Cuisine of Finland

Cuisine of Finland

The cuisine of Finland is notable for the use of wholemeal products (rye, barley, oats) and berries (such as blueberries, lingonberries, cloudberries, and sea buckthorn). Milk and its derivatives like buttermilk are commonly used as food, drink or in various recipes. Various turnips were common in traditional cooking, but were substituted by the potato after its introduction in the 18th century.

Modern Finnish cuisine combines traditional country fare and "haute cuisine" with contemporary continental style cooking. Fish and meat play a prominent role in traditional Finnish dish from the western part of the country, while the dishes from the eastern part have traditionally included various vegetables and mushrooms, of which especially the latter were introduced to the dining tables of the western side as late as during World War II by refugees from Karelia.

In the new Finnish kitchen, dishes are lighter, smaller, and generally contain several different vegetables. This mode of cooking is highly influenced by European and American cuisine.

Examples of Finnish dishes

Traditional Finnish cuisine shares a lot with Swedish, German and Russian cuisines. However, there are differences in preparation techniques: for example, Finnish dishes tend to be less sweet than Swedish ones, and Finns use little or no sour cream ("smetana") in preparation compared to their Russian neighbours. Several traditional Swedish or Russian dishes are also absent.

Note that the term "perinneruoka" ("traditional dish" ) is often applied to specialities that are rarely eaten on a daily basis. These are often regional, associated with the older generations or confined to a specific holiday (for example, mämmi in Easter), and most people eat them rarely or not at all. To contrast with "perinneruoka", the term "kotiruoka" ("home-made food", even if in a restaurant) is applied to daily staple dishes. Meatballs, pea soup and rye bread are examples of such staples.

The following list is a sample of typical dishes traditionally consumed in Finland.

Traditional dishes

* Cabbage rolls ("kaalikääryleet")
* Game food. Moose, deer, grouse, duck, hare, etc... dishes. Rarely attainable in restaurants. Common amongst those whose hobby is hunting.
*Cold smoked fish
**Cold smoked salmon, Lox (Kylmäsavustettu lohi)
**Graavilohi (Gravlax)
**Cold smoked Perch
* Hernekeitto – Peasoup
* Leipäjuusto, alternate name "juustoleipä".
* Viili, a yogurt-like fermented milk product
* Mashed potato
* Lihapullat – Finnish meatballs
* Pickled Herring (usually with small potatoes)
* Smoked fish (Many types of fish, like salmon, zander, pike, perch and Baltic herring)
* Smoked ham or beef (palvikinkku) (palviliha)


* Mämmi in Easter
* Joulupöytä – Christmas dishes, such as ham, different casseroles from liver, swede and carrot, potato salad, rosolli (beetroot and apple salad)


* Kalakukko in Savo
* Karelian pasties from Karelia, also popular elsewhere
* Karelian Stew/Hot Pot from Karelia, also popular elsewhere
* Klimppisoppa from Ostrobothnia, flour dumpling soup
* Mustamakkara – blood sausage from Tampere
* Mykyrokka from Savo, blood dumpling soup
* Lohikeitto from Lapland, salmon soup with cream
* Pepu (a cooked dish made of water and flour, usually barley in a ratio of 1:3)
* Rössypottu from Oulu
* Sautéed reindeer traditional in Lapland


*Maitorieska, milk flat bread
*Pulla, sweet bread eaten with coffee or as dessert
*Ruisleipä, rye bread
*Sihtileipä, rye and wheat bread
*Rieska, common name for flat bread, usually made of barley (in the shape of a half ball, Savo, or very flat and baked on naked flame, Kainuu North Finland; there is also potato variant
*Läskirieska, flat(ish) barley bread with pieces of lard (west coast)
*Pettuleipä, Bread made from a mixture of flours of rye and pine phloem (the living, soft layer of bark) was eaten up to the 19th century in very poor times, when the food was in short supply, and the tradition of making this bread has had a minor come-back with claims of health benefits.
*Swedish "svartbröd" "black bread" is eaten in Swedish-speaking Åland; similar dark bread, known as "saaristolaisleipä" ("islander's bread", referring to Åland), is made on southern coast, and in Malax on the Ostrobothnian coast ("Maalahden limppu"). This bread, colored dark brown, is made from rye and contains a substantial quantity of dark syrup.


*Drinking water - fresh water from lakes like Päijänne and ground water
*Coffee - While not native to the area
*Milk - drinking milk is also common among adults
*Piimä - a fermented milk


*Cloudberry liqueur
*Glögi – Mulled wine
*Marskin ryyppy (Marshal Mannerheim's shot)
*Jaloviina (cut brandy)
*Kilju (a notorious home-brewed beverage traditionally fermented without flavouring)
*Koskenkorva (famous vodka-like clear spirit)
**Salmiakkikossu – a cocktail of koskenkorva and salmiakki
*Sima (mead)
*Pontikka (Finnish moonshine)
*Sahti (traditional beer)


*Mämmi, usually eaten around Easter time, in catholic era it was lent food
*Golden cloudberry dessert
*Fruit soups (similar to fruit fools) – water, sugar, berry juice and berries (nowadays often canned or frozen) thickened with potato flour, served with milk/cream and sugar.
*Runeberg's tart
*cinamon rolls (korvapuustit) - a kind of pulla (sweet bread)


*Salmiakki – ammonium chloride flavored candy
* Variety of licorice, most famous manufacturer are Panda and Halva
*Fazer Sininen milk chocolate
*Wood tar ("terva") flavored candy, such as Terva Leijona


There are three meals per day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. In all primary and secondary schools, including high school, a hot free lunch is served as part of Finland's welfare state agenda. Among workers, lunch is often not so heavy, and may be a sandwich or a salad, depending on whether the company has a lunch restaurant. In the evening, the dinner is usually a hot meal.


Breakfast usually consists of open sandwiches. The sandwich is often buttered (with margarine), with toppings such as hard cheese or cold cuts. Finns usually do not have sweets on their breads such as jam (like the French and the Americans), or chocolate (like the Danes).

Sour milk products such as yogurt or viili are also common breakfast foods, usually served in a bowl with cereals such as corn flakes, muesli, and sometimes with sugar, fruit or jam.

A third food that is commonly eaten at breakfast is porridge ("puuro"), often made of rolled oats, and eaten with a pat of butter ("voisilmä", lit. "butter eye") and/or with milk, or fruit or jam, especially the sort made of raspberries or strawberries (sometimes lingonberries).

Drinks are milk, juice, tea, or coffee.


There are long traditions of hunting and fishing in Finland. The hunters focus on deer and moose, but small game such as hare, ducks and grouse are popular for their taste. The game food makes natural additions to the Finnish cuisine. Approximately 70,000-80,000 moose are culled yearly producing significant amounts of meat. Due to very strict food hygiene regulations, moose meat is mainly consumed within households and is rarely obtainable in restaurants. Finnish restaurants are accustomed to serving reindeer dishes instead.


To add some vitamins and make the rather heavy food more enjoyable, a traditional jam is made from lingonberry and served with meat. A more exclusive but not uncommon jam is the cloudberry jam.

Blueberry soup and blueberry pie are very traditional Finnish desserts. The wild strawberry ("metsämansikka") with strong aroma is also a seasonal delicacy decorating cakes, served with ice cream or just cream.

It is still quite common to go picking berries straight from the forests. Wild raspberries, blueberries and lingonberries are found almost in every part of Finland. The berries are nowadays usually frozen and eaten at winter with porridge and sugar. Home-made berryjuices and jams are still common, especially amongst older people.


Amongst some people, Finnish food has a poor reputation. In former times, the country's harsh climate meant that fresh fruit and vegetables were largely unavailable for nine months of the year, causing a heavy reliance on staple tubers (initially turnip, later potato), dark rye bread and fermented dairy products, occasionally enlivened with preserved fish and meat. Traditionally, very few spices other than salt were available, and fresh herbs like dill were limited to the summer months. Many Finnish traditional dishes are prepared by stewing them for a long time in an oven, which produces hearty but bland fare. Famines caused by crop failures in the 19th century caused Finns to improvise by eating, for example, bread made from the soft phloem layer of pine bark ("pettuleipä"), which was nutritious but rock-hard and anything but tasty.

Even with the advent of modern agriculture and transportation, heavy taxes and outright bans on imports that could compete with local produce severely limited the availability of foreign or unseasonal food. Only the advent of European Union membership in 1995 and the consequent elimination of trade barriers opened the floodgates, with prices of some products like grains, meat and milk dropping by up to 50%,Tietoaika2/2005: "EU:n tuoma hintaetu on tallella" [] ] and now Finnish supermarkets and restaurants serve up a wide variety of food from all over the world. The simplicity of traditional Finnish food has also been turned into an advantage by placing an emphasis on freshness instead, and modern Finnish restaurateurs now blend high-quality Finnish produce with continental cooking techniques, culminating with Helsinki's "Chez Dominique" receiving two Michelin stars in 2003.

However, in 2005, Finnish cuisine came under heavy fire from two leaders of countries renowned for their cuisine. The Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi claimed that "I've been to Finland and I had to endure the Finnish diet so I am in a position to make a comparison." Berlusconi started his anti-Finnish food campaign in 2001. He went on: "The Finns don't even know what Parma ham is." This followed the initial decision by the European Commission to establish the European Food Safety Authority in Helsinki. On July 4, 2005 French President Jacques Chirac claimed that "After Finland, [Britain is] the country with the worst food." [,11882,1521199,00.html] []

After Jacques Chirac's and Silvio Berlusconi's critiques, some international food reporters answered:

"Chirac and Berlusconi are wrong! Finnish cuisine is much more international than I expected. I have eaten very good food in wonderful restaurants, visited market places and enjoyed in good cafeterias. Cheese is very good in Finland. I also love Finnish cloudberry and smoked fish." (Ute Junker, Australian Financial Review Magazine, Sydney, Australia)

"Food in Finnish restaurants is extremely good. Especially I love Finnish salmon, mushroom soup and desserts. I have also got very good Finnish wines. The worldwide reputation of Finnish cuisine isn't very good – but it should be!" (Liliane Delwasse, Le Figaro, Paris, France)

"I have eaten only good food in Finland. Food in Finland is very fresh. Bread, berries, mushrooms and desserts are very delicious. Finnish berries (especially cloudberry), salmon, cheeses and reindeer should be available in London, too." (April Hutchinson, Abta Magazine, London, England).

When Finnish pizza chain Kotipizza in 2008 won the America’s Plate International pizza contest in New York, Italy coming in second, they named their award winning pizza "Berlusconi" as a symbolic payback for the critique Finnish cuisine had received from him earlier. ["Reindeer Pizza Named after Berlusconi" [] ]

ee also

* Culture of Finland
* List of Christmas dishes
* List of recipes
* Soft drink
* Lappish cuisine
* Swedish cuisine
* Russian cuisine


External links

* [ Food from Finland]

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