Want to host a Christmas feast with a Swedish spin? Here are some of the most popular recipes to serve for a Swedish-inspired Christmas meal.
Those who celebrate Christmas in Sweden begin their celebrations on St. Lucia Day, December 13th. It’s the kickoff to the holiday season and honors the Christian martyr who was killed for her beliefs. The celebration has become a celebration of lights where girls dress in white robes and headdresses with candles. The lights represent hope for a brighter future.
On Christmas Eve (Julafton), they might attend church services and then families gather together for a festive feast called julbord which means “Christmas table.” The huge meal lasts into the evening when gifts are delivered for Christmas day.
The meal is a buffet of all the family’s favorite dishes and usually several chefs in the family contribute to preparing the meal.
The first course may begin with cold dishes like pickled herring, pate and cold meats, followed by the main course of ham, Swedish meatballs, potatoes, cabbage and warm rolls. Cheese and homemade desserts wrap up the meal.
Swedish restaurants also offer julbord throughout the month of December to give tourists a chance to experience a real Swedish Christmas meal.
If you love Swedish traditions but aren’t planning on making a trip there this holiday season, you can still add a few pieces to your Christmas celebration. There’s no better way to share a culture than through food. Here are a few dishes that are popular at a Swedish Julbord.
Pickled Herring (Sill)
Sill is the name for pickled herring and it’s an essential part of a Swedish Christmas meal. Herring was once plentiful in Sweden and affordable for any family and because of that, it has become a Swedish Christmas tradition that has been passed down for generations.
Each family has their own recipe for pickled herring, typically containing vinegar, sugar and fresh herbs. They may serve more than one kind as an appetizer, along with pickled vegetables. These cold fish dishes are often seasoned with mustard and fresh dill and served alongside rye bread.
Smoked Salmon (Gravadlax)
Salmon is another popular fish served in a Swedish smorgasbord. It typically takes a few days to prepare as the salmon is cured in the refrigerator in a mixture of sugar, salt and dill.
Sweden is known for giving the world Swedish meatballs. They can be found in every home and are almost never pre-made from a store.
Swedish households all have their own special mixture and preparation method for the perfect meatballs. It’s a very traditional food to include on a Swedish Christmas table.
Christmas Ham (Julskinka)
The star of the show is the Christmas ham. It takes time and skill to prepare it just right, but often the ham sits in brine for several days (up to two weeks) before it is dried, topped with mustard and bread crumbs and cooked to perfection. The juices from the ham are often reserved to be used in other dishes as well.
Hunting is a popular sport in Sweden so many families will serve some sort of game as part of their Christmas buffet. Venison, boar, elk and pheasants are all common. No matter the animal, there is no doubt meat is the main event in julbord. It may also include roast pork, pork sausage or even pig’s feet.
Prince Sausages (Prinskorv)
You will often find some sort of sausage on the table during a Swedish holiday. One of the most popular are small prince sausages covered in a spicy mustard sauce. They are a particularly popular dish for the kids!
Potatoes (Janssons Frestelse)
This unique potato casserole, sometimes called jansson’s temptation, may sound strange, but when it all comes together it is salty, creamy and delicious.
Grated potatoes, onions and anchovies or salmon are baked with milk and cream and seasoned with dill. Most families top it with bread crumbs and cook until the topping is crispy and brown.
Lussekatter are S-shaped pretzels seasoned with saffron and decorated with raisins. They are sometimes called saffron buns. This sweet bread is a must-have for St. Lucia and then continually enjoyed through the end of the year.
Sweet and sour braised cabbage pairs nicely with all the meat options in the julbord. Red cabbage is slowly braised to bring out the unique flavor. Cabbage, brussel sprouts and kale are all popular side choices.
Beetroot Salad (rödbetssallad)
There are many variations of beetroot salad. It is often paired with apples and mayonnaise which may sound strange, but when combined with pickled beets it creates a tangy and sweet flavor that is excellent with meat. Beetroot salad is often added on top of a meatball sandwich.
Swedish Almond Tart
There are many different types of tarts that are popular on Christmas. Basically any fruit can be used inside a thin crust to create a dessert that resembles an American pie.
Rice Pudding (Risgrynsgröt)
Rice pudding is almost always a part of a julbord and is sometimes called rice porridge, Christmas Porridge or Santa’s porridge. In Sweden, rice pudding is the dish that is left for Santa to enjoy. It may be topped with cinnamon or a fruit syrup.
Traditionally an almond is cooked into the mix and the tradition is whoever gets the almond is predicted to get married the next year.
There are many different types of sweet treats that may be served. Sweden has their own version of a gingerbread cookie that is less sweet than American gingerbread cookies and has more spice. Swedish families are also known to serve toffee, caramel, an assortment of Christmas cookies and chocolate.
December is a dark and cold month in Sweden, when the sun usually goes down around 2 p.m. That’s why Christmas is such a special celebration. It’s a time to light candles, be with loved ones and share a little holiday magic. Try some of these Swedish dishes at home to enjoy an amazing Sweden-inspired Christmas meal!