Is Swedish Cooking Bland?

It has been interesting to go onto the Internet and see many people comment on how bland or terrible Swedish food is. I find this very interesting, and I feel like many of these people have never been to Sweden and maybe only eaten Swedish food at IKEA.

Swedes have always embraced foods from other cultures and places. Like most parts of the world, the Swedes used local ingredients to spice up and add flavor to their food. Swedish food is a northern European food, so if you know how to eat it and what to eat, it is rich and full of unique flavors.

My favorite Swedish dishes are Swedish meatballs, potatoes, gravy with lingonberries, Janssonsfrestele, Pannkakor, and Pyttipanna.

Swedish Food Today

Food in Sweden today is not the same as it once was. Even though Sweden has your typical Northern European food today, there is a lot of foods.

With a large immigrant population, you can now find all kinds of restaurants in Sweden. Not only are these restaurants thriving, but they are popular among many of the Swedes.

I have had some great Thai curries, middle eastern food, and other foods in Sweden; my Swedish friends also love all kinds of food from all over the world.

It shows that Sweden today is a very multicultural place for all kinds of cuisines. You can find all kinds of foods not just in the major cities, but also in some smaller cities.

Traditionally Swedes have always been very open to foreign influences in their foods. During the 17th and 18th century they started to eat many French foods; that is why today, you will find a love of everything from sushi to curry.

About Swedish Cuisine

As in most parts of the world, the Swedes traditionally used the foods they could grow and had readily available. Sweden is a long, relatively skinny county. There is some food difference between the north and southern parts of Sweden due to the weather.

So even within Sweden, you will find a lot of differences in what people eat and what they prefer to eat. For example, when I was in High School in Sweden, I lived in Sundsvall. A fish that many people liked there was called Surstromming.

You could always tell if the neighbors were eating ças; the fish could almost smell up an entire neighborhood block. That is because Surstromming is essentially a fermented Herring fish.

But if you ask my mother, who is from Stockholm, to eat it, she will not touch Surstromming and prefers another kind of herring fish. Even within Sweden, the tastes and what people will eat change from location to location.

Another example of this is reindeer meat that is popular in Northern Sweden. I have never had reindeer meat as it is not something my family would ever eat.

As Sweden has a lot of dairy products, you will find a lot of cheese, dairy, and cream in Swedish food. Bread, butter, and cheese are served at most meals. Another staple in Swedish food is potatoes. This is because it was one vegetable that would last through most winters.

Here are some of my favorites Swedish foods and the reasons I do not consider them bland:

Meatballs, Potatoes, Gravy and Lingonberries

The correct way to eat Swedish meatballs is with potatoes (either roasted, boiled, or mashed) with Swedish cream gravy and lingonberries. Anyone who has eaten at any IKEA worldwide knows this is one of IKEA’s main meals always served in their stores.

I love the fact that the Swedish meatballs are always served with lingonberries. A lingonberry jam or sauce is an essential ingredient in many Swedish dishes and is similar to a US cranberry sauce. Lingonberry is used together with meat dishes and also in desserts.

To properly eat the meatballs, you should eat them together with the lingonberries and the gravy sauce. It makes for a fantastic taste between a little bit of sweet with creamy gravy, meat, and potatoes.

Homemade Jansson's temptation
Homemade Jansson’s temptation

Janssonsfrestele -Or Janssons Temptation

Every Christmas, we make a potato casserole of grated potatoes, onions, anchovies, and cream. Many of my sisters do not like this – but I have always enjoyed it because I love anchovies.

I love how the anchovies can give a slightly salted taste together with the potatoes and the cream. I do not consider this bland but find the potatoes full of flavor and very delicious. If you are a fan of anchovies, this is a potato dish that you will enjoy.

Pannkakor Or Swedish Pancakes

The Swedish pancake is similar to a French crêpe, but it is not served the same. I like the American pancake, which is very thick and almost fluffy, but the Swedish pancake is my favorite pancake. It is the opposite of the American pancake as the Swedish pancake is very thin.

The Swedes will usually roll the pancake up and eat it with some lingonberry or fruit and, of course, cream. Besides lingonberry, another popular fruit would be strawberries, blackberries, or blueberries.

The Swedes love to put cream on many things, and one of those is pancakes. Some Swedes may sprinkle powdered sugar or add butter. But in my experience, most Swedes do not want their pancakes to be too sweet as we like in America.

Most of my American nieces and nephews like to pour the American maple syrup on top of the pancake. A real Swede would never put that sweet maple syrup on their pancake; they would see it as way too sweet and unhealthy.

Pyttipanna – Swedish Potato Hash

Pyttipanna translates to “small pieces in the pan,” which is what pyttipanna is; another one of my favorites Swedish foods.

Pyttipanna is best described as a potato hash with fried meat (usually leftover roast beef), onion, boiled potatoes that are all fried up together. We will eat it with a fried egg on top.

Pyttipanna is one of my favorite Swedish meals. We eat it with lingonberry jam and many times red beets on the side.

Ärtsoppa – Pea Soup

Pea soup or ärtsoppa is another Swedish favorite. I love all kinds of pea soup, and the Swedish pea soup is no exception. This soup is traditionally served on Thursday in Sweden and is often eaten together with Swedish pancakes for dessert.

Ärtsoppa or pea soup is a comforting and gratifying soup. This soup is so hearty because it is made from dried yellow peas and uses a meaty ham bone, so there are bits of ham in the soup.

Like most Swedish food, if you want to add flavor, you can always add it. If you feel the soup is a bit too bland, put a spoon of Swedish mustard on top of the soup to add some added flavoring. We love to eat this with the Swedish multigrain knäckebröd or Swedish rye or multigrain bread and cheese.

Swedish food is not bland, especially if you know what food to eat, and it can be exciting and tasty. Try to eat like the Swedes do with the lingonberry on your meatballs, fruit on your pancakes, make the fantastic Swedish Pyttipanna potato hash, or try a yellow pea soup.

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Anita L Hummel

Hi, I live in Hanoi, Vietnam but spend time traveling the region. I love to share with you things I see and learn through my travels.

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Is Swedish Cooking Bland?