Julbord – everything you need to know!

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Nothing says Christmas in Sweden more than short days, snow and “julbord”.


Julbord in Sweden is an age old tradition that stems back from around the 10th century when Christianity arrived in Sweden. As you can see in the picture above, taken from a julbord at a Swedish home, it’s basically a smorgasbord, or spread, of different meats, fish and vegetables. Although it may seem like a regular spread of foods, to your typical Swede it’s not. Julbord may vary from each region within the country but it has it’s few staples. Here are a few key dishes that are vital to the Swedish julbord, each with some history behind them.

If you still haven’t booked your table to experience the Swedish julbord experience at the highest restaurant and bar in town, don’t hesitate to call us on 08 667 21 80 or book online if you’re less than 10 people. If you’re more than 10 then we’ll have to call us to make the booking over the phone. The seats are filling up so get on those phones! More information about prices and times can be found in both English and Swedish.

Pickled herring was once a food for the lower class folk of old-time Sweden. Today however, the Swedes like to call it “traditional”. Pickled foods were an easy way to store perishables during a long winter or on a long journey. It allowed people to buy stuff in bulk (always cheaper) and keep it from spoiling for weeks or even months. Herring is usually pickled, in a mustard sauce or sometimes even in sherry.

Gravlax is salmon prepared by curing. This dish is an age old traditional one, with it starting out in the middle ages as a way of preserving the fish. Fisherman would bury portions of their catch below the tide line in the sand and let it ferment. Later during the year they’d dig it up and enjoy it as a delicacy. Luckily for us, the recipe has changed a little over the years. The fish is now cured in a mix of sugar, salt and dill and leaves quite an good taste on the palate. It’s commonly served as an appetizer paired with a mustard based sauce known as “hovmästarsås” and either toast or boiled potatoes.

Christmas ham is another staple to the Swedish Christmas buffet and often stars as the centerpiece of the Christmas buffet. The ham is baked, sliced and then served. The drippings are used as a dip for bread, which is another part of the julbord in itself. In the past most people only ate salted meats because they held their freshness the longest. A few animals were kept for julbord and a lot of the times it was the opportunity commoners could eat fresh meat all year.

Janssons frestelse, or Jansson’s temptation,  is another common dish served at the Swedish julbord. It’s a creamy potato casserole that’s baked with sprat, anchovies or small herring inside giving it a unique taste.

Ris á la Malta is a rice based dessert that you’ll most likely find at julbord. It’s made from cold rice, cream, sugar and vanilla or cinnamon. Often served cold, it goes together most often with a jam or berry based sauce.

Alongside the ham and the pickled fish you’ll find plenty of other options including but not limited to breads, cheeses, beetroot salad, cabbage, different types of fish, countless variations of potato dishes, sausages and meatballs, roasted meats and at times even poultry.

With the classic food groups out of the way, that leaves us with arguably the most important part of Swedish julbord – glögg. Glögg is mulled wine that’s spiced with either fruits, spices or a combination of both. This type of glögg is known specifically as vinglögg. Another kind of glögg that’s popular at julbord is spritglögg. It’s made from cognac or a type of brännvin (brennivin) and spiced with all kinds of things from cinnamon to ginger and even peppercorns! If neither of these glögg-drinks sound appealing you can even try making your own by heating red wine with some spices and spiking it with something a little stronger if you want to.


If you’ve been assigned as the designated driver for the evening or just aren’t a fan of booze, julmust is the alcohol free alternative that’s most popular among Swedes. Some 45 million liters of julmust are sold and drank during the Christmas season alone and this counts for 75% of the sales throughout the year. This has such a huge impact on the drink market in Sweden that Coca Cola sales drop by 50% for the months of November and December. This soda drink is very popular and sold during the festive season and Easter time as well. The exact recipe is supposedly not very well known, basically a secret with only one company holding the exact recipe. They sell their syrups to several other companies, including Coca Cola who tried their own version a few years ago but didn’t see much of a success. Despite the secretive nature of the drink, the main components are known and they are carbonated water, hops and malt.