The cuisine of Southwestern Finland has been greatly influenced by traditions of the archipelago as well as the neighbouring countries on the other side of the Gulf of Bothnia. Local fish such as baltic herring and fresh vegetables are important ingredients in the regional dishes.

Recipe: Varilimppu


1 litre water
1 kg rye flour
60g mämmi malt
60g of pre-ferment
30g yeast
0.5tbsp of fennel
0.5tbsp of bitter orange peel
1tbsp rubber witch
1tbsp salt
30g syrup

To finish
Beaten egg


1. Boil 1/3 litre of water. Add the mämmi malt and rye flour. Add the mixture into a bread tin, in which there should be pre-ferment left on the sides from a previous bake. If it doesn’t have pre-ferment in it, add it to the dough. Sprinkle with a layer of rye flour. Cover the tin well and leave in a warm place for an hour or so.

2. Mix the layer of rye flour into the dough and add another 1/3 litre of hot water, and, once again sprinkle the surface with rye flour. Repeat again in an hour. Then, let the dough rest overnight.

3. The next day, add salt, spices and yeast, and sugar or syrup to taste. Knead with rye flour into a medium-hard dough. Leave to rise. Split the dough into two. Again, leave to rise. Moisten the loaves with egg. Bake in a moderate oven temperature for 50-60 minutes. Cover the bread and leave to cool, allowing the shell to soften. Varilimppu’s taste improves with age.

Throughout its history, Finnish cuisine has been influenced by both eastern and western traditions. In the prehistoric age, Finland had two main human settlements: one in the east, near Lake Ladoga, and another in the west, in the Turku-Kokemäki area. The regions had very minimal contact with each other, therefore two independent cuisines were formed.

In the east, food was oven-prepared due to the common home architecture in eastern Finland where every house had a large masonry oven that was used for cooking, as well as for heating the house. In the gentle heat of the oven, different pies, pasties, casseroles and stews were slowly cooked. In eastern Finnish homes fresh bread was baked every week, whereas in the west, bread was baked in large quantities a couple of times a year. Instead of the oven, the western homes preferred cooking on open fires with a cauldron. Seafood and soups were commonly cooked. Because of the different cooking styles, the east was called ’oven food area’ and the west ’soup food area’.

Traditionally Finns lived in subsistence economy. Food was prepared from the ingredients that were available on a given season. The necessity to cook from the available ingredients formed Finnish regional delicacies. The differences between different regions have diminished during the time, but regions still cherish their own traditional dishes with great pride.

Baltic herring and smooth-skinned new potatoes served with butter

Turku is traditionally part of Western Finland’s ‘soup food area’. The food culture in Southwest Finland has overseas influences from Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

The seamen brought new ideas and recipes from their travels. Turku’s location by the sea has always meant exchanging new ideas.

Different kinds of fish dishes are popular in Southwest Finland. Perch, whitefish and northern pike are commonly used, as are Baltic herring. It can be enjoyed cooked, fried, grilled or salted. Baltic herring forms a perfect combo with new potatoes – so smooth-skinned that they don’t even need peeling.

Southwest Finland has also gained a reputation as Finland’s vegetable granary. The climate on the southwest coast is ideal for growing different vegetables. The farmers in this region have been the country’s forerunners in growing sugar beet, raps, tomato, glasshouse cucumber, strawberry and early-season vegetables.

New potatoes from the archipelago are the nation’s favourite and sell like hot cakes. The city of Turku is the home of Neitsytperunafestivaalit – an annual new potato festival. The neighbouring town Rymättylä is, traditionally, the place to produce the season’s first potatoes.

Try varilimppu – sweet rye bread loaf from Southwest Finland

Southwest Finland is known for its long tradition in baking. The county is home to many different types of delicious bread. Traditionally rye bread was baked a couple of times per year and left it to hang and dry. For special occasions, varlimppu – a sweet rye bread loaf - was baked. The bread has been chosen as the food of the county.

Varilimppu is a sweet rye bread loaf that gets its special flavour from cumin and bitter orange peel. Collect the recipe from below and check the map for more weird and wonderful Finnish specialities!

More Finnish specialities on Expedia’s Flavours of Finland map:

Flavours of Finland by ExpediaFI

Text: Iiris Lagus
Photo: Elina Manninen, Keksit/Visit Finland
Sources (also the recipe):