Best Scandinavian Food

Best Scandinavian Food

blog authorBy Johanna Hansen shield verification Verified Expert

    Scandinavian food, often called Nordic cuisine, is characterized by its reliance on locally sourced, natural ingredients like fish, pork, potatoes, dill, beets, and berries. Due to the colder climate, the preservation of food plays a vital role in culinary practices, leading to techniques such as curing, smoking, and pickling.

    Köttbullar (Meatballs)

    Swedish meatballs are possibly the country’s most iconic dish, and you’ll find them everywhere—beyond Sweden, too. If there’s one Scandinavian food that will give you a real taste of the region, this is it. Meatballs are served with boiled or mashed potatoes, a cream sauce, cucumber, and tart lingonberry jam.

    The meat can vary—some recipes incorporate pork, veal, and beef, for example.

    Köttbullar (Meatballs)


    A Swedish specialty, gravlax is a dill-cured salmon that captures the essence of Nordic simplicity and elegance in gastronomy.

    Often enjoyed as an appetizer, gravlax is typically served with a sweet mustard sauce and bread, making it a perfect start to any Scandinavian feast.



    Denmark’s answer to the open sandwich, smørrebrød showcases a variety of toppings from herring to roast beef, beautifully arranged on buttered rye bread.

    This dish is not only a lunchtime favorite but also an expression of Danish culinary artistry, with each component thoughtfully balanced for flavor and aesthetics.



    Norway’s national dish, fårikål, brings together lamb and cabbage in a comforting stew that epitomizes homely Scandinavian cooking.

    It is traditionally prepared in the autumn and enjoyed with potatoes and thick gravy, embodying the warmth and heartiness of Norwegian cuisine.



    A popular Swedish shrimp sandwich, räksmörgås consists of hand-peeled shrimp layered on top of buttered bread, usually accompanied by mayonnaise, lettuce, and a slice of lemon.

    This simple yet luxurious sandwich is a staple at Swedish cafes and is perfect for a light, refreshing meal.

    Swedish shrimp sandwich


    A traditional soft Norwegian flatbread made from potatoes, lefse is a versatile staple that can be enjoyed sweet with cinnamon and sugar or savory with cured meats.

    This beloved treat represents the resourcefulness of Scandinavian cooking, turning simple ingredients into delicious fare.


    Jansson's Temptation

    A creamy, decadent potato casserole from Sweden, Jansson's Temptation is made with potatoes, onions, pickled sprats, cream, and breadcrumbs.

    It is a beloved dish during Swedish festivities, particularly at Christmas, offering a rich tapestry of textures and flavors.

    Jansson's Temptation

    Kanelbullar (Cinnamon Rolls)

    Nothing quite says Swedish fika like a warm, freshly baked kanelbulle. These cinnamon rolls are soft, sweet, and infused with the aromatic spice of cinnamon.

    Often paired with coffee, kanelbullar are a comforting treat that no visitor to Scandinavia should miss.


    Karjalanpiirakka (Karelian Pies)

    Originating from the Karelia region, these rye crust pies are filled with rice or mashed potato and are a popular snack throughout Finland.

    Karjalanpiirakka is traditionally topped with egg butter and served warm as a hearty snack or part of a larger meal.

    Karjalanpiirakka (Karelian Pies)

    Sild (Pickled Herring)

    A cornerstone of Scandinavian buffets, sild is herring that has been cured in vinegar and spices before being served with a variety of accompaniments such as potatoes, sour cream, or dark rye bread.

    This dish is particularly prominent during midsummer and Christmas celebrations in Sweden and Denmark.



    While not a food, no list of Scandinavian culinary highlights would be complete without mentioning aquavit.

    This potent spirit is flavored with herbs like caraway or dill and is traditionally sipped during festive gatherings.

    Aquavit is considered the perfect complement to heavy dishes, aiding digestion and enhancing the dining experience.


    Brunost (Brown Cheese)

    A uniquely Norwegian cheese with a fudgy texture and sweet, caramel-like flavor, brunost is a product of cheese innovation, enjoyed on bread, waffles, or even as a cooking ingredient.

    It is integral to the Norwegian diet and offers a taste that is distinctly Scandinavian.



    A hearty dish from northern Sweden, palt is a type of dumpling made from grated raw potatoes and filled with pork.

    These filling dumplings are a traditional comfort food, often served with lingonberry jam and butter, embodying the rustic charm of Swedish cuisine.


    An Icelandic dairy product similar to yogurt, skyr has been a part of Icelandic cuisine for centuries.

    Rich in protein, skyr is enjoyed with berries or honey and is a staple in the diet of health-conscious Scandinavians.


    Pytt i panna

    A classic example of Swedish resourcefulness, pytt i panna, or "small pieces in a pan," is a hash made from diced meats, potatoes, and onions, all fried together and often topped with a fried egg.

    This dish is a popular way to use up leftovers and is cherished for its simplicity and comfort.

    Pytt i panna


    Sweden’s answer to the sticky chocolate cake, kladdkaka is gooey, rich, and irresistible. Its crispy crust with a sticky, dense center makes it a favorite at cafes and family tables alike.

    Typically served with a dusting of powdered sugar and sometimes a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream, it’s a must-try for any chocolate lover visiting Scandinavia.

    Hákarl (Fermented Shark)

    An infamous Icelandic delicacy, hákarl is made from Greenland shark that has been fermented and dried. This pungent dish is an acquired taste, often chased with a shot of local schnapps, known as brennivín.

    Hákarl is a true test of culinary bravery and a unique aspect of Icelandic heritage.

    Fermented Shark

    Salty Licorice (Salmiakki)

    A favorite treat in Finland and across Scandinavia, salty licorice is flavored with ammonium chloride, giving it a distinctive salty taste that contrasts with its sweet licorice base.

    This polarizing candy is a staple in Scandinavian confectionery and offers a surprising flavor profile for the uninitiated.

    Smörgåstårta (Sandwich Cake)

    A festive, savory cake from Sweden, smörgåstårta is composed of layers of bread filled with creamy spreads, meats, and vegetables, then frosted with a soft cheese or cream and decorated.

    This visually stunning dish is often served at celebrations and is as delicious as it is decorative.


    Spherical Danish pancakes that are soft and fluffy inside with a crisp and golden exterior, æbleskiver are typically enjoyed during the Christmas season.

    Served with powdered sugar and raspberry jam, they are a festive treat that brings joy to Danish winter tables.


    One of Sweden’s most notorious dishes, surströmming is fermented Baltic Sea herring. Known for its strong aroma, it is traditionally eaten with tunnbröd (thin bread), potatoes, and onions.

    This dish is celebrated with surströmming festivals in late summer, marking its place in Swedish culture.


    Similar to brunost, gjetost is a type of Norwegian cheese made from the whey of goat’s milk, giving it a distinctively sweet and tangy flavor.

    It is typically sliced thin and eaten on bread or crackers, often as part of a traditional Norwegian breakfast.


    A comforting Norwegian stew made from a mixture of meats and vegetables, lapskaus is slow-cooked to perfection.

    This dish varies regionally and is a staple during the colder months, offering nourishment and warmth.


    Norway’s traditional cream cake, bløtkake is layers of sponge cake interspersed with fresh cream and berries.

    It is a festive centerpiece during celebrations such as National Day and birthdays, epitomizing Norwegian confectionery elegance.


    A traditional Danish Christmas dish, risengrød is a warm rice pudding served with a pat of butter, cinnamon, and sugar, often with a side of mulled wine. This dish is associated with holiday comfort and warmth, making it a cherished part of Danish festive traditions.

    People Also Ask

    What are the three main cuisines of Scandinavia?

    The three main cuisines in Scandinavia reflect the countries they originate from: Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian. Each has distinct dishes and ingredients but shares a common appreciation for seafood, dairy, and whole grains.

    Which Scandinavian city has the best food?

    Copenhagen in Denmark is often considered the gastronomic capital of Scandinavia, home to renowned restaurants like Noma, which has won multiple awards for its innovative use of local ingredients.

    What is Scandinavian food style?

    Scandinavian food style is minimalist and sustainable, focusing on purity, freshness, and simplicity. This style prioritizes seasonal ingredients and traditional methods like smoking and pickling to enhance natural flavors without overpowering them.

    What do Scandinavian people eat for lunch?

    Lunch in Scandinavia often consists of light but satisfying dishes such as smørrebrød in Denmark, a variety of seafood in Norway, or a warm, hearty soup in Sweden.

    Scandinavian cuisine offers a unique and intriguing gastronomic journey through its history and landscapes. From the fjords of Norway to the forests of Sweden and the farmlands of Denmark, the food is a direct reflection of the environment from which it comes. Whether you're dining in a Michelin-starred restaurant or enjoying a simple meal prepared at home, the flavors of Scandinavia are sure to leave a lasting impression.

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