Julbord at Ikea, a Swedish Christmas tradition

I moved to Sweden as a student, and as an international student sampling traditional food is a must. I was beyond excited when on my first winter I received an invitation to attend Julbord at Ikea. A Julbord is a buffet that offers traditional Swedish Christmas foods. Many restaurants offer this option during the Christmas period and the Ikea restaurant is no less in this. The Ikea restaurant is actually the most affordable and student-friendly of options.

On my first Julbord experience I participated as university blogger. The university invited all their digital abassadors to give us a taste of this Swedish Christmas tradition. It was the academic year 2014-15 and I was one of the student bloggers (my blog from that time can be reached here). Even after my journey as a student ended, I still remained in the university blogging environment and this academic year I started coordinating this year’s university bloggers, who collectively blog on one single space, Student Bloggers DU. It has become a tradition for me to gather with my fellow bloggers from the University on a December afternoon to sample some foods from the Julbord at Ikea.

Julbord at Ikea: the food

Among the foods featured in the Ikea Julbord there are cold and hot dishes. The cold selection features deviled eggs with shrimp salad, hot- and cold-smoked salmon, Baltic herring in various sauces, roastbeef, sausages and beet salad. Among the warm foods there is the Christmas ham (it can be also be found sliced, cold), meatballs and small sausages. Side dishes include boiled and mashed potatoes and an interesting potato and anchovy bake called Janssons Frestelse (literally, Jansson’s temptation).

Since I knew most of the foods from my previous experience, I only went with a selection of cold favourites and dessert. My blogging friends who were tasting Swedish Christmas food for the first time sampled a little bit of everything. I took advantage of this situation and took photos of all our plates.

Julbord at Ikea: Swedish Christmas foodJulbord at Ikea: Swedish Christmas food Julbord at Ikea: Swedish Christmas food Julbord at Ikea: Swedish Christmas food

The Swedish Christmas dessert

I have been writing on this blog about some traditional December sweet delicacies of the Swedish cuisine, but of course Sweden’s traditional Christmas desserts don’t stop at gingerbread thins and saffron buns. There is much more to that and, surprisingly, neither of those two is the true Christmas dessert. Saffron buns are mostly an Advent food linked to St Lucy’s day (December 13th), while pepparkakor are served all over the holiday period, not being something eaten exclusively at the Christmas table. So what is the traditional Christmas dessert in Sweden? As a matter of fact, it’s “Ris à la Malta”.

Julbord at Ikea: Swedish Christmas food

Ris à la Malta is a sort of rice pudding and despite its name it has nothing to do with Malta, the country. The name actually is the corruption of the Danish name of the same dessert, risalamande. Those who understand French will guess there is rice and almonds involved. Ris à la Malta is a rice pudding that sometimes may feature an almond hidde in it. The lucky guest who finds the nut in their portion of rice pudding is said to find love (and even get married!) over the next year.

Ris à la Malta is made with risgrynsgröt, a very simple rice porridge usually dusted with cinnamon that is the Swedish counterpart of the cookie and milk people leave out for Santa to take on Christmas night. Swedish families will leave a portion of rice porridge for the Christmas Elf, and leftovers of that porridge can be turned into ris à la Malta when adding whipped cream and berry jam. Voilà, Christmas dessert is served, Swedish style.

Julbord at Ikea: Swedish Christmas food

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  1. Rowena December 20, 2016 at 14:19

    I SO ♥ this! Honestly, I would go insane if we had the opportunity to spend Christmas in Sweden. So many new foods to try, taste, and learn about. We make do with our Ikea offers here, but we probably don’t even get to taste half of what the Ikeas over there offer. Lucky you!

    1. Eva December 20, 2016 at 15:46

      I wish they offered Julbord in all Ikea restaurants all over the world, but most people would find the food strange so it would probably not be a big success. If you’ll ever plan to spend Christmas in Sweden let me know!

  2. colorpencil2014 December 20, 2016 at 14:55

    I love smorgas bord!! I often make one myself if I have a big company. Americans find it very exotic and for me its easy to serve. But lucky you, to have a good taste! I often go to Ikea here to get some extra ‘European” foods and the quality is actually quite good indeed! Happy yuletimes!! xo Johanna

    1. Eva December 20, 2016 at 18:15

      I think that the whole concept of a buffet is great. You can choose what to eat and how much. As for theIkea food, that used to be my regular place to get a Scandinavian fix when I was living in Italy and Poland 😀
      I wish you happy holidays!

  3. Joanna November 25, 2017 at 11:17

    I wonder if my local Ikea will do this for Christmas day! I would love to try it. I like when the Christmas meal involves different foods on the plate and you get to taste different flavours. The rice pudding sounds yummy as well! Did you find the almond in it? 🙂

    1. Eva November 25, 2017 at 16:49

      I have no idea, Ikea in neither Italy nor Poland had this food, I only saw it on offer in Sweden. But things may have changed, maybe they don’t offer it all through Advent but on selected days?
      Anyway no, I didn’t find the almond. I’m afraid they can’t put it in as it could be a serious choking hazard to someone not familiar with the tradition! I got engaged and will get married next year anyway haha 😀

  4. Jo November 25, 2017 at 14:16

    OMG this looks sooooo good. I dont even have a sweet tooth and I still want to try it hehe.

    1. Eva November 26, 2017 at 18:32

      It is good. Even if it’s “just” pudding with jam, it really is a full-on dessert!

  5. Jessica D Festa November 25, 2017 at 16:25

    Yum!! I want to try to make these for my Italian family 🙂

    1. Eva November 26, 2017 at 18:33

      Many of these dishes would fit wonderfully within the menu of an Italian Christmas lunch! 😉

  6. Helene November 25, 2017 at 20:14

    No wayyyy this is awesome!!:D I went to Sweden this summer and I have a really good Swedish friend who I studied with and so we did regular Ikea-meatball-dinners:D But I didn’t know they had a Christmas buffet!!:D That’s really cool, the food looks so delicious!

    1. Eva November 26, 2017 at 18:34

      A meatball meal at Ikea is a traditon, especially when you’re a student in Sweden. You know you’re always in for something tasty and cheap! Hope you had a great time back in Sweden in the summer!

  7. Sanne November 25, 2017 at 20:39

    This looks delicious! I wish more Ikeas in other countries would offer this! I have had breakfast and lunch at Ikea numerous times and if you look at how many people that attracts I am sure Julbord would be loved by many as well!

    1. Eva November 26, 2017 at 18:36

      I think they should really consider offering this also in other countries. Maybe not as a regular menu for a month and a half like they do here, but at least a couple of times to promote the traditional Swedish Christmas food. I’m sure many people would be intrigued, and for Ikea Family card holders the price is really good considering it’s a buffet!

  8. Leigh November 26, 2017 at 02:28

    What a fun tradition with unusual food! The rice dessert looks pretty good to me! I’m not a fan of shopping at Ikea but I always enjoy a stop by the cafe!

    1. Eva November 26, 2017 at 18:41

      I’m still to go sample a traditional Julbord at a different restaurant, it’s just so expensive and restaurants book fast as this menu is only offered once a year. So I always end up having my share of Christmas food at Ikea. I really enjoy it (and I also enjoy shopping there!).

  9. Lindsey November 26, 2017 at 04:04

    Cool to know that IKEA does this too! I experienced this when I was in Sweden a few years ago. Love that country!

    1. Eva November 26, 2017 at 18:59

      Yes! It’s a very nice thing, indeed. And so nice that you have experienced Julbord! Cool to hear you love Sweden 🙂

  10. Eloise November 26, 2017 at 08:11

    Oh, I learnt so much reading your article. I literally had no knowledge of Swedish food before to be honest. And I even didn’t know Ikea had a proper restaurant. Last time I visited one (and that was years ago), there was only a fast food offer – but it wasn’t in Sweden.

    1. Eva November 26, 2017 at 19:01

      Most Ikea stores have a restaurant, actually all those I have visited in various countries in Europe. They’re renowned for serving the very traditional Swedish meatballs and also salmon, among other foods. I think that offering also Christmas food is a very nice touch, it’s a pity only Ikea in Sweden does that. I’m sure people outside of Sweden would be intrigued to try the herring or the Christmas ham instead of the usual meatballs, once a year 🙂

  11. Ruth November 26, 2017 at 08:30

    In here, the food sold at Ikea is pretty good (I love it) and affordable. I do not miss an opportunity to eat there. However, I didn’t know there were so many options in Sweden. At least, there are good opportunities to enjoy a delicious and seasonal meal. I would like to try this.

    1. Eva November 26, 2017 at 19:04

      The best thing is that even here in Sweden, a country that is not very cheap to live in, the Ikea restaurant is very affordable and the food has a nice quality, always cooked there. Ikea here is quite a big institution, so featuring a seasonal menu is a very nice touch. Hope you’ll get to experience this, plan your next trip to Sweden during Advent and you may have the chance to get to sample this. Don’t forget your Ikea Family card (Julbord is much cheaper for cardholders)!

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