Five Foods Not to Miss in Sweden

Cinnamon Roll Sweden

I was a little skeptical at first, especially given my hatred of seafood, but in the end I found many great things to eat in Sweden. Of everything I tasted though, these I think best encapsulate the Swedish experience.

I was in Sweden as part of the Car Plus Vacation promotion, highlighting Volvo’s program that allows overseas buyers to receive complimentary tickets to Sweden and to drive their new car around before Volvo ships it home for them. They’re also running a sweepstakes right now that will give one lucky winner and guest the opportunity to experience the Swedish Road Trip of a Life Time just like I did. Even though Swedish Tourism and Volvo sponsored this trip, all opinions are of course my own and as you’ll see I had carte blanche in how I experienced Sweden.

1. Cinnamon Roll – I never dreamed that IKEA would prove to be a good indicator of Swedish culture, but I don’t think it’s too far off based on my own experiences. One thing we always buy at IKEA are the cheap but delicious cinnamon rolls, and as it turns out there’s a reason for this as I learned in Gothenburg. At Café Husaren the roll has taken on a life of its own and is quite literally the size of one’s head. If you don’t want this belly buster though, never fear, the rolls are everywhere. They’re a little different from the ones I’m used to at home. American rolls tend to be glazed with sticky sugar, but in Sweden they instead sprinkle large grains of sugar on them. At first they look like salt, but never fear, they aren’t and the Swedish version is sweet and delicious. It’s not just in Gothenburg, everywhere we went we found these freshly baked bits of yummy goodness, in manageable human sizes. Sweden’s baking prowess doesn’t end there though. The bread was one of my favorite parts of eating in Sweden, they clearly know what they’re doing. Baked goods come in all sizes and shapes, but freshness and taste are prized above all. This is not a country where you’ll find dinner rolls from a plastic bag on the dinner table.

2. Meat – As a confirmed and ardent carnivore, I was really pleased with the main course options throughout Sweden. At first I was a little surprised, I frankly expected to see seafood everywhere, but a drive through the countryside gave me the answer. There is a lot of farmland in Sweden and not a small portion is devoted to raising animals: pigs, sheep and of course cows. This has created a great tradition of well-prepared and nicely sauced dishes, something I enjoyed almost every day during my trip. A personal favorite was a hearty stew I had at the rustic Hotel Rusthållargården in Skåne. Organic veal cooked for hours combined with a rich but not leaden sauce and served with potatoes and vegetables made for a savory and surprisingly light lunch. No matter what you go for though, good old-fashioned meat is not to be missed.

3. Rhubarb – I don’t personally enjoy rhubarb (it’s not a dessert food!) but I was obviously in the minority in Sweden. Quite literally, in the dessert section on the menu of every restaurant we visited in Sweden was some sort of rhubarb concoction. I don’t understand the appeal, but apparently the Swedish do. It’s such an important part of the culinary tradition that Malmo has included it in its list of ‘authentic tastes.’

4. Coffee – The Swedish have a term for taking a break to enjoy coffee with friends at a cafe and just chill out – fika. The fact they have a separate term and tradition for an afternoon coffee break won me over immediately – how can you not love that? They definitely practice what they preach as well. Coffee shops are everywhere, sometimes multiple cafes on a single block. Someone told me that Sweden is one of the top ten countries in the world for coffee consumption and after visiting I believe it. The tasty warm drink isn’t just omnipresent, it’s also wonderful. I’m a coffee lover myself and I can attest to the fact that not every country makes a good cup ‘o Joe; but Sweden does. It’s dark and rich without tasting burned. One of my favorite coffee shops was Barista, in Malmo. Barista is an organic, fair trade chain that combines social activism with delicious coffees and is a must visit establishment for all of my fellow coffee lovers out there.

5. Ugh, ok, FISH – I resisted including this, but I can’t avoid it. If you’ve been reading LandLopers for a while then you know I can’t stand seafood of any kind, the reasons for which I detailed in this post. This feeling is not shared in Sweden. It’s a seafaring nation and seafood isn’t just appreciated, it’s an important part of the culture. Pickled herring is almost revered and served on the highest of holidays, a fact that makes me shudder a lot. I was able to avoid it, so it’s possible, but it’s not always easy. If you want truly great and fresh fish, the Salt & Sill on the herring island of Klädesholmen is the place for you. We stayed at their floating hotel, but the restaurant was packed with diners who had traveled from near and far just for the legendary menu. Luckily for me they also know how to cook a mean steak, and the views were simply stunning.

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

6 Responses

  1. Sam

    I like rhubarb. It reminds me of being a child, as like in Sweden, it’s a pretty common desert food in the UK! Sweden also does some great things with berries (jams, marmalades, pies), as they have a lot of indigenous varieties.

    Reply
  2. Jan Granath

    Another great report – you are a good writer and observant.
    Its a pity you do not eat fish and seafood as you find the best in Europe on the weast-coast because of the clean cold water. I compare with south of France.
    About the rhubarbs though, it is not as common as you experienced. It must have been the season for the first harvest and restaurants went crazy. I have lived 60 years in Sweden and it is not that common in any part I have lived in besides when the first sprouts come.It is special and not everybody likes it – I do though.

    Reply
    • Matt Long

      Thanks again! Maybe it just seemed like they were popular then 🙂

      Reply
  3. Bram | Travel. Experience. Live.

    I drank so much coffee when I was in Sweden, it was insane. The fresh fish is great as well, you even get that at breakfast. I loved that. But what I loved most was the lingonberry jam or sauce that comes with certain dishes in the countryside. It’s delicious!

    Reply
  4. Camilla Alves (@camillanobre)

    Ohh you reminded me of the great swedish food. I miss it a lot . Everything I ate in my short staying in the countryside of this country was very delicious and spicy !

    Reply

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