A blog to help your taste buds travel before you leave for your work placement in Sweden: culinary specialities in Sweden! There are lots of them, and they’re a cultural marker that sets France and Sweden apart from each other; but that’s not the only one, young reader: that’s another blog. Let’s set off together to discover what makes up Swedish gastronomy, through its ingredients and eating habits. After all, that’s part of integrating into a new country: respecting its traditions and customs, whether culinary or otherwise. Read on!

Table manners in Sweden

In Sweden, there are certain rules and traditions around eating and table manners. Here are some of the most important:

  1. Punctuality: Swedes attach great importance to punctuality during group meals. It is customary to arrive at the agreed time to share the meal together.
  2. Family meals: Family meals are highly valued in Sweden. Family members often gather around the table to share a convivial moment.
  3. Serving yourself: Swedes are accustomed to serving themselves at mealtimes. Dishes are generally placed in the centre of the table, and everyone serves themselves as they wish.
  4. Respecting nature: As Sweden is a country that values nature, it is common practice to respect food and limit waste. Swedes are careful not to take more food than they can eat.
  5. The use of cutlery: As in many Western countries, in Sweden cutlery is used in the traditional way: fork on the left and knife on the right. The knife is used to cut the food, then the fork is used to eat it.
  6. Don’t talk with your mouth full: Talking with your mouth full is frowned upon in Sweden. Swedes prefer to finish their mouthful before engaging in conversation.
  7. Don’t spill salt: Spilling salt at the table is considered bad luck in Sweden, so it’s best to avoid it.
  8. Fika: The “fika” is a Swedish tradition which consists of taking a coffee break accompanied by pastries, generally mid-morning or in the afternoon. It’s a time to relax and get together with colleagues, friends or family.

These rules and traditions obviously vary from person to person and can change according to region and social context. However, they illustrate certain cultural practices that are common in Sweden when it comes to eating and table manners.

The main eating habits in Sweden

The main eating habits in Sweden reflect its geographical environment and culinary traditions. Here are some of the key elements that make up Swedish meals:

  1. Fish and seafood: Due to its proximity to the Baltic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, Sweden offers a wide variety of fish and seafood in its diet. Salmon, herring, prawns and crayfish are among the popular and frequent ingredients in Swedish meals.
  2. Meat: Meats such as beef, pork, lamb are also commonly eaten in Sweden. The traditional meatballs known as “köttbullar” are one of the country’s signature dishes.
  3. Potatoes: Potatoes play a central role in the Swedish diet. They are often served as an accompaniment to many dishes and are an essential part of everyday cooking.
  4. Cereals and breads: Cereals are frequently used in Swedish cuisine, particularly oats, rye and wheat. Breads, particularly the Swedish black bread known as “knäckebröd”, are also very popular.
  5. Berries and mushrooms: Sweden is full of wild berries such as blueberries, raspberries, wild strawberries and lingonberries, which are often used in desserts and jams. Mushroom picking is also very popular in autumn, and certain mushrooms, such as ceps, are widely eaten.
  6. Dairy products: Dairy products are also frequently consumed in Sweden, particularly milk, yoghurt and cheese, which are often included in meals and snacks.
  7. “Smörgåsbord: Smörgåsbord is a traditional Swedish buffet offering a variety of hot and cold dishes, some of which may vary according to the season. It’s a way of sharing and enjoying a multitude of dishes on special occasions or celebrations.

These ingredients are deeply rooted in Swedish culture, reflecting both the country’s abundance of natural resources and culinary traditions handed down from generation to generation. Swedish eating habits emphasise fresh, local ingredients, in keeping with the Nordic culture that values nature and the environment.

Some emblematic Swedish recipes

Starter: “Gravad lax” (Marinated salmon)

Gravad lax” is an emblematic Swedish dish, appreciated for its simplicity and delicate flavours. It consists of slices of fresh salmon marinated in salt, sugar, dill and sometimes juniper berries. The salmon is then pressed and left to marinate for a few days, giving the fish a tender texture and a slightly sweet flavour. Gravad lax’ is usually served in thin slices with rye bread and a sauce made from mustard, dill and sugar.

Main course: “Köttbullar” (Meatballs)

Köttbullar” are traditional Swedish meatballs, often made with beef and pork mixed with onions, breadcrumbs, milk and spices such as nutmeg. The meatballs are usually small and simmered in a brown cream sauce, which is sometimes topped with cranberry jam for a sweet-tart touch. Köttbullar” is often served with mashed potatoes and the famous Swedish meat jelly called “brunssås”.

Dessert: “Kanelbulle” (Cinnamon Brioche)

Kanelbullar” are cinnamon buns beloved in Sweden. They are made from a slightly sweet dough spiced with cinnamon, rolled into a spiral, then cut into pieces and baked. Kanelbullar” are often served warm and can be accompanied by a cup of coffee for a traditional “fika” (Swedish coffee break). These soft, fragrant buns are an integral part of Swedish culture and are often prepared and eaten at festivities or informal gatherings.

These dishes are appreciated for their simplicity and authenticity, reflecting Sweden’s deep-rooted culinary traditions. Each is a delicious representation of Swedish cuisine and offers a glimpse of the country’s typical flavours and ingredients.

Christmas in Sweden

Christmas in Sweden is a very special time, rich in traditions and festivities, and this is also reflected at the table. Here’s a taste of what a traditional Swedish Christmas meal looks like:

The Swedish Christmas meal is called “Julbord” or “Julmiddag”. It is usually served on the evening of 24 December, on Christmas Day, or during the celebrations leading up to Christmas Eve. Julbord” is a festive buffet with a variety of dishes, each one a Swedish Christmas speciality.

Typical Julbord dishes include :

  1. “Julskinka: This is a Christmas ham baked in the oven, often covered in mustard and breadcrumbs, and garnished with cloves for a deliciously spicy flavour.
  2. “Köttbullar: The famous Swedish meatballs, also found at Julbord. They are served with brown cream sauce and cranberry jam.
  3. “Gravad lax”: Marinated salmon, which I mentioned earlier, is also a staple of the Swedish Christmas meal.
  4. “Sill: Marinated herring is a traditional Julbord dish. There are different varieties, with different flavours such as dill, onion, mustard and cream.
  5. “Lutfisk”: This is a very special dish, made from dried cod that has been transformed into gelatine and then rehydrated before cooking. Lutfisk” is often served with a white sauce, peas and potatoes.
  6. “Prinskorv”: These are small, smoked and spicy sausages, usually served as an aperitif.
  7. “Knäckebröd: The famous crunchy rye bread is also present on the Christmas table.
  8. “Julost”: The Christmas cheese board, featuring a selection of Swedish cheeses.
  9. “Risgrynsgröt: Rice pudding, usually served as a dessert, topped with cinnamon and sugar, and sometimes garnished with melted butter and cranberry jam.
  10. “Pepparkakor: Swedish Christmas biscuits, often in the shape of stars or hearts, which are a festive must-have.

Swedish Christmas tables are abundant and colourful, with a wide variety of dishes to suit all tastes. The conviviality, warmth and joy of the season are reflected in these culinary traditions, which are shared with family and friends during the Swedish Christmas festivities.

That’s all there is to culinary specialities in Sweden: now it’s your turn to splash out on Scandinavian gastronomy! And for a work placement abroad in Sweden, it couldn’t be easier: contact International Horizons and we’ll send you on a work placement in Sweden. Sign up now, there’s no obligation!

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