How to Have a Christmas Smörgåsbord

“Christmas”, in my family, doesn’t refer to simply one day, but several days. Our family is scattered about the country, which leads to no less than four separate Christmas celebrations. Before the “real” celebration on December 25th, my side the family gathers for our annual tradition of a Swedish Christmas Smörgåsbord, usually at my house. This tradition, which literally drips with cream, cheese, and other artery-clogging delights, is probably my favorite food I eat all year. I thought I’d share our traditions in case anyone else has been tempted to celebrate the holidays with a Scandinavian flair this year. I present to you…Smörgåsbord 2014! Skol!

These are homemade...but you can buy them in the store and they're (almost) as delicious!
These are homemade…but you can buy them in the store and they’re (almost) as delicious!


*Please note that you can purchase almost everything you need at…you guessed it…Ikea 🙂 I included some traditional recipes from our family’s files as well as a few links to good online recipe sources. Enjoy!

Swedish Fruktsoppa (stewed fruits, which will make your house smell wonderful! Recipe below)

Gravlax (thinly sliced salmon cured with dill) and Knäckebrot (a crisp, rye cracker)

Cheeses (preferably Swedish Farmer’s Cheese and Havarti with Dill)

Bruna Bönor (You can alternatively use canned Boston baked beans with a dash of cinnamon and no one will know…shhh)

Pickled vegetables— beets, pickles, and/or Swedish refrigerator pickles (which are very easy and delish!)

Pickled Herring (You can buy this pre-made…or you can skip it entirely, because in my opinion, it is gross. But, I include it for those who desire pickled fish.)

Red potatoes, boiled with fresh dill

Swedish Meatballs (traditional recipe below…or you can buy them from Ikea)

Lingonberry sauce

Deviled eggs (whatever recipe you prefer, but usually including a grainy mustard)

Small sausage links (you can use kielbasa as a substitute, or of course, Ikea sells these, too)


Rice Pudding (recipe below– seriously the tastiest ever)

Pepparkakor (these are a pain to make, but you can buy them at Stop & Shop under the brand “Anna’s Swedish Thins”)

Swedish Almond Kringle (family recipe below)


Glogg (a mulled wine)

Simple table settings are all you need!
Simple table settings are all you need!

Set up and Hosting

Aside from the planing and prep work (that is a lot of food, and many items aren’t common or easy to prepare), a smörgåsbord is pretty easy to host. Traditionally, it’s a giant buffet dinner. There are no fancy place settings to worry about, no attempting to keep multiple courses warm, no worrying about salad forks versus dinner forks. I set out all the dishes, except the rice pudding, pepparkakor, almond kringle, and coffee (which come out later for dessert), and every helps him or herself. We eat, refill plates and eat more. After taking some time to digest and clear the dinner foods away, we eat desserts. That’s about it! A smörgåsbord is a great way to host a fun, unique holiday meal without feeling bogged down by playing “host” all night long to guests and missing out on the fun.

Below, for anyone feeling adventurous, are some family recipes for items linked above. If you try nothing else listed here, I implore you to make the rice cream (rice pudding) listed below, because it is amazing. If the thought of food shopping at Ikea and eating pickled things horrifies you and you never want to have a Smörgåsbord, I understand completely, but also recommend trying the almond kringle listed below as well. It’s my grandmother’s recipe, and a great addition to any holiday brunch. Enjoy!

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