The Ultimate Guide to Swedish Food

For many people, Swedish food automatically translates to the world-famous meatballs, but there’s so much more to this Scandinavian cuisine than that! Here are our top choices for must-try Swedish food.

The Ultimate Guide to Swedish Food
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One of the best experiences of traveling or moving to a new country is getting to try its various foods. Just imagine it: walking down the street in an unfamiliar city, full of smiles and excitement for this new experience, taking pictures of anything and everything, and then walking into a local restaurant to try out local cuisine.

For many people, Swedish food automatically translates to the world-famous meatballs, but there’s so much more to Scandinavian cuisine than that! Here are our top choices for must-try Swedish food.

Köttbullar - Meatballs

Photo of a dish of Swedish meatballs, covered with brown cream sauce, with a side of mashed potatoes and jam
Photo by Pernilla:

Of course the first item on this list are the classic Swedish meatballs! Anyone who’s been to IKEA knows this staple dish, with a simple recipe of minced pork or beef, onions, egg, milk and breadcrumbs.

This dish is traditionally served with mashed potatoes, lingonberry jam or sauce, and a cream sauce, and has a vital role in Swedish cuisine as it plays the role of a simple daily meal and a special dish for the holidays.

We recommend you try this dish in different places throughout your stay in Sweden - every place makes it a little differently!

Smörgåstårta - Swedish Sandwich Cake

Photo of a savory sandwich cake, a classic Swedish recipe
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Much like the Western club sandwich, this Swedish “cake” is a multi-tiered blend of bread layered with different types of fillings. While it might look like a typical birthday cake at first glance, this dish is typically garnished with veggies and smoked salmon, the “frosting” is cream cheese, and some of its more popular toppings are caviar or seafood!

The top of the cake is always decorated based on the occasion, often with “roses” of salmon, and served at special occasions such as birthdays, graduations and even weddings.

Kräftor – Crayfish

Photo by Anna Hållams: /

Crayfish are eaten as a Swedish tradition, typically with a big party called Kräftskiva celebrating the beginning of crayfish season. The freshly-caught crayfish are boiled and seasoned with dill, and commonly served with shrimps, quiche and bread.

Crayfish parties can range anywhere from low-key and simple to extravagant where guests dress up in silly hats and ornaments with pictures of crayfish hanging from the ceiling. If you’re ever in Sweden during August, you should definitely go to a crayfish party!

Ärtsoppa - Pea Soup

Photo of Swedish pea soup served with a side of pancakes
Photo credit unknown

This classic Swedish dish has a long history. Back in the Catholic era and before the 16th century, Swedes would fill up on Ärtsoppa as a hearty meal on Thursdays, to prepare for their Friday fasts. Even after Friday fastings gradually disappeared, many continue to serve this dish year-round on Thursdays, particularly during winter months.

The stew-like soup is made with yellow peas, onion and chunks of pork, and is usually served with Pannkakor - which are thin Swedish pancakes.

Semla - Sweet Roll

Photo of a care storefront showcasing popular Swedish puff pastry called Semla
Photo by esrageziyor

An iconic Swedish pastry, Semla is a cross between a cream puff and a sweet bun. It is so beloved that it is celebrated every year in February on a day called “fettisdagen”!

The pastry is composed of a simple sweet bread dough that’s shaped like a bun and flavored with cardamom, with its top cut off and stuffed with almond paste and whipped cream.

Whether you’re planning on eating out at restaurants or bringing some of these classics into your own cooking, make sure to try as many of these dishes as possible. Swedish food is definitely packed with fresh flavors and various textures, and has influences from almost everywhere in the world.

If you're looking for more information about Sweden and tips in how to make the best use of your stay, take a look at our blog.