Must-Try Finnish Cuisine and Foods in Finland for the First Time!

Over the years I’ve transformed from being a backpacker to more of a flashpacker. Part of this transformation has to do with my ever demanding taste buds that constantly are on the lookout for exotic foods. When I landed in Finland for the first time, roughly one month ago, I was just as eager to sample local Finnish cuisine as I was to explore Helsinki and engage in adventure sports in the Finnish Archipelago.

Finnish cuisine worth sampling also known as much try Finnish Food

Arriving without many preconceived expectations, I was wearing my culture vulture crooked hat with the idea I’d just dig right in – indulging in as many Finnish foods as I possibly could.

The following is a sample of some of my favorite Finnish treats, in chronological order, as they appear in the video:

Finnish Reindeer Meat

I grew up idolizing Rudolph the red nosed reindeer. How could I possibly think of sinking my teeth into Santa’s Little Helper? Well, considering I’ve tried exotic meats such as llama in Peru and dog in South Korea, I’m always game for trying something at least once.

A lovely plate of assorted Reindeer cold cut meat was brought to our table with a side of lingonberries and potatoes lightly dressed with a vinaigrette.

My first bite of authentic Reindeer meat (more on that later) immediately had me thinking this was the richest meat I’ve ever tasted. Tender and rich in flavor it certainly tasted like other game meat I’ve tried in the past. I noticed immediately it had a bit of a sour aftertaste. Although, I wouldn’t rank it as my favorite meat, by any stretch of the imagination, I would certainly try it again. In fact, I did get to sample it again in the form of meatballs which had more of a generic taste. If I had to choose between the two I would definitely go with the cold cuts.

Finnish Salty Black Licorice Salmiakki

Salmiakki (Salty Black Licorice)

I come from a family who adores licorice in all shapes, sizes and flavors; however, I’ve never tried salty licorice before in my life. Many foreigners, trying Finnish salty licorice for the first time, spit it out immediately as it simply overwhelms their palette with its overpowering astringent, salty flavor; if you search on YouTube, you can have a laugh watching them cringe as they pop it in their mouth. Prior to eating my first bite of Salmiakki, I was convinced I was going to like this. Unsurprisingly, I did. In fact, I couldn’t stop devouring it! It’s certainly one of those polarizing foods that you one typically either loves or hates. Audrey, ended up spitting it out (which you’ll notice if you watch the video clip above). Salmiakki, is a staple in Nordic countries and is especially popular in Finland. It reminds me of the love affair Aussies have with Vegemite; an acquired taste (or not) for most.

Karelian Pastries

While having breakfast at the Finnish Jailhouse Hotel in Helsinki, we noticed a peculiar shaped pie being offered up as part of the breakfast buffet. These pastries, typically made from a thin rye crust have potatoes, buckwheat, barely, rice or millet as a filling. The ones we tried had potatoes inside and were an immediate hit; we both ended up going back for seconds. Known locally as karjalanpiirakat or karjalanpiiraat these pastries are also a quite popular in Estonia.

Finnish Salmon and rye bread for lunch

Salmon with Rye Bread & Cream Cheese (or hummus) spread

Last but certainly not least is Finnish smoked salmon used as a topping for rye bread with copious amounts of cream cheese and/or hummus spread. This literally became our favorite picnic meal or do it yourself dinner during our short stay in Finland. As salmon worshipers, we couldn’t get enough of this stuff; literally, eating it every day at least once. What enhanced things even more was pairing the salmon with Finnish rye bread. On our flight from Instanbul to Helsinki, we started chatting with a Finnish girl returning home from extended travels. We asked her what Finnish foods she missed the most – without hesitation she stated rye bread.

Complete Finnish Food List

Finnish cuisine is deeply rooted in the country’s natural landscape, featuring ingredients like fish, berries, mushrooms, and game meats. Here’s a guide to some of the most delicious and traditional Finnish foods you can try:

  1. Karjalanpiirakka: These are traditional Finnish pastries made with rye flour and filled with a mixture of rice and mashed potatoes. They are typically served with a dollop of butter and a sprinkling of egg butter.
  2. Lohikeitto: This is a creamy salmon soup made with potatoes, leeks, carrots, and dill. It’s a comforting and hearty dish that’s perfect for a cold winter day.
  3. Mustikkapiirakka: This is a traditional Finnish blueberry pie made with a rye flour crust. The filling is made with fresh or frozen blueberries, sugar, and a bit of flour to thicken it.
  4. Poronkäristys: This is a traditional Finnish dish made with reindeer meat that has been sautéed with onions and served with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam. The meat is lean and flavorful, and the tartness of the lingonberries complements it perfectly.
  5. Salmiakki: This is a popular Finnish candy that has a salty licorice flavor. It’s a unique taste that’s beloved by many Finns.
  6. Graavilohi: This is a traditional Finnish dish of cured salmon that’s been marinated in a mixture of salt, sugar, and dill. It’s typically served with rye bread and a side of mustard sauce.
  7. Korvapuusti: These are Finnish cinnamon buns that are made with cardamom and brushed with melted butter before being rolled up and baked. They are a popular snack or breakfast food.
  8. Leipäjuusto: This is a traditional Finnish cheese that’s made from cow’s milk and heated until it caramelizes on the outside. It’s typically served warm with a drizzle of honey.
  9. Ruisleipä: This is a traditional Finnish rye bread that’s dense and hearty. It’s made with a combination of rye flour, water, salt, and a sourdough starter. It’s perfect for sandwiches or as an accompaniment to a meal.
  10. Karjalanpaisti: This is a traditional Finnish meat stew made with beef, pork, or lamb and a variety of root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and turnips. It’s a hearty and filling dish that’s perfect for a cold winter day.
  11. Lihapullat: These are Finnish meatballs made with a mixture of ground beef and pork, breadcrumbs, and egg. They’re typically served with mashed potatoes and lingonberry sauce.
  12. Kalakukko: This is a traditional Finnish fish pastry that’s made with rye flour and filled with fish, usually whitefish or salmon, and bacon. It’s typically baked in a wood-fired oven.
  13. Hernekeitto: This is a traditional Finnish pea soup that’s made with dried peas, root vegetables like carrots and onions, and smoked pork. It’s typically served with rye bread and a dollop of mustard.
  14. Makaronilaatikko: This is a Finnish macaroni casserole that’s made with macaroni, minced meat, and a mixture of milk, eggs, and cheese. It’s a comforting and filling dish that’s perfect for a cold day.
  15. Riisipuuro: This is a traditional Finnish rice pudding that’s made with short-grain rice, milk, and sugar. It’s typically served with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a dollop of jam.
  16. Kermaviili: This is a traditional Finnish fermented dairy product that’s similar to sour cream. It’s typically served with potatoes and fish dishes.
  17. Raparperipiirakka: This is a Finnish rhubarb pie that’s made with a buttery crust and a sweet and tart rhubarb filling. It’s a popular summer dessert.
  18. Pikkelsi: This is a Finnish pickled vegetable salad that’s typically made with cucumbers, carrots, and onions. It’s a refreshing and tangy side dish that’s perfect for summer barbecues.
  19. Siskonmakkara: This is a traditional Finnish sausage that’s made with pork and beef. It’s typically served grilled and topped with mustard.
  20. Mämmi: This is a traditional Finnish Easter dessert that’s made with rye flour, malted rye, and water. It’s a dark and dense pudding-like dessert that’s typically served with cream or milk.

These are just a few examples of the delicious and traditional Finnish foods that you can try. Finnish cuisine is unique and flavorful, and it’s a great way to experience the country’s rich cultural heritage.

Finnish Cuisine Final Thoughts

A foreigner in Finland, I am, Adventuring through food with a plan, To taste the unique flavors of this land, To understand its culture, and to expand.

Quirky Finnish food, oh how it intrigues, Puzzling my taste buds, yet satisfying my needs, From Karelian pies to reindeer meat, A whole new world of food I’m about to greet.

Sipping on kossu, a Finnish vodka brand, A bite of rye bread with butter in my hand, Dipping my spoon in the hernekeitto soup, Finnish food, I’m beginning to group.

Lihapullat and kalakukko, to name a few, Finland’s traditional dishes are quite a view, A mix of textures, flavors, and smells, I’m discovering the country’s food tales.

And oh, the sweets, like pulla and mämmi, A dessert heaven, I can’t help but agree, A taste of Finnish food, it’s all so new, Yet familiar in its own way, like a dream come true.

With each bite, I learn a little more, About the Finnish culture, its people and lore, And as I travel through this land, I know that Finnish food will always be at hand.

Our trip to Finland was assisted by Visit Finland; however, our taste buds are rather unruly and certainly have a mind of their own 😉

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  1. says: Minna V.

    hey! great to see your video in my own country!
    and blue beer you drank at that video, it is a Finnish Hartwall’s beer but the most popular beer in Finland Hartwall BEAR is a 4.5% beer, here’s a link on the picture:!
    and the other Finnish Karelia favorite beer is 4.6% in this link:!
    and just amazing that one of you had even a mild and fresh salmikkista!
    my favorite is the turkkin pepper licorice this link to the image:!
    it is at that you eat a really strong licorice flavor, we eat that which you liked, Usually the kids are eating it here in Finland!
    and I could not live without the salty liquorice, chocolate, I eat very, very rare!
    voih … You would have to try the sautéed reindeer, it is an absolute delicacy here in Finland:!
    Karelian pasty and put the egg on top of a win then it is the absolute number one:!
    the information for future travelers who come to take a look at Finnish! WELCOME =D

  2. says: John Unger

    Great shots of Finnish cuisine! A few food allergies unfortunately make me very cautious when I’m traveling, so I always have to sample fewer things then I’d like, but I’m a big fan of collecting packaged snacks from other cultures.

  3. says: Andrea

    That salmon sounds delicious! I’ve never had any Finnish food, nor really ever given any thought to what Finnish food actually is…so thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. Thanks Andrea!

      I really didn’t know hardly anything about Finnish cuisine until I arrived. I was impressed that most dishes came with a generous portion of vegetables and were centered around fish.

  4. Don’t know why this post totally inspired me to go and try local food in Guatemala 🙂 I have absolutely no access to Finnish food, but seeing this makes me want to experience (almost) all foods – NO BUGS. I draw the line there.