This is a handy guide for the food lovers, explaining how to make the most of your culinary experience in Sweden, with a list of the must-try dishes in Stockholm.
Swedish cuisine is typically salty and vinegary due to the country’s history of having to preserve food through the long winters, so it might take a little getting used to if you don’t usually eat a lot of salt. However, once you’ve got over the food seeming perhaps a little strange, you will find a lot of great Swedish food in Stockholm.
One of the most important parts of Swedish culture is fika, which is essentially a coffee and cake break. No trip to Sweden would be complete without many fika breaks, meaning you should have plenty of opportunities to try all of these different types of fika:
Cinnamon buns (kanelbullar) are perhaps the most famous of all Swedish baked goods. These are a popular part of fika and can be found all year round and in pretty much any bakery or shop you go to. There is even a special day dedicated to cinnamon buns, celebrated on October 4th every year.
Cinamon buns (kanelbullar)
If you are not a fan of cinnamon, you can try their cardamom counterparts (kardemummabullar), which are arguably even more delicious.
In February, Swedes celebrate shrove Tuesday with cream buns (semlor). These are large buns flavoured with cardamom and filled with almond paste and whipped cream. They can even be enjoyed in a bowl of warm milk.
Cream bun (semla)
At Christmas it’s time for saffron buns (lussekatter or lussebullar). A little less sweet than a traditional cake, but still an excellent fika choice, these buns are flavoured with saffron and raisins and can be enjoyed with a nice glass of glögg (Swedish mulled wine).
Saffron buns (lussekatter)
In between fika, you’re probably going to want to eat some more savoury food, so here is a list of some tasty traditional Swedish dishes not to be missed:
When talking about Swedish food, most people will likely mention the infamous fermented herring that smells so bad you have to eat it outdoors. Contrary to popular belief amongst foreigners, this is not commonly eaten and most Stockholmers have probably not even tried it themselves, or maybe just once as a dare. If you can find some and you’re feeling brave, by all means give it a go, but make sure you wash it down with a shot of aquavit (a traditional Scandinavian spirit, distilled from grain or potatoes) as is tradition.
Köttbullar, as they are known in Swedish, are probably one of the most famous elements of Swedish cuisine, probably partly thanks to Ikea restaurants. To enjoy them properly they should be served with mashed potato, lingon berries and a creamy gravy.
This pie, made with Västerbotten cheese from the north of Sweden, is a popular Swedish food and can be served with a variety of side dishes, or enjoyed on its own.
Salmon cured in salt, sugar and dill (gravad lax) is a classic Nordic dish and is usually served as a starter, sliced very finely. If you’re unsure about all this fermented fish but want to get a taste of some real traditional Nordic food, then gravad lax is a great option.
Literally translated as “sandwich cake”, smörgåstårta is exactly that, a sandwich put together like a cake. It is commonly eaten at parties and similar events but can also be found at cafes and is a great lunch option. It is usually constructed from several layers of bread and has creamy fillings in between, typically involving mayonnaise. Although there are many different fillings which can be used, smörgåstårta usually includes things such as prawns, ham, tomatoes, cucumber, paté, smoked salmon and grapes.
Smörgåstorta (translates as “sandwich cake”)
In August, Swedes hold crayfish parties, where they get together, eat crayfish, drink snaps (shots of alcohol) and sing traditional drinking songs. The crayfish are boiled in salt water and seasoned with dill. They are usually served along with other traditional Swedish foods, such as Västerbotten pie, in a large buffet.
Crayfish served with lemon and dill
At Christmas it is traditional to have a Christmas buffet (julbord), which includes many traditional Swedish foods such as meatballs, pickled herring, white fish, ham, sausages and rye bread, amongst much more. For anyone wanting to try as much Swedish food as possible, the julbord is perfect. In December, many restaurants in Stockholm serve julbords, so if you’re visiting at this time of year, don’t miss out on the opportunity.