Top 20 Most Popular Finnish Foods & Desserts
Finnish cuisine is earthy and comforting. Good local ingredients speak for themselves and spices are not often used. When it comes to everyday cooking, easy and quick dishes are preferred in Finnish homes. The more time-consuming dishes are saved for special occasions, but even these are kept simple.
Finland is the happiest nation in the world and we think it has something to do with the cuisine. Natural and down-to-earth Finnish dishes are becoming more and more well known around the world and for good reason: simple, humble dishes that are flavorful and delicious.
Meats and carbs definitely play a part in Finnish cooking, but most dishes are quite healthy thanks to the local ingredients.
Many ingredients are sourced from the thousands of forests and lakes that Finland is known for. This also means that many of the most popular dishes are seasonal – new season potatoes belong on the early summer table, berries such as lingonberries and blueberries are used a lot at the end of summer, the first rains of autumn signify the beginning of the crayfish season, which makes the local news every year, and that the mushroom season is just around the corner.
During the long winter, a lot of everyday foods include root vegetables such as cabbage, swede, and carrot. Let’s take a look at the 20 most popular Finnish dishes.
1. Salmon Soup
Salmon soup is eaten in Finnish homes year-round. The creamy version of this classic dish in particular is a staple of Finnish cuisine. It’s a simple dish where the quality of the ingredients speaks for themselves.
A good salmon soup needs no more than good salmon, some potatoes and carrots, and a bunch of fresh dill. Pair the soup with a slice of fresh rye bread and you are set. This is Finnish comfort food at its best!
2. Pea Soup
This traditional dish is another staple of Finnish cuisine. Traditionally eaten on Thursdays, this soup is familiar in every Finnish household.
At its simplest, it’s just dried peas cooked into a soup. For a little more flavor, some smoked ham or maybe carrots are added.
One thing is for sure though – pea soup should be topped with a good amount of strong mustard and a slice of Finnish pancake served on the side.
3. Macaroni Casserole
This might be the most common dish in Finnish homes. It is easy to make and kids especially love it. The casserole itself contains macaroni and minced meat and a milk and egg mixture that binds everything together. Top it off with some tomato ketchup and you are set.
This casserole of course opens up opportunities for mixing things up – some people add vegetables to the casserole, some replace the meat with soy protein granules, and some skip the milk and egg mixture altogether. However the dish is prepared, you are guaranteed to find it on every Finnish dinner table.
4. Karelian Pie
Karelian pies are little savory snacks that originated from the Karelia region in Eastern Finland. These days the region belongs to Russia but some of the traditional dishes have remained part of Finnish cuisine to this day.
Karelian pie has a rye pastry crust that is filled with savory rice pudding. It is usually eaten with a mixture made with hard-boiled eggs and butter.
The egg and butter mixture is of course optional, but you might get some questioning looks if you decide to eat your pie without it. Karelian pies are a perfect snack for both everyday life and special occasions – they are even served at weddings and graduation parties.
5. Sautéed Reindeer Stew
Some would argue that this is as Finnish as it gets. Eating reindeer meat might seem crazy, but it’s a very common and traditional dish in Finland. Sautéed reindeer is especially eaten a lot in the northern parts of the country, where reindeers roam freely.
This dish is a must-try if you are ever traveling to Finland. It is usually paired with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam – a combo you cannot go wrong with.
Okay, we might have to give the credit for this dish to our western neighbor. Meatballs, a staple Swedish food, have become a top favorite in Finland too.
The dish was made known worldwide thanks to IKEA, and for good reason. The hype is definitely earned and meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam are without a doubt a Finnish classic.
7. Cabbage Casserole
This traditional Finnish casserole is prepared with ground meat, cabbage, and precooked rice. Traditionally it is served with a side of – yes, you guessed it – lingonberry sauce.
Are we starting to see a pattern here yet? Cabbage casserole is another good example of hearty Finnish comfort food.
8. Karelian Stew
Another traditional dish from the Karelia region. Now, it is not the most popular when it comes to everyday cooking as it takes hours to prepare. It is usually saved for special occasions and family gatherings.
Karelian stew or Karelian hot pot is prepared with a combination of pork and beef, but other meats such as lamb or elk can also be used. The meat is slow-cooked in a pot for a few hours with carrots and onions and served with potatoes.
The stew is a good example of simple Finnish cooking. You have to take your time and be patient with this dish. But it is well worth it. The slow cooking ensures the simple and quality ingredients are packed with flavor.
9. Rice Porridge
Rice porridge is commonly associated with Christmas because it is usually eaten around the holidays. The rich and thick porridge is made with full-fat milk and cooked slowly. You can top your porridge with anything you like, but the Finns like to keep it simple – just a little sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon or some sweet raisin kissel.
There is a fun tradition among the Fınns for eating this dish. A single almond is hidden inside the pot of porridge and whoever finds it on their plate has to sing a song for everyone.
This appetizer is thinly sliced salmon that has been cured with salt, sugar, and dill. It can be served with boiled potatoes, on bread, or just on its own!
Fish in various different forms is a staple part of Finnish cuisine. Salmon, however, might just be the most common.
11. Blueberry Pie
If we had to choose the most Finnish dessert, it would be blueberry pie. This delicious dessert is at its best when made with fresh blueberries. The Finnish forests turn blue during the summer and these berries can be found almost everywhere.
Blueberry pie might be the most popular, but Finns also use other berries, such as lingonberries, in their desserts and other dishes. Blueberry pie is best served warm straight from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
12. Pulled Oats
Finnish cuisine includes a lot of meat. But vegetarian meals are become more popular every day, which calls for a source of good vegetarian protein.
Pulled oats on their own are not really a dish; but they can be used as a meat replacement in a lot of Finnish dishes. Pulled oat bolognese is particularly popular.
This is another dish that we have to give the credit for to Sweden. The Swedish name for it means “small pieces in a pan”, and that is literally what this dish is. Small pieces of potato, onion, and sausage are all fried together in one pan, topped with a fried egg, and served with a side of pickles and beetroot.
This dish is easy and quick to prepare. It is also known as a leftover dish, which is probably why it is so popular with families with kids: you can quickly throw together a tasty meal with the leftovers from yesterday’s dinner.
14. Salty Licorice
Salty licorice, or salmiakki, is an absolute Finnish favorite. It should not be confused with sweet licorice. Salty licorice is flavored with ammonium chloride, giving it a salty taste.
It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the Finns love it! Salmiakki is definitely something you need to try when in Finland. I mean, you really can’t go to Finland and not try salmiakki.
Not only is it eaten on its own, it is used in various different dishes and snacks. You can find licorice-flavored ice cream, chocolate, meat dishes, and even vodka.
15. Fried Vendace
You cannot visit a Finnish market during the summer and not try the delicious fried vendaces. Vendace is a small freshwater whitefish and what it lacks in size, it makes up for in taste.
Vendaces are dipped in a mixture of rye and plain flour and then fried in a generous amount of butter. And that is all you need. Keep it simple – fresh and delicious!
16. Cinnamon Buns
Finns are known to be coffee lovers, consuming more than any other nation! Our afternoon coffee breaks call for a sweet snack, though, and this is where the cinnamon buns come in.
Cinnamon buns are rolled and filled with butter, sugar, and lots of ground cinnamon. The dough is made with a milk base and it has fresh yeast and cardamom. The Finnish name, korvapuusti, translates as “a slap in the ear”. This strange name might come from the bun’s ear-like shape.
Kalakukko is a treat from the Finnish region of Savonia. It is a rye pastry crust filled with fish and then baked – the end result looking like a loaf of bread. Most commonly, kalakukko is filled with vendace.
This dish originated among the working class. Workers needed to bring a full meal with them to work: this bread-looking dish is easy to carry and is a full meal baked into a compact package.
18. Spring Potatoes and Herring
Finns truly come to life when the summer begins. The dark winter is over and the yummy seasonal summer treats are here. Summer is usually kicked off with new spring potatoes.
The little spuds are a guaranteed sign of summer and they are often eaten with freshwater herrings. Summers in Finland are not the longest, and the Finns make full use of all the fresh ingredients available to them during this time – potatoes being the major produce.
19. Bread cheese
Bread cheese is slightly sweet cheese baked in the oven. It squeaks in your mouth, which is why it is often called “squeaky cheese”.
Bread cheese is usually eaten with cloudberry jam. Cloudberries, found around swampy areas in the Finnish forests, are not so easy to come by as the window for finding them is quite short, which is why cloudberries are a bit of a special treat.
20. Rye bread
No listing of Finnish foods is complete without rye bread. This bread is the most popular in Finland, eaten on its own for breakfast or as a snack, but also often as a side dish for lunch or dinner.
The possibilities with creating the perfect rye bread sandwich are endless – you can top it with some gravlax, cheese, ham, different types of spreads, or just simply with some butter.