There has been a recent revival in Nordic cuisine in recent years that goes beyond Swedish meatballs from IKEA (although they are pretty tasty!).
Scandinavia is host to some of the most popular eateries globally, including two-Michelin-star favorite Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark. Additionally, the number of internationally acclaimed chefs within the region is growing every year.
Nordic cuisine embraces traditional and regional foods with a nod towards artisanal production. When you think about Scandinavian food, it’s not hard to imagine juniper berries, fragrant apples, rye grains, salty fish, churned butter, whole milk, foraged wild mushrooms, and creamy yogurt, just as a start. There’s a delight in enjoying whole, unprocessed food in its entire splendor.
Visiting the Nordic region necessitates enjoying their delicious traditional dishes and famous baked goods.
What Is Nordic Cuisine?
The Nordic diet focuses on eating locally grown and sourced food from the following Nordic countries: Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and Finland.
Nordic cuisine has as many health benefits as the Mediterranean diet. Compared with the average Western diet, the Nordic diet boasts less fat, less sugar, twice the fish, and twice the fiber. Berries are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, and diets rich in fish oil can lower your cholesterol levels.
Scandinavians are proud of their Viking heritage, which is reflected in how they preserve the authenticity of their dishes.
Scandinavian cooking is simple, flavorful, and not very spicy. While many European countries view lunch as the main meal of the day, Scandinavian countries tend to favor dinner while having a quick snack for lunch.
Breakfast is a significant meal since many workers go to work early. Traditionally, breakfast may consist of whole-grain bread with butter, jam, honey, cheese, and ham. Porridge is also considered an authentic and typical breakfast.
Lunch tends to be a quick affair, typically consisting of a sandwich, soup with bread, or a spread of cold cuts.
Dinner is commonly served around 6 PM and is the main course. For a healthy, classic dinner, Scandinavians may eat meat or fish with potatoes.
All Nordic countries enjoy daily tea time in the afternoon, usually consisting of biscuits, pastries, cookies, and coffee.
Traditional Ingredients Found In Nordic Cuisine
Nordic cuisine emphasizes eating the following:
- Whole grains
- Rye bread
- Rapeseed oil
The following should be eaten in moderation:
- Free-range eggs
- Game meats
The following is eaten rarely:
- Animal fats
- Red meat
Nordic cuisine avoids:
- Processed meats
- Sugary beverages
- Fast food
- Food additives
Nordic cuisine is not only healthier; it can reduce abdominal inflammation and can benefit you by lowering your risk of disability later in life. In addition, a healthy diet can improve your physical performance and can keep you mobile longer.
The History of Nordic Cuisine
Nordic cuisine uses ingredients that are locally sourced and reflect what is available during the season.
Yet, it is more than a cuisine; it reflects the different cultures and traditional techniques with modern methods. Moreover, Nordic dishes go beyond borders and oceans, making them not as straightforward as one might think.
Unlike French or Italian cooking, which is very distinct with long-held culinary flavors and approaches, Nordic cuisine can be quite diverse with many crossovers.
Nordic countries are known for their fjords, oceans, rivers, and forests that contain the foundations of the Scandinavian diet.
Ingredients like fish and berries are readily available in each country, which is reflected in Nordic cuisine.
You will find an abundance of lingonberries, potatoes, pork, beef, crispbread, and fish in Sweden.
Norway is quite fond of seafood, reindeer, lamb, mushrooms, potatoes, cheese, and cabbage.
Denmark enjoys recipes rich in bacon, root vegetables, fish, cabbage, rye bread, and potatoes.
Finland boasts lingonberries and bilberries, reindeer, pork, beef, rye bread, potatoes, and fish.
Finally, Icelandic people love to eat fish, skyr, berries, rye flatbread, and lamb.
As you can see, there are many similar ingredients that each country uses equally.
Still, ingredients can include a comprehensive variety, including:
As fertile as the waters of the North Atlantic is, including the many rivers and lakes, it’s no wonder that there are many different variants of seafood.
- Pickled herring
- Canned sardines
- Norway lobster
- Red king crab
- Cod liver oil
- Rye bread
- Soft bread
- Viennese bread
- Cinnamon roll
- Cream cake
- Saffron buns
The New Nordic Food Manifesto
The Nordic Kitchen Manifesto was initially brought to life in 2004 to summarize ten essential elements for the new Nordic cuisine.
This manifesto has a strong focus on ethical sourcing, purity, health, and more, making it an excellent example of food development.
The main objective is to do no harm. Therefore, all developments must be safe and created with human wellbeing and responsibility in mind.
- To express purity, freshness, simplicity, and ethics.
- To reflect the changes of the seasons in the meals we make.
- To base our cooking on ingredients and produce that are in our climates, landscapes, and waters.
- To combine the demand for good taste with modern knowledge of health and well-being.
- To promote Nordic products and the variety of Nordic producers and spread the word about their underlying cultures.
- To promote animal welfare and a sound production process in our seas, on our farmland, and in the wild.
- To develop potentially new applications of traditional Nordic food products.
- To combine the best in Nordic cookery and culinary traditions with impulses from abroad.
- To combine local self-sufficiency with regional sharing of high-quality products.
- To join forces with consumer representatives, other cooking artisans, the agriculture, fishing, food, retail, and wholesale industries, researchers, teachers, politicians, and authorities on this project to benefit everyone in the Nordic countries.
Lesser-Known Nordic Dishes
While we may already be familiar with dishes like Swedish meatballs and potato pancakes, there are unique dishes that are worth discovering, including:
Originally from Sweden, palt is a potato dumpling stuffed with meat (typically pork). They are often traditionally served with butter and lingonberries.
Kroppkakor are also potato dumplings filled with meat and cooked the same way as palt, using already mashed or boiled potatoes. It is served with cream, butter, and jam.
Paltbröd is a Swedish form of flatbread enriched with blood. It is first made using wheat, yeast, rye, and blood before being baked until crispy.
Making Your Own Nordic Cuisine
Nordic cuisine is transforming the culinary landscape. Nordic cuisine looks to bring back Farm to Table practices by being rooted in tradition while observing purity, simplicity, and freshness.
You, too, can embrace culinary experimentation with modern techniques. The following are some aspects of Nordic cuisine that are influential and tasty:
Preservation has always had a longstanding tradition with the Nordics. The goal of drying, pickling, and freezing produce extends its shelf life and allows you to experiment with unique recipes. Preserving can be easier than you might think.
A batch of poorly cured meat can indeed be a recipe for disaster; properly prepared, it can be quite addictive. Many Scandinavian countries use salted meat in traditional Nordic dishes.
What we might know as the open-face sandwich, smørrebrød traditionally uses rye bread that is topped with anything from vegetables, fish, potatoes, chives, and eggs. This gastronomical invention can be tweaked in a variety of ways. You can easily make your own with as many ingredients as you desire.
Nordic cuisine embraces herbs, plants, berries, and mushrooms that you can forage from the great outdoors. This allows you to connect with nature and be creative with the ingredients you source.
If you can’t efficiently forage, try to source ingredients that are grown locally or within mindful conditions. When choosing fish, for example, try to go directly to the source. Fish markets are great ways to ensure you are enjoying fresh fish.
The Benefits of a Nordic Diet
There are many advantages to the Nordic diet, the first being weight loss. Long-term studies show that many participants can lose weight by following the diet. However, like with any diet, the weight can return if you abandon it.
But the Nordic diet goes beyond weight loss. The health benefits include a reduced risk of chronic disease and improvements in metabolic health.
Other benefits include:
- Lowered blood pressure
- Reduced non-HDL cholesterol
- Lowered blood sugar levels
- Reduced chronic inflammation
- Reduced risk of heart attack
- Reduced risk of diabetes
The Impact of the Nordic Diet on the Environment
Nordic cuisine includes a bonus: it is environmentally friendly.
Plant-based diets require fewer natural resources and create less pollution than other diets. Additionally, eating locally grown and sourced foods reduces energy consumption, pollution, and food waste.
Anyone anywhere can apply these principles to their way of life, regardless of where they live.
Any diet high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and legumes is likely to be nutritious, attainable, and easy to prepare.