Scandinavian breakfast: Porridge, Skyr, bread and other specialities from the Nordic cuisine

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How do people eat breakfast in the far north? If you’re tired of your daily breakfast classics and are looking for new ideas, Scandinavian cuisine is the perfect source of inspiration. Here you’ll find sweet pastries and porridge as well as savoury bread with fish and cheese.

Sweden: coffee, porridge, fish and egg

Havregrynsgröt with banana and berries

Swedes like to have both in the morning: their breakfast can be fruity and sweet as well as savoury and hearty.

A classic dish is the so-called Havregrynsgröt, which is a porridge made from oat flakes cooked in slightly salted water. Cold milk is then poured over it and, if you wish, you can add some fruit jam, apple sauce or fresh fruit and nuts – the Swedish version of the popular porridge, so to speak. Berries such as blueberries, raspberries or strawberries are particularly liked. Alternatively, there is semolina porridge.

Instead of normal milk, the Swedes like filmjölk for breakfast. It is often called “Swedish milk” and a creamy thick or sour milk. Similar to yoghurt, it is acidified with bacteria. It is spooned up on its own, drunk or combined with muesli.

“Breakfast” is called frukost in Swedish and is one of the most important meals of the day here. However, it doesn’t always have to be as traditional as described here. The basics include crispbread, rusks and oatmeal.

These traditional meals keep you full for a particularly long time, but are by no means the only morning favourite of the Swedes. The so-called smörgås is also a savoury option – with fish, egg and crispbread.

The rather dry crispbread is richly topped in Sweden.

The typical round crispbread is baked with different toppings or spread and broken into pieces. For example, hard-boiled eggs are halved and then spread with caviar cream from a tube. “Kalles Caviar” is a real classic in Sweden. It is served with Swedish pickled herring(sill), cheese, smoked salmon, ham, gherkins and/or tomatoes.

Swedish coffee is also a must. It is comparatively somewhat stronger roasted than for example English filter coffee, and is drunk in large quantities as soon as you get up. As an alternative or in addition, there is fresh juice, preferably blueberry juice.

Denmark: white bread, rolls and pastries

Danish breakfasts tend to be sweet, but no less sumptuous. The various Danish rolls are particularly popular: The bakery next door sells simple white rolls called rundstykker. The special thing about them, however, is that they are round and sprinkled with either white or blue poppy seeds.

danish bread rolls
Danish bread rolls: rundstykker, bolle and terbirkes.

Soft rolls are called bolle and can be both sweet and savoury. What is known as a “Danish roll” is actually called a tebirkes and resembles a croissant. The puff pastry roll is traditionally sprinkled with poppy seeds, sesame seeds or flaxseed, but is also available with a sweet filling. Another speciality is the sweet wienerbrød, also known as “Copenhagen pastry” – a Danish pastry made from puff pastry and butter. You can find numerous recipes for baking these Danish classics.

Breakfast is called morgenmad in Denmark. In the morning, you go to the bageri, the bakery, where the selection of baked goods is impressive: Fresh breads, rolls and sweet pastries are often presented in wicker baskets.

However, the Danes eat classic white bread and wholemeal bread as well. But now you have to chose between sweet and savoury toppings: For the former option, butter is placed on the bread first, followed by fruity jam, honey or pålægschokolade, thin chocolate bars, on top of the butter.

danish blue cheese
Danablu is the name of the pungent blue cheese from Denmark.

If you like it savoury, you can choose sausage, cheese or cream cheese. The spicy Danablu, a blue cheese, is very popular in Denmark. Yoghurt for breakfast is also very liked with the Danes.

For lunch or as a snack, the Danes have smørrebrød, which can also be transformed into a savoury breakfast. You could say that it is a sandwich, that is however much thicker and more generously topped, so it is usually eaten with a knife and fork. A classic version of smørrebrød is, for example, with smoked salmon, egg and remoulade.

Norway: Bread, cheese and fish

Norwegian coarse bread
Coarse bread with sour cream and herring is typically Norwegian.

Norwegians mainly eat savoury food for breakfast. The classic dish here is sandwiches, coarse bread or crispbread with coffee. This is topped with salted butter, sausage, cheese or fish, especially herring(sild).

Alternatively, Norwegians like porridge or yoghurt with muesli in the morning. If breakfast is a little bigger at the weekend, eggs or bacon, smoked salmon and cream cheese are added, for example.

One of the country’s specialities is brunost, which translates as “brown cheese” and is made from goat’s milk. It has a slightly sweet, caramel flavour. It is available in both a firm version and a soft, spreadable version – in which case it is called prim.

The bread is also topped with rømme (sour cream) and jam made from the Scandinavian cloudberry.

In Norway, breakfast is called frokost. It is very similar to typical Swedish food and is rather simple and rustic in everyday life. Cloudberry jam is a typically Scandinavian food, as the berry only grows in very northern regions. It looks like a yellow-orange blackberry.

Iceland: Skyr and porridge

What could be more Icelandic than skyr? It goes without saying that a popular and traditional breakfast dish from Iceland is made with skyr: Hafragrautur is the Icelandic oatmeal porridge, in which oat flakes are boiled in salted water or milk. Skyr is then added, along with honey and fresh berries if desired.

Icelandic porridge
Icelandic porridge is made with skyr and honey.

Skyr, which is similar to yoghurt and cream cheese, has been an integral part of Icelandic cuisine since Viking times. Similar to Swedish sour milk, there is also súrmjólk in Iceland, which is also eaten with muesli.

Cereals, and therefore bread, used to be considered a luxury in Iceland. To this day, most of it is imported, as the soil is hardly fertile. Nevertheless, there is typical Icelandic bread: it is mostly rye bread, rúgbraud – a dark, firm and sweetish bread. As this is traditionally baked in a pot, it has no crust. Herring bites are often eaten with it for breakfast.

The Icelandic word for “breakfast” is morgunmatur. In Finland, on the other hand, it is called aamiainen.

Finland: porridge and rye bread

Satisfying and warming the soul is typical for breakfast in Finland as well. As is common in the Scandinavian countries, there is also a very special version of porridge here – called puuro. In Finland, you buy ready-made powder for this, which is then boiled with salted milk or water.

Finnish rye bread
Rye bread is traditionally eaten in Finland.

Rye bread (ruisleipä), which is made from sourdough, is very common. There are many different types, but the most popular bread is Reikäleipa. It is flat, dense and particularly heavy. The loaf traditionally has a hole in the centre, as it used to be hung from a pole under the roof. Internationally known as “Finn Crisp” is the cracker version of rye bread, which is also served for breakfast in Finland. It is accompanied by butter, cheese and various spreads as well as gherkins or tomatoes.

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