Swedish vs English food

Swedish and English cuisines both boast rich traditions and diverse flavors, yet they offer distinct culinary experiences. While Swedish food is deeply influenced by its geography and Nordic heritage, English cuisine reflects a blend of historical influences and regional diversity. Let’s explore the differences and similarities between these two fascinating culinary worlds.

Swedish cuisine heavily features fish, game meats, root vegetables, and berries, reflecting the country’s natural resources and long winters. Staples like potatoes, herring, and lingonberries are common in many dishes. In contrast, English food often includes meats like beef, pork, and lamb, along with potatoes, carrots, peas, and a variety of grains. Bread, pies, and puddings are also central to English cuisine.

Iconic dishes

In Sweden, iconic dishes include meatballs (köttbullar) served with lingonberry sauce, gravlax (cured salmon), and Janssons frestelse (a creamy potato and anchovy casserole). Surströmming and Sill, two distinctive herring preparations, are also notable Swedish specialties. English cuisine is known for dishes like fish and chips, roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, and the full English breakfast, which includes eggs, bacon, sausages, baked beans, and more.

Festive foods

Both cultures have unique festive foods that highlight their culinary traditions. In Sweden, the Christmas table, or julbord, features ham, pickled herring, sausages, and an array of cheeses and sweets. Midsummer celebrations are marked by a smorgasbord of cold dishes, including various herring preparations and new potatoes. In England, Christmas dinner is a grand affair with roast turkey or goose, stuffing, Brussels sprouts, and Christmas pudding. Traditional foods for other occasions include hot cross buns for Easter and pancakes for Shrove Tuesday.

Influences and innovations

Swedish cuisine has been influenced by neighboring countries like Denmark, Norway, and Finland, as well as by global trends. Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in traditional Nordic ingredients and cooking methods, often with a modern twist. English food, on the other hand, has been shaped by its colonial past, incorporating flavors and techniques from India, the Caribbean, and beyond. This has resulted in a diverse culinary landscape where traditional dishes sit alongside curries, jerk chicken, and other international favorites.

Dining customs

Swedish dining emphasizes simplicity and quality. Meals are often lighter, with an emphasis on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. The concept of “lagom” – meaning “just the right amount” – influences Swedish dining habits, promoting balance and moderation. In England, meals can be heartier, reflecting the country’s agricultural heritage. Traditional meal times include breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner, each with its own set of customs and dishes.

Desserts and sweets

Both cuisines have a sweet tooth, though the desserts differ significantly. Swedish desserts often feature berries, such as in the case of blåbärssoppa (blueberry soup) and rårörda lingon (raw-stirred lingonberries). Cinnamon buns (kanelbullar) and Princess cake (Prinsesstårta) are also popular. English desserts include classics like sticky toffee pudding, trifle, and scones with clotted cream and jam, often enjoyed during the quintessentially English afternoon tea.


Sweden and England both have strong traditions when it comes to beverages. In Sweden, coffee is king, and the daily ritual of “fika” – a coffee break with pastries – is an integral part of life. Aquavit, a spirit flavored with herbs and spices, is also popular. In England, tea is the national drink, enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. Pubs are central to social life, with beer and cider being traditional favorites.