Introduction: Finnish cuisine and its peculiarities
Finnish cuisine is known for its simplicity and emphasis on natural, locally sourced ingredients. Many dishes are based on fish, game, berries, and mushrooms that grow abundantly in Finnish forests. The cold climate and short growing season also influence the food culture, with preservation methods such as smoking, pickling, and drying being common.
Finnish cuisine has some peculiarities that might surprise visitors. For example, rye bread is a staple in every meal, and it can come in many forms, from thin and crispy to thick and dense. Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and butter are also widely used, and traditional dishes often include offal and blood sausage. Additionally, Finnish cuisine has been influenced by neighboring countries such as Sweden, Russia, and Estonia, resulting in a diverse culinary heritage.
Starting with the basics: traditional Finnish breakfast dishes
A traditional Finnish breakfast usually consists of porridge, rye bread, and coffee. Porridge can be made from various grains such as oats, barley, or rye, and it’s typically served with milk or berries. Rye bread is often accompanied by butter, cheese, or cold cuts. For a more hearty breakfast, try karjalanpiirakka, a pastry made from rye flour and filled with rice porridge or mashed potatoes.
Fish, berries, and mushrooms: Finnish delicacies to try
Fish is a staple in Finnish cuisine, and there are many ways to prepare it. One must-try dish is kalakukko, a savory pastry filled with fish and pork, traditionally baked in a wood-fired oven. Another popular fish dish is gravlax, cured salmon flavored with dill, sugar, and salt. Finnish forests are also abundant in berries such as lingonberries, cloudberries, and cranberries, which are used in jams, sauces, and desserts. Mushrooms are another seasonal delicacy, with chanterelles and porcini being the most prized varieties.
A taste of Finland: meat and game dishes for adventurous eaters
For those who want to try something more adventurous, Finnish cuisine offers many meat and game dishes. Sautéed reindeer with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam is a classic Finnish dish that reflects the country’s Sami heritage. Other game dishes include elk stew, bear meatballs, and wild boar roast. Karyleenpaisti, a traditional Karelian dish made from roasted lamb or beef with a rich gravy, is another meaty option.
Vegetarian options: Finnish cuisine beyond meat and fish
Vegetarian options in Finnish cuisine might seem limited, but there are many dishes that rely on vegetables, grains, and dairy. Kesäkeitto, a summer soup made from fresh vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, peas, and turnips, is a light and flavorful option. Karelian pies, a pastry filled with rice or mashed potatoes, can also be made vegetarian. Finally, Finnish cheese such as Juustoleipä, a squeaky cheese made from cow’s or reindeer’s milk, can be a delicious alternative to meat dishes.
Satisfy your sweet tooth: Finnish desserts to indulge in
Finnish desserts often feature berries, dairy, and grains. One must-try dessert is vispipuuro, a lingonberry or raspberry porridge that’s whipped into a fluffy texture and served with milk. Pulla, a sweet cardamom-flavored bread, is a staple in Finnish households and can be enjoyed with coffee or tea. Another popular dessert is Runeberg’s cake, a spiced almond cake named after Finland’s national poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg. For a decadent treat, try Joulutorttu, a Christmas pastry filled with plum or prune jam and shaped like a star.