Food in Sweden is very diverse and you can find pretty much anything, starting from the American peanut butter, finishing with the Russian kefir. As an Easter European, I almost don’t lack anything that I could buy at home, because it is all here, even more than what we have.
All sorts of dairy products can be found in Sweden and they are really popular. Sweden is the second biggest consumer of dairy after Finland. Milk, cream, and yoghurt are sold everywhere in the world, but the sour dairy, such as sour milk (‘fil’ in Swedish or ‘kefir’ in Russian), sour cream, some types of cottage cheese, and filbunke (non-existent even in Russia) can be a challenge to find in some countries (the US, for example). The only dairy products I miss in Sweden are the chocolate-glazed cottage cheese candies, ‘baked milk,’ and ‘ryazhenka,’ which you can only find in Eastern Europe apparently. However, in Sweden there are more types of cheese products that we don’t have in Eastern Europe. Examples are ‘messmör,’ ‘messost,’ and the Norwegian brown cheese.
Some types of food are sold in tubes in Sweden. Most common ones are the soft cheese and ‘kaviar.’ The kaviar is actually a mix of fish roe with something else and contains both salt and sugar, so the taste is somewhat strange. People usually either like kaviar or not. My favorite type is the one mixed with soft cheese and served on a sandwich with regular cheese and vegetables or on boiled eggs.
There are also different types of bread in Sweden, both wheat and rye. It can also be made of corn and other types of flour. So, the most common problem for an Eastern European to find the ‘real brown bread,’ which means rye bread, will not be a problem in Sweden. Knäckebröd is another thing Sweden is famous for. This is crisp bread, which is flat and dry and can be stored for a long time. It is often used instead of regular bread for snacks and sandwiches. I’ve also seen a few kinds of flat and round bread, similar to the ones from the Middle East, which are used as wraps. In Sweden they are smaller and not necessarily used for wrapping something.
Baked goods and pastry are also quite popular. There are a few traditional items worth mentioning. ‘Lucia cats’ are saffron buns served during the Lucia day, which is celebrated on December 13th (you can check my post about Lucia: https://www.mydalarna.com/lucia-in-sweden/ ). For both Lucia and Christmas people also eat ginger cookies in different shapes. In March, the day before the Lent people eat ‘semla’ or ‘fastlagsbulle,’ which are special buns with marzipan and whipped cream. I’ve tried them recently and they are really good. Another traditional type of pastry is ‘kanelbullar’ or cinnamon rolls.
Among the drinks I would point out glögg and julmust. Both of them are consumed around Christmas time. Glögg is similar to red wine, but it is usually alcohol free and is served hot. It is a traditional Lucia drink. Julmust is the Swedish alternative to coke. I’ve heard Sweden is Coca-Cola’s least favorite country, because everybody buys Julmust instead. Coca-Cola even decided to produce its own Julmust to reach the Swedish consumer.
Generally, I find Swedish food quite similar to Eastern European. Such food items as potatoes, cabbage, beetroots, herring, tomatoes, cucumbers, oatmeal, etc., are also popular in my country. The main difference I’ve noticed is more availability of fish and seafood in Sweden. In Eastern Europe everything is around meat instead. For example, in Sweden salmon is nothing that fancy and people buy it pretty much like any other type of fish (it is just slightly more expensive). Talking about fish, I happened to try the famous ‘Lutfisk’ which I wouldn’t probably recommend. Again, it is like with the kaviar, you either like it or you don’t. Lutfisk is typical for a Christmas menu. It is produced from dried fish, which is soaked in lye to swell to a jelly-like consistency. Most of the protein goes away during this process. When I cooked this fish, it not only fell apart, but also tasted like boiled egg whites with some chemical flavor. It was also quite hard to wash it off the dishes afterwards, as I didn’t do it right after the meal. But you can experiment with it anyway, perhaps you’ll like it 🙂 Another fish product that most people wouldn’t recommend is ‘surströmming’, a type of herring with a very unpleasant smell. I haven’t tried this one yet, but my friend told me it had a smell of dirty socks.
Anyway, if you come to Sweden, you’ll have a range of new things to try, so it won’t be boring at least 🙂 But you will also find whatever food you need, as the variety of products is really high and adjusted to the multiple nationalities living in Sweden nowadays.