Weekend recipe: How to make Swedish rye cakes

Rye (or råg in Swedish) is a quite popular grain for making bread in Sweden – and probably most known through its use in Swedish crisp bread. It can be used for other sorts of bread too, for example rye cakes. Food writer John Duxbury shares his recipe with The Local.

Weekend recipe: How to make Swedish rye cakes
Rye cakes are perfect for open sandwiches (smörgåsar). Photo: John Duxbury/Swedish Food

Rye cakes (rågkakor) have a lovely flavour and are ideal for open sandwiches (smörgåsar). In Sweden they are normally made with a hole in the middle, although the hole is something of a mystery because, unlike knäckebröd, one usually doesn't hang up rye cakes.


Serves: 2 cakes

Level: Easy

Preparation: 15 minutes

Cooking: 15 minutes

Total: 30 minutes


180g wholemeal (dark) rye flour

150g strong white flour (bread flour)

5g salt

5g fennel seeds

7g (1 packet)  “instant” dried yeast

250g water*

10g mörk sirap (dark syrup)*

7g butter

milk, for brushing the cakes after baking

*For bread recipes we recommend measuring all quantities in grams.


1. Add the flours, salt and seeds to the bowl of a stand-mixer and stir to mix.

2. Add the “instant” dried yeast and mix again.

3. Heat the water, mörk sirap and butter in a saucepan until the butter has just melted and the mixture is lukewarm (40ºC/104ºF). Pour over the other ingredients and stir thoroughly.

4. Knead on a low speed for 8 minutes (10 minutes if kneading by hand). Add more white bread flour if the dough seems too sticky and stop the machine every now and again to scrape down the sides if necessary.

5. Cover with a cloth and leave in a draught-free place for 10 minutes (there is no need for it to double in size).

6. Turn the dough onto a worksurface dusted with flour. Divide into two and shape each into a ball. Leave to rest again for 5 minutes.

7. Roll the balls into flat cakes about 15 cm (6”) in diameter. Cut a hole in the middle of each cake if desired.

8. Transfer to a baking sheet covered with baking parchment. Prick each cake with a fork each cake, cover with a cloth and leave to double in size.

9. Pre-heat the oven to 225ºC (425ºF, gas 7, fan 200ºC).

10. Bake in the middle of the oven for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom and the middle of the cakes reaches 96ºC (205ºF).

11. Transfer to a cooling rack, brush with milk and leave to cool completely.


– Swedes use mörk sirap (dark syrup) which can be bought in specialist shops or online. If you can’t find mörk sirap use half a tablespoon of treacle or molasses and half a tablespoon of any light syrup instead.

– Try anise seeds or caraway seeds instead of fennel seeds for a slightly different flavour.

– I usually bake smaller 10 cm (4 in) rågkakor, which I find more convenient for smörgåsar (open sandwiches). Follow the recipe below, but divide the dough into just four pieces, roll each to about 10 cm (4 in) diameter and omit making a hole. One small rågkaka is sufficient for two smörgåsar.

Recipe courtesy of John Duxbury, Editor and Founder of Swedish Food

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The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager’s dream

Although parts of Sweden are still under snow at this time of year, spring is in full swing here in Skåne in the south of Sweden. Here are The Local's top tips for what you can forage in the great outdoors this season.

The three tasty treats that make spring in Sweden a forager's dream

You might already have your go-to svampställe where you forage mushrooms in autumn, but mushrooms aren’t the only thing you can forage in Sweden. The season for fruits and berries hasn’t quite started yet, but there is a wide range of produce on offer if you know where to look.

Obviously, all of these plants grow in the wild, meaning it’s a good idea to wash them thoroughly before you use them. You should also be respectful of nature and of other would-be foragers when you’re out foraging, and make sure not to take more than your fair share to ensure there’s enough for everyone.

As with all foraged foods, only pick and eat what you know. The plants in this guide do not look similar to any poisonous plants, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry – or ask someone who knows for help.

Additionally, avoid foraging plants close to the roadside or in other areas which could be more polluted. If you haven’t tried any of these plants before, start in small doses to make sure you don’t react negatively to them.

Wild garlic plants in a park in Alnarpsparken, Skåne. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Wild garlic

These pungent green leaves are just starting to pop up in shady wooded areas, and may even hang around as late as June in some areas. Wild garlic or ramsons, known as ramslök in Swedish, smell strongly of garlic and have wide, flat, pointed leaves which grow low to the ground.

The whole plant is edible: leaves, flowers and the bulbs underground – although try not to harvest too many bulbs or the plants won’t grow back next year.

The leaves have a very strong garlic taste which gets weaker once cooked. Common recipes for wild garlic include pesto and herb butter or herbed oil, but it can generally be used instead of traditional garlic in most recipes. If you’re cooking wild garlic, add it to the dish at the last possible moment so it still retains some flavour.

You can also preserve the flower buds and seed capsules as wild garlic capers, known as ramslökskapris in Swedish, which will then keep for up to a year.

Stinging nettles. Wear gloves when harvesting these to protect yourself from their needles. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Stinging nettles

Brännässlor or stinging nettles need to be cooked before eating to remove their sting, although blanching them for a couple of seconds in boiling water should do the trick. For the same reason, make sure you wear good gardening gloves when you pick them so you don’t get stung.

Nettles often grow in the same conditions as wild garlic – shady woodlands, and are often regarded as weeds.

The younger leaves are best – they can get stringy and tough as they get older.

A very traditional use for brännässlor in Sweden is nässelsoppa, a bright green soup made from blanched nettles, often topped with a boiled or poached egg.

Some Swedes may also remember eating stuvade nässlor with salmon around Easter, where the nettles are cooked with cream, butter and milk. If you can’t get hold of nettles, they can be replaced with spinach for a similar result.

You can also dry nettles and use them to make tea, or use blanched nettles to make nettle pesto.

Kirskål or ground elder, another popular foraged green for this time of year.
Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

Ground elder

Ground elder is known as kirskål in Swedish, and can be used much in the same way as spinach. It also grows in shady areas, and is an invasive species, meaning that you shouldn’t be too worried about foraging too much of it (you might even find some in your garden!).

It is quite common in parks and old gardens, but can also be found in wooded areas. The stems and older leaves can be bitter, so try to focus on foraging the tender, younger leaves.

Ground elder has been cultivated in Sweden since at least 500BC, and has been historically used as a medicinal herb and as a vegetable. This is one of the reasons it can be found in old gardens near Swedish castles or country homes, as it was grown for use in cooking.

Kirskål is available from March to September, although it is best eaten earlier in the season.

As mentioned, ground elder can replace spinach in many recipes – you could also use it for pesto, in a quiche or salad, or to make ground elder soup.