From traditional dishes to modern creations, one of the best things about traveling is tasting local dishes to fully immerse in a country and its culture. With everything going on in the world, travel is something most of us are putting on hold – but that doesn’t mean we can’t take a little virtual trip through food.
In this article we will be visiting the Nordic countries Denmark, Sweden, and Norway to learn about authentic Scandinavian dishes which you easily can cook at home. So, keep reading and join me on this culinary trip across Scandinavia and discover some great recipes:
1. Norwegian Fish Cakes with Dill Mayonnaise (Fiskekaker)
When most people hear the words ‘Scandinavian food’, they think about fish. The Nordic region has a huge shoreline as well as many lakes, so the supply of fresh seafood is great – hence our love of it. For me, one of the dishes I miss from Norway is fishcakes (‘fiskekaker’), a hugely popular meal amongst both kids and grown-ups. I have never found anything similar in other countries but recently found this recipe from famous Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson which I have saved and lan on trying. Nilsson has a book out called the Nordic Cook Book where he tracked down recipes from hundreds of Nordic home kitchens – including his grandmother’s which I also recommend checking out.
Tip: serve them with boiled potatoes and raw grated carrots for an authentic and hearty Norwegian meal.
2. Classic Swedish Meatballs (Köttbullar)
Meatballs can be found in different variations in the different Scandinavian countries, but it is the Swedish version which is the best-known around the world. Much of this is probably thanks to IKEA, but they are of ofcourse the best when they re homemade. Swedish meatballs, or köttbullar, are a staple in most Swedish homes and is served with potato purée or boiled potatoes and a lingonberry jam.
Tip: Adding bread or rusk crumbs allowed to swell in milk to the meatballs will give them their special soft consistency.
3. Danish Open-faced Sandwich (Smørrebrød) on Rye Bread
If you have traveled to Scandinavia – there is a big chance you have come across the popular smørrebrød. It is a traditional open-faced sandwich that usually consists of a piece of buttered bread topped with a variety of spreads and garnishes. Open-faced sandwiches require a sturdy, wholesome bread base like the classic rye bread to hold its toppings such as smoked salmon, pickled herrings, prawns with egg, sliced cheese and ham… The options are endless when you create your own smørrebrød.
Tip: This bread stays fresh for days since it contains so much water, but if you wish to freeze it that works great too.
4. Norwegian lamb stew (Fårikål)
Fårikål is one of Norway’s favourite dishes, many actually refer to it as the Norwegian national dish. It is a simple dish to make: it consists of pieces of lamb layered in a pot with pieces of green cabbage and peppercorns served with boiled potatoes. The dish became a classic in Norway during the 20th century. In fact, Fårikål is so important in Norway that it has its own national day which is the last Thursday in September. So if you want to have a taste of Norway – this is a great way to do so.
Tip: You can use the leg or shoulder meat from the lamb in this dish, but the shoulder has more fat which gives it more flavour.
5. Danish Breaded Pork Patties (Krebinetter)
This Danish specialty consists of thick meat patties which are typically made with minced pork or a combination of minced pork and veal. The meat patties are dipped in eggs, coated with seasoned breadcrumbs, and pan-fried until nicely coloured and crispy on the outside. Depending on where in Denmark you are they can be referred to as Krebinetter or Karbonader and are served with oven roasted potatoes and boiled carrots and peas covered in a parsley cream sauce.
Tip: you get the best result if you bread the pork patties twice.
6. Norwegian Fish Soup (Fiskesuppe)
On a cold winters day like today, one of the things I really crave is the creamy Norwegian fish soup – the perfect way to warm up! Not only does it taste delicious, it is also healthy and easy to make. The main ingredients of the fiskesuppe is fresh fish and root vegetables. You can add any seafood you like in this soup such as cod, salmon, shrimp or mussels. There are many ways to prepare it but the seafood is always the star.
Tip: the mix of seafood is flexible; use whatever is fresh and available – but a good quality fish stock is also a must.
7. Swedish Pickled Herring (Inlagd Sill)
Pickled herring often features on a Swedish smörgåsbord, but can also be served alone. Pickled herring does not take long to make, but you will need to wait for a couple of days before you can enjoy it. There are numerous variations of the recipe depending on the region and preferences. How do you eat the herring? The simplest way is to put a couple of slices on a piece of crispbread (knäckebröd). Another common way is to eat it for lunch with boiled potatoes and maybe a sliced boiled egg.
Tip: when it comes to handling pickled food it is important to sterilize the jars before storing it.
8. Danish Pork Roast (Flæskesteg)
The Danish pork roast is one of the most traditional Danish dishes that you can make. The secret is in keeping the skin on the pork roast which gives the most perfect and delicious cracklings. Flæskesteg can be served all year around and especially if you are having a Nordic Christmas feast.
Tip: ask your local butcher to leave the skin on the pork – you need it for the crackling.
9. Norwegian Fish Casserole (Fiskegrateng)
Fiskegrateng is to me the very definition of comfort food. This is a beloved and popular dish throughout Norway and it is a great way to use up leftover fish. The premise of this fish casserole is white fish, a béchamel sauce, macaroni and a topping of breadcrumbs. It is a dish that gives you that cozy feeling with every bite, some say it is a bit similar to mac & cheese if that helps to get you curious.
Tip: this meal is a great way for kids or anyone who are not a big seafood fan to enjoy it without noticing :)
10. Cinnamon buns
Last but not least I couldn’t leave out the most loved baked treat we have in Scandinavia: the cinnamon bun or kanelbolle as we say in Norway. This is a typical Nordic treat and something many of us associate with hygge and fika. Not only do they taste delicious, but the smell of cinnamon buns fresh from the oven makes your home feel so cozy and homely.
Tip: A great advice is to bake a lot of these and freeze them, then you have them ready at hand when you want a treat.
This is just a few of many more recipes available from the rich Scandinavian culinary world. If you would like me to share more, let me know!