Weird Swedish foods is something you will come across when you are in Sweden for a longer period of time. Every country has its own food peculiarities, foods that you often miss when you are away from your home country. Foods that often also have a cultural significance. And Sweden is of course no exception when it comes to weird foods.
Here we have collected a little list of some of the weird Swedish foods and please let us know in the comments if we have missed any that should be added. Also as a bit of fun, let us know if there is any particularly weird foods from your home country!
Saltlakris – salty licorice
In 2012, a proposal was handed to the EU petitioning to limit the permitted amount of salmiak (ammonium chloride) in food. In salty licorice, the amount of salt ammonia is about 70 grams/kg. The maximum levels discussed were as low as 3 grams/kg which would have meant a ban on on salted licorice.
The reason they wished to limit the use of salmiak were studies that show a connection between excessive consumption of the substance and high blood pressure (just like with regular salt).
It is safe to say that this proposal became a BIG deal in Sweden where Swedes eat about 2 kilos of licorice per year, making Swedes supposedly the largest consumers of licorice. In the end salty licorice was considered an essential part of Swedish culture and was exempt from the new salmiac restrictions. Serious business indeed!
Kalles Kaviar – fish paste in a tube
This is really a somewhat required taste sold mainly in Sweden, Finland and Norway. Although if you do get hooked on this rather weird fish in a tube paste, you can always visit IKEA stores in other countries for a hit. Kalles Kaviar was launched in 1954 and is quite far from the fancy caviar you may have tasted before. Kalles is made of mildly smoked fish eggs, mushed together and put in a tube and is by many considered the perfect topping on the breakfast sandwich, the snack or with boiled eggs! What is your take on it?
Messmör – Soft whey butter
Messmör is a soft reduced whey butter with a sweet/salthy like flavor that is popular in Sweden and is packed full of protein, calcium and iron. Many Swedish kids remember having it for breakfast all the way back to its introduction in 1939. You can buy it in any regular shop but if you want to try making your own messmör – check out this recipe.
Mesost – soft whey cheese
This is the sibling of messmör and is usually reported to taste something like sweet goat cheese. The texture is soft and sticky, a bit crumbly and reluctant to be spread, so still very much a cheese. But the sweet-and-sour mixture together with the zesty taste is generally loved by Swedes and a good number of newbies too.
Mesost is also called brunost (brown cheese) and I believe this is when it comes from Norway. It seems that mesost has been largely absent from Swedish shelves in the last few years but that you can still find brunost if you are lucky. For my part, it brings back some fond childhood memories:-)
Ost på tub – cheese in a tube
While planning a trip to the US I was asked by a friend to bring Swedish tube food! It surprised me, tube food has always been a natural part of my life growing up in Sweden. It was something you had on the breakfast table and most definitely on picnics or hikes.
Food in tubes is such a common Swedish occurrence, that Swedes generally don’t realize that this is in fact rather unusual. So unusual and to many fascinating that Karla Marie Batingan Paredes wrote a dissertation on the topic in 2013 – Food in tubes – a retro cool Swedish innovation.
Packaging food in tubes dates to the early 20th century, when the Swedish military used tubes to package foods for soldiers. This type of packaging was practical and efficient, easy to carry and could be stored for long periods. And if you ask me, it’s not only practical but also quite tasty. But I have had it since childhood, so I am likely indoctrinated:-)
Surströmming – Fermented herring
This dish is a particularly startlingly weird specialty where the smell has caused more than one person to throw up. Many years ago I called the police because I thought my neighbor laid dead in his house. Turned out he was only eating Surströmming.
The herring is caught just prior to spawning and packed into a tin of brine to ferment. The fermentation starts from an enzyme in the spine of the fish which causes hydrogen sulphide to produce in the tin. Yummy right?! The fermenting process causes the can to bulge over time, so stand well back when opening. Surströmming is often eaten as a sandwich with waxy potatoes, red onion and dill. And two last pieces of advice. If you are invited to a Swedes party in August double check what is on the menu as surströmming is traditionally eaten in late August. And secondly – open the dang tin under water! Trust me.
Lutfisk – Sodium hydroxide fish
Let’s continue on the fishy end of this food scale. Lutfisk is a gelatinous white fish that is dried and treated with lye. It is soaked in cold water for days, prepared by steaming or baking and is eaten with a white sauce. It looks and sounds rather “interesting” but actually doesn’t have a lot of taste and is only served around Christmas. So give it a go why don’t you:-)
The kebab pizza is one of Sweden’s most popular pizzas and was created by Middle Eastern immigrants in the 1980s. It even has cultural status in Sweden. During the pandemic, kebab pizzas was one of the most ordered fast foods in Sweden.
So regardless of what you think of this unorthodox combination, you should make time to experience this unusual pizza. After all it is a cultural phenomenon and it is easy to find and kind on your wallet.
So, I have come to the end of this particular list. There are many more weird food candidates out there, so let us know your weird favorites in the comments.