Foodie Underground: Scandinavian Takeover

Notice how any recent mention of fare from Sweden, Norway and Denmark also denotes how a Scandinavian food trend is quickly making its way into all kinds of food markets?

Why it’s taken so long for Scandinavian fare to hit the global market is beyond me, but with simple, down to earth ingredients, in the time of slow food movements and a return to more classic, traditional recipes, the timing for Viking-inspired recipes makes sense. Point being, Scandinavian inspired recipes are going to be hot this year, and you’d better prepare yourself.

Growing up with a Swedish mother and annual trips to visit my family have certainly impacted the way that I cook, and for a while now, I’ve been drooling over Kalle Bergman’s Huffington Post column, every time thinking to myself, “I need to be writing that.” Well, now’s the time.

Here’s your quick and dirty guide to everything you need to know to staying on top of the Scandinavian food trend.

The Basics

A Scandinavian diet isn’t complicated or diverse. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to really call it chic. But it’s good for you. And it’s all about tradition.

Made up of wholesome ingredients, the Scandinavian essentials keep the region’s inhabitants healthy and happy. Just like their design aesthetic, Scandinavian food is simple{ a mixture of whole grains, berries (preferably picked fresh in the summer), vegetables, Omega-3 rich fish like salmon and herring, hard cheeses, fresh dairy, and a bit of poultry and lean meats thrown in for good measure.

A classic Scandinavian meal? A combination of potatoes, fish, a simple but tasty sauce, teamed with plenty of greens, a side of hearty, whole grain bread and a glass of sparkling water.

Pickled herring

Despite what you may have heard, pickled herring is in fact delicious. Make it a 2011 resolution to try some.


Scandinavians love their coffee, and in Sweden there’s even a specific word that refers to the time of day when you grab a cup of coffee and a little something to snack on with it. There’s normally a morning and an afternoon fika, and you don’t always have to team your coffee with a baked good, but anyone that has traveled to Scandinavia knows that options abound. If nothing else, fika is a reminder to take a quick break from your daily duties. You can do it by yourself or with friends, but it’s a time to check out from your everyday reality and enjoy life.


This ingredient is a Swedish staple, making its way into baked goods, drinks and plenty of other concoctions. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a Scandinavian cinnamon roll that doesn’t have a taste of cardamom in it. For fun, throw a dash of cardamom in your morning coffee. And then pair it with this easy cake.

Cardamom Cake

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cardamom
  • 7 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Add in butter with your fingers and mix until crumbly consistency.

Add in egg and milk and mix until a batter consistency.

Pour into a greased baking pan. If you want, sprinkle with sliced almonds or orange zest.

Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes.


Otherwise known as hardtack or crispbread, knäckebröd is a Scandinavian staple. In the U.S, an easy to find option is the Wasa brand. For a classic Scandinavian breakfast, serve up a basket of crispbread and cover the rest of the table in pålägg, everything that you can possibly think of that you could put on your crispbread: tomatoes, cucumber, hard boiled egg, sliced cheese, meat – the list goes on. Serve with a big cup of tea or coffee and you’ve started your day with a Scandinavian twist.


Use it, love it. Boil up a pot of potatoes, douse in olive oil and salt, and throw on a few tablespoons of chopped dill. You’ll never go back.


Maybe it’s because the Scandinavian diet is high in fish, but there seems to be a multitude of sauces. These aren’t your cream-heavy sauces of the French conviction. Swedish sauces are light, often citrusy, and go well with fish and potatoes. My favorite? A traditional Gravlaxsås, served with its namesake, gravlax, a form of cured salmon.


  • 3 tablespoons mustard
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped dill

Mix mustard, sugar, salt, pepper, and vinegar in a bowl.

Add in oil very slowly, constantly whisking. Note: I always do this by hand, but because you need to maintain a constant rhythm of whisking to keep the oil from separating from the rest of the ingredients, an electric mixer can be useful.

Mix until sauce is thick and creamy, then add in dill.


In Sweden, we often eat them with meatballs, and summers are spent handpicking the small, red berries and turning them into jams to be used later in the heart of winter. Lingonberries have the tart/sweet blend that make them the ideal ingredient for jams, pies and even using in salads and combining with savory dishes.

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground. Each week, Anna will be taking a look at something new and different that’s taking place in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to culinary avant garde.

Images: Anna Brones

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.