What’s the first thing you think of when it comes to Finnish food? My guess is that it’s either reindeer, or just as likely nothing.
Unlike Italian restaurants, you don’t see Finnish restaurants on every corner. Finnish food is not well known globally. In my opinion that’s another good reason to visit Finland – to taste the cuisine that’s hard to come by elsewhere! Read on for an introduction to some of my favourite Finnish foods:
Enjoying my first of many black licorce ice creams while enjoying the breathtaking view over Lake Savonlinna, the largest of Finland’s 187,000+ lakes!
Much to my delight, the Finns love black liquorice, as do I! You’ll find it in candies (I don’t even want to know how many bags of black liquorice candies I went through while cycling the Iron Curtain Trail), and ice cream! As I was cycling between 60 – 110km everyday, I thought that was an excellent excuse to indulge every chance I got! Here, I’m enjoying it while enjoying the view over Lake Saimaa in Savonlinaa, on the look out for the endangered Saimaa Ringed Seal.
Note: You can also find tar candy and tar ice cream. The candies weren’t too my liking and I didn’t try the ice cream, but if you’re feeling adventurous, it’s another option!
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Finland has wine! I sampled wine from the Hermanni Winery at the Hermanni Wine Tower in Ilomantsi, which provides a great view! It was the only winery I visited on my 20 day trip and it just happened to visit on my birthday! Talk about perfect timing – and a great way to relax after a day of cycling!
I could eat Leipäjuusto, better known as Finnish squeaky cheese to non-Finns, everyday of my life and be SOOOO happy! It’s curdled milk, then either fried or baked. It goes incredibly well with tart cloudberry jam! I was lucky enough to sample this homemade version (much better than the blurry photo makes it out to be) in the owner of Aurora Holidays, who offer tours of the Northern Lights in the most northern part of Finland.
Karjalanpiirakka, also known as Karelian pies originated from the eastern province of Karelia, but are now found all over Finland. It’s rice porridge in a rye crust, although this one is a gluten-free version that I had for breakfast at Timitra Hostel in Lieksa. Finns like to eat it by spreading egg butter, another Finnish treat over the top! They’re hearty, one or two of these and you’re filled up! A perfect way to start the day before cycling!
Here is another version of the Karelian pie, but this one is made with lingonberry and mashed potatoes. I confess to not trying this one since it wasn’t gluten-free, but thought it looked delicious! It was homemade by Sabrina at Taiga Spirit who served it for breakfast after having spent the night in a hide observing wolverines and bears. She also runs a bed and breakfast. I can personally attest that in addition to her keen observation skills, she’s also a killer cook!
Poronkäristys, a reindeer dish surrounded by mashed potatoes and berry is one of my favourite Finnish foods, which I was fortunate enough to eat twice. First at Hossa Reindeer Park, then at Kiveliön Kala, located between Sodankylä and Saarislkä and pictured below. Reindeer meat is rich in B12, Omega 3 and Omega 6 and it’s leaner than beef! I could eat reindeer everyday when I’m in Finland, it’s that tasty! You may balk at the idea of eating Rudolf, but the truth is reindeer in Finland are largely free roaming and have a much better life than most cattle do!
These sauerkraut and sausage crepes were my most unexpected find! I ate them at The Field Cafe, located 30km north of Suomssalmi on the side of the road! It was one of my favourite rest steps of my entire 19 days of cycling!
Not really Finnish, but for those non-adventurous eaters, don’t worry, you can easily find regular steak in Finland as well. I enjoyed this one lakeside at Panimoravintola Huvila in Savonlinna. They also have live music several nights a week during summer!
Finally, I finish with one of my favourite things about Finnish food – the ease of eating gluten-free here! Even the smallest cafe in the middle of nowhere will likely have at least one or two gluten-free options! Being celiac, I cherished this ease! I would venture to say that Finland is the most gluten-free friendly country in Europe that I’ve visited!
Note: You may have noticed that there’s no fish dishes on here. Being surrounded by seas for thousands of kilometers, fish is a very common Finnish food, but as I don’t eat fish, I didn’t include any. Check out this post from Ayngelina from Bacon is Magic which includes several fish dishes.
Note: My Finnish food experiences were made possible by VisitFinland, but all opinions are my own.