Being Vegetarian in Sweden

I went back home in April for the first time since I came to Sweden. A question that many friends asked me was how it was being vegetarian in Sweden. I was quite surprised that it was such a big concern for so many people. But then I did some research and found that Sweden is actually a good place to be as a vegetarian!

30%-40% of the population in India actually vegetarian, which is the highest in the world.  Sweden is also very high on the list as well with a recent survey showing that 10% of the population being vegan or vegetarian. For a quick comparison vegetarians and vegans in Germany are 9%, Italy 10%, USA 3.2%, Denmark 1.5%, Norway 2%. So, to be honest, it wasn’t very difficult for me to find vegetarian food or “vegetariska mat”.

Swedes pay a lot of attention to environmental impacts and more and more Swedes are becoming vegans as they understand the influence of consuming animal products on nature. This means that it is common to find vegetarian versions of traditional Swedish food as well. One can find vegetarian meatballs (I don’t like all this but well…) and we had a large assortment of vegetarian food at the Julbord as well. Julbord, a traditional Christmas table, usually has a ton of meat!

Swedes also value personal freedom and choice. They respect it, which means that every ‘social’ event takes into account everyone’s preferences for food. My friends also make special efforts to ensure there is some vegetarian variant of their recipe when I am invited over for traditional cooking 🙂

Coming from India, I was used to finding labels like these on packed food to help me identify vegetarian food in grocery stores : 

But here in Sweden identifying vegetarian food was a bit more tricky. The precooked frozen food didn’t have any labels. I struggled for the first week or so. Sometimes they have this thing that says “Suitable for vegetarians”, but now I know most of the Swedish names for ingredients and I ask the staff when I am doubtful. There has never been a dearth of options at grocery stores though.

So in conclusion, you’ll have a wide variety of vegetarian food to choose from, may meet interesting people with similar values at a vegetarian restaurant and people will generally value the fact that you abstain from eating meat.

In case you love eating meat though, head here to read Angelina’s tips about finding meat in Sweden!

Raghuraman avatar

11 Comments

  • McCains Smiles online lucknow • 9 Jun 2017 at 9.18 am Reply

    The only problem I had were fresh vegetables. I eat a lot of them but I found them tasteless, most of them are grown in greenhouses or imported from southern Europe..Thanks for sharing this post..

    • Raghuraman
      Raghuraman • 9 Jun 2017 at 9.20 am Reply

      totally agree!

  • V. Hima Bindu • 25 May 2017 at 10.03 am Reply

    Hi Raghuraman

    My husband is going to Sweden for a month on a client visit for the first time. Being pure vegans he wants to cook by himself. Do we find economical service apartments on rent with kitchen? If yes can you please let me know the details.

  • Pranav Kumar • 31 May 2016 at 4.22 pm Reply

    Hi Raghuraman,

    I am from India, a vegetarian & got a job offer from Sweden. The location is Karlskrona, a small town in south Sweden. I am also concern about the availability of vegetarian food, although I would need to cook most of the time. Are the challenges in getting the Indian food items from the stores ?

    • Raghuraman
      Raghuraman • 31 May 2016 at 4.26 pm Reply

      hey man! getting vegetarian food stuff should not be a problem but getting specific indian spices might be difficult.

  • Monica • 18 Dec 2015 at 8.17 pm Reply

    As you wrote in your article, being a vegetarian in Sweden is really easy! Supermarkets are plenty of veg food, every restaurant has a vegetarian choice..
    The only problem I had were fresh vegetables. I eat a lot of them but I found them tasteless, most of them are grown in greenhouses or imported from southern Europe.
    Since I’m Italian I really tasted the difference and had problems with getting used to that poor taste. Anyway I expected it 🙂

  • Ankur Vora • 10 Dec 2015 at 1.52 pm Reply

    Really Inspiring. Hopefully I will join you vegetarian club in next year.

  • Vijay • 9 Aug 2015 at 3.56 am Reply

    Hi Raghuraman,
    One of my junior friends wants to study in Euro zone . Can you please let me know the details of the bachelor’s programme in Sweden mainly in the engineering stream.
    Regarding his status, he is a drop-out of engineering course from India and so holds degree of 10+2. With this eligibility is there any good course at undergraduate level(preferably engg). Hope this information is enough.
    If you can provide the details and also any useful links regarding colleges,course,fees etc it would be a great help. Please do not hesitate to drop a mail to me in case you need any more information about the candidate. My email is: rvijay926@gmail.com.
    Thanks in advance for your information and looking forward for your mail with details.
    Thanks,
    Vijay

  • Raghuraman
    Raghuraman Rangarajan • 24 Jun 2015 at 10.08 pm Reply

    @Irene your comment is waaay more informative than my blogpost!

  • Irene G • 24 Jun 2015 at 10.04 pm Reply

    Being a vegetarian in Sweden was paradise for me. You see, I am Spanish and here if you say you’re veggie they’ll wrinkle their noses. Finding vegetarian food was a piece of cake, they have a special section by the frozen food and you can find burgers, “meatballs”, filets, sausages, bbq sausages, minced “meat”, nuggets, snitchels, and so on. And they keep bringing more and more stuff from time to time and there are new brands in the 2 years I’ve been living in Sweden. Then you have the yoghurt section if you’re vegan. Holy cow. You’ll find white, strawberry, blueberry, vanilla, banana flavor…
    They also have a special dry food section where everything is vegan. Frozen food is mostly vegetarian. There you’ll find the same: burgers, minced meat, meatballs…
    And lately, at my usual ICA Maxi they’re bringing fresh “lunchmeat” for sandwiches like chorizo flavor and stuff. As I said, being a vegetarian in Spain is a daily fight not only with your acquaintances, but with your supermarket (you won’t find ANY of these heavenly food in southern Europe, I’m afraid, unless you go to a special dietary shop ready to be robbed); while being a vegetarian in Sweden… well.
    Being a vegan is not that easy, EVERYTHING has cheese, milk or butter, e-v-e-r-y-thing, sorry for my fellow vegan & lactose intolerant friends.
    And, you’ll find mostly always a vegetarian/vegan option on the menu of any restaurant you go to, no matter the country: Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese (these restaurants have all the menu vegan if you want to), Indian, Italian, Swedish, burger places.
    In sum, you might have guessed it: I love being a vegetarian in Sweden.
    Cheers!

  • gimmy • 18 Apr 2015 at 11.43 pm Reply

    I wonder why the Norwegians and the Swedes have such different dietary behaviour…#MasterThesis

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