From cured salmon to saffron-tinged sweets to Swedish meatballs, the cuisine of Scandinavia tells the story of the Northern European landscape. We’ve rounded up our favorite Scandinavian recipes highlight the food of Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland.
You can’t talk about Scandinavian food without mentioning Swedish meatballs. They’ve been a cliché in America since becoming a cocktail party craze in the 1960s, but they can be absolutely delicious. Our Swedish meatballs are made with equal parts ground pork and beef, smothered in a creamy beef stock gravy, and served with mashed potatoes and lingonberry preserves.
Another Scandinavian classic you might be familiar with is gravlax (or gravadlax). To make this dish, raw salmon is cured with dill, sugar, pepper, and other flavorings. Sliced paper thin, the fish can be served on rye with a honey-mustard sauce or on homemade blinis with crème fraîche and chives.
The Dutch are famous for their herring. The little fish are often pickled and eaten as whole fillets, but can be prepared other ways. Sildesalat is a refreshing salad of smoked herring, boiled potatoes and beets, and mustard. Served with rye, it’s at home on a traditional smørrebrød platter.
Saffron came to Scandinavia through the spice trade and became a popular holiday indulgence in Sweden. Check out our saffron-spiked recipes for moderately sweet buns, short and fat biscotti, and a butter cake with cranberries, raisins, and almonds.
For a tour of the region’s foods, check out our collection of Scandinavian recipes.
The herring in this recipe from chef Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken are “floundered,” a traditional Scandinavian preparation in which the herring sides are removed from the carcass but left attached by the skin over the backbone, forming one large fillet. Ask your fish monger to do this for you, or buy individual fillets and tie two together with kitchen twine for each “floundered” fillet.
Get the recipe for Fried Herring in Pickling Liquor »
Pike-perch with Creamed Mushrooms and Horseradish Butter
In Sweden, chef Magnus Nilsson of
Fäviken uses pike-perch, a distinct fish that’s neither pike nor perch but is similar in size and taste to American walleye. If you can’t find either, red snapper or any firm, white-flesh fish with moderately sized fillets will work. Get the recipe for Pike-perch with Creamed Mushrooms and Horseradish Butter »
Swedish “Gooey” Chocolate Cake
Classic cured salmon is served with a bright mustard-honey sauce in this recipe adapted from Jake Tilson’s
In At The Deep End. Flavored with pepper, cloves, and dill, the fish requires at least 5 days to cure, so be sure to plan ahead. Use the best-quality salmon you can find.
In Sweden meatballs are served plain, as a snack; on a sandwich with beet salad; or as they are here, with mashed potatoes, creamy gravy, and tart lingonberry preserves.
Get the recipe for Swedish Meatballs with Mashed Potatoes (Køttbullar mit Potatismos) »
Finnish May Day Funnel Cakes (Tippaleipä)
When making this creamy fish stew, feel free to substitute mahimahi, salmon, scallops, or shrimp for the cod.
Dill-and-new-potato salad is an iconic summer food in Sweden. In this version, sautéed kohlrabi, fresh dill, and boiled potatoes are warmed in melted butter to make a simple side dish that’s perfect for picnics and backyard barbecues.
This rustic whole wheat brown bread is sweetened with molasses and loaded with almonds and diverse seeds. Dense and nutty, it’s delicious smeared with sweet butter or as the basis for an open-face sandwich topped with sharp cheese, cucumber, and a juicy slice of tomato.
Kroppkakor, hearty mashed potato dumplings stuffed with an allspice-laden filling of bacon and onion, are a specialty of Oland, an island off the southern coast of Sweden.
Get the recipe for Swedish Potato Dumplings »
This delightfully basic white sponge cake, encrusted with a coconut and brown sugar topping, is a dream to make and eat.
This Swedish snack of warm toasted cashews, almonds, and pumpkin and sunflower seeds tossed in a chile-spiked balsamic emulsion is addictive and easy to make. Great eaten out of hand or served on a cheese board alongside sharp Swedish Västerbotten cheese as part of a Midsummer feast.
Get the recipe for Balsamic-Spiced Nuts and Seeds (Heta Nötter) »
The secret ingredient to this version of a classic is Indonesian long pepper, which is not as unusual a Scandinavian ingredient as it might sound. Long peppers were one of the first things that Sweden brought back when the Dutch East India Company established trade in 1602.
This lavish Danish meat loaf is wrapped in bacon for added moisture and flavor, and then topped with rich gravy.
Aquavit combined with fresh citrus, tomato juice, Tabasco, and brisk Perrier Lemon makes a fruity-fresh, bloody good concoction.
Get the recipe for The Swedish Vampire »
We persuaded the wife of a Norwegian fisherman to share her secret recipe for marinating a fresh side of salmon to silky-textured, subtly flavored perfection. Modern-day gravlax, preferably served with blinis (a Russian touch).
Get the recipe for Gravlax with Blinis »
Bright and fruity with a caramelized depth of flavor thanks to brown sugar and a four-day ferment, this homemade lemon soda is enjoyed during the May Day celebration in Finland.
Julskinka is a boiled ham that cooks in an aromatic soup and is then glazed and topped with breadcrumbs.
This fondue-like dip made from reduced ham broth is a Swedish Christmas favorite.
Berries are transformed into a thick, silky pudding in this simple Danish dish.
Get the recipe for Danish Red Berry Pudding with Cream (Rødgrød med Fløde) »
Gingerbread cookies like these are popular in Sweden during the holidays and can be served plain or decorated with icing. This recipe comes from the 80-year-old Vete-Katten bakery in Stockholm.
The secret to making these mildly sweet pastries—based on a recipe given to us by Gunilla von Heland, a food editor in Stockholm—is to steep the saffron in hot milk before incorporating it.
The Swedish name translates as fruitcake, but this light cake is only distantly related to the dense, sticky fruitcakes familiar to many Americans.
Chewy caramel topped with crushed peppermint candies is one of many versions of kola, a kind of semisoft toffee adored all over Sweden.
In Sweden, these shortbread cookies are traditionally cut into star shapes and garnished with pearl sugar, which can be found at specialty baking stores and online sources.
Mini caramels flavored with almond, orange zest, and syrup make simple, delicious treats (and wonderful gifts).
Based on a recipe from Stockholm’s famed Vete-Katten bakery, these saffron-spiced biscotti are shorter and fatter than traditional ones.
Called dream cookies because of their airy texture, these Swedish treats are meant to dissolve in your mouth when you eat them.
Steeping the saffron in vodka helps boost the flavor of the spice throughout the cake.
Cardamom Cream Puffs (Semlor)
Step-by-step instructions on braiding this cardamom-spiced bread, which is eaten with coffee or tea in Finland.
Norwegian Wafer Cookies (Krumkakes)
In Finland, wild summer berries are frozen for use in winter’s mustikkakeitto, a warm, silky blueberry potage packed with vitamin C.
Danish smoked herring, beet, and potato salad is terrific on whole wheat.