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Sweden’s Culinary Treats Posted by on May 8, 2010 in Culture

Husmanskost is the Swedish word for traditional Swedish food.  Many of the traditional meals that are included in the husmanskost category include potatoes and fish or some other form of meat.

While some dishes or foods are more common than others, some are more famous than others. For better or worse.  For example, there’s the fermented herring known as surströmming which should never be opened indoors.  Or even consumed for that matter.  Yet every year, some brave soul cracks open a tin of surströmming and takes that first bite.

Of course, nearly everyone has heard of Swedish meatballs which, contrary to popular belief, are not made with grape jelly. At least not in Sweden.  Instead, they are made with ground meat, bread crumbs, and usually onions.

There’s pytt i panna, which is essentially a collection of left overs thrown in a pan and fried. The main ingredient being diced potatoes with some onions and chopped meat thrown in for good measure.  Traditionally, pytt i panna is served with red beets and a fried egg.

Some people might find the Swedish habit of putting ketchup on nearly everything just as strange as eating fermented fish.  A classic dish, and one that every student has probably lived on at the end of the month, is spaghetti with ketchup.  It’s delicious, and when it comes down to it, just another form of tomato sauce.  It’s even been reported that Swedes are the world’s number one consumer per capita of ketchup.  An impressive feat really.

I have eaten my fair share of spaghetti with ketchup (and pytt i panna with ketchup for that matter), but it’s the pea soup and pancakes traditionally served on Thursdays that I prefer.  In restaurants throughout Sweden on Thursdays, dagens lunch offers pea soup and pancakes.  The pea soup includes bits of ham and is usually served with a dollop of mustard.  The pancakes are the traditional thin Swedish pancakes and are usually served with sylt and grädde.  Why pea soup and pancakes have become synonymous with Thursdays is sometimes debated.  Some say it started with the military.  Others that it was the because of the Church and people wanted to get that last bit of meat before Friday. Whatever the reason, it is delicious.

While definitely not considered husmanskost, Swedish cuisine can also be found in tubes.  A wide array of pålägg can be found in tubes in nearly every grocery store.  Everything from caviar, to mayonnaise, to ham flavored soft cheese.  Squeeze some of your favorite condiment on knäckebröd and you’ll have yourself a classic Swedish snack.

What is your favorite Swedish food?

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About the Author: Marcus Cederström

Marcus Cederström has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2009. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Oregon, a Master's Degree in Scandinavian Studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a PhD in Scandinavian Studies and Folklore from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He has taught Swedish for several years and still spells things wrong. So, if you see something, say something.


  1. Christina Pearce:

    Whenever I stay with my folks in Sweden, I always ask first for korv med lingonsylt! My Mum makes homemade jam after picking the berries herself. I also love the variety of bread on offer in the supermarket.

    The best thing for me food wise, and socially, is having fika…real coffee (!) ideally served with kanelbullar! Now that I am back home in the dull and rainy UK, I may well try some Swedish cake recipes from my new “Sju Sorters Kakor” bok! Traditionally the host would provide 7 sorts of cake/biscuits to their guests … Does anyone know the origins of why it had to be 7 in particular?

    Ha det så bra!

  2. Paloma:

    Kanelbullar, for sure! And then, most of the cookies are great -peppakakor, bondkakor…-! mmmmmmmmmmmm!

    And well, something salty, too: Janssons frestelse.

  3. Luke (Sydney):

    I like blue cheese and chinese fermented tofu (aka stink tofu!), so I might just like surströmming as well.

  4. Blilitis:


  5. Marcus Cederström:

    @Christina – sounds pretty good, I actually don’t know where the seven comes from.

    @Paloma – pepparkakor are pretty delicious

    @Luke – it could be right up your alley

    @Blilitis – I dont think youre alone with that choice

  6. Minty:

    You forgot my favourites! I make them all the time- korv stroganoff ( a little different to beef stroganoff) and korv-pasta bake. I dont know what that one is called, but i sure do love it!

    OH and for sweet stuff, you can’t go past negro balls. Sorry I don’t know the politically correct name 😛

  7. Margaret Aston:

    Two of my favourite dishes that my Swedish husband makes for me is Kol pudding and Lax pudding, we have made them for friends in Scotland and they have taken receipes away with them. Absolutely fab

  8. Marcus Cederström:

    @minty – the chocolate balls are quite delicious.

    @margaret – also good picks!

  9. Judy:

    I don’t think I’ve seen a blog post about husmanskost in a while. Maybe a topic about how other countries’ foods have invaded Sweden would be interesting. I just found this article while deleting old emails and thought readers of Swedish Blog might be interested. http://newyork.grubstreet.com/2013/02/brooklyn-influence-brewery-in-sweden.html?mid=grubstreet–20130213

  10. Marcus Cederström:

    great article, thanks!