Europe, Sweden

Try-Before-You-Die: Swedish Foods

Alright there pals! I’m currently located in snowy Sweden, it’s -3 degrees Celsius (which isn’t too bad, all things considered), and I’ve just tucked into my first Semla bun ever in the history of my life. Every time I arrive in Sweden it seems to be just in time for a different annual food-based event; either I can detect food from all the way back in England (it’s possible) or there are continually food-based events occurring here. Either way, here is a quick run-through of the Scandinavian treats I have so far been lucky enough to sample since I first visited- some of them are plain delicious, others are more of an acquired taste and need a decent level of mental preparation before sampling.


Basically- COFFEE AND CAKE. And what is there not to like about that??

Sweden as a nation drinks rather a lot of coffee- it holds a place among the top 5 biggest coffee-consuming nations in the world- and the perfect thing to go with a strong cup of coffee is obviously cake. Your cakey accompaniment could be anything; buns, cream cakes, and all manner of marzipan or chocolate-coated treats. There are plenty of coffee shops across the country dedicated to serving fika, with glass counters full of fikabröd (that’s fika-cake) to choose from.

Also, bonus points to Sweden as its commonplace for the coffee to be endlessly refillable. That’s right: bottomless caffeine.



These cardamom-laced buns have the centre cut out of them and filled in with an almond paste, then topped with cream, finally followed by the top of the bun stuck back on like a lid that no longer fits. It’s like a really sickly sweet and bizarre jam donut. With no jam.

They’re traditionally eaten to mark the beginning of Lent (Shrove Tuesday), instead of pancakes, and in the old days people used to eat them in a bowl of warm milk. The milk idea grosses me out a tad though, maybe just stick to Semla on its own for safety.


When I say meatballs, the type that you buy in the IKEA cafe do not count. They’re just not the same.

Swedish meatballs are fried and served with mashed potato, creamy gravy, lingonberry jam and maybe a bit of pickled cucumber on the side for a laugh aswell. (In case you weren’t already clued up about this, Swedes really enjoy pickled things.) All I’m saying is, this is a beaut meal and I don’t even normally like meat. Well done, meatballs. Well done.


The type of culinary delight that would only suit the bravest of the brave.

Surströmming is fermented herring, left for so long in the can that the pressure from the gases inside can cause the cans to expand. When I tried this it was served with boiled potatoes, créme fraîche, diced onions and tunnbröd (a soft flatbread style-thing), so you could make it into an extremely pungent burrito if you felt like it. The idea of essentially eating rotting fish was I’ll admit, a bizarre one, but who am I to judge?

It’s the type of thing I highly doubt you would be able to order in a restaurant as it’s one of the foulest-smelling foods in the history of the world, several airlines have banned it due to the apparent danger that the cans might explode, and people have fully been evicted from their apartments for eating it and consequently stinking out the entire building. It’s a real treat, promise. 😏


*Picture from google, ie not mine!


Mulled wine which is not just glugged down in Sweden but several other Scandinavian countries too. Red wine mixed with orange, cinnamon and other spices, and maybe a few other random alcoholic beverages thrown in for good measure, it smells and tastes like pure Christmas. The main thing I love about this is that it’s drunk from miniature mugs, and anything miniature in the world instantly gets my vote based on cuteness factor alone.


Cute cups like these beauts, from Indiska

Pickled anything

As mentioned above, it seems to me that the Swedes really love to pickle things. The obvious thing that springs to mind is various varieties of vegetable, but it seems to me that they will basically pickle whatever they can get their hands on. So, fish is no exception to the Rule of Pickle…herring is a fave of mine.


Crayfish are kind of a big deal here, so much so that there is a whole celebration devoted to them: Kräftskiva. This occurs in late August when crayfish are in season, and it’s one of the main things I look forward to about visiting Sweden at that time of year. It’s just so awesomely bizarre!

The crayfish are boiled and served in their shells, so it’s not really a dish for the faint-hearted. I mean, you do have to fully dissect each creature and I’m not going to lie- it can get messy. This is served with cheese pie (I don’t know if this happens everywhere), and washed down with both schnapps and beer. To top it all off, you can also purchase yourself some crayfish-inspired decorations and paper bibs and party hats, because if you’re going to do anything in life, you might as well do it properly. There are a selection of drinking songs to accompany all these festivities; I’ve tried to learn them but so far I can only get as far as remembering something which sounds like you’re singing the words ‘hell and gore.’


I left the picture of me in a crayfish hat off here, but it can still be sourced on instagram if you search hard enough.

Salt liquorice ice cream

Swedish sweets are (mostly) not actually sweet. They are salty. Which is an odd combination, I’ll give you that 🙈

A lot of the sweets are liquorice-based, and this flavour is rather popular as an icecream as well. To tell you the truth I can’t stand the extremely salty liquorice sweets, but the ice cream on the other hand is PURE BEAUT.  It’d probably make you sick if you ate too much, and it’s a rather unappetising shade of grey, but in Summer I LOVE IT.

I’ve missed out a lot of classic Swedish foods- the humble smörgasbord for example…😏 But I wanted to stick to things I’ve actually had the joy of trying, you know what I’m saying? If you get a chance, TRY THESE, ON THE DOUBLE! Even if you don’t like the sound of them, you might be surprised.

1 thought on “Try-Before-You-Die: Swedish Foods”

  1. I saw semlor the last time I was in Sweden & I had no idea what it was, but it looked good! I should try it the next time I see it haha
    I’ve also heard about surströmming & I don’t even want to think about what it would smell like…
    Glögg (gløgg in Danish) is the perfect Christmas drink! & there’s also a ton of liquorice sweets in Denmark too, but I don’t like the taste


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