Finnish Food Culture: 9 Delicious Dishes in Finland

photo of Finnish food by toa heftiba
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Finland is increasingly becoming one of the most popular countries to visit in the Nordics and Europe alike.  Not only does it boast beautiful landscapes and wildlife but it is also consecutively named as the happiest country in the world. Perhaps one reason why Finland earns this title is its food culture.

With a cuisine full of heartwarming dishes, there is plenty of food to choose from in Finland. Like many European cuisines, Finnish food largely consists of the staple ingredients of potatoes, rice, bread, and meat. Due to the vast lakes and surrounding sea, there is also an abundance of fish with salmon being particularly popular amongst the Finns. Many traditional Finnish dishes can’t be found outside of their home country.

We’ve put together our list of the top 9 dishes you have to try if you’re ever spending time in the wonderful Finland…we hope you’re hungry!

Cinnamon Buns

delicious cinnamon bun from finland
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Whilst you might think that cinnamon buns are a Danish staple, they are also a popular snack in Finland where they are referred to as Korvapuusti. This name translates to ‘slapped ear’ and is used to describe the often weird shape in which the pastries are baked. In Finland, it is a common occurrence to enjoy a coffee and pastry with cinnamon buns often the pastry of choice. Korvapuusti’s are spiced with cardamom and recipes can be found on the back of the bags of most flour sold in the supermarket. Cinnamon buns are so popular in Finland that there is even a whole day to celebrate them.

Bread Cheese

Finnish bread cheese
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As suggested by the name, this is a Finnish cheese that when heated shares the texture of a slice of bread. Bread cheese is a semi-soft cheese that in Finland is traditionally made from reindeer milk. It is uncommon to eat bread cheese cold, and instead, it is usually heated in a pan or the oven. In Finland, bread cheese is traditionally paired with some kind of sweet jam or syrup or even a savoury sauce such as tomato marinara. Bread cheese is sometimes even dipped in coffee and can be eaten as a snack at any time of day. Throughout the world, bread cheese is becoming more popular and has a growing presence in America.

Rye Bread

Rye bread from Finland
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In Finland, it is commonplace to enjoy a piece of bread with your food. The most common type is rye bread. This is a darker, sourdough type bread made with rye flour. It is thought to have become popular due to its place in history, with few ingredients available, rye bread was a simple staple dish consisting mostly of rye flour and water. Rye bread in Finland is often referred to as Limppu which closely translates to ‘loaf’. Though often accompanying dishes, rye bread is also enjoyed on its own with tea or coffee. It is thought to be a healthier option than traditional bread and is a popular choice for many Finns at breakfast.

Salmon Soup

Salmon soup- a Finnish delicacy
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Finnish salmon soup is often known as Lohikeitto. It is an incredibly simple recipe consisting of salmon alongside vegetables such as leeks and potatoes, cooked in a creamy stock and served with a generous seasoning of dill. Depending on where you visit in Finland, the chef may use cream or whole milk to achieve the desired flavour. Finland is home to many species of fish, with salmon being one of the most common. Finland leads the way in salmon fishing with the fish readily available throughout the entire country. This makes it an ideal choice for cooking with.

Meatballs

Finnish meatballs served with mash and lingonberry sauce
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Whilst neighbouring Sweden might be thought to be the home of meatballs, they are also a staple dish in Finland. Often, Finnish meatballs are made from a combination of ground beef and pork. This will be mixed with breadcrumbs, cheese, and spices. The main difference between Swedish and Finnish meatballs is the sauce in which they are served. Whilst Swedish meatballs will be served with a brown gravy, Finnish meatballs are served in a creamy type sauce. Both are accompanied by a lingonberry sauce. In Finland, meatballs are usually eaten alongside mashed or new potatoes or even eaten on their own as an appetizer.

Sautéed reindeer

Reindeer steak as prepared in Finland
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This may sound like something a little outside of your normal comfort zone, but sautéed reindeer meat is actually the national dish of Finland. Whilst popular in Finland, it is also commonly found across the Nordics. The reindeer meat is often thinly sliced and cooked in butter and onions. It is then served with mash, lingonberry sauce, and pickled vegetables. Reindeer meat is believed to have numerous health benefits with low-fat content and high levels of vitamin B. It is also thought to be a sustainable choice in Finland given the abundance of free-roaming reindeer who live off the land.

Karelian Pasties

Traditional Finnish pasties
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These savory pastries are a staple across Finland, originating from the region of Karelia, bordering Russia. Like rye bread, the Karelian pasties became an ideal recipe for using minimal ingredients. It was also convenient in being nonperishable and therefore easy to transport when needed. Now they are enjoyed across Finland and can be picked up conveniently from most bakeries and shops. The recipe will vary depending on your whereabouts in Finland but the pastry is often made from a combination of rye and wheat flour. The filling has evolved throughout the years starting as a mixture of barley and oats. Now Karelian pasties are often filled with mashed potato, rice, and vegetables. Traditionally the pasties are brushed with butter before cooking.

Lihapiirakka (meat donut)

An image of Finland's savoury meat donut
Jonathan Borba via Unsplash

Lihapiirakka is another pastry/ on the go type snack commonly eaten across Finland. The name translates to ‘meat pie’. Rather than traditional pastry, however, these pies are made from donut dough. This dough is filled with a combination of minced meat and rice. Many also like to add onions or even boiled eggs. The donut is then deep fried till golden brown. When cooking these at home, it is common to prepare a large batch in order to feed your family over the coming days. In Finland, these meat donuts are available at most supermarkets, bakeries and can even be purchased from street food carts. Best enjoyed warm, the Lihapiirakka is often heated up in the microwave.

What is traditional food in Finland?

Food in Finland largely surrounds the common ingredients of meat, fish, potatoes, bread, and vegetables. Many dishes are made of the simplest and most available ingredients.  Rye flour is a common ingredient in most produce. In Finland, there is a great concern for sustainability as well as a great deal of land and greenery. A lot of ingredients such as vegetables and meat are therefore locally sourced.

What is Finland’s most popular food?

Finland is home to many traditional dishes that can be traced back to history. Out of all the delicious dishes present in their food culture, the most popular food is likely the humble rye bread. Not only is rye bread so commonly available across Finland, but it is also a common accompaniment to most mealtimes. It is often even eaten on its own as a snack. Wherever you choose to dine in Finland you will often be greeted with a hearty slice of rye bread.

What is a traditional breakfast in Finland?

In Finland, it is uncommon to enjoy something sweet for breakfast. Finns will most likely eat something quick and convenient like rye bread with toppings or a traditional Karelian pasty. Porridge is also a popular choice with toppings ranging from berries to cottage cheese. Finland is the biggest coffee-consuming country in the world and any breakfast dish will therefore be accompanied by a cup of the good stuff!

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