Scandinavia is home to the best foodie capitals of Europe. Norway, Sweden, and Denmark all have regional specialties, but also share common dishes that are favorites with locals and travelers.
Here are our picks of some tempting Scandinavian foods; check them out on your next visit.
Swedish Våfflor (waffles) or Krumkake from Norway
Sweet lovers can satisfy their cravings with Scandinavian waffles. Prepared in a special two-sided iron griddle, the waffles will be topped with sweet fillings. The Norwegian Krumkake version, once finished, will be folded around a wooden spoon into a cone-shape and filled with whipped cream or fruit jams (made of the delicious berries that grow in the forests). You can’t get a better snack or breakfast.
Meatballs can be found throughout the whole Scandinavia; each country has, however, its particularity and secrets for the best preparation. The Danish version of meatballs, called frikadeller, are made with minced meat, onions, eggs, milk, and bread crumbs. It is served either as a main dish with boiled potatoes and gravy or as a lunch together with a cold potato salad.
The Norwegian version, called “kjøttboller” or “kjøttkaker”, is a kind of rougher version of their Scandinavian cousins, being a more loosely bound beef patty, flavored with ginger and nutmeg. The meatballs are usually served with mashed or boiled potatoes before being drizzled with a cream sauce (or gravy). An excellent plate after a long (and cold) day outdoors!
Seafood is very common in the north, with lutefisk (tørrfisk) being another traditional dish. This unsalted fish, that is dried in the cold air in the far north of Norway (particularly from the islands of Lofoten and Vesteråle), is one of Norway’s earliest delicacies. The method to dry fish in the cold air is one of the world’s oldest preservation methods, providing a shelf life of several years.
The Prinsesstårta is a dome-shaped treat made of layers of sponge cake, jam, almond paste, and whipped cream, covered with (traditionally) green marzipan. It is usually the cake of choice for birthdays parties. However, you can also try a slice of this specialty in Swedish bakeries. The cake was invented by Jenny Åkerstöm -back in the 1920s- who gave cooking classed to three of the Swedish princesses. The young royals were loving the cake so much that it was named in their honor. It’s simple and very popular.
Västerbottensost (Västerbotten cheese)
Västerbotten cheese is a firm, bitter cheese similar to the Italian parmesan, and made from cow’s milk. The cheese is very versatile, lending itself well to all sorts of dishes, though many like to eat it just with a slice of bread. It’s only made by one company, in one place called Burträsk. You can take a free guided tour in their exhibition, and visit their cheese store. Burträsk is beautifully located nearby a lake and amidst forests, offering visitors the chance to go hiking, canoeing or fishing.
The Baltic and North Atlantic Ocean contain a large number of herring shoals, and the Scandinavian are specialists at cooking, pickling and smoking these flavorsome fish. Herring in garlic sauce, with dill or in mustard sauce, the varieties are surprising. Or what about an S.O.S? This traditional starter stands for “Smör, Ost och Sill” (butter, cheese, and herring) and is served with crisp bread and accompanied with a glass of aquavit, a traditional Scandinavian spirit. Cheers!
The Scandinavians sure do love their fruit “soups”. Because of the long northern winters and a lack of fresh fruit, fruits were preserved and later cooked to bring back their flavors. Traditionally, fruit soups – like the blueberry soup – are thick and you can either eat it hot from a bowl or chilled in a glass. In whatever way you consume it, it has a lot of vitamin C in it, so a cup of fruit soup will help you through the day.
One of the Scandinavian foods you just can’t miss while walking around the streets is smoked salmon. Salmon is “daily bread” in the Scandinavian diet, with the countries’ long coastline and many fjords producing ample amounts of it. While salmon forms the basis of many dishes, it is often served on its own, mostly in a smoked form, known as “Røkt Laks”. “Gravlaks” is another way of preparation using a blend of salt, dill, and sugar. In Denmark, they create delicious open sandwiches of light rye bread with Gravlaks.
Scandinavians love spending time in the wild and wander freely through their vast forests, valleys, and coastlines. These days, picking berries and mushrooms is a favorite way to spend a family day out. It’s also easy to find foraged food in shops, markets and even on stalls along country roads. Try delicate wild strawberries, blueberries or bright purple bilberries.
Smørrebrød and Rugbrød
Smørrebrød (that translates to “butter and bread”) and rugbrød (rye bread) are traditional Danish bread. Hundreds of varieties of open sandwiches are made with these bread, but the most common ingredients are a slice of buttered rye bread with pieces of meat (or fish), cheese, vegetables and spread. My favorite is with a light spread of cream cheese and salmon. No matter what time of day it is, you can always enjoy a smørrebrød!