What You're Likely To Eat For Breakfast When In Sweden

If you prefer your breakfast to be a lavish spread of proteins and carbs, eating your first meal of the day the way the Swedes do might take you aback. Nordic breakfast food will seem simple to those who like their table covered with pancakes, bacon, pastries, and all the usual fixings. 

However, there's an elegance to how uncomplicated a Swedish morning meal is. Their typical breakfast of a couple of bread slices with butter or cheese, a boiled egg, some yogurt, and a cup of coffee is already filling for people who don't have time to cook in the morning. Aside from eggs and yogurt, a Swedish breakfast also provides protein by way of cold cuts of meat and smoked sausages. Nevertheless, simple food can also be quality food, and these classic Swedish breakfast items also show up on plenty of other breakfast tables around the world.

For one, they love coffee. Indeed, Sweden belongs to the top three coffee-drinking countries in the world, consuming more than double the amount of what the U.S. drinks per capita. This ranking might have to do with fika, the Swedish custom where people take breaks to relax and chat over coffee. Still, coffee is a breakfast staple, with black coffee as the popular choice, so quality beans are a must.

Breakfast is all about sandwiches

Other culinary cultures treat sandwiches as lunch or dinner items, but Swedes like to have them first thing in the morning. Nothing too elaborate, though; just like with their coffee, they prefer their smørrebrød or open-faced sandwich tasty but simple. 

The base is usually the rye crispbread called knäckebröd, a 500-year-old staple in Swedish cuisine. Its mild flavor and cracker-like texture are the perfect backdrop for creamy butter and cheese and for crunchy, juicy slices of cucumber, tomatoes, bell peppers, and pickled onions. It is great with something briny and umami, too, like pickled herring or smoked salmon. But to eat like a local, squeeze some Swedish kaviar on knäckebröd. It is a paste made from fish roe mixed with potato starch, vegetable oil, and tomato paste. Sold in tubes across Sweden, it's a beloved food item that tastes slightly salty, fishy, and a little sweet, although it also comes in flavored variants. Swedish kaviar is often paired with either hard- or soft-boiled eggs; this eggs-and-eggs combo works well as a sandwich topping.

Aside from knäckebröd, whole-grain bread is also used for making sandwiches. For something meatier and more savory, top it with slices of ham or liver pâté. Sweets don't make an appearance in a typical Swedish breakfast so if you want a little sugar rush to perk you up in the morning, pair cheese with fruit jam on your smørrebrød.

Next to coffee, fermented buttermilk is a common breakfast beverage

Aside from sandwiches, Swedes break their fast in the morning with a bowl of oatmeal or muesli. They don't use regular milk, however. They prefer fermented buttermilk or filmjölk, a drink that's said to have been around since the time of Vikings. Although tart, it's less acidic and sour than yogurt, with a buttery flavor and a smoother consistency. Filmjölk has zero fat and is a great source of calcium, potassium, and probiotics. It's easy to make at home, too, since it involves fermenting buttermilk at room temperature, and you can infuse it with your favorite extracts like vanilla, hazelnut, almond, and fruit flavors. You can also use honey, maple syrup, and spices. Beyond breakfast, you can season filmjölk with salt, pepper, garlic, and fresh dill for a savory dipping sauce.

Adding filmjölk to oatmeal creates a more flavorful porridge than you'd think. Top the dish with fresh fruits, berries, and mixed nuts, and enjoy its creaminess and the different levels of sweetness and tartness. You can also crumble a knäckebröd in a bowl of filmjölk and sweeten with sugar for something more reminiscent of cereal. 

Coffee, sandwiches, oatmeal — they may not sound like the most exciting breakfast items around, but locals in Sweden have unlocked how good they can be. When made with quality ingredients and their flavors balanced and layered, they are as indulgent as any breakfast fare can be.