Swedish Breakfast Habits: A Complete Guide

Last Updated on Categorized as Culture
hero swedish breakfast

A typical Swedish breakfast is usually vastly different from an American or English breakfast, for better and for worse. To me, the main differences are simple: Breakfast tastes great but is fairly unhealthy in the US and UK, while it tastes ok and is generally healthy in Sweden. So if you want to start eating more like a Swede in the morning, or if you just want to prepare yourself mentally before a visit, I’ll be walking you through everything you should know about Swedish breakfast habits below.

ℹ️ Don’t just take my word for it, the Swedish Food Administration Agency claims that a healthy and well-balanced breakfast leads to a higher ability to concentrate, a better mood, and more energy. To add to this, scientists also seem to agree that people who skip breakfast are more likely to become obese. These are all good reasons to prioritize a balanced breakfast in my opinion!

What’s a Typical Swedish Breakfast?

The average Swedish breakfast consists of two slices of bread with butter and cheese, a boiled egg, and a cup of drip coffee (Nexus 2021), with yogurt / sour milk also being included in a different poll (YouGov 2019). Approximately 2/3 of Swedes (3/4 in Stockholm) claim to eat bread for breakfast.

A very typical Swedish breakfast. Photo Henrik Ismarker

Here are the top 10 most popular food choices among Swedes according to a 2019 poll by YouGov:

  • 1. Sandwich 55 % 
  • 2. Filmjölk (Buttermilk) or Yoghurt 34 % 
  • 3. Eggs 30 % 
  • 4. Oatmeal 27 % 
  • 5. Cereal 25 % 
  • 6. Crispbread 24 % 
  • 7. Fruit 17 % 
  • 8. Smoothie or Shake 7 % 
  • 9. Sausage 3 % 
  • 10. Breakfast Cake 2 %

In our family, I’d say Müsli and/or Rye Cereal with Yogurt or Milk is the most common choice around our table in the mornings. While I was growing up and living with my parents, we often had sandwiches with butter and cheese.

What do Swedes like to put on their breakfast sandwiches?

Among the many Swedes who choose to eat a bread-based breakfast, these are their favorite things to put on their sandwich (ranked by popularity):

  1. Butter
  2. Hard cheese
  3. Cold-cut meat
  4. Vegetables
  5. Margarine
  6. Marmelade
  7. Roe
  8. Liver paté
  9. Soft cheese
  10. Peanut butter

Source: Novus 2021

My personal simple favorites are either crispbread with butter and Västerbotten cheese, or dark-toasted Finnish rye bread with lots of butter and Lauantai sausage (depending on if I feel Swedish or Finnish when I wake up)

What do Swedes generally drink with their breakfast?

More than half of all Swedes who eat breakfast claim to drink coffee with their morning meal (Novus 2021). Other popular choices include milk, fruit juice, and water.

The Swedes tend to gulp down that coffee throughout the day too, and if you want to find out more about why Sweden and the other Nordic countries drink the most amount of coffee in the world, have a look at that article.

Different types of Swedish Breakfast

  • Open Sandwich (Most common breakfast choice by far, served with butter and toppings such as cheese, cold-cuts and vegetables)
  • Sourmilk/Yogurt (Can be had with cereal/müsli or as a stand-alone drink)
  • Boiled Egg (On the side or sliced on top of bread, usually combined with Kalles Kaviar)
  • Oatmeal (Usually with butter and milk)
  • Cereal/Müsli (Generally combined with milk, sourmilk, or yogurt)
  • Crispbread (With same toppings as open sandwich)
  • Fruit (Berries are the most common)
  • Smoothie/Shake (A recent rise in popularity)
  • Sausage (Usually smoked)
The sheer amount of Kalles Kaviar flavors (fish roe with salt, sugar and more)
Typical Swedish breakfast sandwiches

Do Swedes eat the same breakfast every day?

Most Swedes generally like to eat the same type of breakfast every day, illustrated by 70% claiming to eat the same thing on most days of an average week in a recent poll (Novus 2021). This is the case for myself and almost every other Swede I know, so the number is likely even higher than that.

What can I say? We Swedes can be a pretty boring bunch when it comes to certain things. And if that means a healthy start to the day, I’m definitely all for it (though my tastebuds would take a “real” breakfast in the US / UK any day of the week).

How many Swedes actually eat breakfast?

8 out of 10 Swedes claim to eat breakfast every day according to a OKQ8 poll from 2020, most commonly among the older part of the population and a little less so among the younger folks.

When it comes to Swedes younger than 18, it seems they are a bit better than young adults at eating breakfast, with 75% of high school students claiming to eat breakfast in a study by Kristianstad University.

Furthermore, 42 percent of Swedes believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day (Svenska Ägg 2017), so there is definitely a strong focus on breakfast among the population as a whole.

Why do some Swedes not eat breakfast?

Interestingly, it seems like more men than women choose to skip breakfast, and the most common reason for skipping breakfast was waking up too late.

We see 14% of men compared to 10 % of women skipping breakfast, and 42 percent of respondents in a poll by Cint in 2020 specify that when they do not have time for breakfast, it is because they have gotten out of bed too late to afford the time.

What time is breakfast in Sweden?

  • At home: Around 6am-9am (most jobs & schools start before 9)
  • At cafes: Around 6:30am-10:30am
  • At restaurants: Around 8am-10:30am
  • At hotels: Around 6am-9am weekdays, 7am-11am weekends

Swedish vs. American Breakfast

The typical Swedish breakfast is soft or hard bread with butter and cheese and a boiled egg on the side, while the typical American breakfast usually consists of eggs, bacon, pancakes/waffles. The one similar part of breakfast between Sweden and the US is that both countries like to have a cup of drip coffee along with the breakfast.

A typical American breakfast

Swedish vs. English Breakfast

A typical Swedish breakfast of soft or hard bread with butter and cheese and a boiled egg on the side stands in great contrast to the typical English with a minimum of fried eggs, bacon, and toasted bread, commonly combined with fried sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms, black pudding, and baked beans.

A full English breakfast

Two in five Brits eat Eggs for breakfast, while the majority of Swedes eat sandwiches. And while Swedes prefer coffee along with their breakfast, Brits definitely prefer their Tea.

Summary:

While I personally much prefer the taste of both simple and elaborate American and English breakfasts, there is something to be said about the healthier and simpler Swedish choices in the long term.

🇸🇪 🇺🇸 Curious how Sweden and the US compare and how different or similar the two are? I’ve written an article comparing the two countries thoroughly with my own experiences as well as data, so take a look at that if you’re interested.


Sources:

https://www.livsmedelsverket.se/en/food-habits-health-and-environment/dietary-guidelines

https://www.mynewsdesk.com/se/wasabrod/documents/nyckelinsikter-wasa-framtidens-frukost-104068

https://news.cision.com/se/valio/r/halften-av-de-unga-skippar-frukosten,c3406702

https://www.okq8.se/medlem/artiklar/frukostvanor/

https://www.mabra.com/halsa/undersokning-bara-1-av-10-svenskar-nar-sina-halsomal/6496909

https://aktivtraning.se/nyttig-mat/traningskost/manga-hoppar-over-den-viktiga-frukosten

https://www.svenskaagg.se/?p=21350&m=3964

http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1134892/FULLTEXT01.pdf

https://www.publicsectorcatering.co.uk/in-depth/what-are-britains-favourite-breakfast-habits

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By Karl Andersson

As a native Swede with a Finnish mother, Karl identifies as both Nordic and Scandinavian. He left Sweden at 19 to explore the world, and stayed abroad for almost 8 years—during which he backpacked, worked every job there was, earned a degree from UC Berkeley, and met the future mother of his children. He ultimately returned to his native Malmö with his love, where they now have 3 Swedish-American boys eager to explore the world.

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