You might think you know all about food in Sweden, but eating at Ikea doesn’t count (even if the meatballs are amazing).
Swedish food is heavily based on meat or fish served with potatoes or bread, and although this might sound too stodgy, you’ll be amazed by the variety of dishes on offer. You’re certainly never likely to go hungry.
Here’s what you can expect to be eating when you visit Sweden.
Sweden’s most famous meat dish is the humble meatball. Most restaurants in Sweden should offer a tastier variant than Ikea, and they’re usually served with potatoes, brown sauce, and lingonberry jam.
Hash (not that kind) is also popular, offering diced and fried meat, onions, and potatoes, and often served with fried or boiled eggs. Falukorv is sliced baloney fried and served with mashed potato, while Kroppkakor is a potato dumpling stuffed with diced pork.
You’ll find a wide range of sausages on offer in Sweden, with blood pudding being a particular favourite. Variations on a hot dog (often involving mashed potato) are commonly available as fast food.
Sweden has almost 2,000 miles of coastline, meaning fresh fish is available across the country.
Crayfish is popular, particularly in August, and visiting Sweden is also a good chance to try caviar as the cod roe variant here is significantly cheaper than you’d expect.
Pickled herring is widely eaten, available in lots of different sauces and usually eaten with bread and/or potatoes. Gravlax is a cold appetiser of thin salmon slices cured in salt, sugar, and dill.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could try surstromming, considered one of the most revolting foods in the world! It’s fermented herring, crammed into tin cans that often bulge and almost burst with foulness. It’s only ever eaten outdoors because the smell is so atrocious. Fancy it?
This deserves its own section, as Sweden is home to a huge variety of bread. A couple to look out for are tunnbrod, a thin wrap-style bread, and knackebrod, a hard loaf. Bread is usually served as simple sandwiches with thin slices of meat and/or cheese.
You can also smear it in caviar, liver pate, or soft whey butter (sweeter than the butter you might be used to).
As you’d expect from a European country, Sweden is home to a wide range of pizza, pasta, and kebab restaurants.
Be warned: Swedes can put some weird stuff on their pizzas. Look out for raisins, curry, peanuts, honey, duck, and coleslaw. They’re probably doing it just to freak you out.
You’ll also find plenty of sushi and Thai restaurants in Sweden, as well as the ubiquitous McDonald’s and Burger King fast food places.
Vegetarian food in Sweden is pretty easy to come by, especially in major towns and cities, although it will be a lot easier if you eat fish.
Many potato-based dishes can be adjusted to be made vegetarian friendly, and there’s a huge range of hard cheese in Sweden. Otherwise, as is often the case, it might be pizza and pasta places to the rescue if you’re eating veggie in Sweden.
The Swedish are incredibly fond of their pastries, so travellers with a sweet tooth will not be disappointed. Pastries and cookies like bondkakor, hallongrottor, and semla are usually cream-filled and doused in sugar.
So fond are the Swedish of their desserts that every year they celebrate Fettisdagen (Fat Tuesday), the day before lent fasting begins, where everybody stuffs themselves with semla, a sweet roll loaded with cream.