The Top 10 Best Swedish Foods

So, I’ve shown you the worst, and (unsurprisingly), most of the Swedish people I know didn’t agree with my choices. Since writing the previous list I have learned of another dish which really should have made its way in; “Svartsoppa”, or “Black Soup”. It’s basically blood, cooked with stock and served as soup. Not a little blood either, but the main ingredient. So it’s a bowl of hot blood. Yummy.

Regardless though, the quantity of delicious foods here far outweigh the more strange culinary things. Indeed, there are so many tasty things here that I genuinely had a really hard time coming up with the list because as soon as I put one item down, I ended up thinking of two more that I like equally, or more so.

It’s a top 10 though – not a top 100, so I’ve tried to keep it to the things that you simply have to have if you find yourself in these parts.

Read on for the Top 10 Best Swedish Foods:


10 – Cloudberries

Cloudberries

 Photo credit: karviainen (Flickr) | License: CC-BY-20

I’d never heard of these before meeting my wife. They’re not very well known outside of Scandinavia it seems although they do grow in a few parts of the US. They’re native to alpine and arctic tundra and boreal forest areas, which means they grow mostly in the Taiga belt. Preferring wet, marshy areas, picking them can be a pain because of mosquitoes, but the reward is worth the hassle. If people stumble across a good cloudberry patch in the forest they will often keep it secret since they can sometimes be difficult to find in any great abundance.

The flavour and smell have rich rosy notes and the seeds inside are large and hard (well, not huge, but big in comparison to, say, a raspberry… they’re about 2x the size of a raspberry seed). They taste great, and I can’t wait to get out in the forest and find some in the autumn!

9 – Våfflor (Waffles)

Vofflor

Ok, you can get waffles in other countries too, but they’re definitely a very Swedish thing. A well-made waffle, topped with whipped cream and cloudberry jam… you can’t really get a better snack or breakfast.

8 – Elk

Elk

Photo credit: spaceluge (Flickr) | License: CC-BY-SA-20

Of course, elk isn’t unique to Sweden, but it’s definitely something which is orders of magnitude more common here than, say, France. It was also a component of one of the best restaurant meals I’ve ever had, when I went to Stockholm. Braised elk on a bed of mashed potato, roasted root vegetables topped with watercress and a cream sauce. Just… amazing. Beef tenderloin is fantastic when cooked right, but if you want an altogether more complex and “wild” tasting red-meat experience, go for elk if you ever have the chance.

7 – Kräftor (Crayfish)

Crayfish

 Photo credit: andersosterberg (Flickr) | License: CC-BY-NC-ND-20

Aaah, is there any better time of the year in Sweden than August? Copious quantities of hapless crayfish being consumed during the traditional kräftskivor, or crayfish parties. Coincidentally, my wife’s birthday is in August so you can guess what we’ll be eating for her birthday meal! These delicious crustaceans are cooked up with salt, sugar and dill which gives them an incredible flavour. They’re then eaten as is, but it’s also nice to make a sandwich out of them with some toasted bread, a bit of mild cheese and some aioli.

6 – Sockerkaka

Sockerkaka

Sure, every country has their equivalent of this. The Americans have their pound cake, the Brits have their Victoria Sponge, but this… this is just great. First of all, it doesn’t turn into a little dry rock after a couple of days. Secondly, it’s just about the easiest cake it’s possible to make, and it tastes wonderful. Recipe here, for those wanting to give it a try!

5 – Nyponsoppa (Rose-hip Soup)

Nypon

 Photo credit: question_everything (Flickr) | License: CC-BY-NC-ND-20

I couldn’t find a good photo of rose-hip soup alas, and to be honest the hips do look more than a smidgen better than the actual soup. The Swedes sure do love their fruit “soups”, but this isn’t a soup made up with stock and onions and so forth. It’s kind of like a thick juice. The rosehips are cooked with water and sugar to extract the flavours, and then the mixture is strained and thickened with potato flour. Some people eat it hot from a bowl with a spoon. Personally I like it chilled in a glass. Regardless of how you consume it, it’s got a load of vitamin C in it, so that’s something. For those of you who don’t like rose-hips (it does have quite a unique flavour) you can also get blueberry soup, and even other flavours like strawberry these days.

4 – Prinsesstårta

Prinsesstårta

Photo credit: sirifoto (Flickr) | License: CC-BY-NC-20

I don’t need to say much about the Princess Cake. Some of you may already know it. For those of you who don’t, it’s simple, elegant, and delicious. Layers of sponge cake, jam, almond paste and a hefty quantity of whipped cream, all covered in a smooth, (traditionally) green marzipan dome. It’s light – it’s not too sweet, not too filling – some might perhaps say it’s “lagom“. It’s just perfect, and very popular!

3 – Västerbottensost (Västerbotten Cheese)

Västerbottensost

So, France is probably the “cheese capital of the world”, but they tend to go in for a lot of soft cheeses. Sometimes you want something hard and crumbly and I genuinely think this is one of the best cheeses I can think of. It’s got a unique sharpness which makes the flavour quite unlike anything else you might have had. I hear it’s actually quite easy to get from IKEA in the US, so check it out if you have a chance. It’s only made by one company, in one place, and wouldn’t you know it – that company is just 55km away from where I live, in a place called Burträsk.

The cheese is hugely versatile, lending itself well to all sorts of dishes. There’s even a cake shop in town which makes cakes which have shredded Västerbotten cheese inside (and they’re delicious!).

2 – Sill (Herring)

Sill

 Photo credit: upplevelser (Flickr) | License: CC-BY-ND-20

Swedes do amazing things to herring. Now, fish isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for those of you who like it you’re in for a treat. Pickled herring, cured herring, herring in garlic sauce, herring with dill, herring in mustard sauce… the varieties are just mind-boggling and whenever you see some jars of herring out on the table you just know you’re in for a treat. Serve it in the simplest way with some potatoes, chopped onion and boiled eggs, perhaps with a slice of hard bread and you’ve already got yourself a great meal, or up the ante and make yourself a traditional Swedish Christmas spread and have it as part of that. If you happen to come across some cured herring then here’s a good, simple salad recipe.

1 – Smörgåstårta (Sandwich cake)

Smörgåstårta

Photo credit: carolinahornig (Flickr) | License: CC-BY-NC-ND-20

The clowns who made a list of the “most terrible Swedish foods” that I read recently dared to put this on their list. This?! Their reasoning? “Sandwiches and other savoury foods should not be cake”. Know what I say to that? “Cry me a river, and get over yourselves”. It’s not a cake, imbeciles. It’s only called that because it kind of looks like one, in much the same way as a “diaper cake” isn’t actually a cake (but in fact a really cool gift for expecting parents). This is just food of the Gods, and the best thing is, anything goes – and usually does. It’s basically a huge multi-layered sandwich, filled with paté, sliced meats, smoked salmon, shrimp, and then it’s covered in a good layer of something like crème fraîche and mayonnaise, decorated as above, and then served up in slices. Can I hear you say “yes please!”? I have a recipe here – although it was made a while back and as such, my photo doesn’t look that grand.


Hope you enjoyed the list everyone. Do you have a favourite Swedish food I didn’t list here? Let me know in the comments below!

Comments

  1. says

    Another great round up Charles, I’d have to agree that these do indeed look and sound incredible. They blood soup sounds gross but having said that, the French make a blood sausage that’s incredible (as do the Hungarians), although it’s very rich. As FYI, for some reason your post title didn’t show up on my iPhone when I used my bookmark. I had cleared my cache so I’m not sure what was going on.

    • says

      Thanks Eva – I’ve fixed it… forgot to set a post image before publishing it and because of some mods I’ve made to the theme that is required in order for the title to display.

  2. The Wife says

    I’m surprised over some of the things that made your list (like spongecake and rose hip soup) but sandwich cakes, crayfish and cloud berries definitely belong. Surprised at the lack of smörgåsbord though! ;-)

    • says

      Meh, smörgåsbord isn’t really one single food. It could consist of a whole array of smaller things. And I know – you might say the same about a sandwich cake, but it’s a tangible thing – a concept if you will – which I think is a winner.

  3. Charlie says

    Hi Charles!

    You should have made this the top twelve and included Krumkakes, and Gjetost!

    Have a Joyful Day :~D
    Charlie

      • says

        Nice reward!
        Is that crayfish(#7) same as crawfish? Neighboring town of ours have Crawfish Festival ( second weekend of August) every year. We go there and have lots of crawfish (because they are small, usually size of adult fist).

        By the way, I’m sending this list to my husband’s niece too. She might make us ‘princess cake’ someday? Sweet!

  4. says

    I’m still laughing from your last list (and no, please don’t send fish paste ;) ) Well, the sockerkaka is certainly worth a try. I’m not great at cakes, but if it’s easy, I’ll give it a whirl. Lots of little birthdays coming up. And you already know I’m fascinated by the cloudberries! The just sound too wonderful for words. I’m not too sure we’ll find those here though. The elk, however, I know we can get and it sounds like I need to plan an adventure to Ikea. :) Loving your Swedish lists Charles – and yes, it sounds like this blood soup should have been on the other one. Eeek!

    • says

      Haha, if you’re sure!

      Sockerkaka couldn’t be easier… none of this “carefully fold in this” or “thoroughly beat in that until pale and fluffy”. It’s basically a case of just chucking everything into a bowl and whisking up!

      I love the smell of cloudberries – like fragrant roses! Just can’t wait to go picking in the autumn!

  5. says

    The herring and the sandwich cake don’t do a lot for me but the rest of your ’10 best Swedish dish’ list are very tasty looking. The cloudberries are new to me and I’d be curious to give them a try. Rose hip jam was one of my mom’s favourite jam tastes from ‘the old country’ and I used to pick up a jar for her periodically for a treat. The ‘soup’ made from them however doesn’t sound THAT appetizing. :) The princess cake though would be a nice baking challenge for a long weekend especially as I AM curious to make something with marzipan one day.

    • says

      Well, you can put anything you like into the sandwich cake… you don’t have to put any seafood in at all if you don’t want to. It can be a complete meat feast if you’d prefer! It’s delicious, I’d really recommend it :).

      Rose hip soup is actually delicious… seriously – don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. It tastes so good chilled out of the fridge on a hot day, or hot on a cold day… so yummy!

  6. Shashi @ RunninSrilankan says

    Those Swedish cakes look so good! I wonder if Ikea has them…such an awesome couple of posts Charles – I have learned so much!

    • says

      Nah, I’ve never seen a princess cake in IKEA alas. They do have a lot of great stuff, but I think you might need to make one of these for yourself I think.

    • says

      Oh, apologies – I forgot, actually they do have them (little ones) sometimes in the restaurants in IKEA… I was thinking purely of the food store.

  7. says

    Charles, I’ve always wanted to try cloudberries (if for no other reason than I love that name!). I do love waffles. My husband would like to have them once a week, but I don’t make them quite that often. I’m going to check out some of these recipes right now!

  8. says

    I would be very happy to have all of these dishes except the herring…to fishy for me. You might also enjoy the fact that my husband’s tastes are very different and he just bought a jar of herring in cream this afternoon. :D

    • says

      Hi Karen – it’s too bad… I love herring so much. Could probably eat it every day, haha! Hope your husband enjoyed his jar!

  9. says

    Now this is a MUCH better list! All of these do look like they could make my top 10. In fact the crayfish (or as we spell it in Louisiana – crawfish) is one of my top ten favorite foods. I’ll never be able to eat enough of them. :) Elk is something else I love to eat. I really am intrigue with the rose-hip soup. That sounds quite interesting.

    • says

      Oh yeah – just another 3 months and then it’s crayfish season here… really can’t wait! :D Around that time elk should start getting available I think too, so there’s a lot to look forward to!

  10. says

    These are great posts you’re doing. I’m so interested in Swedish cuisine because apart from herrings, I have no idea what else is on your menu. I love the look of the elk dinner – wonderful! And the Princess Cake is just divine – will you share that recipe? I feel like jumping on a plane just to come over to try cloud berries – if someone else braves the mozzies to harvest them for me. And as for the waffle with the cloudberry jam – I’d have to try that while I’m there too xx

    • says

      Ha, people think it’s all meatballs but there’s a fair bit more to Swedish cuisine… most good… some bad as I mentioned in my previous post, hehe.

      I do plan on making a princess cake one day. I think it’s a bit time-consuming but something to tackle in the summer holidays I think!

  11. says

    Hello Charles, you have my attention on the Prinsesstårta. I do not like my desserts too sweet so glad it is just delicate. I still can’t do pickled herring. I wonder is the Nyponsoppa (Rose-hip Soup) served like Chinese sweet dessert soups hot or just cooled only. This sounds very interesting as well. Thanks for the overview and have a super weekend. BAM

    • says

      Hi Bam! As I mentioned, the nyponsoppa is traditionally eaten hot… often with a dollop of something like cream, or maybe even little almond biscuits inside. It’s mainly me who prefers it cold :).

  12. says

    Ay yay yay, reading about blood at 8 am is a little tough on the tummy ;-). My parents were big fans of blood pudding when I was growing up — yum, yum (NOT!). I think I find the rose-hip soup the most intriguing here… I would love to try that some day. I’d also be all over the cheese and anything made from those heavenly cloudberries (will you make a recipe from those for us one day Charles – maybe in the fall?) they’re so pretty and it sounds like they’re super tasty too (by the way, is that a cloudberry relish/compote beside the cheese?).

    • says

      Oh, I LOVE blood pudding. It was a taste experience the first time I had it. I’d always read about it and thought it sounded disgusting but when I tried it… seriously, I was in heaven. Having a bowl of hot blood and stock… all runny and ick, no way. I wouldn’t want to try that I don’t think. I wouldn’t mind trying it once though. I do like to try things before I completely write them off!

      I absolutely will make something with cloudberries when they’re in season. That’ll be the highlight of my year! I’m not sure if it is a jam or compote next to the cheese… it’s an image I got from the cheese company’s press section on their site and it didn’t actually say, but it does look like it, indeed.

  13. says

    Ooooh, what a lovely list! Cloudberries are just so cool, and they look amazing! :-)
    Love the Princess cake and the sockerkaka too, and seems like the Swedish love fish; that’s just my thing!~ You almost had me turned in the stomach at the first mention of the blood soup…oh dear, but the nausea quickly went off with this awesome list (thank goodness, LOL!)
    Sweden is getting to you Charles, and in a good way, I can see you’re enjoying yourself so much! ;-)

  14. says

    This was such a fun post, Charles! It’s so hard to find Swedish food around here or not so common and I’d definitely love to explore more authentic foods in Sweden one day! I was smiling when I read the blood soup. I’ve only seen “blood” in Chinese cuisine but haven’t tried it before and didn’t know Swedish cuisine use it. Very fun to learn new things! We have “sushi cake” as well, just to decorate so it looks like a cake. I like the sandwich cake idea though. :)

    • says

      Thanks Nami, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Have you had blood pudding before? I don’t think I would enjoy “hot blood soup” but blood pudding is amazing. You can buy pots of blood here so I’m going to try and make my own pudding one day… I can’t wait to try, it’s SO good!

  15. says

    Damn it comment disappeared.

    As amazing as that Princess cake looks (I can;t believe it’s not filling though?!), I must say I’m most impressed by the cloudberries. What is this amazingness! Just the name alone makes me want to curl up in bed with a basket of these berries. Love this peek into Swedish food from the eyes of a non-Swedish, lol-ed too many times.

    • says

      Well, if I was feeling hungry enough I could probably eat an entire cake myself – it’s that light. I hope I’ll be able to find a big patch of cloudberries in the autumn. Can’t wait to get some fresh ones and make some exciting things!

  16. Jessica says

    I read another blog – a great one, excellent writing and recipes – which just totally butchered the idea of sandwich-cake. All present in the commentary fields seemed to agree, whether they’d had it or not. Truth be told, there are nice ones and then not so nice ones, and this person had run into a not-so-nice-one in the middle of nowhere in Sweden. God knows I’ve had both since this is somewhat of a staple at certain kind of parties. It went out of vogue for a while but is now back. There’s even some bakeries/coffee places that make only sandwich-cakes, and they’re absolutely wonderful.

    If you loved cloudberries you should look out for arctic raspberries (rubus arcticus). If you find them, take them by any means necessary and make a run for it.

    • says

      Oh, I agree – even the nicest food in the world can be completely butchered, but if it’s done right, with care, and good, fresh ingredients, it’s an amazing creation!

      I laughed so hard at your last sentence… it’s pretty much exactly what my wife’s aunt said. They’re super rare, although apparently a couple of years ago my wife’s uncle had them growing up alongside the driveway to his house. It’s actually just down the road from where I am right now, so in the autumn I might have to go on a little midnight stroll and see if I can’t find any of them.

      • Jessica says

        Have you tried suovas? It’s marvellous. Best with chanterelle mushrooms and (almond) potatoe mash. And lingonberries.

        • says

          I haven’t – I just looked it up and it sounds great. Thanks for the suggestion – will keep an eye out for it.

  17. says

    Oh, I have somehow missed this fascinating post. I absolutely love the sandwich cake (I would prefer it by far from the heavy buttery traditional birthday cakes people serve often…) and I am of course a huge herring fan (check out also Polish shops in Sweden one day; they do amazing things with pickled herring but in less sweet versions). Every time I go to Germany I bring a huge bag of different pickled herring boxes (very popular in Germany too). When I see pickled herring, I crave it just like people do with chocolate for example. Funny isn’t it?
    Of course I love crayfish. I used to catch is as a child and then boiled it very fresh. It was so good… Elk will be the animal I must absolutely taste when I go to Sweden one day.

    • says

      I love sandwich cake too, although I’d still want a “sweet” cake for my birthday, since having something covered in ham and shrimp just doesn’t say “celebration” in the same way that a good chocolate cake does :D.

      I can’t wait for the hunting season here so I can get some fresh elk myself… I will post about it too for sure!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>