If you ask a Finn to tell you a traditional Finnish dinner dish, I bet they will say this: Karelian stew aka Karjalanpaisti, in Finnish.

Originally from the Karelia region, this meal became a staple all around Finland as evacuees from the Karelia region moved around Finland after the war times in the ’40s.

That’s how, for example, my grandmother and her family moved from the countryside of the Karelian city called Viipuri to Lahti. Many Finns have their roots in the Karelia region.

As Karelian people passed on their food traditions to their new home villages, Karelian pies (karjalanpiirakka) and Karelian stew became everybody’s new favorites. No wonder, both dishes are super delicious!

The ingredients for Karelian stew from Finland

Why is Karelian stew so famous in Finland?

Karelian stew is a living heritage and food tradition in Finland. For many Finns, no matter the age, this stew brings back memories of unrushed dinners together.

When I have talked about Karelian stew with my friends, I feel that many of us associate this dish strongly with our grandparents.

Are there different styles of Karelian stews?

Yes, there are different variations of Karelian stew. Many families have their own family recipe. For example, some might not include vegetables.

There are two things that are essential in Karelian stew.

First off, meat is very important. Karelian stew will have different types of meat in it, nowadays typically beef and pork.

Back in the day, it could also include lamb, kidney, or other intestines. The other important thing is that this dish is cooked very slowly, at a low temperature. That’s because it was made in a baking oven in the old times.

Is Karelian stew easy to make?

This is a simple stew to prepare. Even though it takes time, most of the work is done by your oven.

This dish is very filling and easy to scale up if you need to feed a crowd. That’s why it’s a very popular dish all around Finland in family gatherings.

How do you serve Karelian stew?

You serve Karelian stew with boiled potatoes or mashed potatoes. It’s popular to have pickled cucumber and lingonberry jam, too.

Recipe for Karelian hotpot from Finland

My granny’s recipe and ingredient tips

It feels that every Finnish family has a special recipe for this traditional dish.

My granny’s recipe includes vegetables. It also features browning the meat in a separate pan before letting everything simmer in the oven. In many recipes, you just toss everything in an oven immediately.

I wrote the ingredient list in both English and Finnish, so you can practice your Finnish skills too.

In brackets, I have the correct word for each ingredient as you will find in a Finnish grocery store. If you are shopping in Finland and need help, the staff will recognize these words, and I’m sure they’ll guide you.

In Finland, you can also find a ready-made package of meat for this recipe with the label “Karjalanpaisti.” It includes both beef and pork in it.

You should be able to find all the ingredients in a normal grocery store. If you have trouble finding whole allspice berries, it may also go by the name Jamaica pepper or pimento. In Finnish, we call it spice pepper (maustepippuri), even if it is not really a pepper.

The Karelian stew recipes often use whole peppercorns instead of ground pepper, so it’s best to try to do just that.

Karelian stew is the most famous Finnish dinner

Karelian stew ingredients with Finnish measurements

¼ kg beef round steak (naudan ulkopaisti or kulmapaisti)
¼ kg pork round steak (porsaanpaisti)
1 big onion (sipuli)
2 carrots (porkkana)
1 teaspoon salt (suola)
10 whole allspice berries (maustepippuri)
1 bayleaf (laakerinlehti)
Water (vesi)
A bit of butter (margariini/voi)

Karelian stew ingredients with American measurements

0.5 lb beef round steak (naudan ulkopaisti tai kulmapaisti)
0.5 lb pork round steak (porsaanpaisti)
1 big onion (sipuli)
2 carrots (porkkana)
1 teaspoon salt (suola)
10 whole allspice berries (maustepippuri)
1 bayleaf (laakerinlehti)
Water (vesi)
A bit of butter (margariini/voi)

Instructions for preparing the Karelian stew

Peel the onion and carrots. Chop into big cubes. Cut the meat into 3 x 3 cm cubes (1 x 1 inches). Butter the surface of a large stew pot.

Brown meat cubes in a separate pan with butter.Brown evenly for a great taste and color. After browning, add everything into a pot for the stew.

Rinse the pan used for browning the meat with water and pour the water into the pot. The water should only just cover the meat and veggies, but not any higher. Add in the spices.

Let stew slowly simmer for 2-3 hours in an oven at 350 F /175°C. If the meat starts to get really burned, cover the meat with foil or a lid.

Serve with boiled potatoes or mashed potatoes, lingonberry jam, and pickled cucumbers.

There you go, a simple filling Karelian stew recipe directly from my grandmother’s kitchen. This meal is perfect for whenever you’re in the mood for some hearty Finnish food.

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

Source of food history facts: Karelia association

Want to try another Finnish dinner recipe? What about…

Warm wishes from Finland, 
Varpu

Psst... Want to bake more Finnish desserts and savory bakes in your own kitchen?

Finnish dessert recipes herfinland.com

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Finnish Karelian stew recipe is super easy to make.

Hello there!

I’m Varpu. One blonde,
travel-loving,
Finnish engineer driving this site.