Finnish food is simply amazing. The country has a great and vast landscape that provides the population with tons of fresh berries and vegetables, and most of the Finns live in rural towns where farming is common. A large portion of Finland borders the Gulf of Bothnia and the Baltic Sea, which provides the Finns with a large variety of fish. Finns value high-quality products and don’t care for flash or extravagance, and this is clearly visible in Finnish cuisine.
Tourists who visit Finland immediately notice the quality of Finnish food and the care that goes into making it. Even though Finland is a country that likes to hold on to traditions, Finnish cuisine has nonetheless transformed in recent years. Traditional Finnish food has merged with haute cuisine and modern continental style cooking, which has created an exciting new Finnish food culture. Finland is a must for those who enjoy quality food with a modern yet authentic touch.
Bread – the ultimate Finnish food
1. Finnish Rye Bread
Finns love bread so much that they eat it with most meals. Finnish rye bread is the most common bread, and it’s dark, sour, and dense. There are different varieties of rye bread, such as limppu or reikäleipä. Limppu is like a heavy and dense loaf, whereas reikäleipä is usually round, dense and relatively thin.
2. Finnish Rieska Bread
The Rieska bread is a traditional Finnish flatbread. Finns often make this bread with oat, rye, barley or potato, and they serve it warm. Finns prefer to eat them with toppings, such as cured salmon and dill.
3. Finnish crispbread (näkkileipä)
I assure you that there is at least one box of crispbread in every house in Finland. People love crispbread, which is the Finnish equivalent of Swedish knäckebröd. Finns love to eat crispbread with butter, cheese, ham, or salmon on top.
Typical Finnish breakfast foods
4. Coffee (kahvia)
Finnish people drink the most coffee per capita in the world, and coffee in the morning is the most important cup of the day. Those who don’t drink coffee usually just drink a glass of milk instead.
5. Finnish Porridge
Finnish porridge is very tasty, and usually topped with fresh or preserved berries or jam, depending on the season. Finns like to pour some milk over the porridge as well, and often Finns eat rye bread with the porridge.
6. Bread, bread, bread
Finnish people really, truly love bread. It’s very common in Finland that you just simply eat bread with whatever toppings you can find: ham, cheese, cooked eggs, or even leftover meat!
Warm Finnish food & popular Finnish dishes
7. Finnish meatballs
Most Finns are proud carnivores, and meat (and fish) have an important place in Finnish food culture. Meatballs are simple to make and delicious, and Finns consider meatballs as an “everyday meal”. Meatballs consist of ground beef, flour, and sometimes eggs. Finns usually eat meatballs together with a thick, brown sauce, mashed potatoes, and lingonberry jam.
8. The very, very strange Finnish food “Kalakukko”
Kalakukko is one of the most authentic Finnish dishes, but nowadays the dish is more common in the Eastern parts of Finland. This dish consists of rye bread that has been baked with fish and bacon in it.
9. Sautéed reindeer (poronkäristys)
Sautéed reindeer is the national dish of Finland–and it’s delicious! This dish comes from Arctic Lapland where the Saame people live. To properly make this dish, you slice the reindeer meat and sautée it in butter, sometimes with onions, and then you let the meat simmer in beer until it’s incredibly tender. Sautéed reindeer is often served with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam.
10. Spring potatoes (uudet perunat)
Spring is a holy season for Finns all across the country. After a long and dark winter, there is nothing better than seeing the snow melt off of the roof. Spring is also the season of spring potatoes, and most Finns eat spring potatoes all spring and all summer. Spring potatoes are smaller and denser than regular potatoes, and they’re also sweeter. Finns like to eat spring potatoes with pickled herring (or some other fish), cooked eggs, dill, and butter.
11. Finnish salmon soup (lohikeitto)
Finnish salmon soup is simply delicious and a great meal for a cold winter day! Since Finns tend to use simple, quality ingredients, this is a quick meal that anyone can throw together. All you need to make this is salmon, potatoes, dill, some carrots (or whatever vegetables you have), butter and heavy cream. And, of course, it’s common to eat this awesome soup with bread.
12. Finnish pea soup (hernekeitto)
Pea soup is perhaps the most popular soup in Finland, and for some strange reason it has become a tradition across the entire country to eat pea soup on Thursdays. Finnish pea soup is made with split peas, bacon, onion, and sometimes cream, and it’s an absolute must to top the soup with hot mustard! Often, Finnish people eat pancakes after as dessert.
13. Finnish sausage sauce (nakkikastike)
This is another hearty and satisfying dish for those cold winter days. This sauce is made with small sausages, called “nakki” in Finnish, which resembles hot dogs. To make nakkikastike, you simply slice the sausage and sautée it together with butter, heavy cream, onions, and tomato paste. It’s usually eaten with mashed potatoes and crispbread.
14. Finnish potato casserole (imelletty perunalaatikko)
This dish takes a long time to make, but it’s really good. Perunalaatikko consists of mashed potatoes and wheat flour that has been left in a warm place, which gives sweetness to it. It’s then baked until it’s golden-brown and crispy on the outside.
15. Sailor’s stew (merimiespata)
This dish is full of flavors and is incredibly satisfying–perfect for hungry sailors! Sailor’s stew is easy to make, you simply cook beef, potatoes, and onions in beer (often in the oven), and serve it with lingonberry jam and bread.
16. Maksalaatikko, the Finns’ favorite Finnish food
This is the Holy Grail in Finnish cuisine (and my personal favorite Finnish food). It’s a rich and tasty liver casserole. Finnish people love it so much that this is one of those few dishes that can actually be bought in stores throughout the country.
Maksalaatikko is a type of casserole that is comprised of rice, ground liver, onions, eggs, and sometimes bacon and raisins, and is baked in the oven. It’s hearty and salty and Finns love to eat it together with lingonberry jam.
17. Karelian pastry (Karjalanpiirakka)
This is the one and only Finnish pastry that you need to know of. This is a traditional Finnish food that consists of rice filling in a rye crust. Finnish people eat karjalanpiirakka while still warm, so that the butter melts on top.
18. Finnish pancakes (pannukakku)
Finns love pancakes–in fact, they eat pancakes every Thursday, after they have finished their pea soup. These types of pancakes are made in the oven, and they’re usually much thicker than regular pancakes.
What do Finns top their pancakes with? Whipped cream, and any type of jam; it can be strawberry jam, blueberry jam, raspberry jam, either store-bought or homemade.
19. Finnish blueberry pie
This pie is a clear favorite! Many Finns go out in nature in the fall and pick as much blueberries as they possibly can, and during the following winter and spring, they make blueberry pies, often on the weekends. Finns usually top this off with store-bought vanilla cream or vanilla ice cream.
20. Finnish pulla bread
Finnish pulla is a sweet, buttery cardamom bread that tastes like heaven and smells like Christmas. It’s glazed with eggs, butter, and sugar, and it’s often braided. This is the perfect light dessert to go with a cup of tea or coffee, either in the morning or in the afternoon.
21. Finnish squeaky cheese (leipäjuusto)
This strange Finnish coffee bread is strangely good. And yes, it literally squeaks when you eat it–hence the name. It’s traditionally made with cow’s milk that is curdled and baked, which gives it its distinctive brown marks, and it’s a must to eat it with cloudberry jam.
22. Finnish rye porridge (the Finnish food you might want to avoid)
This is a traditional Finnish dessert that tourists should be wary of. The case of mämmi is similar to that of licorice: if you haven’t grown up eating it, you probably won’t like it.
Mämmi is made with rye flour, rye malt, and water, and it’s seasoned with molasses syrup, which gives it an incredibly thick texture. Mämmi is traditionally eaten around easter, but it’s never eaten just as it is. Finns often pour plenty of sugar on it, together with some heavy cream. However, even those who absolutely love this dark dessert can’t eat much of it since it’s very filling.
23. Runeberg cake (Runebergintorttu)
This funny-looking dessert got its name from a famous Finnish poet, Johan Ludvig Runeberg. The Runeberg cake has the shape of a cylinder, and tastes of almond, ginger, and cardamom, and Finns often top the cake with plain white icing and raspberry jam. However, Finnish people only eat this dessert in January and February since Runeberg’s birthday is on 5th of February.
24. Laskiaispulla (or semla in Swedish)
This delicious, cream-filled pastry is so good, and the Swedes know it, too. Laskiaispulla is the exact same as the Swedish semla. It’s really very simple to make laskiaispulla: bake a bun, slice it in half, and fill it with strawberry jam and whipped cream. The laskiaispulla is often a cause of argument since some people argue that the filling should be creamy almond paste instead of strawberry jam. I am Finnish, and I’m on team strawberry jam.