35 Traditional Finnish Foods

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Of all the places I have visited, the food of Finland was the biggest surprise. I really had no idea what to expect and was a bit worried I would not like Finnish food.

There are some amazing traditional dishes in Finland and others I could take or leave. But here are the most memorable.

Beginning with the Helsinki Market – you definitely need to stop here.


 
 

Traditional Food of Finland

traditional Karelian open pies made of rye dough and potato fillings. wickets. High qyality photo

Karjalanpiirakka / Karelian pies

Karjalanpiirakka or karelian pies are traditional Finnish food specifically in the Karelia region. 

This Finland traditional food is mainly rye flour-based. But some regions like Karelia Lagoda and North Karelia prepare a mixture of rye flour and wheat to improve cooking.

Traditionally, fillings are made of barley and roasted flour mixture of oats, pea flour, barley and rye. 

Today, a variety of fillings are available like chopped hard-boiled egg and butter mix, mashed potatoes, cheese, fish and meat.

Many versions of this pie have been made since it was introduced in the Finland food culture. 

Gourmet level Karelian pies are filled with smoked salmon or reindeer meat. 

From a simple pie, Karelian pies are not an integral part of Finland cuisine. 

Nowadays, Karelian pies are also filled with sweets, a common Finnish breakfast served with milk or buttermilk.

Kalakukko / Fish Pie

Kalakukko is a traditional Finnish food originally from the region of Savonia. 

This food from Finland is made from fish like salmon or vendace baked inside a loaf of bread.

The preparation of this popular Finnish dish involves two phases- dough and filling production. 

The dough is a simple mixture of mainly rye flour, a little barley, and wheat flour. The filling consists of pork, fish, and bacon.

Kalakukko is a practical Finland diet for workers away from home since the pie can be kept for a long time. 

Kalakukko is also a popular food in Finland when traveling because you can cut into the bread to get to the tasty fish filling.

Perunarieska Finnish Potato Flatbread on a plate and a cup of sour cream on a gray textured background. Top view.

Perunarieska / Finnish Potato Flatbread

Finland foods like bread are a staple food in Finland and you’ll often find one or the other for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

Perunarieska is mainly made of mashed potatoes then mixed with flour, barley, wholemeal, or oats.

This traditional Finnish flatbread is round, and it is usually baked until golden brown for that crispy crust. 

Perunarieska is usually served during breakfast or as a light snack.

Fresh from the oven, this Finnish food can be paired with hot soup, milk, or omelet.

It also makes for a good pair with smoked salmon, herbed cheese spread, butter, or any other spread type of your choice.

Finnish food lihapullat Meatballs with Cream Sauce and Parsley

Lihapullat / Finnish Meatballs

Although thanks to Ikea it’s mostly associated with Sweden, meatballs are classic Finnish food.

It is basically a combination of ground beef and pork mixed with spices, cheese, breadcrumbs, or soaked bread. 

As a popular part of the Finnish diet, different regions of the country have several varieties of meatballs.

Instead of ground pork and beef, some prefer to use ground reindeer meat as the main ingredient.

During Christmas dinner, Finns typically consume meatballs or lihapullat (meatbuns in English) as the main course with mashed potatoes or new potatoes. 

But this can also be eaten alone with a creamy sauce or lingonberry jam.

Lihapiirakka / Meat Pie

Finland dishes like meat pies are some of the most common Finnish foods you can find in supermarkets and kiosks. 

Lihapiirakka is made from doughnut dough filled with meat and cooked rice mixture mostly enjoyed during the hunting season. 

Being a traditional and everyday food of Finland, other variants are made like möttönen which is thicker and larger. 

The Karelian region also has its varieties: atomi and vety (atom and hydrogen in English). 

Atomi is filled with egg or ham while vety consists of the two.

Finns eat meat pies whole. But these days, meat pies are split in half, filled with sausage, kebab meat, or meat burger. 

Meat pies are food to go or street food that can be reheated in the oven. They are known as hand pies in other cultures and are a common PEI food. They also are somewhat similar to the traditional Jamaican food, patties.

Like the regular burger, meat pies are served with ketchup, mustard, and pickled vegetables on the side.

Karjalanpaisti Karelian Meat Stew

Karjalanpaisti / Karelian Meat Stew 

Traditional Finnish foods such as stewed meats are enjoyed on a daily basis. 

This Karelian meat stew is an ultimate comfort food commonly made of beef and pork combination, or lamb.

As per Finland food traditions, particularly in the region, Karjalanpaisti is traditionally served during Easter. 

Voted as Finland’s national food, Karjalanpaisti is synonymous with family gatherings and celebrations, always present at the festive dinner table.

Braised in a slow cooker for many hours, Karelian meat stew melts in your mouth. 

Like Finns usually do, Karjalanpaisti is served with mashed potatoes and lingonberry preserves.

EASY RECIPE:
Chianti Beef Stew

Poronkäristys / Sauteed Reindeer

Reindeer is not just Santa’s little helper but the main source of protein common in Finnish foods and dishes. 

But sautéed reindeer is more popular in Northern Finland where the animals roam free and feed on local vegetation.

The dish is prepared by sautéing the thinly sliced reindeer meat in reindeer fat, seasoned with salt and pepper. 

Water or beer is added to cook and tenderize the meat. 

In Finland, the most common way of eating sautéed reindeer is with mashed potatoes, sugared lingonberries, and cucumber pickles.

The dish is also the traditional meal of the Sami people. Sauteed reindeer is also common in Sweden (renskav) Norway (finnbiff), Russia, and Sakha.

Kalikääryleet Cabbage Rolls on a white plate

Kaalikääryleet / Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage rolls are probably one of the least favorite Finnish dishes on this list because of the smell and appearance.

You are either team cabbage rolls or not. Personally, I think if you can get over smell and looks they are so tasty.

The dish is mainly a mixture of meat, vegetables, rice, barley, mushrooms, spices, tomato sauce, onion, salt and pepper. 

Finnish cabbage rolls are usually a mixture of pork, lamb, or beef. It is wrapped in boiled cabbage leaves, then baked, steamed or simmered. 

The popular Finland food is served hot brushed with milk and brown sugar mixture on top.  Fresh lingonberry or lingonberry jam on the side is also a must.

But Kaalikääryleet or a version of it, can be found all over the world.

Brazil also has its version of cabbage rolls.

The meat mixture is usually made of pork, lamb, beef wrapped like cigars. Boiled Brazilian cabbage rolls are served hot and seasoned with salt, pepper, and lime juice.

In Russia, Ukraine, and Poland, the dish is called halupki. 

It is known as holubki in Czech Republic and Slovakia, halubcy in Belarus, sarmale in Romania. 
In Serbia, cabbage rolls are called sarma, kohlroulade in Germany, and krautwickel in Austria.

Paistetut Muikut Fried Vendace Finnish food on black frying pan and black background

Paistetut Muikut / Fried Vendace

Finland is blessed with thousands of lakes and surrounded by seas making fishing an important Finnish way of life. 

With such abundance in different fish species, Finland has come up with this simple yet delectable Finnish food – fried vendace. 

Although small, surprisingly this dish has gained its spot in Finnish cuisine. It reminds me of a Nova Scotia food that I grew up with and love – fried smelts.

The main ingredient is the tiny fish locally known as muikku or vendace in English. 

Fried Vendace can be found in most restaurant menus and market stalls across the country specifically in the summer. 

Crispy fried in abundant butter, Finland’s version of fish and chips is best eaten when hot paired with mashed potatoes. 

But this can also be enjoyed by piling it on rye bread with mayonnaise.

Smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and avocado rye crisp toast

Loimulohi / Smoked Salmon 

Most of the salmon is from neighbouring Norway. However, you can find smoked salmon everywhere, including the market where it is prepared many different ways.

Loimulohi is a traditional Finnish fish dish usually prepared when camping or just enjoying the outdoors. 

My favourite was with Martin Tillman, Peter’s supplier outside Porvoo.

The salmon filet is seasoned with salt, pepper, and drizzled with lemon juice. 

The Finnish way of cooking this cuisine is unique (using soaked wood plank) yet simple.

Pinned on a soaked wood plank with wooden pegs, the fish is then grilled in an open flame. 

The filet is then periodically brushed with maple-brandy mix throughout the cooking period. 

Squeeze lemon juice or season again before serving.

garlic soup

Valkosipuli Soup

Also known as garlic, it is fantastic. Finns LOVE soup, they have entire restaurants dedicated to it.

I had the garlic soup both at Näsinneula and at the Helsinki Market. I must learn to make it at home.

TRADITIONAL RECIPE:
Potato Mussel Chowder

Rosvopaisti

Rosvopaisti refers to the Finnish meat dish and traditional technique of cooking in a pit. 

It is said to be of Mongolian origin but has spread throughout the world through the novel, The Lamb Eaters.

The dish can be made with any meat like lamb, beef, pork, mutton, bear, or reindeer. 

The meat is wrapped in aluminum foil or layers of dampened parchment paper then placed into the pit.

The meat takes a couple of hours to cook so Rosvopaisti is usually eaten in the afternoon.

Lohikeitto 

Salmon soup with cream, I had this at Kaisa’s house in Porvoo. It was really nice to eat in someone’s home for a change.

EASY RECIPE:
Finnish Salmon Soup

It reminded me a lot of home as I grew up in the Maritimes eating cream-based Nova Scotia chowder and soups.

If you’re in Helsinki don’t forget to check out the market to eat with the locals.

Mykyrokka / Blood Dumpling Soup

This Finnish soup is a traditional dish in Savo, Eastern Finland and is made of a palm-sized dumpling. 

The dish (mixture of blood and barley flour) was born from the old autumn butchery custom. 

When animals were butchered, the innards were made into hams, sausages, and other meat preserves, while some were added in soup.

This is zero waste cooking before it became trendy. It respects the life of the animal but using all of it. 

Blood dumpling soup is like a family affair where members gather to assemble Mykyrokka. 

This hearty soup is preferred by everyone during autumn or while enduring the dark Finnish winter.


 
 

Finnish Foods Grillimakkara

Grillimakkara / Sausages

Grillimakkara is part of the Finland food traditions like the famous Finnish salmon soup, creamy salmon soup, and pulla (sweet bread). 

This is the perfect dish to complement the summer season (like blueberry pie when fields during summer are prepped with bilberries). 

Midsummer is celebrated nationwide in Finland with family and friends in summer cabins or cottages. 

Lighting bonfires and going to saunas to mark the start of the festivities are the typical things to do during midsummer. 

Finnish food is deeply rooted in its people and culture. They usually have grillimakkara in midsummer and pea soup to celebrate the winter festival – Laskiainen.

Finns like to eat grillimakkara after hours of a sauna session. 

Paired with homemade mustard, ice-cold beer or cider is the Finnish way to end a sauna session.

Ryynimakkara / Cured Sausage

Ryynimakkara is a Finnish sausage traditionally made of barley groats and flour. 

But other varieties are mixed with pork meat, tongue, or heart to improve taste and texture.

The Hame region in Finland has its version of ryynimakkara. It is made of potato instead of barley groats and verimakkara from Tampere. 

The Scottish traditional haggis is also closely similar to ryynimakkara.

lapland bread cheese

Leipäjuusto / Lapland Bread Cheese

How many times have I said I don’t like dessert?

I didn’t go to Lapland but I did the next best thing, I went to Saaga Restaurant in Helsinki that serves traditional food from Lapland.

This fried cheese dessert was incredible.

This Finnish squeaky cheese comes from Northern Finland. The name is derived from the description of how the fresh leipäjuusto “squeaks” against the teeth when bitten.

The “bread cheese” name is translated from the process of toasting the cheese during the preparation.

Leipäjuusto is a fresh cheese made from cow’s milk specifically from a cow that has just given birth. But other versions are made from goat’s or reindeer’s milk.

Modern leipäjuusto is toasted but traditionally the cheese is totally dried. This is to ensure it can be stored for an extended period of time. 

People heat the hard leipäjuusto to soften it which has the same texture as sliced bread. Or cheese strips can be dunked in your coffee to soften it. 

Bread cheese Leipäjuusto can be eaten cold or warm and has a mild, sweet, and salty flavor. It is ideally paired with cloudberry jam, other types of berry jams, or drizzle it with honey.

reindeer meat

Reindeer

I ate reindeer nearly every day in Finland.

It tastes like really great venison and the interesting thing about reindeer is that none are truly wild, they are all owned by someone and yet they let them all wander wild in the North.

It is fascinating and I am hoping to come back to Finland to learn a bit more about it.

This dish was at Saaga as well where I had dried, cured and smoked reindeer.

black sausage

Mustamakkara

Also known as black sausage or blood sausage, it is most famous in Tampere

I knew I would like this.

I have eaten it a few times in other countries, including Argentina.

But I like that in Finland they add something sweet to it, you need the lingonberries to balance it out.

ayngelina

Alcohol

Surprisingly the first time someone offered me a shot of vodka was in Porvoo.

Finland has an interesting take on shots, in Tampere I had a shot of vodka that was infused with Fishermans Friend.

This may be my new shot when I am sick.

blini

Blini

One of the things I was most impressed with in Finland is that there is still a sense of seasonal food.

Many dishes you can only get on specific days or seasons.

Here at Restaurant Lasipalatsi I had a blini, which is typically from neighbouring Russia.

I was told this circular dish is served in the winter when the days are dark and they need a bit of sun to brighten their day.

smoked arctic char

Smoked Arctic Char 

My first dinner in Helsinki at Savotta, it is a restaurant for tourists but there is a reason it is so popular. The food is really good and the servers are so much fun.

The dishes on the menu are traditional and it is a good place to get your footing with food of Finland.

vorschmack

Vorschmack

Now that I have eaten this once I probably would not order it again as it is so heavy.

After my Finnish sauna, I asked Anna to take me somewhere local in Kallio so we went to Cella.

A typical food of Finland, it is a salty minced meat dish and definitely needs a beer.

Finnish Beer

Beer

I actually drank far more beer than vodka in Finland.

I also went to a number if microbreweries: Suomenlinna at the Sea Fortress on Helsinki, Plevna in Tampere and Malmgard outside Porvoo.

Visiting breweries has become one of my favourite things to do in cities even though I know zero about beer.

pulla

Pulla

Although I am not crazy about sweets this was okay and I am happy I had it on the food tour as it is traditional and very popular.

finnish licorice

Salmiakki (Salty Liquorice)

Salty licorice, it is ammonium chloride flavoured candy and you can find this flavour everywhere.

On the way to go from sauna to frozen lake Ville picked some up.

We put the liquorice in the vodka bottle and shook it up. You can also buy it pre-mixed.

rye bread

 Ruisleipä or Hapanleipä / Rye Bread

Oh how I love the bread in Finland. I heard it was different in Sweden which is a bit more sweet, here there is no sugar just delicious rye.

I am definitely looking for more of this when I return to Toronto.

seabuck thorn

Sea buckthorn

A berry very high in vitamin C, I saw this used in everything from cocktails, to vinegars and Peter uses it in his food at Bistro Sinne.

A bit tart but definitely worth trying.

herring

Herring

I love fish so it was great to have at breakfast but it is not for everyone. I heard the best way to have it is in the summer with new potatoes.

Pin it For Later: Finnish Food

Disclosure: This post about the food of Finland was a result of me being a guest of the Finnish Tourist Board as part of a Navigate Media Group project. They did not request that I write a favourable review or eat enough reindeer for a year.
The food of Finland has a number of different influences from neighboring countries, here are 16 things you need to eat in Finland.

Join the Conversation

  1. The food looks great! This is just another reason for me to go to Finland soon.

    1. I like it too

      1. SUSHI MAN says:

        I LIKEZ SUSHI

  2. Have been reading your blog for a while and have enjoyed reading about your travels. Love these photos! If I was asked to name any Finnish food before reading this post, I couldn’t. But just about everything here looks yummy – except for the reindeer and blood sausage 🙂

  3. Love the food photography! It’s so much fun (and educational )learning about the traditional dishes of a country. I don’t consider myself an adventurous eater, but I would LOVE to try reindeer meat.

    P.s. you know where you can get the best Rye bread in Toronto? Silverstein’s on McCaul St., just north of Baldwin. I.LOVE.IT.

  4. I’ve never even thought of Finnish cuisine. You’ve opened up a surprisingly new culinary world for me. The bread and garlic soup look especially amazing and I’d love to wash a bite of that smoked arctic char down with a sip of brännvin.

    1. Brännvin, is from sweden.
      But similar taste migth be Koskenkorva that is what most of us Finns would take.

      Mainly, beers is what people drink, old people are drinking vodka, us younger are not doing it so much.

  5. Fun to learn about the traditional food there. I ate blood sausage once and hated every bite, but I can see that lingonberry would help.

    1. Blood sausage is called black pudding in Scotland.
      Scotland is just 3 hours from Finland
      Lot people don’t know that.

      Delicious food Finland have.

      Soup we do Cullen skink that’s fish in cream to:)

      Same as Salmon but we use smoked fish.
      Scotland we are famous for our fresh fish especially salmon haddock mussels and luiqunstines and lobster obviously.

      Love how Scotland and Finland have some of they same food and some of the same winters!

  6. Everything looks so delicious.

  7. Kieu ~ GQ trippin says:

    You had me at food. OMG I want it all from the smoked salmon to that fried cheese dessert. So jealous!

  8. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures says:

    I’d be happy with those donuts in the 1st pic for every single one of my meals haha!

  9. Kristin Addis says:

    I need to go find something that looks like those donuts in the first photo. When will I learn not to look at your site when I’m already hungry? This should be interesting as I’m in southern Thailand…

  10. This post made me miss my native cuisine!
    You even found the epic “munkki” (donut) spot in my home town -Pyynikin näkötorni. Mustamakkara is the other Tampere speciality, but not my personal favorite 🙂

    Next time I’d go to Finland I’ll certainly buy some marinated herring and prepare a salad with boiled eggs, marinated herring, sour cream, red onions and leek and serve it to my Peruvian friends with some local papas nativas.

  11. I missed Finland while in Scandinavia last year unfortunately, but it looks like you definitly ate well while there! I love venison so the reindeer looks right up my alley. Oh, and the beer. Yes, I love me my beer!

  12. I’ve always liked the taste of fishermans friends, and I like vodka, I must try that shot.

  13. Looks amazing! Would love to visit Finland some day.

  14. Hey ! I spent 1 year in Finland in Erasmus, so I had time to taste a lot of things. But I actually think that you tried more typical finnish food than me …
    But I noticed that you forgot to taste the Pirkka ! It is maybe one of the most tipical thing in Finland: it is rice on a kind of bread with egg butter on it. Quite good !

    OI really liked your pictures … Thanks !

    1. Actually it’s called karjalanpiirakka. So yummy!

  15. Finland Travel Blog says:

    Traditional Finnish cuisine was based on few crops due to the harsh winters
    Little fruit and vegetables could grow but the fish and meat saved many from the cold winters,along with potatoes and cabbage
    Today however many attend catering courses to become chefs so a new style of cooking has been infused in to Finnish cuisine
    I love the simplicity and explosive tastes

  16. Dhruv Thaker says:

    nice post. Enjoyed reading blog.

    Finland has many attractions.

  17. Cool blog which I found by accident.

    You have truly found some of the best dishes here in Finland. I love cold smoked salmon and reindeer myself, and leipäjuusto (bread cheese) is also one of my favourites that I eat over the Christmas time.

    Reindeer I prefer as cut in small pieces and made to a hot dish with beer, sided with lingonberries and buttery mashed potatoes.

    The donuts in the beginning (munkki) also come with jam filling – which I love to bits!

    Thanks again for a great blog – I must read it again.

  18. The food looks great! I’ve just come back from a weeks holiday in Finland and Norway, and I completely agree with the deliciousness of Arctic Char and Reindeer Meat. We also went to Savotta in Helsinki (we were only there for 1 night) and the food was delicious, we were stuffed afterwards! I didn’t get to try everything on you list, but I want to go back there so hopefully I’ll get another chance! We did have amazing King Crab Soup in Norway though!

    1. James Bokowitch says:

      dickhead retard 😉

  19. Jessica (Barcelona Blonde) says:

    This is a very handy little guide! I’m going to Finland on Friday and have no idea what the food is like at all, but it looks delicious. The creamy salmon soup sounds amazing, and I’m excited to try reindeer in all its forms too.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Also get the garlic soup in the market, it is amazing.

  20. Amazing food list!!! I had a good read

  21. That was a fascinating post. Finland is finally getting as much attention as its neighbours, which is great. I’m especially curious about reindeer, as I love venison.

  22. My last trip to Finland, I eat Salmakki and I enjoyed every bit of it, I also like grilled chicken or chicken soup, sound interesting

  23. I didn’t know anything about Finnish food, but now this post has convinced me that I need to book a ticket to Finland soon! The reindeer looks especially intriguing…

  24. I honestly had no idea about Finnish food either but I had to pick a country to do, so I choose to do Finland I wonder if their food is really good they reindeer look good and sound good..

  25. Hey! I am so happy that i found your blog!! I also collect recipes on the Road! 😀 I am a fan of your blog already!! Sending you my best wishes

    Michael

  26. Ratheesh R Nath says:

    Loved the way you described the Finland Food 🙂

  27. No on tääl ny kummallissii suomalaisii ko ne sannoo et tippaleipä olis munkki ??? The first picture is not munkki (doughnut) but tippaleipä. Tippaleipä (funnel cake) is typically served on May 1st – Vappu.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Thank you SO much for pointing this out, I had no idea. I’m going to try to find a photo of the doughnut.

  28. Oh yeah, come to Finland if you are world-weary!

    I know, I live here.

  29. Colleen Milne says:

    I just noticed a link to this post and had to come to read it. My husband is Finnish and his Mom cooked a lot of these dishes before she passed away, so I was familiar with Finnish recipes. We visited there last summer, and our experience of food was different than yours because it was mostly in the kitchens and patios of family members. The restaurant versions here look so much fancier, which is typical everywhere, of course. Pulla, in particular (very common in most households) is a very different thing in a home kitchen. It’s only slightly sweet, and much homier looking. 🙂 So glad I found this post!

  30. Jossus Travelpics says:

    Dont forget to try finnish fast food- lihapiirakka. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lihapiirakka
    Fazer makes the best candy. I love their chocolate and the Omar-fudge.
    If you want to drink alcohol, buy a “lonkero” from Alko or a supermarket. A mix of gin and grapefruit soda.

  31. Cool stuff about Finland. Won’t follow a bacon fanatic though. My pet pig wouldn’t appreciate it.

  32. Yummy, such a great post!! Thanks for this.

  33. THIS FOOD SUCKS

  34. Kommentoija says:

    Garlic soup has nothing to do with Finland. It’s probably just a fashionable thing in some high end restaurants. Source: have lived in Finland for 20+ years and I’m very interested in traditional cuisine
    Garlic is not really that popular in here, some people are fans but it isn’t a staple like in Mediterranean or French cooking

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      That’s an interesting perspective because there are thousands of recipes on Finnish websites for Valkosipulikeitto.

      1. I ageee with kommentoija. Im finn and never heard about garlic soup. I googled it and didnt found any recipe for it which is from Finland.
        Reindeer isnt popular food here, not many have even tasted reindeer.

        Its näsinneula not nassineula.

        Fix your facts. But you missed almost all real finn kitchen foods 😀

  35. John Russel says:

    Great list, can’t wait to try all of them and truly enjoy the Finnish culture

    1. If you are coming taste those:
      Karjalanpaisti
      Leipäjuusto
      Hernekeitto
      Kaalilaatikko
      Vispipuuro
      Lohikeitto
      Nakkikastike ja perunat
      Graavilohi
      Those are popular foods What we really eat.

      1. Ayngelina Author says:

        Thanks for the list. I’ve made the Lohikeitto and have a recipe it on the site

  36. Sakshi Jaiswal says:

    Food looks tasty, would like to taste all these when I would visit Finland, Pictures itself increases the craving…Good presentation, keep writing!

  37. If you want to have some Finnish baking, head North of Toronto to Newmarket and buy a loaf (or 3) of Rye bread. Ruisleipä. Milbree Viking bakery. Liisa is the owner.
    Tell her Lisa from Calgary sent you. I have her food shipped to me every few months.
    And tradition? Try the karjalanpiirakka. Or the lihapiirakka. Yum!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Oooh this is such a good tip, thank you!

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