Swedish food customs

I finally have a few project meetings set up for this week, so I’m excited for that. Tomorrow morning, I’m even going to a lecture at the University of Technology here! But in the meantime I thought it might be fun to talk about some Swedish food customs that I have noticed while being here.

First is the tradition of “fika,” something that I read about before arriving in Sweden. It means to have coffee as a break, often with some sweet on the side. As I am not employed in Sweden or going to school here, I haven’t experienced a daily fika ritual. However, everyone I meet talks about it and practices “fika breaks” to some degree, and I have been invited to have coffee a few times, sometimes with a sweet and sometimes not. One common fika accompaniment is the kanelbulle, the cinnamon roll, apparently invented by Sweden.

Most kanelbullar (plural for cinnamon rolls) are not as big as your face – this is at a very special bakery in the Haga district of Göteborg!

Next – you will probably not read about this one – I have learned what constitutes a typical Swedish breakfast! Most Swedes I’ve met have the same breakfast every weekday: simple toast with butter and sliced cheese (usually a mild white cheese, sold in huge wedges at the supermarket). Even the word for breakfast, “frukost,” has the word cheese in it: “ost.” It’s quick, easy, and yummy, and yet no one in the US puts cheese on their morning toast. I suppose we’re all about the sweet jam back home.

Sometimes, instead of regular bread, Swedes will use crispbread called “knacklebrot.” Most grocery stores have an aisle dedicated to different knacklebrot varieties. (Apologies for the internet stock photo – I didn’t think to photograph this myself!).

My favorite of the Swedish food traditions I’ve learned about is lösgodis, or lördag godis, “Saturday candy.” I have read about this custom, seen it in practice, and partaken in it myself! Every weekend, Swedish kids can go to a candy shop to fill a plastic or paper bag with their favorites from the assorted bulk candy. These pick-and-mix sweets, called “lösgodis” (literally ‘loose candy’), are hugely popular in Sweden.

This is one of three rows of candies in one dedicated lösgodis store.

There are entire shops dedicated to lösgodis, lined wall-to-wall with plastic bins of licorice, chocolates, individually wrapped truffles, gummy candies, and more. Most supermarkets have a lösgodis aisle. Even corner bodegas and some stores having nothing to do with food have a small selection of lösgodis! Of course, not everyone limits their consumption to Saturdays, but it is certainly considered a treat to get this weekend candy – no matter what age you are.

Lisa and I got lösgodis over the weekend, and I chose mostly the chocolate varieties. She had more sour gummies and salty (yes, very salty) licorice pieces.


Another indulgence I’ve noticed in Sweden, and finally tried with Lisa last weekend, is kebab pizza. The ultimate student (or hangover) food, it is a pizza topped with sliced kebab meat, tomatoes, kebab sauce, and lettuce, a mash-up of two very satisfying foods. There are a bunch of food shops in Sweden that advertise both kebab and pizza, an offering that makes sense when you enter and realize that you can get the two-in-one combo. Also, the kebab pizza came with a side dish of what Lisa called “pizza salad!” It was similar to cole slaw, and we added it to the pizza as another topping. Apparently every pizza in Sweden comes with this pizza salad, which I find hilarious. (A simple Google search for “Swedish pizza salad” reveals that I am not the only foreigner to discover this mystery).

Here is the kebab pizza, which does have meat and sauce under all those toppings, though not much pizza cheese. It was good, but I don’t think this would work in NYC, where we are all about the plain slice!

Otherwise, the grocery stores are pretty standard, with mostly the same items you can find in the US. Overall the food is pretty similar compared to home. So no, Swedish people do not eat meatballs with jam every day.


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