What to eat in Helsinki and Finland
What to eat in Helsinki? What are the most famous products that need to be tasted if you visit Helsinki? In this guide to the typical cuisine of Helsinki and Finland we will take you to the discovery of the things that must necessarily be tasted during a trip to Helsinki.
A few years ago someone said Finland was the worst place for foodies but, despite the common thinking, that’s not true at all. When in Helsinki and Finland you need to be ready to eat only local and fresh food, sourced locally and seasonal to discover a world of mouthwatering food, simply cooked and presented. I’ve put together a small food guide on what to eat in Helsinki and Finland and a few resources for food travellers like myself.
What to eat in Helsinki and in Finland: a list of things to try
The karelian pies are a traditional Finnish pies made with rye, filled with rice and with a mixture of butter and boiled eggs spread over. Unmissable for breakfast.
The same rye bread can also be found in a form of crackers, more crispy and to be served for breakfast or also with a soup.
Silli e Mäti
New potatoes are considered a delicacy and they are served with herring (Silli) or fish eggs (Mäti) accompanied only by a knob of butter and some dill.
Reindeer meat served with potatoes and red berries. Simple, basic, very Finnish.
The famous fried vendaces are served in almost every market square or food truck with some potatoes and/or garlic mayo.
The Finnish sausages are big and served by themselves or in a bun with mustard and beer.
Do never think to leave Finland without having tasted the famous rye bread!
A brioche with a hole in the middle, filled with butter and sugar. Difficult to resist!
The famous cinnamon buns in the Finnish version, a little bit more soft in comparison with the ones from Sweden and Norway.
The Runenberg Tarts are traditionally served in Finland only at the beginning of the year and until the 5th of February, the birthday of Johan Ludvig Runeberg. Some coffee shops start selling them as early as the beginning of January, just after the end of the Christmas season. For the rest of the year it is almost impossible to find them, with the exception of some local cafés in the hometown of Runeberg. These are pastries with almonds and almond oil and the top is decorated with blueberry jam and a ring of glaze.
The typical Finnish cheese made with cow’s milk then fried or baked in the oven and served with jam.
Salmiakki is the famous astringent black salty licorice Finnish people are crazy about that literally comes in all shapes, sizes and range of products
Shrove Buns are traditional sweets originally arrived in Finland from Sweden, where they are called semlor. These sweet rolls are filled with almond paste and whipped cream or strawberry jam and whipped cream and decorated with icing sugar.
Fried donuts flavored with cardamom to be eaten when still warm.
A cold porridge which is made with semolina and cranberries and served with milk and sugar.
A classic pastry base covered with whole cranberries, cooked and pureed.
Imagine a seafood quiche but made in a rye bread crust.
You can find salmon everywhere to be eaten strictly with rye bread or in a soup (Lohikeitto).
The national drink, the drink Finnish people love the most all year round.
A classic fish soup made with potatoes, carrots, dill and seasonal fish.
Canned meat and fish
It’s never a classical meat or fish but reindeer, bear and so on and so forth. Prices are quite high.
Finnish people love local beer and cyder. Two names on your bucket list: Lapin Kulta and Happy Joe.
Thing to know about What to eat in Helsinki and Finland
Four times per year it’s possible to be part of the Restaurant Day when normal people (not chef) open their restaurants at home, at the office, on a street corner, in a garden or inner courtyard, everywhere.
Typical food and ingredients month by monthI prodotti e gli ingredienti tipici mese per mese
Since the Finnish cuisine is based on seasonal ingredients, below a list of products to be consumed month by month if you are in Helsinki or Finland and some typical and seasonal food:
January: burbot and roe with blinies
February: Runeberg tarts, pea soup and laskiaispulla (Shrove buns)
March-April: lamb, mämmi (Finnish Easter pudding), pasha
May: perch, whitefish, pike-perch, sima (mead) and tippaleivät (May Day fritters), nettles
June-July: new potatoes, salmon, sausage, herring, strawberries, blueberries, cloudberries
August: root vegetables, crayfish, wild duck, chanterelles, apples
September: Baltic herring, vendace, hare, trumpet chanterelles, lingonberry
October-November: lamb, cabbage, elk, reindeer, goose
December: ham, rosolli salad, root vegetable casseroles, ginger biscuits, Christmas pies, glögi (mulled wine)
A small gastro-dictionary
People in Helsinki speak English very well so no worries at all but if you want the following are a few words you should learn:
Hi = Hei
How are you? = Kuinka voit?
Welcome = Tervetuloa
Where are you from? = Mistä olet kotoisin?
Nice to meet you = Hauska tavata
Good morning = Huomenta
Good afternoon = Päivää
Good evening = Hyvää iltaa
Good night = Hyvää yötä
Goodbye = Näkemiin
Cheers! = Kippis!
Dig in = Hyvää ruokahalua!
Thanks = Kiitos
Drink = Juoma
Food = Ruoka
Restaurant = Ravintola
Well done meat = Ylikypsä
Medium done meat = Kypsä
Rare done meat = Puoliraaka
I don’t eat meat = En syö punaista lihaa
I’m a vegetarian = = Olen kasvissyöjä
Do you prefer red or white wine? = punaviiniä vai valkoviiniä
Let’s make a toast = malja
Can I have some water please? = Voisinko saada vettä?
I’m hungry = olen nälkäinen
Can I have the bill, please? = Saisinko laskun?
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[Pics by Giuseppe]