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Finnish Macaroni Casserole: Granny’s Never Fail Recipe With Finnish Cooking Tricks

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If you like mac and cheese, the Finnish macaroni casserole might be your new favorite! Finnish families certainly love it, and it’s easy to see why this is such a popular dish in Finland. It’s very family-friendly and easy to make from simple ingredients that won’t cost you a fortune.

There are no limits to different versions of this Finnish staple. One of my favorites includes shredded carrots that you just throw into this recipe. But now I’m getting ahead of myself. My point wast to say that you can definitely add your own condiments, spices, toppings, or other ingredients to suit your taste.

Here’s my granny’s macaroni casserole recipe. I’m sure all Finnish families have their own version of this dish and this is ours.

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What Should You Know about the Finnish Macaroni Casserole?

Few dishes are as well known in Finland as the macaroni casserole. Macaroni casserole is the most popular dish, while Karelian stew is the most famous one in Finland. 

You can find it in the convenience food section at the grocery store, and it’s an everyday classic in many homes. Many Finns will remember it often featured on the school lunch menu too.

Honestly, I don’t know any Finn who doesn’t like this dish.

The Finnish macaroni casserole isn’t exactly the most instagrammable of dishes.

It might be difficult to make this dish look classy on a plate, and even the name in Finnish, makaronilaatikko, translates both as macaroni casserole and “macaroni box”. But if you’re looking for filling comfort food you can add to your weekday menus, this is definitely the one.

And… if you have a Finnish loved one, this macaroni casserole is definitely THE dish to make to bring a happy smile on their face!

Here’s the most important tip: The Finnish macaroni casserole is usually (read: always) served with ketchup. For an authentic experience, give it a go even if you’re generally not a fan.

The Finnish Macaroni Casserole ingredients

I wrote the ingredients in both English and Finnish.

In brackets, I have the correct word for each ingredient, so you will find the ingredients easily in a Finnish grocery store. If you are shopping in Finland and need help, the staff or other customers will recognize these words, and I’m sure they’ll guide you. Don’t be afraid to ask.

The macaroni casserole is almost always made with elbow macaroni, which in Finnish is usually simply called “makaroni”.

Finnish macaroni casserole ingredients

Macaroni Casserole Ingredients with Finnish Measurements

300 g (around 4 dl) elbow macaroni (makaroni)
1 l water (vesi)
300 g minced meat (jauheliha)
1 big onion (sipuli)
butter or oil for frying (voi or öljy)
1 tsp salt (suola)
dash of ground black pepper (mustapippuri)
dash of paprika powder (paprika)
3 eggs (muna)
7 dl milk (maito)
grated cheese (juustoraaste)

ketchup for serving (ketsuppi)

Macaroni Casserole Ingredients with American Measurements

300 g (around 1 3/4 cups) elbow macaroni (makaroni)
4 1/4 cups water (vesi)
300 g (1 1/2 cups) minced meat (jauheliha)
1 big onion (sipuli)
butter or oil for frying (voi/öljy)
1 tsp salt (suola)
dash of ground black pepper (mustapippuri)
dash of paprika powder (paprika)
3 eggs (muna)
3 cups of milk (maito)
grated cheese (juustoraaste)

ketchup for serving (ketsuppi)

Instructions for Preparing the Finnish Macaroni Casserole

Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water until cooked through, drain and rinse the macaroni with cold water, so they don’t get stuck together.

Peel and chop the onion. Brown the onion with the minced meat on a pan. Season with salt, pepper, and paprika powder. Mix with the macaroni. Grease a 2-liter oven dish and pour the meat and macaroni mix into the dish.

Break the eggs and beat to mix the yolk with the white. Add the milk and spices (salt, pepper and paprika) and pour them onto the macaroni and meat.

Sprinkle grated cheese on top for a delicious taste and look. Bake in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius (400 Fahrenheit) for around one hour.

Voila! True Finnish comfort food you can add to your list of everyday classics. Just let the casserole cool for a moment and tuck in. A salad is a great side dish with the macaroni casserole.

Finnish macaroni casserole before the oven

The Most Common Questions about the Finnish Macaroni Casserole

I’ll try to make you the most helpful content about everything Finnish. Here are the most common questions and Finnish cooking tricks that you might want to know!

How to make the Finnish macaroni casserole vegan or gluten-free?

If you’re vegetarian, vegan or have guests with special dietary needs coming over, this dish is still a great idea to make. You can easily make the macaroni casserole suitable for different diets with simple substitutions.

In Finland, there’s a great selection of products available for all kinds of diets.

If you would like to make a gluten-free version, look for the word “gluteeniton” in the grocery store. Gluten-free products such as pasta can often be found on the top shelf.

To make this dish lactose free, look for milk and cheese with the word “laktoositon”. Lactose-free products are readily available in Finland and can usually be found next to other dairy products. Some Finns also prefer to skip milk altogether and mix the eggs with broth!

For a vegetarian or vegan-friendly version, just replace the meat with textured soy protein or other alternatives like pulled oats and use a plant-based milk alternative like soy milk without eggs for the right consistency. On top, you can add vegan cheese. Finnish grocery stores even sell a grated version. 

The vegan version can be made without the eggs. I try to cook the pasta al dente so that the macaroni take in the broth more. 

Finnish macaroni casserole ingredients

How to make the Finnish macaroni casserole if you have no time?

Hahha. That’s me. Well, at least here in Finland, you can buy chopped frozen onion and a package of grated cheese. These two help a lot.

Then it’s just cooking the pasta and while it cooks, I prepare the minced meat and the egg-milk mixture. All in all, it takes me 15 minutes and then the oven does the rest of the work.

How to make the macaroni so that they don’t get stuck together?

After cooking you need to rinse the macaroni with cold water, so they don’t get stuck together.

Finnish macaroni casserole before the toppings and oven

What type of cheese should you use?

Cheddar or cheddar mixed with parmesan are great. If you’re in Finland, the mildest cream cheese is called “Edam”, many Finnish kids love that. I tend to buy “Emmental” which has a stronger flavor.

Can you freeze the Finnish macaroni casserole?

Yes! I freeze it in one-person portions and it’s a great dish to heat up and enjoy.

How long have the Finns made their macaroni casserole?

My favorite book about Finland, Under the Northern Star Trilogy (which I highly recommend to read if you’re curious about the Finnish culture and history),  mentions macaroni casserole as a festive dish in 1915 in the trilogy’s second book. The very old-fashioned version of this dish includes just macaroni and a mixture of milk and eggs. It’s more sauce-like and in my opinion, it’s also sweeter. When I was a child, that old-fashioned dish was still a party dish in the Häme area but it’s been a while since I had it.

Are you going to try this recipe? Let me know in the comments!

Looking for more Finnish recipes? Check out some of my other Finnish food posts:

Finnish baking magic

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About Varpu
I’m the founder of Her Finland. I love mornings, Moomins, libraries and cinnamon buns. My oldest passion: spotting funny things. My newest interest: bird songs. Read more about me..

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JMarie

Thursday 31st of March 2022

What is minced meat?

Madelon Nouwen

Monday 17th of August 2020

Hei Varpu,

thank you for the recipe! I made this today for the first time for my Finnish boyfriend (I am Dutch) and he liked it a lot! When he came home from work and saw the dish on the table he smiled and asked if it was makaroni laatikko. He used to eat it in school when he was a child but still likes it a lot :)

Kind greetings, Madelon

Varpu Pöyry

Friday 21st of August 2020

Awwww that's the best feedback I can get, Madelon! Kiitos sooooo much, that made my day! <3

Ashley

Saturday 4th of July 2020

Varpu!! I love your website. I’m Finnish living in America and I’m trying to learn everything about my culture. I’m going to make this casserole for my grandmother. She remembers her mother making it when she was a child. I just wanted to ask you-what kind of minced meat do you use? And what meat is used the most in recipes in Finland? Thank you!

JMarie

Thursday 31st of March 2022

@Varpu Pöyry, Thanks, I didn’t know what minced meat was.

Varpu Pöyry

Monday 6th of July 2020

Hey Ashley, awww thank you so much! I'm so happy to hear that. I use grounded beef with 7% fat, in Finnish, it's called 'paistijauheliha'. It's a popular choice for this dish.

Joanne

Thursday 2nd of July 2020

I have made this a few times and we really like it. And ketchup is a must! Haha Is the Under the Northern Star still in print? It’s not easy to find in the US.

Varpu Pöyry

Friday 3rd of July 2020

Hi Joanne! I'm so happy to hear you like the macaroni casserole. Unfortunately Under the North Star might be a bit tricky locate depending on your location. I do wish there would be an online audio book in English of this classic because it would make it so much easier to get it. Also, the Finnish audio book is super good!

Erica Cooper

Thursday 2nd of July 2020

I looked up the book "Under the North Star" and here in America it is $78 for a used copy and $451 for a new copy on Amazon! Guess I will try to see if I can find it at a library or wait until I can travel to Finland again to read it!

Varpu Pöyry

Friday 3rd of July 2020

Hei Erica! Yes, the prices are high, I'm so sorry about that. I actually sent a couple of inquiries out here in Finland about this trilogy and how we could better offer it globally. I will definitely keep you updated if I can come up with or hear something!

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