What Do Swedes Eat for Dinner?

Most people know of Swedish food from IKEA’s food courts, where one can dine on Swedish meatballs, gravadlax, and Swedish pancakes.

These dishes are not very common in most Swedish restaurants in Sweden, but they are typical homemade meals on most Swedish dinner tables.

Swedes eat traditional Swedish dishes such as meatballs with potatoes, fish or chicken and rice, stuffed cabbage, soup, fish and rice, or pork and beans for dinner.

However, Swedish people also prepare imported dishes like tacos and pizza for dinner. 

While most Swedish households prepare classic Swedish dinners on most days of the week, other imported dishes have become increasingly common in Sweden.

Still, some traditions dictate the daily menu of a typical Swedish person. Let’s explore what makes Swedish cuisine so unique.

Also, see What Sports Are Popular in Sweden? to learn more.

A Common Swedish Dinner

A typical Swedish dinner consists of the following:

  • A starch, typically potatoes or bread
  • Meat
  • Fruit or vegetables 

While traditional Swedish dishes such as meatballs with potatoes, gravy, and lingonberries are common, foods such as tacos, chili, and takeout are increasingly prevalent in Sweden. 

Swedish traditional dishes generally include seasonal ingredients with an emphasis on dairy, root vegetables, and meats. Some of the most common ingredients in Swedish cooking include these items:

  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Lingonberry
  • Potatoes
  • Peas
  • Eggs
  • Bread
  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Beef [1]

Cumin, caraway, and allspice are characteristic of many Swedish dishes, giving traditional Swedish food a warm, spiced flavor.

Few vegetables grow in Sweden’s cold climate, so there are limited veggies in most classic Swedish dishes. 

The vegetables that do grow well in Sweden include the following:

  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Yams
  • Radishes
  • Cabbage
  • Beets

Likewise, many fruits cannot grow in Sweden. While seasonal strawberries and strawberry jam are treats in Sweden, it is much more common to find:

  • Lingonberry
  • Apples
  • Plums
  • Cherries [2]

Swedes also eat game animals frequently. These animals include:

  • Reindeer
  • Boar
  • Fresh-caught fish like cod, herring, or salmon 

Some Common Husmanskost, or Houseman’s Swedish Dishes

Within a family home, Swedes often cook traditional Swedish dishes called Husmanskost, or “House-man’s fare.” [3] 

Some of these typical family meals include: 

  • Beef meatballs with brown gravy and mashed potatoes served with lingonberries or ketchup.
  • Fish such as herring or salmon with pasta or potatoes.
  • Sausage in stews, soups, or pasta dishes, often served with mustard.
  • Stuffed cabbage (kåldolmar) with starch, such as mashed potatoes and brown gravy.
  • Yellow pea soup (ärtsoppa) with pancakes (pannkakor), cream, and jam for dessert.
  • Pork belly with beans and brown gravy.
  • Shrimp sandwiches
  • Game BBQ with deer, boar, or fresh fish [4]

These dishes vary depending on the household, but from this list of examples, it is easy to see that the menu is slightly limited. 

In most cases, Swedish people have meat as their main course, most commonly served with a condiment such as lingonberry jam, ketchup, or mustard.

They then pair this meat with potatoes most of the time but may exchange the potatoes for the following:

  • Rice
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Pasta 

Then, they will cover their meats and starches in gravy. They favor brown sauce made with these ingredients:

  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Flour broth
  • Salt and pepper

Still, Swedish people generally have specific dishes for festivals and celebrations, similar to how Americans invariably eat turkey on Thanksgiving.

Such dishes include the world-famous smörgåsbord, which is often a feature of Easter lunches.

International Cuisine in Sweden

Like most countries, Sweden’s culinary climate benefits from the global trade market, allowing them to cook dishes from various cuisines using ingredients that cannot grow well in Sweden.

Swedes particularly like Spanish, Italian, Tex-Mex, and Chinese cuisines. 

The slightly restricted menu of a traditional Swedish cook has made takeout, restaurants, and international recipes a big hit in Sweden.

Some international dishes that have found their way into home-cooked meals in Sweden include: 

  • Tacos 
  • Spaghetti bolognese
  • Lasagna
  • Pizza
  • Kebabs with rice

Traditional Swedish Dinners and the Days of the Week

Sweden has some traditions surrounding dinners, with some dishes being more common on specific days of the week. 


On Thursday, many Swedish families eat yellow pea soup. This tradition began in the Medieval period, as many Swedish Catholic families consumed hearty ärtsoppa with rich ham before fasting on Friday.

Although most Swedes no longer observe the Friday fast, the tradition of eating soups on Thursday has stuck. [5]

To learn more about the historical menu in Sweden and other Scandinavian areas, see What Did the Vikings Eat? 


It’s common for families to eat tacos on Fridays, but the menu might also include finger foods, pizza, and other snacks. Friday dinners are usually part of a family night when most Swedish families spend time snacking and relaxing at home. [6]


In addition, Saturdays are one of the only days of the week that Swedes eat candy. While a Swedish person may indulge in candy on any other day of the week, most people save it for Saturday, when kids and families tote around their lördagsgodis, or “Saturday sweets.” [7]

The Different Meals in Sweden

In Sweden, the meals consist of the following:

  • Breakfast (frukost)
  • A coffee and cake break (Fika)
  • Lunch (lunch)
  • Dinner (middag)

Breakfast is usually light, while lunch and dinner are warm, prepared meals. 

One of the memorable meals in Swedish culture is the fika, similar to tea time, but with coffee and cakes instead. Swedes share this meal when friends, coworkers, or family sit down to share pastries, such as kanelbulle rolls, similar to cinnamon rolls. [8]

Fika is a long-standing tradition and a time to rest and take a break from work or school. Many workplaces give employees two fika breaks a day in Sweden. [9]

Fika’s importance to Swedes is a testament to their love for coffee, as Sweden is one of the top three coffee-consuming countries worldwide.

Interestingly, they love coffee so much that they leave it for Santa Claus on Christmas eve. 

To learn more about this caffeinated Christmas tradition, see What Do Kids in Sweden Leave for Santa? 

Frukost, or breakfast, on the other hand, is very similar to breakfast in the USA. Most Swedish people enjoy an open-faced sandwich, eggs, or oatmeal at the start of their days. [10]

Typical lunch meals include the following:

  • Meatballs with sauce
  • Pancakes
  • Soup or fish
  • Sides of veggies or potatoes

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Christian Christensen

Christian started Scandinavia Facts to explore his family heritage, raise awareness of one of his academic interests as a professor, and civilly promote the region. Please see the About page for details.

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