber by Cajsa Warg, though it was closer to the Turkish dolma than later dishes.
Swedish husmanskost food traditions
Still a part of the Swedish food culture is “husmanskost” – perhaps best translated to comfort food, i.e. hearty meals often consisting of meat, potato and a serving of boiled vegetables. Some examples of these classic Swedish foods are: “isterband” (smoked pork sausages served with creamed dill potatoes), “rotmos och fläsk” (root vegetable mash and pork sausage) and “ärtsoppa” (Swedish yellow pea soup, usually accompanied by pancakes), a tradition dating back to the 18th century. Dishes akin to Swedish husmanskost and food traditions are found also in other Scandinavian countries; details may vary.
Swedish husmanskost denotes traditional Swedish dishes with local ingredients, the classical everyday Swedish cuisine. The word husmanskost stems from husman, meaning ‘house owner’, and the term was originally used for most kinds of simple countryside food outside of towns. Genuine Swedish husmanskost used predominantly local ingredients such as pork in all forms, fish, cereals, milk, potato, root vegetables, cabbage, onions, apples, berries etc.; beef and lamb were used more sparingly. Beside berries, apples are the most used traditional fruit, eaten fresh or served as apple pie, apple sauce, or apple cake.
Time-consuming cooking methods such as redningar (roux) and långkok (literally ‘long boil’) are commonly employed and spices are sparingly used. Examples of Swedish husmanskost are pea soup (ärtsoppa), boiled and mashed carrots, potato and rutabaga served with pork (rotmos med fläsk), many varieties of salmon (such as gravlax, inkokt lax, fried, pickled), varieties of herring (most commonly pickled, but also fried, au gratin, etc.), fishballs (fiskbullar), meatballs (köttbullar), potato dumplings with meat or other ingredients (palt), potato pancake (raggmunk), varieties of porridge (gröt), a fried mix of pieces of potato, different kind of meats, sausages, bacon and onion (pytt i panna), meat stew with onion (kalops), and potato dumplings with a filling of onions and pork (kroppkakor). Many of the dishes would be considered comfort food for the nostalgic value.
Sweden is part of the vodka belt and historically distilled beverages, such as brännvin and snaps, have been a traditional daily complement to food. Consumption of wine in Sweden has increased during the last fifty years, partly at the expense of beer and stronger alcoholic beverages. In many countries, locally produced wines are combined with local husmanskost.
Husmanskost has undergone a renaissance during the last decades as well known (or famous) Swedish chefs, such as Tore Wretman, have presented modernised variants of classical Swedish dishes. In this nouvel husman the amount of fat (which was needed to sustain hard manual labour in the old days) is reduced and some new ingredients are introduced. The cooking methods are tinkered with as well, in order to speed up the cooking process or enhance the nutritional value or flavour of the dishes. Many Swedish restaurateurs mix traditional husmanskost with a modern, gourmet approach.
Sweden’s food culture centres on local produce, but many classic dishes have international roots. This is because Swedes have always had a mentality of exploring and trying new flavours and dishes and incorporating them with local ingredients, making for new gastronomical experiences.
As early as the 17th century, French influences started creeping into Swedish cuisine, giving rise to the rich, creamy sauces loved by Swedes still today. And perhaps the most well-known national dish, meatballs, was brought over from Turkey by King Charles XII in the early 18th century. To make the meal their own, Swede’s complement the meatballs with local trimmings such as pickled cucumber, potatoes and lingonberries, smothering them in a creamy gravy (brunsås). This dish is now known around the world as “Swedish meatballs”.
Other global specialties – lasagne from Italy and Turkish kebabs included – have also added to Sweden’s culinary spectrum. Kebab pizza and pizza topped with beef filet and béarnaise sauce are nationwide favourites that combine a culture clash of foreign ingredients to create dishes that have become new Swedish classics. A family favourite on Fridays is the Swedish taco, definitely inspired by the Mexican kitchen but made something unique and truly Swedish.
With Sweden’s strong history in trading, exotic spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, anise and saffron found their way into popular Swedish baked goods like the ginger bread cookies.
Swedish food culture Today
Sweden’s food culture utilises everything this vast country has to offer, marrying local produce with international influences to create dishes that adapt and evolve along with the culture itself. Innovation and sustainability continue to drive the national food scene forward, while homage is always paid to the traditional ingredients and preparations that form this country’s rich culinary heritage.
Today, Swedes pride themselves on eating as naturally as possible in a bid to look after their health – and that of the planet. Food production ethics and animal welfare are high on the agenda. Hence, there’s an increasing demand for locally made, organic produce and many supermarkets have also started stocking products from nearby farms.
The farm-to-table movement is also very popular in Sweden. And given the generosity of the country’s natural pantry of berries, mushrooms and edible plants, you could even call this local dining approach “forest-to-table”. Restaurant Äng by Ästad Vineyard, located in the west coast province of Halland, is the epitome of this movement. Its fine-dining tasting menus are prepared with ingredients sourced from nearby forests, meadows, lakes and farms. Äng was rewarded with one Michelin star in 2021.
As the climate crisis deepens, many people are striving for more sustainable dietary habits with zero waste. The zero-waste philosophy isn’t a new phenomenon. The Swedish classic pyttipanna is a one skillet fry-up that uses leftover food such as meat, potato, onion and whatever else might be hiding in the fridge.
Gram in Malmö was Sweden’s first package-free grocery store, where you bring your own reusable containers to fill with their assortment of local and international products. The Fotografiska restaurant was awarded Museum Restaurant of the Year in 2017. It has a sustainable approach, meaning that they serve local food and fully utilise all ingredients.
In Stockholm, chef Paul Svensson is helping lead the charge to create a sustainable restaurant culture, with his restaurant ‘Fotografiska’. His menu features plant-based items using seasonal produce, with the option to add a meat-based side dish. Mussel shells are ground to make plates and old wine bottles are sent to artisans to make glasses and vases. Organic waste is composted or even used in the signature dish “compost-baked onion”.
Swedish traditional dishes, some of which are many hundreds of years old, others perhaps a century or less, are still a very important part of Swedish everyday meals, in spite of the fact that modern day Swedish cuisine adopts many international dishes.
Internationally, the most renowned Swedish culinary tradition is the smörgåsbord and, at Christmas, the julbord, including well known Swedish dishes such as gravlax and meatballs. In Sweden, traditionally, Thursday has been soup day because the maids had half the day off and soup was easy to prepare in advance. One of the most traditional Swedish soups, ärtsoppa is still served in many restaurants and households every Thursday, a tradition since the middle ages. Ärtsoppa is a yellow pea soup, commonly served with pancakes as dessert. This is a simple meal, a very thick soup, basically consisting of boiled yellow peas, a little onion, salt and small pieces of pork. It is often served with mustard and followed by a dessert of thin pancakes.
Potatoes are eaten year-round as the main source of carbohydrates, and are a staple in many traditional dishes. Not until the last 50 years have pasta or rice become common on the dinner table. There are several different kinds of potatoes: the most appreciated is the new potato, a potato which ripens in early summer, and is enjoyed at the traditional midsummer feast. New potatoes at midsummer are served with pickled herring, chives, sour cream, and the first strawberries of the year are traditionally served as dessert.
The most highly regarded mushroom in Sweden is the chanterelle, which is considered a delicacy. The chanterelle is usually served as a side dish together with steaks, or fried with onions and sauce served on an open sandwich. Second to the chanterelle, and considered almost as delicious, is the porcini mushroom, or karljohansvamp, named after Charles XIV John (Karl XIV Johan) who introduced its use as food.
In August, at the traditional feast known as kräftskiva, crayfish party, Swedes eat large amounts of crayfish, boiled and then marinated in a broth with salt, a little bit of sugar, and a large amount of dill weed.
Just like ketchup and mustard, lingonberry jam is widely used to accompany a variety of dishes, from meatballs and pancakes to porridge and black pudding (blodpudding). But despite its sweetness, it is rarely used on bread. Thanks to the right of public access (allemansrätten), which gives everyone the freedom to roam and enjoy nature, many Swedes grow up picking lingonberries in the forest, and using these tiny tart red fruits to make a jam-like preserve.
With an abundance of herring in both the North and Baltic Seas, Swedes have been pickling since the Middle Ages, mainly as a way of preserving the fish for storage and transportation. Pickled herring comes in a variety of flavours – mustard, onion, garlic and dill, to name a few – and is often eaten with boiled potatoes, sour cream, chopped chives, sharp hard cheese, sometimes boiled eggs and, of course, crispbread. You might swap meatballs (köttbullar) for mini sausages (prinskorvar) or pick cured salmon (gravlax) rather than smoked, but your smorgasbord wouldn’t be complete without pickled herring (sill). This fishy favourite remains the basis of every typical Swedish buffet.
In addition to bread and butter, you’ll often find a type of crispbread (knäckebröd) served alongside your main meal. This is what the Swedes tend to reach for. Once considered poor man’s food, crispbread has been baked in Sweden for over 500 years, can last for at least a year if stored properly, and remains among the most versatile edible products. Crispbread can be topped with anything from sliced boiled eggs and caviar squeezed from a tube for breakfast; to ham, cheese and cucumber slices for lunch; to just plain butter along with your dinner.
Räksmörgås, the Swedish concept of open sandwiches dates back to the 1400s when thick slabs of bread were used as plates, which involves just a single slice of bread, the typical Swedish smörgås. In Sweden, the shrimp sandwich (räksmörgås or räkmacka) remains the option fit for a king. Piled high with a mix of boiled egg slices, lettuce, tomato and cucumber, this seafood snack is often topped with creamy romsås, crème fraîche blended with dill sprigs and roe. Shrimp sandwiches are such an integral part of Swedish culture.
Pea soup and pancakes
Many Swedes grow up eating pea soup and pancakes (ärtsoppa och pannkakor) every Thursday. This tradition has been upheld by the Swedish Armed Forces since World War II. Most traditional lunch restaurants serve pea soup and pancakes with lingonberry jam or any kind of jam (sylt) on Thursdays.
Colouring the window displays of bakeries throughout Sweden is the all-time favourite green princess cake (prinsesstårta), topped with a bright pink sugar rose. Comprising layers of yellow sponge cake lined with jam and vanilla custard, and then finished off with a heavy topping of whipped cream, the cake is carefully sealed with a thin layer of sugary sweet green marzipan. A relatively recent addition to Sweden’s culinary history, princess cake debuted in the 1920s, courtesy of Jenny Åkerström. While the third week of September is officially princess cake week, this popular cake is now eaten during special festivals and is used to mark many milestones in people’s lives. Today, it comes in a variety of colours – from the classic green to yellow for Easter, red at Christmas, orange for Halloween and white for weddings.
Crayfish parties (kräftskivor) are popular in August, when warm summer evenings are spent feasting on these red bite-sized freshwater shellfish – or saltwater shellfish (then called langoustine or, funnily enough, Norway lobster) – in gardens and on balconies all over Sweden. Eaten only by Sweden’s upper-class citizens and aristocracy in the 1500s, crayfish have become a national delicacy enjoyed by all, with mass importation having significantly brought down the price over the centuries.
Classified by ingredients
Wild species often occurs in the more festive food. In the Neolithic, seals and seabirds were the most important species in the area that today is Sweden. Later, forest birds – mainly grouse and grouse but also capercaillie and grouse, as well as partridges and hares also have traditions in Swedish cuisine.
The moose was in Norrland next to the beaver (the latter mainly for the sake of fur) the most important prey animal, but became rare in the 18th century and almost completely disappeared towards the end of the century. In Svealand and Götaland, where the royal court gave the king the exclusive right to all hunting deer, roe deer and elk, it was in the coastal areas mainly seabirds and inland forest birds that were hunted for the meat.
After the Riksdag in 1789 and the introduction of the Association and Security Act, the hunting rack for high game was abolished and the hunt was released to land-owning farmers. For 50 years, this meant that several species, including deer and elk, were close to extinction. During the 20th century, the moose recovered and has since been the most important Swedish species.
In Norrland, reindeer meat has always been an important element in the diet, not least among the Sami. Renskav is a traditional Sami dish that can be bought throughout Sweden today.
Eating meat from farmed animals has been common in Sweden since humans began farming and animal husbandry. From the beginning, cattle, sheep and goats have been the animals that, in the first place, kept and which formed the basis of the livestock herds.
Since bones from domestic pigs and wild boars look alike, it is difficult to assess exactly when pigs began to be kept tame, but they appear to have formed a smaller part of the livestock. During the Viking Age, however, the pig played a special role, and it is also clear that the pork was more common on the nobles’ farms. In southern Sweden, where there were ollon forests for pigs to graze in, they were more common. Larger amounts of meat were salted in to extend the shelf life. From there come, for example, the traditions of Christmas ham, the salted beef brisket with root mash or the fried pork.
Since a large-scale pork industry started, first in the United States (“American pork”) and later in Denmark, pork has become more common and cheaper. During crisis years in the 20th century, it was common to have a domestic pig. The benefits of salted meat have really disappeared, but the traditions are still alive. In the past, cooked meat was also common. Sausages, sausage cake and blood pudding – preparation methods that made it possible to recover less attractive slaughter residues – survive for the sake of taste.
Beef was for a long time exclusive, but with an increased standard of living has become increasingly common in the household. Typical Swedish beef dishes are steak with onions and sailor steak. Chicken, which in addition to the party birds goose and duck was by far the only traditional bird used for food in Sweden, was previously a delicacy eaten in the spring. The turkey, which has recently become very common, is relatively new in Swedish cuisine.
Fish has been an important source of nutrition since ancient times. Of the lake fish, pike, lake and bream played the most important role. In river- and year-old parts of the country, large quantities of salmon, whitefish and eel were caught, at the Gulf of Bothnia also Nejonögon. Eel was caught in large quantities on the Baltic coast, but was eaten to a lesser extent on the west coast. Instead, a number of other fish species were caught here. Catfish were considered a great delicacy here, as were the pike and mackerel, while in other areas they were seen as inedible.
During the 16th century, carp began to be grown commercially and exported, mainly to Germany – trade continued until the 20th century. In 1914, 28 tonnes of carp were grown, of which 18 tonnes were exported, mainly to Germany.. 1905 exported 30,700 tonnes of herring, 2 400 tons other fresh fish; 5 500 tonnes salted fish (mainly Herring), 323 tonnes saithe and other dried fish, and 2 700 tonnes crayfish The fish was preserved in many different ways, including other by salting (salt therefore became an important commodity in the early Scandinavian Middle Ages, around the beginning of the 1000s), acidification and digging, where the fish were salted in their own blood water and buried in the ground in a wooden vessel. A large part of the food was dried.
In the 2000s, the method is used almost exclusively for Christmas in the form of lye fish. Before refrigerators and other storage facilities, only fresh fish was available in the areas where the fish were accessible. Otherwise salted or dried fish was used. Examples of common Swedish fish dishes are roe, fried herring or lye fish. Nowadays, salmon and other precious fish are most valued, both as fresh, smoked and pickled. Pikewhich in the past was an important food fish, rarely occurs nowadays in Swedish cuisine. Herring and herring are important parts of the traditional smorgasbord, especially in different pickles. Eating crayfish is a popular tradition in late summer and autumn.
Traditionally, eggs were used mainly in the spring and summer because the hens did not lay so well in the autumn and winter. Treat Recipe äggakaka and spettkaka both contained many eggs, as well as the baked WAFER. Eggs from wild birds were also present, although not to the same extent. Eggs are still an important part of Swedish food, with approximately 200 edible eggs (10 kg) per person per year.
In Sweden, it is an old tradition to eat eggs for Easter. The tradition comes from the time when Sweden was Catholic, when 40 days before Easter during Lent you were not allowed to eat meat or eggs. When Lent was over, people celebrated by eating eggs. The Swedish people eat about six million eggs an hour during Easter Eve. Eggs are one of the cheapest ingredients, nutritious and easy to cook. Eggs are included in many of the household dishes, such as pancakes and platters.
Sweden’s long winters are the explanation for why there is a shortage of fresh vegetables in many traditional dishes. Instead, vegetables and root vegetables that lasted a long time or that could be dried or put in salt and vinegar were used. Crops that could feed the population during long winters became early cornerstones of the diet. Cabbage and onions are considered to be the oldest vegetables grown in the country, and peas and broad beans have been grown since ancient times. Pea flour has been made when there has not been much grain.
Lingonberry jam and cabbage preserved as sauerkraut were importantVitamin C sources during the winter. The lingonberry jam, which is still popular, also gave a little freshness to the otherwise quite chewy food. Forest berries were used a lot in the food, especially the lingonberry which was used for potatoes, porridge and pancakes. Lingonberry jam was often made on the lingonberry, often without sugar. Apples were often grown on the farms. Gooseberries and currants have long been a large part of Swedish cuisine.
Various root vegetables such as the domestic turnip, gradually began to be replaced by potatoes in the 18th century. The potatoes are believed to have been an important part of coping with the famine and weeds that ravaged Sweden during the 19th century. However, interest in the root vegetable was relatively weak until it was realized that brandy could be made from it. The spice has traditionally been sparse due to lack of supply, although a number of native herbs and plants have been used since ancient times, and the taste was therefore until the influences of French cuisineduring the 17th and 18th centuries, and both before and after influences from the German food tradition, quite simple.
In swedish traditional food culture, there has long been opposition to raw vegetables and fruits, and in Cajsa Wargs Hjelpreda I Hushållningen För Unga Fruentimber there is not a single recipe where the vegetable should not be prepared. Some resistance to raw vegetables still lives on, even if it gradually disappears.
Fungi have also not been particularly popular, although attempts have been made to promote their edibility during starvation and weeds. The Swedish people ate bark and lichens rather than mushrooms during the years of distress, even though with efforts during the 19th century they got a part of the population to change their averse attitude to mushrooms. Today, most Swedes count mushrooms as a delicacy that is eaten both fried as an accompaniment to, for example, game, in stews or on a sandwich. The most popular mushrooms are chanterelle, funnel chanterelle and chanterelle mushrooms.
Due to storage difficulties, flour has been a popular substitute for fresh meat products. In different parts of Sweden, different types of flour have been used due to different cultivated cereals. During poor periods, bark has been ground into flour and used in bread, among other things. Rye flour and barley flourwere the most common cereals. The oats grown were mainly used as concentrate for the horses, but in western Sweden it has also been used for flour. Wheat flour was unusual for a long time and was used mainly for party bread. The older grains also did not tolerate cold well. It was not until the end of the 19th century that wheat cultivation began to spread from southwestern Skåne to the north. By then, imports had already created demand for wheat flour.
Sweden has old traditions of flour food. When the men in the families worked hardest, they often brought flour-based food with them to work, such as pancakes and palt. A popular flour that was often used was barley flour, a flour that has been used since ancient Sweden. Due to the special taste of barley flour, it has been used in, among other things, pancakes, bread and palt.
Palt is a traditional Swedish home- made dish made from potatoes and flour. These are often filled with pork. Gap often mixed with the blood ofbeef or reindeer meat, such as bloodstains (mainly in Norrland) at Christmas when animals had been slaughtered. When pigs were slaughtered, they often made palsy with the pig’s liver, which gave them liver palsy. The blood clot equivalent in the southern parts of Sweden is, among other things, the blood pudding, which is made from blood and rye flour with several ingredients. You can dilute the blood pudding batter with water, and fry in flour.
The bread has looked very different in different parts of Sweden. In Norrland, barley flour bread has dominated, while rye flour bread has been used in Svealand and Götaland. Wheat flour was previously used only for party bread and “wheat bread” is still used dialectally as a term for coffee bread. In Western Sweden, mainly Bohuslän, Dalsland and Värmland, bread has also been baked on oatmeal.
Southern Sweden, comprising Skåne, southern Halland, southern Småland, Öland and Gotland are covered by the area for fresh soft bread, or the loaf area. The area continues into neighboring countries and includes northern Germany, Denmark, and on the other side of the Baltic Sea in the Baltics and Finland. The shelf life of the loaf bread could be increased by double baking so that the ingredients became drier and the bread tougher. This bread is called breadcrumbs. Kavringbröden’s area includes the Old Danish provinces, Bohuslän and Öland.
North of the loaf bread, a diagonal belt extends over Sweden with fermented bread baked on rye in the form of perforated cakes. In the southern part, in the Götaland landscape, the breads are soft, and in the northern area of Svealand, the breads are hard, which gave rise to today’s crispbread.
In Norrland, flatbread was the most common bread because barley was the only cereal that was able to grow there. At the boundary between the fermented hard bread area and the flatbread area, there was fermented hard bread which was baked without holes, and then folded. Barley and oatmeal do not contain gluten, which is a prerequisite for fermentation of the flour.
In other parts, however, there was a shortage of bread, and they instead ate dried fish with raft on it. The bread would last a long time, and they showed high status if they only baked twice a year, for Christmas and Midsummer. The more often you baked, the poorer you were. Sourdough bread, crispbread (whose round holes come from the time when the breads were hung to dry on the ceiling) and rye loaves were all common breads, before the bread was largely replaced by potatoes. Crispbread was popular because of its long shelf life. The bread that was left over was often used during the midsummer to spread on the fields in the spring, to get a good harvest. A year of malnutrition led to great famine. Bark bread was used throughout most of Sweden during the 18th and 19th centuries, and probably even further back in time. Afterin the crop years 1867-1869, the bark bread gradually stopped being baked.
The yeast used was mainly wild yeast. The most common was that parts of the dough pad from the previous fermentation were stored in a yeast cube or yeast wreath which was then stored in a cool and dry place. Sometimes the yeast was dried in places and saved in cakes or crushed into flour. The same yeast culture was commonly used for beer brewing as for bread baking.
A lot of industrially produced bread is now sold in Sweden. However, home baking of bread is increasing again and old traditions and customs are being revived, partly due to the large selection of different types of flour and mixtures and partly due to household appliances such as household assistants. Baked bread in grocery stores has increased significantly in recent years. This bread is to varying degrees handcrafted, sometimes from scratch and sometimes baked so-called “bake-off bread” which is a semi-finished product that is completed in the store.
Various inlays have long been made to take advantage of raw materials such as vegetables, fruits and berries. It was especially important in the self-catering sector to take advantage of the raw materials produced. Common pickles were those with sugar, salt or acid. It is no longer necessary to add raw materials, even though many do so for the sake of tradition, and to be able to regulate the amount of sugar and preservatives themselves.
Dairy products and porridge
Research on the consumption of milk during the Neolithic shows that inhabitants of the hunter-gatherer culture in Scandinavia, including Sweden, had a high degree of lactose intolerance, but that the benefits of drinking milk were so great that the blocking genes disappeared. However, milk was rarely drunk fresh even after that, except by sick people or children. Instead, they poured the milk into barrels and then skimmed off the cream, to be able to core it into butter. The milk that was left over was drunk or used as porridge wet. The churned butter was sold or paid for as tax.
Porridge and gruel were used both for everyday life and parties and were eaten from a common dish, served with a bowl of porridge wet, consisting of, among other things, soft drinks, syrup-flavored water or sour milk. Everyone would eat on their side of the plate. The expression to stay on one’s edge comes from there. The expressionto get up in the butter comes from the same meal, as sometimes in the middle of the porridge there was a butter hole, where it was necessary to eat. The one who got there first came up in the butter. There were different kinds of porridge for different occasions, such as cot porridge, wedding porridge and moving porridge. The party porridge was white porridge and boiled on milk or cream. The everyday porridge was boiled on water. Porridge and gruel were both filling, easy to cook and inexpensive.
Different kinds of soups were common, although the soup lost some of its popularity. Among various popular soups, pea soup, nettle soup, meat soup and mushroom soup can be mentioned. They were made on many different things, but the most common were turnips, peas and pork. They often or always contained broth. The soup culture has almost disappeared, apart from the strong tradition of eating pea soup on Thursdays. Thursday soup has its roots in Catholic Sweden in the Middle Ages, where they fasted on Friday. It was important to eat properly on Thursday, and peas were a good complement to meat. Peas and pea soup have probably been in Sweden since the Viking Age. The tradition survived after Gustav Vasa’s abolition of Catholicism.
Pea soup is a simple dish consisting of yellow peas, some onions and mostly pieces of pork. It is often served with a little mustard and maybe cheese, crispbread can be eaten, and as a dessert you usually serve pancakes. Swedish armystill serves pea soup and pancakes to the conscripts every Thursday and pea soup is often found as the dish of the day at Swedish lunch restaurants on Thursdays. Soups come in many different forms, such as slow cooker or a quick boil of broth and vegetables, as everyday food or as party food.
Meals consists of breakfast in the early morning (frukost), a light lunch before noon (lunch), and a heavy dinner (middag) around six or seven in the evening. It is also common to have a snack, often a sandwich or fruit, in between meals (mellanmål). Most Swedes also have a coffee break in the afternoon, often together with a pastry (fika). In all primary schools, and most, but not all secondary schools, a hot meal is served at lunch as part of Sweden’s welfare state. According to the Swedish school law, this meal has to be nutrient dense.
Breakfast usually consists of open sandwiches (smörgås), possibly on crisp bread (knäckebröd). The sandwich is most often buttered, with toppings such as hard cheese, cold cuts, caviar, messmör (a Norwegian sweet spread made from butter and whey), ham (skinka), and tomatoes or cucumber. Filmjölk (fermented milk/buttermilk), or sometimes yogurt, is also traditional breakfast food, usually served in a bowl with cereals such as corn flakes, muesli, or porridge (gröt) is sometimes eaten at breakfast, made of oat meal, cream of wheat eaten with milk and jam or cinnamon with sugar. Common drinks for breakfast are milk, juice, tea, or coffee. Swedes are among the most avid milk and coffee drinkers in the world.
Swedes sometimes have sweet toppings on their breads, such as jam (like the French and Americans), or chocolate (like the Danes), although many older Swedes chose not to use these sweet toppings. However, orange marmalade on white bread is common, usually with morning coffee or tea.
Many traditional kinds of Swedish bread, such as sirapslimpa (less fashionable today, but still very popular) are somewhat sweetened in themselves, baked with small amounts of syrup. Like in many other European countries, there are also many non-sweetened breads, often made with sourdough (surdeg). Swedish breads may be made from wholegrain, fine grain, or anything in between, and there are white, brown, and really dark (like in Finland) varieties which are all common. Barkis or bergis is a localised version of challah usually made without eggs and at first only available in Stockholm and Göteborg where Jews first settled but now available elsewhere.
Lunch is in Sweden the meal that is consumed in the middle of the day. When you switched to eating the heaviest meal of the day until later in the evening, the word dinner was moved with, and has become a term for what you eat sometime between about 16 and 20. Even earlier, breakfast was used as a term for lunch. In recent times, many lunch restaurants have been opened with various offers. Some are only open during lunchtime and close afterwards.
Dinner or supper
Dinner is usually called the meal eaten in the late afternoon or early evening. Originally, the term referred to the largest meal of the day eaten at noon. Due to industrialization, dinner is divided into different time periods and has different expressions. If you eat a simpler meal in the evening, it is often called dinner. A late dinner is often called supper. If it is served later in the night, it can be called waving.
Dessert a sweet dish that is consumed after the main course and gives it a suitable rounding. The dessert also reduces the craving for sweets. Classic Swedish desserts often contain fruits and berries, such as blueberries, lingonberries and apples.
Snacks are often eaten between some of the three main meals breakfast, lunch and dinner and are relatively simple. It is usually not a cooked hot meal, but perhaps rather a fruit, some yogurt or a sandwich. The snack helps keep your blood sugar at an even level.
The coffee came to Sweden between 1674 and 1685, when it says on the Gothenburg customs paper that someone took in half a kilo of coffee. Two years later, coffee was a medicine in the pharmacy’s range, after which its popularity gradually increased. In 1728, there were at least fifteen coffee-serving cafés in Stockholm.
However, it was not fully appreciated by the authorities. There were early regulations on the coffee houses’ opening hours, and for three periods coffee was banned in Sweden. During the Second World War, coffee could not be obtained, before Sweden managed to obtain a special permit to import certain special goods into the country. The first item imported was coffee.
Adults in Sweden drink an average of 1200 cups of coffee per year or 11 kg, which is about four cups per day. In this way, Sweden has one of the largest coffee consumption in comparison with the number of inhabitants, which is surpassed only by Finland by 12.8 kg per year. One or more coffee breaks are part of most Swedes’ daily habits. One or more cups of coffee is usually included as a dessert with a meal at a restaurant. In the middle of the 19th century, it became relevant to serve small cakes for the coffee ropes. Soon a kind of competition arose between hostesses to offer many pastries. An unwritten label at least prescribedseven kinds of cakes.
Well-known coffee brands in Sweden include Gevalia, Zoégas, Löfbergs, Classic coffee, Signum and Nescafé. The coffee is mainly imported, with 2 million tonnes, from Brazil, followed by Vietnam with about 1 million tonnes.
Different types of beer are often drunk as a meal drink in Sweden and the most common is, as in many other countries, light lager beer. The beer’s alcohol content can vary, it is mainly sold light beer, folk beer and strong beer. Common brands are Pripps, especially Pripps Blå, Norrlands Guld, Spendrups and Falcon.
Meadhistorically constituted a more expensive party drink during the Viking Age and the Middle Ages, while beer was more often drunk by the common people. Because the water was often polluted, in the Middle Ages people preferred to drink various kinds of alcoholic beverages, and since wine could not be grown in these northern regions, beer was the most important beverage, besides the water.
Schnapps and punch
Swedish schnapps is drunk with the food at several of the typical party dining tables. Absolut Vodka, Renat Brännvin as well as other spirits brands are spirits, made from potatoes or wheat, which are sold unseasoned, usually with an alcohol content of around 40%. In Sweden, a long line of spiced schnapps varieties is also manufactured and sold, with flavors of, for example, anise, St. John’s wort, orange, coriander, elderberry, dill or shrimp spiced with wormwood. The schnapps is typically enjoyed ice-cold, but if you want the spice taste to come into its own, it can also be drunk at room temperature.
Punches, which is a very Swedish phenomenon, can be drunk hot or cold. It is traditionally drunk with pea soup. In the middle of the 19th century, the drink became the favorite drink of the bourgeoisie and, above all, the students. At the same time, the student nations in Lund and Uppsala began to show their interest in peasant culture, which is why the punch was combined with pea soup. From the student circles, the custom has since spread to drink punch – preferably heated – together with the peasant pea soup.
Other non-alcoholic beverages
In addition to milk, soft drinks and juices, starting in the middle of the 19th century, a number of new non-alcoholic drinks emerged in connection with the Swedish sobriety movement. As an alternative to sparkling wine, Pommac and Champis were developed in the early 20th century. Two soft drinks that both of most Swedes rarely buy, but are still very popular.
Soft drink, both of which were first created as non-alcoholic alternatives to beer, emerged around the same time. A non-alcoholic Swedish drink that is consumed in large quantities, mainly during holidays, is Christmas must (at Easter called Easter must, or generally just referred to as Must) and was developed in the early 20th century as a non-alcoholic alternative to beer.
On a typical Swedish Christmas table, dishes based on pork dominate, such as Christmas ham, Christmas sausage (sometimes in the form of groats), jam, meatballs, fried prince sausage and dip in the stew (you dip slices of wort bread in a spade, which is used when cooking all the dishes included in the Christmas table). In western Sweden in particular, brown beans are also eaten on the Christmas table. In addition, there are various fish dishescommon, especially pickled herring but also herring, eel, salmon and stockfish, to which the white sauce is not unusual. In eastern Sweden, mainly in Roslagen, pike are often eaten instead of lye fish, so-called Christmas pike.
Various desserts are also served at a Christmas table, where Ris à la Malta or rice porridge are among the more common. After the Christmas table, nuts are usually served,dates, figs and confectionery. Another special tradition is to eat hare (Christmas hare) on Christmas day. For Christmas food, a special dark beer, Christmas beer and schnapps are usually drunk. As a non-alcoholic alternative, Christmas must is drunk. Another typical Swedish drink at Christmas is mulled wine, a spicy wine that is drunk hot.
After the Christmas table, different varieties of Christmas sweets are often offered, including crackers, candy canes, ice chocolate and marzipan, as well as different kinds of pralines and truffles. Gingerbread, often in the form of gingerbread houses, is considered by many to belong to Christmas, as are lollipops.
Easter food varies in different regions and landscapes in Sweden, but central is the Easter eggs. Lamb, salmon, and fish dishes are also important, and the corresponding Christmas ham is Easter ham, and the Easter must replaces the Christmas must. Dishes from the classic smorgasbord (herring, crispbread, cheese and brandy) are also usually included. Unlike Christmas food, the food during Easter is “lighter”, but is often supplemented with treats of marzipan in addition to the tradition of candy-filled Easter eggs.
Eggsis eaten a lot during Easter, which has to do with the wild birds laying eggs in connection with Lent. Good Friday has traditionally been a day of mourning, which has meant that both food and entertainment during the day have usually been kept at a restrained level. Until 1973, it was forbidden to go to the cinema on Good Friday, among other things.
Midsummer is one of the biggest Swedish holidays, and it is then common to eat pickled herring with new potatoes and sour cream and chives, as well as strawberries for dessert. Midsummer is also very much associated with fresh potatoes, which are often served with dill. In addition to this, some form of grilled meat is often served and Jansson’s temptation, meatballs and prince sausage are also eaten. Many take a number of nubbins to the food, a schnapps of 2-4 cl. A lot of beer is also drunk during midsummer, and alcohol consumption is high during the weekend.
On a crayfish slice, the main course consists of whole crayfish cooked in a layer consisting of salted water, beer, plenty of dill crowns and other spices. Common complementary foods at the lobster plate are bread, spiced cheese and shrimp, as well as traditional sandwich table dishes. Common drinks are spirits, beer and sugar drinks.
Mårtensgås is a Swedish tradition celebrated on November 11 in memory of Saint Martin of Tours. Previously, the holiday was celebrated throughout Sweden, but now it is celebrated most in Scania. The holiday is also celebrated in Germany and Poland, among other places. At Mårtensgås you eat goose, with black soup as a starter. Skåne apple cake is often served for dessert. The dishes eaten at Mårtensgås were introduced by the restaurateur at Piperska muren in 1850. Before that, lye fish was served for starters and rice porridge for dessert.
Food and society
Brödinstitutet (‘The Bread Institute’) once campaigned with a quotation from the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare, recommending eating six to eight slices of bread daily. Drinking milk has also been recommended and campaigned for by the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare; it is often recommended to drink two to three glasses of milk per day.
A survey conducted on behalf of Mjölkfrämjandet, an organisation promoting consumption of Swedish milk, concluded that 52% of Swedes surveyed drink milk at least once a day, usually one glass with lunch and another glass or two in the evening or morning. Low-fat products, wholemeal bread and other alternatives are common ‒ grocery stores usually sell milk in four or five different fat levels, from 3% to 0.1%.