The Country Food Similarity Index groups the countries of Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden, and United Kingdom into the Northern Europe food region. In addition, food in Australia, Belarus, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the United States also have many attributes in common with this region. It is one of the 23 world food sub-regions identified by the Index.
The preservation of meats, especially pork, through smoking and curing is a traditional practice in many Northern European countries. Dairy plays a significant role in the Northern European diet as well. Cheese, milk, and butter are frequently used in cooking. Roots like carrots, potatoes, and beets are commonly used in Northern European dishes too. They are often included in stews, soups, and side dishes. Open-faced sandwiches, with bread and either meat or cheese, are common in these countries.
Northern Europe’s Most Common Food Ingredients
Grains & Starchy Roots: 1) Wheat, 2) Potato, 3) Rye
Fruits & Vegetables: 1) Tomato, 2) Banana, 3) Apple
Meat & Animal Products: 1) Pork, 2) Chicken, 3) Cheese
Why these ingredients are common in this region
Potatoes were originally from South America but got widely introduced into the European diet in the 16th Century. They are hardy crops that can withstand the colder climates of Northern Europe. Potatoes have a relatively long shelf life. This made them ideal for Northern Europe, where preserving food for the winter months was crucial.
Northern Europe has many regions with favorable conditions for raising cattle. This has led to abundant supplies of milk, the primary raw material for cheese production. Cheese-making offered a way to transform surplus milk into a product that could be stored for longer durations without spoiling.
Pigs are well-suited to the colder climates of Northern Europe as well. Pork can be preserved through methods like salting, smoking, and curing. These techniques were crucial before modern refrigeration, allowing people to store pork for extended periods.
Northern Europe’s Most Unique Food Ingredients
(foods consumed significantly more than the world average)
Northern Europe Food Region’s Most Representative Country
While each country in Northern Europe has its own unique culinary traditions, according to the Index, Sweden has the most representative food. This is not surprising since it is centrally located with the region. Many countries with similar food also border the Baltic Sea.