Swedish food – the ultimate foodie bucket list
If you're looking for unique food experiences in Sweden, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Here are ten culinary highlights – from regional delicacies and traditional Swedish food to modern fine dining – that should feature on anyone's foodie bucket list.
Dare to try ‘surströmming’ – fermented herring
A dish of international repute, ‘surströmming’ is a must on anyone's foodie bucket list. The smelly Baltic herring is salted and fermented in tins and served with flat bread (‘tunnbröd’), sliced boiled potato and chopped onion. Wash it down with beer and the high spirits that come with the occasion, which typically takes place outdoors – for obvious reasons – at the end of August. To immerse yourself in the tradition, check out the world's largest surströmming festival in Alfta, Hälsingland, or visit the High Coast islands of Ulvön – the delicacy's birthplace.
Discover the top restaurants of modern Swedish gastronomy
Modern Swedish cuisine is charging ahead, with a strong focus on sustainability, locally sourced ingredients and innovative flavours. Experience true culinary innovation by visiting a restaurant headed by one of Sweden's foremost chefs. Florencia Abella, head chef at Michelin-starred Stockholm restaurant Ekstedt, cooks her creative take on Nordic cuisine over an open fire, using seasonal ingredients. And there are many other options – Sweden currently boasts 18 restaurants with one or more Michelin stars.
Join a midsummer party – with its season-specific smorgasbord
Midsummer is celebrated enthusiastically in Sweden, calling for an elaborate daytime feast – followed by song and dance around the maypole. Join in to sample a smorgasbord of classics including salmon – smoked or gravad – and pickled herring served with boiled new potatoes. To drink, expect locally brewed craft beer and ‘snaps’– shots of herb-infused spirits with regional variations – accompanied with traditional ‘snapsvisor’ songs.
Forage and cook in the great outdoors
Sweden’s right to roam policy invites anyone to enjoy Mother Nature’s edible gifts, throughout the year. You're even allowed to cook your harvest over an open fire in nature at certain times a year. So, set off with basket in hand, perhaps with an experienced guide by your side. Also consider booking a table at The Edible Country. This Swedish food experience, focused on foraged ingredients and local produce, is dotted around the country – each spot selected for its natural beauty and rich culinary culture.
Tuck into a plate of Swedish meatballs
Meatballs served the traditional Swedish way are a foodie bucket list essential. Made from minced pork and beef, Swedish meatballs are served with mashed potatoes, lingonberry jam and pickled cucumber. This much-loved dish is part of a culinary tradition called ‘husmanskost’ – translating roughly to comfort food. Today, you’ll find various modernised versions of the classic, including the vegetarian options served at Stockholm restaurant Meatballs for the People.
Put your festive paper hat on and join a ‘kräftskiva’
A ‘kräftskiva’ or crayfish party is a joyful annual highlight, typically taking place in August and September. It involves lavishly decorated tables laden with mounds of bright red crayfish – served whole and chilled – and side dishes such as chanterelle toast and quiche filled with ‘Västerbottenost’ cheese, as well as vegetarian alternatives. Traditional songs are as essential as the key edibles, with classic tunes such as ‘Helan Går’ sung after a round of ‘snaps’.
Enjoy a traditional fika
Swedes love their fika – but don't mistake the custom for a coffee break with treats, the social aspect is just as important. So gather your friends and settle in a spot of your choice – be it in nature or a city cafe. Swedish patisseries ('konditori') are brimming with fika classics like cinnamon buns, princess cake and "seven types of cookies" – a traditional biscuit selection currently enjoying a revival. Also consider ‘smörgåstårta’ – a festive, savoury sandwich cake, filled and decorated with Swedish favourites such as prawns, eggs, smoked salmon and fresh chives.
Experience the culinary traditions of the Sami people
Swedish Lapland, home of the indigenous Sami people, has a unique culinary culture. You must try 'kokkaffe' – coffee made over an open fire – together with some dried, smoked reindeer meat whilst enjoying a spectacular view over the Swedish highlands. Just like the Sami people when taking a break and keeping track of their reindeer herd.
Pay a night-time visit to a ‘korvmoj’
Visit a ‘korvmoj’– a traditional sausage kiosk – to enjoy Sweden’s very own take on the hotdog, served tightly wrapped in a flat-bread roll or ‘tunnbrödsrulle’, with lashings of mash potatoes and other trimmings. Nowadays you'll find creatively made, premium sausages and vegetarian fare on the menu. Sate your hunger after a night on the town and make the ‘korvmoj’ part of your foodie bucket list.
How to do ‘fredagsmys’ like a Swede
Putting your feet up and treating yourself with something tasty after a long week's work is not the reserve of Swedes, but they do like to mark the beginning of the weekend properly. There's even a term for it – ‘fredagsmys’, translating to ‘cosy Friday’. This homebound weekly tradition involves plenty of crisps and snacks, with dinner often dominated by a new Swedish favourite, tacos – so much so that ‘fredagsmys’ is sometimes referred to as ‘taco Friday’. Enjoy!