Is there anything more personal than eating traditions? Traditional Swedish Christmas food has a different meaning for all Swedes and descendants of Swedes. Here is a selection of some of the most common dishes and snacks served at the holidays.
Julbord is the name of the Swedish Christmas buffet. It’s a Christmas version of the smorgasbord served at all Swedish holidays. Organizations, clubs and companies often hold Christmas parties at restaurants serving julbord. The main ocassion for the julbord is the dinner on Christmas Eve.
Julskinka (Christmas ham) is the main piece of the Christmas smörgåsbord. It has roots from the Viking ages when the pig Sæhrímnir was slaughtered and eaten each night in Valhalla. On the next day the pig was alive again and the festivities started over. Christmas ham was traditionally eaten at this time of year because it followed the annual slaughter. Nowadays, the julskinka is first boiled. The next step is to paint it with eggs, mustard and breadcrumbs, before it is baked in the oven .
Fläskkorv (pork sausage) is commonly eaten with coarse mustard.
Vörtbröd is a dark bread baked with wort or beer. Other ingredients are bitter orange peel, anise, fennel seeds, and raisins.
Dopp i grytan (literary dip in the pot, sop) is another traditional meal. It consists of vörtbröd dipped in ham broth. It was a common meal on the days that meat was not served and it worked well with dry bread. 
Luftfisk (lutefisk) originates from the early middle ages. It was an alternative to meat when Sweden was Catholic and observed meat free holidays. It’s typically eaten with white sauce, potatoes and green peas. The green peas with lutefisk have a long history together. 
Julgröt is the Christmas version of risgrynsgröt, rice pudding. It has been eaten at Christmas since the 1800s.  It’s served with cinnamon, sugar and milk.
To keep tomten, the nisse of your home, happy, Swedes sometimes put a bowl of rice pudding outside at Christmas.
Many put an almond in the julgröt at Christmas. The person who finds it gets married the next year. Or the finder is obliged to tell a rhyme.
Kalvsylta, jellied veal, is another old dish. It’s made from boiled veal and pork meat that is poured into molds and left to set. It’s often matched with pickled beets. 
Leverpastej, liver pâté, is a baked meat spread with old roots. It’s based on pork liver with a taste of allspice. 
Other popular dishes are köttbullar (meatballs), sill (pickled herring) , prinskorv (literary prince sausage, a small sausage), äppelmos (apple sauce ) to go with the Christmas ham, gravlax, rödkål (simmered red cabbage), brysselkål (brussel sprouts), Janssons frestelse, and potatoes.
Julmust and glögg
The soft drink julmust was introduced in 1910.  It’s now a staple in Sweden around Christmas. It was developed as an alcohol free alternative to beer and has a similar taste. It tastes a bit like a sweet, dark beer.
At the start of Advent Swedes begin having glögg, a sweet mulled wine with or without alcohol. All the time. The spices used in glögg are typically ginger, bitter orange peel, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. It’s usually sold with the spices already added. If you get your hands on glögg, heat it slowly without boiling to preserve the taste. Serve it in a small cup with raisins and peeled almonds. It goes well with a gingerbread cookie. Lately it is popular to have the cookie with blue cheese. 😋
Fruits that are in season in the winter are still commonly used as snacks around Christmas. Among them dried dates and figs, oranges, hazelnuts, and walnuts. Excuse me, let’s move on to the candy.
Lussekatt is a wheat bun with saffron. It is formed as a rolled up S with two raisins, one in the center of each roll. On the west coast of Sweden the lussekatt was often made without saffron. The lussekatt is primarily served on St. Lucy’s Day.
Pepparkakor (gingerbread cookies) are of course another theme for Christmas. Swedish gingerbread cookies are very thin, around 3 mm.
Here’s a recipe for gingerbread from my great grandmother Ellen’s notebook. It was probably written down in the 1920s. The notes were a bit incomplete, the way that personal notes tend to be, so the amounts of the spices are from modern recipes.
With all that fat you know it’s good. 😍
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- Westergren, Björn, Bonniers Stora Kokbok, Bokgruppen i Malmö AB and BonnierFakta Bokförlag 1983 Bonnier Alba 1996.
- https://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risgrynsgr%C3%B6t, retrieved 5 December 2019
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julmust, retrieved 5 December 2019
- https://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kn%C3%A4ck, retrieved 5 December 2019