Finnish cuisine combines the delicious fresh flavors of summer with the hearty countryside stews and filling mains that kept people going through the cold winter months.
In the summer, berries, mushrooms, and fish can often be sourced fresh without a trip to the supermarket. But during the winter, traditional sides would have been pickled or cured, and many mains used root vegetables kept in the cellars during winter. These two sides combine in the weird and wonderful mix of Finnish food, snacks, and desserts.
In this post, I will cover some of the weird traditional dishes only found in Finland or other Nordic countries, as well as many lovely desserts and comfort foods that you must try and add to your menus!
Table of Contents
- 1 Weird Finnish Foods & Sides
- 2 Very Finnish Snacks and Sides
- 2.1 Voileivät (open sandwiches)
- 2.2 Leipäjuusto (“bread cheese” known sometimes as squeaky Finnish cheese)
- 2.3 Graavilohi (Gravlax)
- 2.4 Perunarieska (Unleavened bread)
- 2.5 Pickled vegetables
- 2.6 Ruisleipä (rye bread)
- 2.7 Piparkakut (gingerbread cookies)
- 2.8 Lenkkimakkara (sausage)
- 2.9 Munavoi (egg butter)
- 2.10 Sienisalaatti (chopped mushroom “salad”)
- 3 Tasty Finnish Comfort Foods
- 3.1 Makaronilaatikko (macaroni casserole)
- 3.2 Mannapuuro
- 3.3 Lihaperunasoselaatikko (meat and mashed potato casserole)
- 3.4 Pinaattiletut (spinach pancakes or crêpes)
- 3.5 Kanttarellikastike (chanterelle sauce)
- 3.6 Siskonmakkarakeitto (sausage soup)
- 3.7 Paistetut muikut (fried vendace or white fish)
- 3.8 Karjalanpiirakka (Karelian pasty)
- 3.9 Muussi ja lihapullat (mashed potatoes and meatballs)
- 3.10 Savustettu lohi (Smoked salmon)
- 4 Filling Finnish Main Courses
- 4.1 Karjalanpaisti (Karelian stew)
- 4.2 Kalakeitto (fish soup)
- 4.3 Poronkäristys (sautéed reindeer)
- 4.4 Joululaatikot (Christmas casseroles)
- 4.5 Janssonin kiusaus (Jansson’s temptation)
- 4.6 Maksalaatikko (liver casserole)
- 4.7 Kanaviilokki (curry cream chicken)
- 4.8 Hernekeitto (pea and ham soup)
- 4.9 Pyttipannu (fried potatoes, onion, and meat)
- 4.10 Kaalilaatikko (Cabbage casserole)
- 5 Divine Finnish Desserts
- 5.1 Mustikkapiirakka (blueberry pie)
- 5.2 Korvapuusti (cinnamon bun)
- 5.3 Pannukakku (pancake)
- 5.4 Mokkapalat (chocolate brownies)
- 5.5 Kiisseli (kissel or berry soup)
- 5.6 Muurinpohjalettu (traditional sweet crêpe)
- 5.7 Rahka (quark)
- 5.8 Mansikkakakku (strawberry cake with whipped cream)
- 5.9 Kääretorttu (Swiss roll)
- 5.10 Vispipuuro (whipped semolina pudding with lingonberries)
Weird Finnish Foods & Sides
Voileipäkakku (sandwich cake)
Also known as Smörgåstårta due to its Swedish origin, voileipäkakku is a savory cake with layers of bread and creamy filling, often with fish or ham. The “cake” is decorated with mayonnaise to look like a cream cake. The top garnish can be dill, tomatoes, and cucumber together with yummy toppings that reflect the filling inside.
Mämmi (cold rye porridge)
Mämmi is a typical Finnish dessert during Easter. It’s dark brown rye porridge served cold with milk, cream, or vanilla sauce. Many people add sugar on top.
Kalakukko (Finnish fish pasty)
Kalakukko means “fish rooster”. It is a traditional food from the Savonia region consisting of fish and meat baked inside a loaf of bread. The bread is usually baked using rye flour. The most common fish used is European perch or vendace.
Lörtsy is a traditional fried dough pastry from the Savonlinna region in Finland but found all over these days. It has different fillings, from sweet apple filling to savory meat and rice filling.
Viili (a cultured milk product)
Viili is a fermented milk product similar to yogurt or kefir but has a slightly different texture and taste. Viili has a velvet-like surface when unmixed. You can find it in the grocery store.
We Finns have our own version of the fermented, finely cut raw cabbage you might be more familiar with from German cuisine. It goes well with meat-based main courses.
Klimppisoppa (meat soup with dumplings)
Making this traditional soup starts with cooking meat, sometimes bones, and vegetables. You then sieve the soup before adding the wheat flour dumplings and boiling for a few minutes before serving.
Veriletut (blood pancakes)
As the name suggests, blood pancakes are dark-colored and made from flour, eggs, water, and blood.
Läskisoosi (pork sauce)
Läskisoosi means fat sauce, but it is actually a stew made of pork belly fried in butter with onions and flour.
Very Finnish Snacks and Sides
Voileivät (open sandwiches)
Voileipä means butter bread. It is an open sandwich with toppings like margarine, cheese, ham, cucumber, and tomatoes – or whatever your heart desires! Finns can eat these sandwiches as breakfast, snack, lunch, and as a side with a meal. If you can’t decide what to have, voileipä is always an option!
Leipäjuusto (“bread cheese” known sometimes as squeaky Finnish cheese)
Leipäjuusto means bread cheese and is sometimes also called cheese bread, juustoleipä. It is a baked cheese with a texture that squeaks when eaten, and you will sometimes see it served with cloudberry jam.
Gravlax is often served in Finland in the summer or, for example, on Christmas. The salmon is cured with a mix of salt and sugar and sometimes spices or herbs, most often dill.
Perunarieska (Unleavened bread)
This soft flatbread made with potato comes in different varieties in different parts of Finland. Not all rieska contains potato. They are usually prepared only with flour, salt, and water.
Pickled vegetables, including beetroot and cucumber, are common sides in Finland. Traditionally they would have kept well over the winter, but they haven’t lost their charm and can still be found in any Finnish grocery store.
Ruisleipä (rye bread)
Since open sandwiches are a common snack and even a meal, Finns eat on average 4 slices of bread a day. Rye bread is made out of rye flour and comes in very dark and lighter varieties depending on how much rye flour is mixed in. Finnish rye bread is often baked with a sourdough starter mix that gives the bread a sour taste. It makes up a little less than half of all bread bought by consumers.
Piparkakku (“ginger cake”) is especially a Christmas treat. Around that time of the year, stores have gingerbread cookie dough on offer. Other times of the year, gingerbread cookies are available in most grocery stores.
Lenkkimakkara is a type of sausage that gets its name due to the traditional loop shape. It is made out of a meat mixture. One very Finnish way to cook it is to slice little slots into the sausage, fill them with chunks of cheese, and bake the sausage in the oven. If you want an even more authentic Finnish experience, wrap the sausage in foil and cook it in the sauna!
Hard-boiled eggs, which are crushed and mixed with butter and salt, make up munavoi. This topping goes especially well with karjalanpiirakka, Karelian pasties, but sometimes we serve it as part of a buffet-style summer meal, for example, with new potatoes or rye bread.
Sienisalaatti (chopped mushroom “salad”)
As summer draws to an end, many Finns head out to pick mushrooms. Even those who don’t might pick up a can of “mushroom salad” from the grocery store. It can consist of various mushrooms and sometimes has onions or cream mixed in too. Chopped mushrooms can be served as a side any time of the year, but fresh varieties are common in the autumn.
Tasty Finnish Comfort Foods
Makaronilaatikko (macaroni casserole)
A baked pasta dish, makaronilaatikko is a healthier everyday alternative for Macaroni and cheese. The traditional recipe consists of pasta, milk, egg, and minced meat, and it is usually served with ketchup, sometimes with cheese on top. You can find it in Finnish grocery stores if you don’t have time to wait to bake it in the oven.
Semolina pudding or semolina porridge is a soft white porridge that tastes like a treat if served with jam or other sweet toppings. You can also make a chocolate version of it.
Lihaperunasoselaatikko (meat and mashed potato casserole)
This oven dish consists of minced meat cooked in butter and mashed potatoes mixed and baked in the oven. Another alternative uses sliced potatoes. Perfect comfort food for a cold winter evening!
Pinaattiletut (spinach pancakes or crêpes)
Most Finns will be familiar with these thin spinach pancakes as they were sometimes served as part of school meals. Depending on what toppings you serve, they are a mix of savory and sweet. Lingonberry jam is a traditional but slightly sour choice. If you don’t have time to make your own, grocery stores have packs of spinach pancakes on offer.
Kanttarellikastike (chanterelle sauce)
Out of the Finnish mushrooms, one of the most coveted is the beautiful yellow chanterelle. Whoever finds the spot where they grow probably will keep it a secret until they have picked the mushrooms. In the autumn, you can buy chanterelles from the market and stores. They go well with a creamy sauce.
Siskonmakkarakeitto (sausage soup)
The name of this soup could mean “sister’s sausage soup” in Finnish, but the word actually refers to a specific type of fresh sausage and is originally derived from German. This is a clear soup with stock, vegetables, and sausage.
Paistetut muikut (fried vendace or white fish)
Helsinki Times called fried vendace Finland’s very own fish and chips, and they’re not wrong! You can find this fish dish served on market squares and food stalls at events like music festivals, often with fried potatoes on the side.
Karjalanpiirakka (Karelian pasty)
Karelian pasties or pies are made with a rice porridge filling on top of a very thin rye crust. The pasties always have the same recognizable shape. You can also find similar pasties with potato filling.
Muussi ja lihapullat (mashed potatoes and meatballs)
Featured on restaurant menus and an everyday favorite, mashed potatoes with meatballs is not only eaten in Finland, but it is a dish everyone knows and many love. Sauces and recipes for the meatballs vary, but most use minced meat (and of course, there are veggie alternatives nowadays, too) and onion.
Savustettu lohi (Smoked salmon)
Cured and hot or cold smoked salmon is widely available in Finland, and many Finns even prepare it themselves. Also flamed salmon (loimulohi) is an option and made directly on open fire. It seems everybody loves salmon in Finland, even if salmon is not a fish most of us can catch near our summer cottages.
Filling Finnish Main Courses
Karjalanpaisti (Karelian stew)
This traditional meat stew prepared in the oven comes with pork and beef, carrots, onions, and root vegetables, and it is seasoned with black peppercorns and salt.
Kalakeitto (fish soup)
Fish soup is a common main in Finland, but the exact recipe depends on your host or preferences. Creamy salmon soup and a creamy soup with pollock, carrots, and potatoes are popular options.
Poronkäristys (sautéed reindeer)
Reindeer meat sautéed and usually served with mashed potatoes is a traditional food in the country’s northern parts. Serve with lingonberry preserve and pickled cucumber.
Joululaatikot (Christmas casseroles)
Although a Christmas box, joululaatikko, may not sound very delicious, these casseroles are part of most Christmas dinners in Finland. They are prepared from carrots, swede, and potato and baked in the oven. Nowadays, you can often find carrot casserole from the grocery store around the year.
Janssonin kiusaus (Jansson’s temptation)
This casserole is prepared with potatoes cut into thin strips, onions, anchovies, and cream and baked in the oven. Some recipes include other ingredients too, and the original, slightly different, recipe is from Sweden. Another similar common Finnish casserole is kinkkukiusaus (ham temptation), where the anchovies are replaced with smoked ham.
Maksalaatikko (liver casserole)
This traditional casserole is made with ground liver, rice, syrup, butter, eggs, and onions and usually contains raisins. Maksalaatikko is usually served with lingonberry jam, and it is another dish that used to feature in school lunch menus.
A school lunch classic, this dish consists of chicken and a curry cream sauce. It is usually served with rice.
Hernekeitto (pea and ham soup)
Pea and ham soup (or just pea soup as veggie versions are now widely available) is another Finnish tradition. Thursday used to be the pea soup day for schools, Universities, and other restaurants serving lunch across the country. The soup is thick, and it can be served with mustard. Pancakes are the traditional dessert served with pea soup.
Pyttipannu (fried potatoes, onion, and meat)
The name for this dish comes from Swedish, pytt i panna (small pieces in a pan), and it comes with a variety of meat. Often it refers to frying leftover boiled potatoes and whatever else you have available. A common Finnish version is to fry potatoes, onions, and sausages in a pan. A fried egg is sometimes added on top.
Kaalilaatikko (Cabbage casserole)
Cabbage casserole is known especially for its strong smell while preparing it. Some people can’t stand this dish or the smell, while others love it. The casserole is made with boiled cabbage, syrup, spices, rice, and minced meat.
Divine Finnish Desserts
Mustikkapiirakka (blueberry pie)
Blueberry pie is an autumn favorite in Finland, and just as you would guess, it is a pie with blueberry filling. Finnish varieties tend not to have a crust on top. Many recipes use egg in the filling, which gives the pie a nice consistency that is not too different from cheesecake.
Korvapuusti (cinnamon bun)
The original word, korvapuusti, actually means getting a little smack on the ear. The story goes that the name was adopted for the buns since the shape resembles an ear. You can find korvapuusti in cafes, many bakeries, and the grocery store. Of course, they are also often served to guests in Finnish homes.
The traditional Finnish pancake is baked on the full oven tray and contains eggs, flour, sugar, and milk with butter or margarine. The resulting golden brown pancake sheet is cut into squares and served with jam.
Mokkapalat (chocolate brownies)
Everyone knows these specific chocolate brownies as the one thing parents always bake for their kids’ school and sports club fundraisers. The brownies are baked on an oven tray, and the sheet is decorated with a thick, velvety mixture of coffee, margarine, and icing sugar. Sprinkles are added on top for color.
Kiisseli (kissel or berry soup)
Kissel is a traditional thick fruit dish that can also be served as a drink if it is not thickened as much with starch. The base is a fruit or berry juice. The name is derived from a Slavic word for sour.
Muurinpohjalettu (traditional sweet crêpe)
Finnish crêpes are often a summer specialty. Muurikka, a special type of large steel pan with a fire underneath it, is traditionally used to make large crêpes that are folded and served with jam and sometimes whipped cream. In the past, the large pans were mostly found in older houses and summer cottages. Nowadays, muurikka is making a comeback, and you can buy modern versions for cooking traditional and modern dishes like muurinpohjalettu.
Fruit and berry-based quark desserts are common in Finland. Quark is a milk-based product with a thicker and creamier consistency than yogurt. It can be found in supermarkets, and the desserts are usually made simply by sweetening the quark and adding berries or fruit.
Mansikkakakku (strawberry cake with whipped cream)
A Finnish layered strawberry cake is covered with whipped cream and has strawberries on top. The filling can be fruit based with cream or strawberries too. In the summer, stalls outside supermarkets sell strawberries all around the country, and strawberry cake is a classic summer favorite at parties and gatherings.
Kääretorttu (Swiss roll)
Swiss roll or the Finnish version kääretorttu is made out of a sheet of sponge cake filled with, for example, whipped cream and jam and then rolled to a log shape. Each piece has layers of filling and sponge cake.
Vispipuuro (whipped semolina pudding with lingonberries)
Although Finns call it whipped porridge, vispipuuro has a smooth texture and mousse-like consistency. The traditional version is made with lingonberries and can be served with milk and sugar.
How many of these 50 Finnish foods have you already tried? Are you going to look up any recipes (you can find some here in the blog)? Let me know your thoughts and questions in the comments!
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