Finnish Breakfast: Everything You Need to Know

The typical Finnish breakfast is quick and simple, like the rest of the Finnish cuisine. For breakfast, Finnish people use the ingredients that are part of their Finnish diet–which is usually bread, cheese, ham, vegetables, and grains. No extravagance whatsoever.

Typical finnish breakfast plate with eggs, cucumber and ham
A simple Finnish breakfast. Image credit: Evelina Ander

Typical of the Finnish breakfast is the pace of eating and the social aspect of it. The Finns value their time and prefer to spend their breakfast with friends and family. The most important aspect of breakfast in Finland is the coffee–it’s even more important than breakfast itself!

Now to the question of the hour: what do Finnish people eat for breakfast? Below I have outlined the most popular Finnish breakfast foods, the most common Finnish dishes, and typical Finnish food.

The usual time & place for Finnish breakfast

Most Finns eat their breakfast at home and not at a cafĂ© or on the go. In fact, the express “grab and go” culture, which is common in the rest of the world, is frowned upon in Finland.

As mentioned, Finnish people value the social aspects of eating: they like to eat breakfast with family or friends, they dine together as often as they can, and sometimes they eat just as an excuse to hang out with the people they care about. 

In Finland, people usually start work at 8 or 9 a.m and finish work at 4 or 5 p.m. Thus they eat breakfast rather early, at 7 or 8 a.m. Even though Finnish people cherish their time together, their breakfast is usually a quick and short affair–they eat, talk, and get on with their days.

The commonplace rules for breakfast are, however, broken during the weekends. People usually sleep late, and breakfast is then moved to 9 or 10 a.m. Even the place for eating breakfast can vary–Finns are crazy about nature, and occasionally families have their breakfast outside (if the weather allows it). 

What do Finns usually eat for breakfast?

The traditional Finnish breakfast, like the rest of the Finnish cuisine, is nothing extravagant. In fact, it’s really, really simple. The most common breakfast is simply a sandwich (voileipä). The toppings are those commonly found in the Nordic or Scandinavian cuisine: cheese, ham, cucumber, tomatoes or bell peppers.

The choice of bread varies since Finns absolutely love bread. However, rye bread (ruisleipä) is the most common bread in Finland. Finns also love crisp bread (näkkileipä) and limppu, which is a dark sourdough bread.

Finnish bread
Finnish people love their breads!

Finns who want to eat something else than sandwiches usually opt for porridge (puuro). Finnish people love porridge so much that they sometimes eat it for dinner. Finnish porridge is usually made with oatmeal, rice or semolina, and it is a must to top the porridge with milk and fresh berries or jam.

Cereal with milk and fruits
Typical breakfast cereal with milk.

Adults in Finland do usually stay away from anything sweet in the morning, whereas the children tend to gravitate toward a sweet breakfast. Children like to eat yogurt with muesli or some kind of breakfast cereal. Breakfast cereal does not vary much from the cereal in other countries: Kellogg’s and NestlĂ© are the most common brands in the Finnish households.

Another aspect of breakfast (and the most important one, according to the Finns) is coffee. No matter choice of breakfast–sandwich or porridge–it is a must to have a cup of coffee with it. In fact, if the Finns had to choose between eating breakfast and simply having a cup of coffee, not one would touch the sandwiches or the porridge.

Coffee is the most important part of the breakfast in Finland, and it is always enjoyed and cherished while reading the news or talking with your family or friends.

Stuff you’ll find on the breakfast table:

  • Sandwich toppings: cucumber, tomatoes, bell peppers, pickles, butter, ham, cheese, jam
  • Boiled eggs, yoghurt, muesli, porridge
  • Beverages: orange juice, coffee, milk, tea

The most common types of bread:

  • Rye bread
  • Crisp bread
  • Limppu
  • Uunirieska (a type of flatbread)
  • Homemade bread (Finns love to bake!)

Breakfast beverages in Finland

The most common–and, according to the Finns, the most important breakfast beverage–is coffee. The Finns (unlike the French) prefer to brew a large pot of coffee for the entire household instead of using Nespresso machines or the like.

Filtering coffee
Coffee is integral to the Finnish food culture.

In Finland, coffee is part of a holy ritual, where it is strictly forbidden to be in a rush (even if you happen to be in a rush). Coffee is to be enjoyed and cherished thoroughly and slowly. Many people like to read a newspaper while drinking coffee while others–the younger ones–usually scroll through their social media feeds. Finnish people drink the most coffee in the world per capita, and it is thus a rare sight to see a Finn who does not drink coffee in the morning.

Milk is one of the most important ingredients in the Finnish cuisine (like it is in northern countries in general). Milk is consumed together with porridge and cereal, and most importantly: it’s used in coffee. However, it also serves as a standalone drink, especially among children who don’t yet drink coffee. 

Occasionally, and often during the weekend, Finnish people also drink orange juice at breakfast. Mind well that orange juice is never a substitute for any other drink, it’s just consumed as a nutrient-rich bonus. Furthermore, as you might know, Finland has very long winters, which usually last from November to March. During this period, many Finns like to consume smoothies as well to get all the nutrients they need in order to combat the winter blues.

Popular Finnish breakfast recipes

Rye bread (ruisleipä)

Oh my rye! Rye is the most beloved grain in all of Finland, and most Finns can’t imagine living without it. Finns eat this wonderfully dark and dense bread for breakfast or together with porridge or soups. It goes well with everything. It’s not very difficult to make; it just requires some time and patience, just like every other bread.

Rice porridge (riisipuuro)

Finnish rice porridge
The Finnish rice porridge is creamy and simply yummy.

Rice porridge is the holy grail of porridges: it’s creamy, satisfying, and super delicious. Finns used to eat this porridge at Christmas as a special holiday treat, but nowadays it’s eaten all year round. It’s very simple to make and the topping possibilities are endless, you can top it with berries, jam, milk, sugar or cinnamon.

Karjalan pies (karjalanpiirakkat)

Karjalan pie
A Finnish Karjalan pie. Image credit: Kiiski

These savory pies are almost as old as the Finnish nation itself, and part of the rich Finnish cultural heritage. They’re originally from the region of Karjala in the northern part of Finland. However, today they’re common all over the country. It’s basically just bread and rice, so it’s a simple recipe. 

Finnish hotel breakfast

The traditional Finnish breakfast is not really different from what’s offered at Finnish hotels. While there’s naturally a greater variety of foods served at a hotel than what’s served at home on a weekday morning, the foods remain the same.

Finnish hotel breakfast

A typical Finnish hotel breakfast will most likely consist of the following: bread (rye bread, of course), butter, sandwich toppings such as cucumber, ham, and cheese; rice or oatmeal porridge, fresh berries, jam, cinnamon and sugar; different varieties of milk and cream to put in your coffee, and coffee of course, as well as juice or some kind of smoothie. Finnish hotels usually serve Karjalan pies, too, for the tourists to taste, and they usually serve bacon and eggs, too.

Another type of Finnish breakfast, which is more of a stereotype than something factual, is the Finnish breakfast “blörö” (sometimes spelled “plörö”). Finns are known for their love of alcohol–preferably vodka–and their excessive coffee-drinking. Blörö is a stereotypical breakfast that consists of hot coffee with vodka and a cigarette. This is not served as breakfast in Finland; however, it is a “dish” that could easily be served at a bar or restaurant on a Friday night. The combination of vodka, coffee, and a cigarette is a great start for a night full of adventures!

Basic breakfast vocabulary

  • Aamu – morning
  • Aamiainen – breakfast
  • Syödä aamiaista – to eat breakfast
  • Keitetty muna – boiled egg
  • Leipä – bread
  • Voileipä – sandwich
  • Näkkileipä – crisp bread
  • Paahtoleipä – toast
  • Voi – butter
  • Hillo – jam
  • Juusto – cheese
  • Kinkku – ham
  • Maito – milk
  • Kahvi – coffee
  • Aamiaismurot – cereals
  • Mehu – juice
  • Sokeri – sugar
  • Kurkku – cucumber
  • Tomaatti – tomato
  • Puuro – porridge
  • Jogurtti ja mysli – yoghurt and musli

For most Finns, breakfast is an opportunity to prepare yourself for the day and to spend time with the people you care about. And, of course, it provides you with the one thing you need for a great day: coffee!

Interested to know more about Finnish food? Dive into this list of traditional Finnish dishes and delicious Finnish desserts and pastries.

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