Swedish Christmas dishes: A Simple Guide

by Ella

Christmas is a time of celebration and tradition in Sweden, marked by festive decorations, gatherings with loved ones, and, of course, delicious food. Swedish Christmas cuisine is deeply rooted in history and culture, featuring an array of dishes that reflect the country’s seasonal ingredients and culinary customs. From hearty meats to delicate pastries, Swedish Christmas fare offers something for everyone to enjoy. In this article, we’ll explore the rich tapestry of flavors that characterize a traditional Swedish Christmas feast.

History and Traditions

To understand Swedish Christmas cuisine, it’s important to delve into the historical and cultural context that shapes these culinary traditions. Christmas has been celebrated in Sweden for centuries, with many of the customs and rituals dating back to pagan times. Over the years, these traditions have evolved and merged with Christian influences to create the festive atmosphere that Swedes cherish today.


One of the most iconic symbols of Swedish Christmas is the Julbord, or Christmas smorgasbord. This lavish buffet-style meal typically features an abundance of dishes, ranging from savory to sweet, and is enjoyed by families and friends across the country. The Julbord is a time-honored tradition that brings people together to feast and celebrate the holiday season.


Main Dishes

At the center of the Swedish Christmas table are several main dishes that are both hearty and flavorful. One such dish is the Julskinka, or Christmas ham. Traditionally, the ham is glazed with mustard and breadcrumbs before being roasted to perfection. It’s often served cold, sliced thinly, and accompanied by mustard or a sweet glaze.


Another popular main dish is the Janssons Frestelse, or Jansson’s Temptation. This creamy potato and anchovy casserole is a staple of the Swedish Christmas table. Made with layers of thinly sliced potatoes, onions, and anchovies, all baked in a rich cream sauce, Jansson’s Temptation is a comforting and indulgent dish that is sure to please.


For those who prefer seafood, Gravad lax, or cured salmon, is a beloved Christmas delicacy in Sweden. The salmon is marinated with a mixture of salt, sugar, and dill, then left to cure for several days. The result is a tender and flavorful fish that pairs perfectly with crispbread and a dollop of mustard sauce.

Side Dishes

In addition to the main dishes, Swedish Christmas feasts are typically accompanied by an array of side dishes that complement the flavors of the season. One such side dish is the Sill, or pickled herring. Herring is a staple of Swedish cuisine, and at Christmas time, it’s often served in a variety of flavorful marinades, such as mustard, onion, and dill.

Another classic side dish is the Gravlaxsås, or mustard-dill sauce. This creamy sauce is made with a base of sour cream or crème fraîche, flavored with mustard, dill, and a hint of sweetness from sugar or honey. It’s the perfect accompaniment to both the Gravad lax and the Julskinka, adding a burst of flavor to every bite.

No Swedish Christmas feast would be complete without the ubiquitous Julgröt, or Christmas porridge. Made from rice, milk, and a hint of cinnamon, Julgröt is a comforting and nourishing dish that is enjoyed by young and old alike. It’s often served with a dollop of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, creating a warm and inviting treat for the holiday season.

Desserts and Sweets

Swedish Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a selection of decadent desserts and sweets to satisfy your sweet tooth. One of the most iconic Christmas treats in Sweden is the Pepparkakor, or gingerbread cookies. These spiced cookies are a beloved holiday tradition, often shaped into festive shapes such as stars, hearts, and pigs, and decorated with icing or sugar.

Another popular dessert is the Risgrynsgröt, or rice pudding. Made from rice cooked in milk and flavored with cinnamon and sugar, Risgrynsgröt is a creamy and comforting dish that is often enjoyed as a dessert or a snack during the holiday season. It’s traditionally served with a drizzle of cinnamon sugar or a dollop of fruit sauce.

For those with a sweet tooth, no Swedish Christmas feast would be complete without a slice of Saffransbullar, or saffron buns. These golden-hued buns are flavored with saffron, giving them a unique and aromatic flavor that is reminiscent of the holiday season. They’re often enjoyed with a cup of glögg, or mulled wine, for the perfect Christmas treat.

See Also: 4 Components of a Traditional Austrian Christmas Dinner


In conclusion, Swedish Christmas cuisine is a celebration of tradition, flavor, and community. From the savory delights of Julskinka and Janssons Frestelse to the sweet indulgence of Pepparkakor and Saffransbullar, Swedish Christmas feasts offer a feast for the senses that is sure to delight and inspire. Whether you’re a native Swede or a curious visitor, experiencing a traditional Swedish Christmas meal is an experience that will create lasting memories and warm the heart for years to come. So gather your loved ones, raise a glass of glögg, and indulge in the rich tapestry of flavors that make Swedish Christmas cuisine truly special. God Jul!



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