When it comes to culinary expeditions, Finland isn’t usually the first place on a foodie’s radar. In fact, some high-profile chefs have called the cuisine tasteless and bland. But did you know that Finnish cuisine is packed with superfoods? By using all-natural ingredients like cured salmon and cranberries (and staying away from that processed junk), Finland offers travelers some of the healthiest food in the world!
If you’re looking for some local places to try, here are a few ideas to get you started.
Places to Visit
If you’re traveling through the Finnish capital, consider taking a tour with Heather’s Helsinki. Though the tour guide is a native of Australia, she’s a longtime resident of the city and knows her way around Helsinki’s culinary scene. With her guidance, visitors can experience the best food the city has to offer. She’ll even show you some hidden gems you wouldn’t otherwise hear about.
Not far from the capital, visitors can take tours of Finland’s oldest chocolate manufacturer at their headquarters in Vantaa. Guides detail the company’s history and how Fazer Chocolate revolutionized chocolate making. Most tours include a chocolate tasting, and all guests are given a freebie bag. Throughout the country, Fazer cafés also provide quality cakes and drinks.
Dubbed one of the finest restaurants in Lahti, Ravintola Roux won the Restaurant of the Year award from the Finnish Gastronomy Society in 2016. They’ve been serving seasonal cuisine for more than twenty years, with chocolate fondant and chocolate marquise being some of its most popular dishes. In addition to their desserts, the place is well known for its fried lamb and buckwheat blinis.
Also in Lahti, with humble beginnings as one of the country’s first microbreweries in the 1990s, Teerenpeli has become a favorite distillery and brewery that also owns a chain of restaurants across southern Finland. Visitors can stop at the nearby Taivaanranta Restaurant to see the original distillery and visitor center, where they can also try some Finnish whisky. The owners are more than willing to arrange tastings and guided tours for larger groups.
In the town of Hollola is a place called Kinnarin Tila. It’s a family owned farm that started in 1667 and has been going strong for over 350 years, most recently having been turned into an interior design boutique and café. Besides selling local produce, they also make traditional homemade rye bread, which is extremely popular in Finland. The farm is only open from May until Christmas, but if you’re in the area during that time of the year, it’s definitely a place worth visiting.
Further to the north, anyone exploring Finland’s culinary scene has to make a stop at The Snow Restaurant in Kemi. The place is constructed entirely of ice, even the glasses, and the bar, and is rebuilt each winter with new designs. Besides its unique appearance, The Snow Restaurant offers top-notch traditional Finnish dishes made only with local ingredients. The idea of having to stay wrapped up in winter gear during dinner may put some visitors off, but it’s worth it.
Foods to Try
Rice porridge (riispuuro) is a typical breakfast dish in Finland, and for a good reason. It may sound like very basic food, but it can be garnished however you want. Try it with butter, sugar, cinnamon, or anything else that’s available. People are generally too busy to make it from scratch anymore, but it gives a boost of energy that all travelers can use before embarking on their adventures. Though it may be tough to find homemade porridge, it’s available ready-made in most grocery shops and hotels.
Another popular breakfast food is koyhat ritarit. Think basic French toast, but with a twist. Rather than use white bread, Finns make it with pulla, a sweet bun with hints of cinnamon and cardamom that’s made to look like bread. Like typical French toast, it can be served in a variety of ways. Try it with fruit or berries, and top it with ice cream or whipped cream.
Finnish folk are well known for having seafood and fish as the main staple of their diets. So it’s no surprise that they found a way to create a salmon-based soup (lohikeitto). It’s a favorite dish year round that’s made with fish, carrots, potatoes, onions, and full-fat milk or cream with dill and allspice to season it. Most restaurants in the country will have it on their menus, and it’s pretty easy to make on your own.
Reindeer are common in Lapland, Finland’s northernmost province, so their meat (poronkaristys) can be found throughout the country regardless of the season. While this may not be appealing to vegetarians, those who can eat it will enjoy one of the healthiest foods a person can consume. Besides being delicious, reindeer meat is lean and high in omega-3, omega-6, and vitamin B-12.
Finland is also well known for a mild cheese (leipajuusto) that’s usually made with cow’s milk, but makers can also use goat’s or reindeer milk. After being curdled, the cheese is either baked in a pie tin or fried and then cut into wedges. It tastes great with cloudberry jam and is easily found in restaurants and markets across the country.
Finns have a real sweet tooth for korvapuusti, a popular pastry made with a butter, sugar, and cinnamon filling. It looks and tastes similar to American cinnamon rolls but is notably easier to make and goes great with a cup of coffee. Finland loves this treat so much that it can be found at virtually all restaurants and cafés.
Stuffed cabbage (kaalikaaryleet) may look a little strange, and the idea is not necessarily unique to the country. But the way it’s prepared in Finland is! It’s made by blanching a cabbage leaf, which is then filled with cooked rice and minced meat, rolled, and cooked in the oven. Depending on where you eat it, it may be served with mashed potatoes or lingonberry jam. While it’s easily found in most markets, it’s recommended to try it at a restaurant if possible or make it yourself.
These are just some of the many amazing dishes of Finland. You can find dozens of other specialties by exploring and talking to the locals. Remember to taste even the foods you’re not familiar with. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.