Semla Sweden

What is the Swedish Semla?

Semlor in Sweden

It’s semla season in Sweden. Visitors and new arrivals always have questions when these pastries start popping up in bakery windows each January. So what is the Swedish semla? Since these questions are so common and these buns so popular, we’re taking some time to talk about them.

Basically, semlor (the plural of semla) are just cardamom buns topped with whipped cream and almond paste. But we’re here to teach you the details. These delicious buns are meant to help people fatten up before the start of Lent. In the past, they were eaten on fettisdagen, or Fat Tuesday, before the season of fasting. But they weren’t always this sweet! In fact, the first versions of semlor were simply wheat flour buns soaked in warm milk.

The Modern Semla

Somewhere along the way, strict observance of Lent became less popular, and the buns began to look a little more like their modern relatives. Swedes began to mix in the cream and almost paste, and eat them every Tuesday between Fat Tuesday and Easter.

Now, any trace of moderation is gone. We prefer an even sweeter version, and we’re happy to eat them all season long. They aren’t just for fettisdagen anymore! Each year there are taste testing panels, and many Swedes have favorite bakeries to visit to get the perfect semla.

Here at the office, we have favorites as well! Here are our picks – 

  • Maja – Müllers Bageri & Konditori in Nynäshamn
  • Danielle – Bullar och Bröd on Valhallavägen in Stockholm
  • Erica – Gunnarssons Specialkonditori on Goetgatan in Stockholm
  • Noa – Any COOP bakery, he’s not particular

Feel like trying to make semlor yourself at home? Try this recipe from Scandi Kitchen. We also have more info on the blog about Swedish recipes here.