Swedish Christmas Food

Swedish Christmas food: 13 must-try Swedish Christmas recipes

How much do you know about Swedish Christmas food? Happy, laid-back, and brimming with holiday celebrations, Sweden is a great place to visit if you’re looking for fun and festivity. 

However, it’s worth noting the Swedes do Christmas a little differently to the rest of the world. 

For Sweden, Christmas really starts on the night before the big day, when families come together to share delicious treats around a Julbord (similar to a smorgasbord). The Christmas Eve feast is perhaps the most anticipated meal of the year, with several courses to look forward to. 

It’s no wonder the Swedes generally just eat leftovers on Christmas day, with 5 or 6 courses to get through the night before.

If you’re keen to add a little Swedish magic to your holiday season, stocking up on Swedish Christmas foods could be the best way to do it. 

Today, we’re going to walk you through some of the best dishes on the Julbord, and why they deserve a place at your holiday table.

Swedish Christmas foods: The Julbord

While there are many different kinds of Swedish Christmas dinner to explore, depending on your tastes, the most common is the Julbord. 

The Julbord is the “Christmas table,” and it’s similar to the standard smorgasbord, though it does feature a number of dishes available only for the festive period.

The Julbord isn’t just something Swedish families make on Christmas Eve; it’s also a meal you’ll find offered by a range of restaurants throughout Sweden, particularly through the first weeks of December. 

The Swedish Christmas recipes you’ll find on a Julbord are usually the same as the dishes Swedish families will eat at home. 

Traditionally, everyone gets involved with the creation of Swedish Julbord. There are dozens of different dishes often served together on Christmas Eve, so it makes sense to have more than one chef contributing. 

Three or four generations come together to deliver their part of the meal and enjoy the board with the rest of their family. 

13 Swedish Christmas dishes to try

Notably, traditional Swedish Christmas food rarely features many vegetables, though some families are experimenting with vegetarian alternatives to common recipes. A standard spread will be packed full of meats, fatty foods, and sweets — so be prepared for the subsequent food coma.

Swedish Christmas Food

1. Pickled herring (sill)

It wouldn’t be a Swedish smorgasbord without picked herring. Herring is a common food among all Swedish buffets, but it’s particularly popular around Christmas. There are a lot of ways to flavour this “Sill”, including using garlic, herbs, and spices. 

If you’re a big fan of fish, we’d definitely recommend adding some pickled herring to your menu. 

Swedish Christmas Food

2. Christmas ham (Julskinka)

Just as some parts of the world of the Christmas turkey, the Swedish Christmas tradition is to bake a Christmas ham. This huge chunk of meat takes pride of place on any Julbord. 

If you’re lucky enough to visit Sweden around Christmas, you’ll be able to try a range of different kinds of hams at the restaurants throughout the country. Everyone seems to have their own way of cooking it.

Swedish Christmas hams start to appear in shops around a week or so before Christmas. The key to success when cooking the ham is making it as juicy and flavorful as possible. 

Swedish Christmas Food

3. Sausages (prinskorv)

Herring isn’t the only popular food in Sweden — the Swedes are also huge fans of sausages. If you’re looking for traditional Swedish Christmas food, it doesn’t get much better than Prinskorv — small fried sausages drowning in butter and served with spicy mustard. 

While this Swedish Christmas food is particularly popular among kids, adults will still fight over the last sausage.

Swedish Christmas Food

4. Meatballs (kottbullar)

Yes, the Swedes still eat meatballs during the holiday seasons. Swedish meatballs are some of the best in the world, and they commonly make an appearance during the holidays. Most Swedish families have their own secret recipe for meatballs, using a mixture of ground veal, beef, and pork. 

It’s very rare to find anyone serving store-bought meatballs on Christmas Eve.

Swedish Christmas Food

5. Pork ribs (revbensspjäll)

Another popular meat dish on the Swedish Julbord, pork ribs, or Revbensspjäll will usually be boiled for a long time before serving, with several herbs and spices. After boiling, the Swedes place the ribs in the oven for baking, covered in even more spices. 

The key to a great dish is making sure you have plenty of sturdy rye bread to dip in the sauce and make sandwiches. 

Swedish Christmas Food

6. Salmon (gravadlax)

Salmon is another top choice among Swedish Christmas foods. The Swedes cure their salmon with a mixture of sugar, salt, and dill, then serve slices of the fish cold. The best way to eat gravadlax is in very thin slices, ready to melt on the tongue. 

Most families will also make their own dill and mustard sauce to brighten up the flavors of the fish. 

Swedish Christmas Food

7. Potatoes (Janssons frestelse)

Most families have a potato dish as part of the Christmas spread, but few do it quite like the Swedes. When it comes to Swedish Christmas food recipes, the Janssons frestelse is a controversial choice. 

Some people love the julienned potatoes, served with onions, bread crumbs, cream, and anchovies. If you’re not a fan of anchovies, you can always avoid adding them to the mix. 

Swedish Christmas Food

8. Cabbage (rödkål)

While there aren’t many vegetables awaiting Christmas visitors in Sweden, one of the few options you will find is cabbage. This recipe features red cabbage, chopped up and mixed with a sauce of vinegar, salt, and sugar. 

Rödkål has a sweet and sour flavor capable of cutting through some of the richer tastes you might have enjoyed during your Julbord so far. 

Swedish Christmas Food

9. Cod (lutefisk)

There’s a surprising number of fish-themed items on the Swedish Christmas menu. Aside from herring and salmon, some families also serve Lutefisk, which is a kind of preserved cod. This Swedish Christmas food used to be a lot more common than it is today. 

The dried cod is rehydrated with lye, which gives a flaky, slightly translucent dish. The jelly-like fish is typically served with a mustard or bechamel sauce, and sprinkled with finely ground white pepper, black pepper, and other spices. 

Swedish Christmas Food

10. Christmas buns (lussekatter)

Sales of saffron often skyrocket in Sweden during the Christmas season, thanks to the nationwide love of Lussekatter. These delicious buns are traditionally served on St Lucia Day, which falls on the 13th of December. 

However, many families also bake the s-shaped buns on Christmas Eve with a good helping of mulled wine too. 

Swedish Christmas Food

11. Toffee (knäck)

Knäck in Swedish means “break,” and it’s a great way to refer to the toffee you’ll get on a Christmas Julbord. The homemade toffee features equal parts sugar, cream, and golden syrup, as well as a hefty dose of chopped almonds. 

Be prepared to chomp your way through some pretty hard toffee here. Fortunately, if you can handle the potentially tooth-shattering texture, you’ll get a delicious treat.

Swedish Christmas Food

12. Rice pudding (risgrynsgröt)

Known as either risgrynsgröt, or Julgrot, this delicious rice pudding is among the most popular of any Swedish Christmas foods. The rice pudding features plenty of cream and delicious spices, and it’s often served with a little booze too

There’s a Swedish Christmas tradition associated with rice pudding, which involves baking an almond into the pudding. 

If you end up with the almond in your bowl, the Swedes believe you’ll find true love or even get married within the next year. 

Swedish Christmas Food

13. Candy canes (polka)

Even the Swedes have candy canes. Polka candy is a common treat during Christmastime. The hard, peppermint-flavored candy is usually made in the south of Sweden, in a place called Granna. 

If you’re visiting the country around Christmas, you can usually find a range of stores selling hand-crafted polka or polkagrisar. Each year, a world championship in polka-making is held.

How to eat your Swedish Christmas foods

There’s a certain order to eating a Swedish Julbord. If you want an authentic experience, we’d recommend starting with the cold fish dishes, and moving onto the cold meats. Next, you can chow down on some hot plates, followed by cheeses and desserts. 

With your Christmas foods, it’s also worth stocking up on plenty of delicious Swedish drinks. Beer is one of the most common beverages to have with the Julbord. 

A regular larger beer or darker Christmas stout is usually a good pick. You can also experiment with Julmust if you’re not interested in drinking alcohol. The taste of Julmust is usually described as somewhere between root beer and cola.

Glögg, or mulled wine is another great choice for the Christmas celebration, as is the traditional Swedish drink: Akvavit.

Now you’re ready to go and try some Swedish Christmas dishes for yourself! 

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