Despite the deliciousness of the dish known as Swedish pancakes, Swedes don't actually eat pancakes for breakfast. They prefer their first meal on the savory side, with bread, dairy and fish products featuring prominently on the table.
The backbone of Sweden's famous open-faced sandwiches, or smorgas, is the flat, dry cracker known in Swedish as knackerbrod. Made of primarily rye flour, these crispbreads store well, an advantage born of of long winters and short growing seasons. Smorgas can also be based on more traditional breads such as leavened rye, thinly sliced and buttered.
For breakfast, the open-faced smorgas sandwiches can be topped with a variety of foods both savory and sweet. Slather the crispbread with a generous layer of butter to start. Kalle, a brand of cod roe packed in a tube, is a perennial favorite, often paired with sliced hard-boiled eggs. Slices of ham and cheese are common toppings and Swedes are also fond of liver pate as part of their breakfast fare. Raw slices of bell pepper or tomato make for a good sandwich topping as well, as do cucumbers, both pickled and raw.
Fil's full name is filmjolk, and it's a fermented dairy product somewhere between yogurt and buttermilk in flavor and consistency, pourable but not quite drinkable. Filmjolk is difficult to find in the United States, but is sometimes carried by specialty and natural foods stores. It can also be made at home. Icelandic skyr is closely related and can be used as a substitute. Swedes like to mix muesli, jam or a mixture of dried fruits and nuts into their breakfast fil.
The sweet side of Swedish breakfast emerges with the Swedes' fondness for berries. They are often served loose at breakfast or in the form of jam. Both jam and loose berries then make an appearance atop smorgas or mixed into fil. Swedes are particularly fond of lingonberry jam, which has become an icon of Swedish cuisine. Lingonberries grow on evergreen shrubs even in the coldest climates and traditionally have been free to foragers to harvest wherever they find them. Other common berries at the breakfast table include raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, gooseberries, cloudberries and red and black currants. Oranges are not native to Sweden but orange marmalade is nonetheless a breakfast fixture for many Swedes.
Swedes drink a lot of coffee -- in fact, per capita, they are third in the world in terms of coffee consumptions, according to The Atlantic. Coffee drinking isn't confined to the morning hours, but it's certainly present at the breakfast table. Swedes prefer their coffee brewed strong and taken black.
- Try Swedish: The Secret Breakfast Lives of Swedes
- Serious Eats: Snapshots from Sweden -- Swedish Breakfast
- The Nibble: All Types of Bread
- Wilderness Road: Flora
- New York Times: In Sweden, the Fika Experience
- The Nourished Kitchen: Sour Milk -- Lessons From Scandinavia
- The Atlantic: Here Are the Countries That Drink the Most Coffee—the U.S. Isn't in the Top 10