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Freshly baked semla
Freshly baked semla
A Swedish semla, or Fat Tuesday-bun, is made from wheat and filled with cream and almond paste. It has existed in Sweden since the 16th century and was originally eaten before fasting.
Photo credit: Magnus Carlsson/

The Swedish Semla

'Semla' in singular form or 'semlor' in plural – (and let's face it, any decent bun lover will always have at least two so call them semlor) are doughy balls of sin, oozing a slathericious almond and cardamom paste with lashings and lashings of vanilla-whipped cream atop.

Traditionally eaten only on the day before Lent (the Christian fasting period), semlor are now eaten on a daily basis by enthusiasts nationwide from Christmas until Easter. They are also called Fat Tuesday-buns.

When do you eat semla?

On Shrove Tuesday, known as Fat Tuesday ('Fettisdagen') in Sweden. In 2024, Fettisdagen is on 13 February.

Where can you get a semla (or two)?

Every bakery and café worth its salt, or sugar and fat in this case. Or you can follow this recipe and make your own semlor.

Who eats semlor?

Semla addicts who love them and eat them daily and traditionalists who only eat them on weekends, and the truly traditional who only eat them on Fat Tuesday.

How to eat semla like a local:

Start with the lid. Use it to scoop up some of the gooey contents. Proceed with the rest of the bun. The carnal eat it shamelessly straight from hand-to-mouth. The refined like to fork-it. Bohemians do it with a spoon. Tourists do it with confusion. And traditionalists order it in a bowl of warm milk. All are equally good.