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What is lunch in Sweden?

When it comes to Swedish cuisine and culinary traditions, lunch holds a special place. It’s a meal that’s taken seriously, both in terms of its nutrition and taste. Lunchtime is a much-anticipated break in the daily routine, where people have an opportunity to fuel up and socialize with coworkers or friends. And although lunch offerings in Sweden can vary, the general approach to the midday meal is rooted in wholesome, simple fare that keeps people energized and satisfied.

Sweden Lunch Culture

Sweden is a country renowned for its healthy and wholesome cuisine. Its dishes are well-balanced meals with a mix of flavours, colours, and textures that appeal to people from different walks of life. Lunch in Sweden is a special and essential meal in daily life, and it’s worth exploring the culture behind it.

The Timing of Lunch in Sweden

The timing of lunch in Sweden varies across the country. In general, lunchtime starts somewhere between 11:30 am and 1:00 pm. Most offices, schools, and institutions have a designated lunch hour within that time frame. It usually lasts about 30-60 minutes, depending on the organisation and industry. Some workplaces also offer a short fika break after lunch.

Swedish lunch culture

Traditional Swedish Lunch Dishes

Swedish lunch dishes are nutritious and often contain vegetables, meat or fish, carbs, and protein. Some of the most typical Swedish lunch dishes include meatballs, salmon, pea soup, potato and leek soup, open sandwiches or smorgasbord, beetroot salad, and coleslaw. Though the tastes and combinations may differ, the common factor is that the food is wholesome and cooked from fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.

Swedish lunch dishes

Bringing Your Own Food

Another fascinating part of Sweden’s lunch culture is the practice of bringing one’s food from home. This tradition contributes to the healthy diet, given that people are conscious of the ingredients they use and the portions they serve. The practice of bringing a packed lunch is also cost-effective, and it’s common among parents to prepare lunch-carrying boxes for their kids before school.

Swedish lunch box from home

Lunch Rituals Among Professionals

Swedish professionals take lunchtime seriously. The lunch hour can serve as a networking opportunity as colleagues and business associates gather to share meals and discuss issues casually. During this hour, it’s typical to take a long break, relax and rejuvenate, which is helpful to refresh the mind and maintain a productive workday.

Swedish professional lunch rituals

The Importance of Fika

Although not technically part of lunch culture, Fika is an essential part of Swedish lifestyle. Fika means ‘to take a break,” usually taken around 3 pm. It involves sharing coffee or tea with pastries or other sweets with colleagues, friends, or family. Fika is a time to socialise, relax and bond over coffee or tea and sweets.

Swedish fika

The Role of Smorgasbord

Smorgasbord is a famous buffet-style lunch, common during special occasions like Christmas, weddings, birthdays, and other festivities. It originated from the Viking era, known as the “smorgas table,” and it consists of a variety of dishes laid out on a long table. Nowadays, smorgasbord is a meal of a variety of foods, and it’s an indispensable part of Swedish cuisine.

Swedish smorgasbord

The Spread of Vegetarian Options

Sweden’s lunch culture has been evolving, with food preferences becoming increasingly diverse. Vegetarianism and veganism have been on the rise and are readily available in most restaurants and cafes. This trend reflects Sweden’s commitment to sustainability and healthy living, with more people opting for plant-based diets.

Swedish vegetarian lunch

Lunch Destinations in Sweden

If you’re in Sweden, there are many great lunch destinations to try out, whether you’re a tourist or local. Some of the many options include the atmospheric cafes in Stockholm’s old town, the long-standing tradition of hidden basement restaurants, or a scenic lunch spot by the water, surrounded by nature.

Swedish lunch destination

The Future of Sweden’s Lunch Culture

The future of Sweden’s lunch culture seems bright, given that people are more health-aware and conscious of the ecological impact of their consumption habits. More companies and institutions are taking steps towards sustainable food practices, such as reducing food waste, offering plant-based options, and sourcing ingredients ethically.

Swedish future lunch culture

The Final Word

Sweden’s beautiful and exciting lunch culture invites people from different backgrounds to experience wholesome food, warm hospitality, and a relaxed atmosphere. Whether you’re eating at a cafe, office, or at home, the culture is centred around healthy living and quality food. Give it a try and taste the flavours of Sweden – you won’t regret it!

Swedish Lunch Culture

Swedish lunch culture is unique and quite different from what’s common in other parts of the world. The Swedish lunch is a sit-down meal, eaten in a canteen or a café, and it is often done together with colleagues or friends. The main course is generally served warm, and there are always vegetarian options available. Generally, Swedes have a fika (coffee and pastry) during mid-morning or mid-afternoon, but this isn’t lunch.

Types of Swedish Lunches

Swedish cuisine is vast and varied, and their lunches are available in many different styles. Here are some examples of the most popular types of Swedish lunches:


Smorgasbord is a famous Swedish buffet-style meal that offers a vast array of dishes, from pickled herrings to meatballs, boiled potatoes, and beetroot. It’s a fantastic way to try many signature Swedish dishes all in one sitting.

Open Sandwiches

Open sandwiches, called smörgås in Swedish, is another popular lunch choice in Sweden. People build their sandwiches on a single slice of bread with toppings ranging from prawns, eggs, and avocado to ham and cheese.

Hot Lunches

Swedes are very fond of their hot lunches, served with a variety of homemade dishes. A popular example of a hot lunch offered in Sweden is the “Kalops” recipe made of beef, onions, and root vegetables, usually served with boiled potatoes.

Food Trucks

Food trucks when present on the streets of Sweden always has delicious and unique food to offer. They cover everything from vegetarian food to burritos and tacos.

Soup and Salads

Soup and salads are a healthy and light substitute for a heavier lunch. Swedes often opt for soups like pea soup, often served with pork, or a vegan version with roots and mushrooms.

Fast Food

Fast food, such as pizza or burgers, is not typically associated with Swedish lunches, but it has become more common recently.

Cheap Eats

Sweden has a large student population, so many places cater to their needs and budget with cheap eats such as falafel, kebabs, and burgers, topped with fries and sauces.

Take-Away Lunches

Thanks to Covid-19 pandemic, take-away lunches are increasingly popular. Most cafes/värmepump suppliers offer take-out Swedish lunch and other traditional meals you can enjoy home or in the park.

Swedish Sweets

Swedish people have a sweet tooth. Some of the most popular desserts are “kladdkaka,” a sticky, gooey chocolate cake that goes well with coffee. Almond tarts, gingerbreads, cinnamon buns, and semla are also some of the typical Swedish sweet dishes.

Lunch Etiquettes

Swedish people have certain dining etiquette, such as sitting together, waiting for everyone to arrive before eating, and using utensils rather than hands. It’s also standard practice to take a seat near someone one doesn’t know well, making conversation and friendship-building over lunch. It’s worth noting Swedes usually keep to themselves, which they call “Lagom,” and they prefer to avoid food wastage.

Traditional Swedish Lunch Dishes

If you are visiting Sweden, or simply want to try some traditional Swedish food, then you have to try some of the country’s popular lunch dishes. Here are some dishes you should consider trying:

Cold cuts and cheese

Cold cuts and cheese

Cold cuts and cheese (kallskuret) is a traditional Swedish lunch dish that consists of different types of cold cuts such as smoked sausage, thin slices of ham and beef, liver pate, and a variety of cheeses. This dish is usually served with crispbread (knäckebröd) and sometimes with a side salad or pickled vegetables.



Swedish meatballs (köttbullar) are another traditional lunch dish that has become popular worldwide. These meatballs are made with a mixture of beef and pork and are flavored with spices such as nutmeg, allspice, and ginger. They are usually served with lingonberry jam, mashed potatoes, and gravy.



Pyttipanna is a traditional Swedish dish that is made with diced potatoes, onions, and leftover meat such as beef or pork. The ingredients are fried in a pan until crispy and served with a fried egg and pickled beets.

Fish dishes

Fish dishes

Sweden’s coastal location means that fish dishes are a popular lunch option. Some popular dishes include pickled herring served with boiled potatoes, smoked salmon served with a side salad, or fried herring served with lingonberry jam.

Veggie options

Veggie options

If you are a vegetarian, don’t worry – Sweden’s food scene caters to all. Some popular vegetarian lunch dishes in Sweden include pea soup (ärtsoppa) served with pancakes (palt), mushroom quiche (kantarellpaj), or a beetroot salad with goat cheese (rödbetssallad med getost).

Dish Ingredients
Cold cuts and cheese Cold cuts, cheese, knäckebröd, pickled vegetables
Meatballs Beef, pork, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, lingonberry jam, mashed potatoes, gravy
Pyttipanna Potatoes, onions, leftover meat, fried egg, pickled beets
Fish dishes Pickled herring, boiled potatoes, smoked salmon, side salad, fried herring, lingonberry jam
Veggie options Pea soup, palt, mushroom quiche, beetroot salad with goat cheese

In conclusion, the traditional Swedish lunch dishes are all about simplicity and using fresh, local ingredients. Whether you are a meat-eater or a vegetarian, Sweden’s food scene caters to all, so make sure you try some of the country’s popular dishes when you visit.

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Thanks for Joining us for Lunch in Sweden!

We hope you enjoyed learning about the unique Swedish lunch culture. Don’t forget to try some of the delicious dishes we mentioned, such as the open-faced sandwiches or the traditional pea soup and pancakes. We appreciate you stopping by and hope to see you again soon for more fun-filled cultural discoveries. Until next time, take care and enjoy exploring new cuisines!

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