The regional flavours of Sweden
Sweden is a large country with varied geography and climate, which has given rise to a wonderfully diverse food culture.
Swedish cuisine is geared towards sustainability and high-quality local produce. Travelling from south to north, you’ll discover many different types of food, all worth trying for their unique character alone.
Here’s an introduction to the Swedish food cultures of Malmö, Gotland, Sundsvall and the High Coast.
Malmö – where top-quality produce and international influences unite
In the province of Skåne in southern Sweden, a distinctive culinary identity has been shaped by its excellent local produce, fish and meats. In Skåne’s capital city of Malmö, the international population has brought world flavours and added vibrancy to this local food culture. The city boasts a rich offering of restaurants featuring local specialties and international delights.
The area of Möllevången, or “Möllan” as it’s known by locals, has a high concentration of restaurants from all corners of the world. Turkish and Middle Eastern grills mingle with sushi restaurants and falafel joints. Spicy kibbeh meatballs from Syria, Iranian khoresh stew, Neapolitan sourdough pizza and Vietnamese pho are some of the many global dishes to taste when visiting Malmö.
The “new Nordic” culinary approach took hold of Malmö at the beginning of the 2000s. Seasonal, local and organic ingredients are at the centre of this approach, enabled by the fertile soil and bountiful waters of the province. Chefs are reimagining classic dishes and incorporating international flavours, elevating the Malmö food scene and positioning it as one of Scandinavia’s culinary powerhouses.
The stars of Malmö’s culinary scene
Worthy of a visit is Shamiat, which opened in 2014 as the first Syrian restaurant in Malmö. If you fancy Indian food, head to The Masala Box. Cooking classes are held regularly at the restaurant.
Renowned masters of the new Nordic style, Mats and Ebbe Vollmer are the brothers behind the Michelin-starred restaurant Vollmers, a shining star on the international culinary scene. Other notable Malmö restaurants combining local ingredients and international flavours include the highly influential Bastard and celebrity chef Tareq Taylor’s Kockeriet.
Titti Qvarnström is another significant force credited with putting Malmö on the culinary map. While working as executive chef at Bloom in the Park, the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star, making Qvarnström the first woman to achieve this feat in the Nordic region.
The unique foodie character of Gotland
Gotland, a beautiful island off the east coast of Sweden, is a culinary treasure trove with world-class meat products and produce, like the unique truffle, not found elsewhere in Sweden.
The rearing of sheep on Gotland dates back to the Viking era, and the meat is renowned for its texture and flavour. The island’s role as a trading post back then is probably why the exotic spice saffron plays such a strong role in local dessert menus. Saffron rice pudding is a regional classic – served with whipped cream and dewberry jam.
The fertile springtime soil yields Ramson wood garlic (Ramslök), whose leaves, buds and flowers lend a garlicky kick to dishes. In May, asparagus is a menu staple, and come summer, local fishermen are hard at work catching flounder that will later be dried and smoked.
Beer lovers will find plenty of local brews to pair with their Gotlandic food, such as the popular Gotlands Bryggeri. A host of other microbreweries have also surfaced in recent years, including Snausarve Gårdsbryggeri and Brygghuset.
Gotland on a plate – some of the island’s top restaurants
Restaurants serving up the best of Gotland include Krakas Krog, where seasonal local produce takes centre stage, along with meat sourced from nearby farmers. Katthammarsvik Rökeri, meanwhile, is a traditional restaurant specialising in fish and prawns smoked on premise. At Bakfickan in Gotland’s main town Visby, you’ll be able to try authentic dishes such as pickled herring with sour cream and their signature fish soup with aioli. Also consider Gula Hönan in Ronehamn. Open from June to August, it has its own wild garden from which most of the menu is sourced. Vegetables are the highlight here, but locally sourced rabbit and lamb also form part of the menu. In 2018, Gula Hönan opened a fine dining sister restaurant in Visby – Tuppens Krog.
Sundsvall - an industrial city with a discerning palate
The culinary scene of the northern city Sundsvall is influenced by its industrial heritage. As early as the 1860s, an array of restaurants started lining the streets of this east coast town to cater for the large influx of people – including the most affluent industrialists. Rumours have it, gardeners were employed to cultivate pineapple and white flesh peaches to please their demanding palates.
Sundsvall locals still love eating out and there are plenty of restaurants to choose from, many of which are featured in the White Guide (Scandinavia’s leading restaurant guide). In addition to its strong restaurant scene, Sundsvall has a proud drinks heritage. Microbrewery Alnöl and Hernö Gin – maker of the most awarded gin in Europe between 2013 and 2017 – are among the must-try drink producers in town.
Eat out like a Sundsvall local
Renowned chefs such as Johan Backéus and Birgit Malmcrona are part of Sundsvall’s culinary super league. Together, the husband and wife team opened Naturaj, a restaurant adhering to the new Nordic school of cooking, with inspiration from Japan – the country in which Malmcrona honed her skills.
En Liten Krog is also well worth a visit due to its creative menu, in which local produce – think chanterelle, trout and cheese – come to life with the help of influences from Europe and Asia. At Tant Anci & Fröken Sara, meanwhile, you’ll be able to tuck into casual options such as burgers and salads prepared using organic ingredients, and there are some vegan dishes too.
The High Coast – where nature’s pantry takes centre stage
The High Coast (Höga Kusten) – just north of Sundsvall – has a rich culinary heritage centering on flavours from the region. The sea, river, forest and fertile soil all contribute to the High Coast’s foodie vibe. High Coast locals are increasingly keen to explore “nature’s cooking” and forage mushrooms and blueberries in the wild rather than buying them.
The High Coast also maintains its natural resources via farmland cultivation. Grains, such as barley, are used to make a unique type of flatbread (tunnbröd). The original recipe is still used in designated baking huts at Mjälloms Tunnbröd, Sweden’s oldest flatbread bakery, just as it has been since 1923.
Fermented herring (surströmming) is another traditional food product born in the High Coast. Known as one of the smelliest foods in the world, it’s an acquired taste but definitely worth a try. It pairs deliciously with flatbread in a regional classic called “surströmmingsklämma”.
High quality eating experiences on the High Coast
Traditional Swedish food of the High Coast variety is on the menu at restaurants such as Linnea & Peter in Örnsköldsvik, Sankt Petri Logen in Härnösand and the restaurant of the award-winning High Coast Whiskydistillery.
Small-scale food and drink producers – making everything from marmalade and blueberry vinegar to craft beer and bark bread – add to the increasingly artisanal foodie identity of the High Coast. Gårdsbutiken in Nordingrå is a perfect little shop to find locally made delights, complete with restaurant and café.