7 Traditional Finnish Foods to Try

One of the best things about traveling is sampling the local cuisine. Eating abroad has a way of coaxing travelers out of their food comfort zones, beckoning them to try a roasted cricket in one continent, blood soup in another. Finnish food doesn't push the boundaries too much. Dishes are known to be simple and fresh, most of them locally-sourced, often organic, and almost always featuring a potato in some form or another. Finland's fare isn't too scary, so don't be afraid to step out of your safety net and expand your palette.

01 of 07

Leipajuusto

Slice of Juustoleipa cow or reindeer milk cheese with lightly toasted rind, made in Finland and Lapl
Dorling Kindersley / Getty Images

Also known as "squeaky cheese," this dish is traditionally made from cow beestings—or colostrum—which is the milk that comes immediately after the cow gives birth. That milk is curdled and placed in a round dish to set and is then baked, flambeed, or grilled to give it golden brown markings. It is usually eaten right after being cooked, but it can also be dried and stored for years and then warmed up and eaten. Usually, it is sliced and enjoyed on the side of coffee (or with the coffee poured on top). It's also sometimes served with cloudberry jelly or used as a replacement for feta cheese in salads. You can find leipajuusto at various cafes or cheese makers in Finland or you can buy it commercially, although the commercial kind may lack the flavor and color of the traditional version.

02 of 07

Vispipuuro

An overhead view of vispipuur.
Minanla / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0

Vispipuuro is a dessert porridge made from wheat semolina and lingonberries. The semolina and berries are cooked together with a sweetener and then left to cool. Once cooled, the mixture is whipped until it has the consistency of a mousse. The dish is then served with milk and sugar. Vispipuuro can be found on the dessert menu in many Finnish restaurants.

03 of 07

Lohikeitto

Salmon soup with new potatoes and fresh dill in cream sauce at the Glass Palace restaurant in Helsinki, Finland
Bo Zaunders / Getty Images

Lohikeitto is a soup made with salmon, potatoes, and leaks. Milk is also added sometimes to give it a more creamy texture. Finnish families often have this nourishing soup with a bit of dill on top for dinner (especially during the winter), but you can find it on many restaurant menus, too.

04 of 07

Mustikkapiirakka

Mustikkapiirakka or blueberry pie.
pxhere / Public Domain CC0

Mustikkapiirakka is blueberry pie, but it's not any blueberry pie. Instead of being made with pastry, like in American tradition, the Finnish version has more of a cake-like consistency, and it's naturally gluten-free because it's most often made with almond flour, rice flour, or other non-wheat substitutes. Mustikkapiirakka is best accompanied by a hot cup of coffee.

Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07

Reindeer

Reindeer fillet with green salad
Pepe Nilsson / Getty Images

Reindeer meat is a staple in most Finnish people's diets. Reindeer farms are common here and because so few are exported, there's an abundance for consumption. The flavor is akin to beef but slightly stronger and it's tougher in texture, too. In Finnish restaurants, you'll find many dishes featuring this meat, such as stews, steak, roasts, and pasta dishes.

06 of 07

Kaalilaatikko

Kaalilaatikko or cabbage casserole.
Ville Oksanen / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Kaalilaatikko is a baked cabbage casserole made with ground meat, rice, and a dash of molasses. It's a traditional Finnish meal that's often served with sweet lingonberry (or cowberry) jam and usually eaten during autumn.

07 of 07

Kalakukko

Kalakukko is a traditional food from Finland made from fish baked inside a loaf of bread
Robert Andersson / Getty Images

Although the idea of kalakukko might be unappealing to some, this fish pie is a popular dish in Savonia, particularly in the capital city of Kuopia, which hosts its very own annual kalakukko baking contest. Here, there are bakeries dedicated to the delight. The bread is usually made with rye flour, and while there are many different variations of the dish, the traditional filling is fish, pork, and bacon. 

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