An Introduction to Traditional Finnish Foods and Ingredients

What is Finnish food? is the question we get all the time. If you ask our neighbors Sweden or Russia about what Finns, then majority of them will say, Finns eat potatoes. However, Finnish food is so much more than just potatoes.

In fact, Finnish food is simple and fresh, mostly local and organic. 

Traditions mean a lot for Finnish food culture. They still follow recipes dating back to hundreds of years. The food is not spicy, but very tasty. Nature has been  the most important source. Finns love nature’s ingredients, like fish (salmon and herring), meat (moose and reindeer) , berries and mushrooms.

  See also, Survival Kit For Vegetarians In Finland

Today, normal Finnish dining table is very international and it enjoys new flavors.

Traditional Finnish foods

Let’s start from the basics.

Homegrown Finnish potatoes

Courtesy of Gordon Joly

Potatoes: Potato is a basic ingredient in Finnish kitchen. Finnish people have used potato for a long time and it is often the main ingredient used in many ways such as smashed, boiled and mixed as ingredient in soups.

Unfortunately, most people (especially in Central Europe and America) eat potatoes in the form of greasy French fries or potato chips that are typically loaded down with fats. Such treatment is dangerous and a potential contributor to a heart attack.

  See also, Grocery Shopping On A Budget In Finland

Finnish style of cooking potatoes is healthy. It has low-calorie, high fiber food that offers significant protection against cardiovascular disease and cancer. Finish food ranking system qualifies potatoes as a good source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, copper, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber.

Soups: Finnish people love eating soups. Finnish soups help restore the necessary water balance, which in turn helps keep blood pressure (and salt content) under control.

There are many different types of soups such as pea soup and fish soup. All Finnish soups include a lot of root vegetables, like potato and carrot. Sometimes, Finns even include berries in soup.

Finnish Rye bread

Courtesy of Alpha.

Sausage: Summer is the barbecue season in Finland. From early spring to late autumn almost every Finn cooks barbecue food.  The most cooked barbecue food in Finland is sausage. It is easy to cook in many ways.

Rye bread: Rye bread is a dark bread and it has much more taste than normal white bread has. It is the most popular bread in Finland.  You can find rye bread at nearly every meal and rye crisps are a popular snack.

When you have your rye bread with a generous pat of butter on top, nothing beats that taste!

Mämmi: Finns’ favorite dessert is mämmi cooked during the Easter. Mämmi is a traditional Finnish dessert. Its main ingredients include rye flour, water and malt. Preparation takes many hours, and after baking the mämmi is stored chilled for three to four days before being ready to eat. Mämmi is a cold dessert and eaten with milk, cream or sugar and less commonly with vanilla sauce.

There is even a Finnish society for mämmi which claims that there are around fifty recipes containing mämmi.

Porridge: Porridge is a typical Finnish food. Traditionally Finns start their morning with eating some porridge. There are many types of porridge and most popular types are rice pudding and oatmeal.

What do Finnish people eat on special occasions? 

On special occasions like Christmas, normal Finnish dining table is full of many dishes. Hardly anyone could leave with empty stomach  from a Finnish Christmas table.

Finnish Christmas Table

Courtesy of Jonas Forth.

  See also, What to Expect: Celebrating Christmas in Helsinki

Finnish Christmas meal includes a number of dishes. The most typical dishes are ham, different types of fish, Karelian stew and many casseroles.

  See also, 7 Sparkling Finnish Christmas Gifts to Send to Friends Back Home

Many Finns prepare their Christmas eave food (Christmas ham) a day or two days earlier, because it takes several hours to ripen in oven.  Also other typical Finnish Christmas dishes are cooked in oven. For example, casseroles are made in oven and they look a bit like smashed  potatoes.

Finnish delicacies

Berries and mushrooms are annual delicacies in Finland.  In autumn you can go to any forest and collect berries (blueberries, lingonberries and cloudberries) and mushrooms without paying a dime.

Salmiakki Finnish

Courtesy of Marijn de Vries Hoogerwerff.

Especially in mid-August, Finns call it “picking session” where there is a collective effort shepherded by your Finnish relatives (if you are married to a Finn) and they will take to the forests in rubber boots to harvest the delicacies of the forest. Roughly 200 of Finland’s 2,000 varieties of mushrooms are edible. Most people pick and eat around 10 main varieties, because they’re relatively easy to find and to identify.

Salmiakki is a sweet, which resembles liquorice. Salmiakki is flavored with salt. In Finnish, the candies are usually called Salmiakki, although this can also refer to other products containing ammonium chloride. In Finland, Salmiakki was once a trade name of Fazer but quickly became a generalized trademark like nylon.

Finally, Fazerin sininen is a traditional Finnish bar of chocolate. It is sweet milk chocolate. It is hard to find a Finn who does not like it.

  See also, Top 7 Words You Didn’t Know Came From Finland

If you want to dig deeper, then we definitely recommend you to check out Beatrice’s Finnish Cookbook.

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