Pancake day? Not in Sweden – it’s time for Fat Tuesday!

In kitchens nationwide this week, Brits will be scraping the aftermath of over-ambitious pancake-flipping contests from their floors and walls while a hot debate rages between lemon-and-sugar-traditionalists and ice-cream-and-chocolate-sauce progressives.

Meanwhile in Sweden, a slightly different but no less serious ritual is underway: the eating of semlor on fettisdag, or “Fat Tuesday”. Semlor (singular semla) are wheat buns spiced with cardamom, scooped out and filled with almond paste and topped with whipped cream and a dusting of icing sugar.

You can see some semlor here.

Like the pancake, the semla is connected to the beginning of Lent. Over the years, perhaps also like Pancake Day for many of us, it lost much of its religious significance and became a traditional dessert every Tuesday between Shrove Tuesday and Easter. Today, commercial pressures have extended the semla season still further, and now semlor are available from most bakeries from just after Christmas until Easter. On average, Swedes consume five shop-bought semlor a year, plus a number of home-made ones!

Swedes approach the making, eating and judging of semlor with great enthusiasm, with many newspapers holding competitions to find the best ones in town, with just the right combination of almond paste, cream and a moist bun.

But if you miss semla season this year, don’t despair. All year round, the Swedes take the business of coffee breaks very seriously indeed, and the ritual of fika – to meet old friends, make new ones, catch up on gossip, and take an important time out from the stresses of the day – is deeply ingrained in the national psyche.

So, we wish you a very happy Fat Tuesday: may your pancakes always land sunny side up!

Best regards

The Nature Travels Team

To see our range of wildlife and outdoor experiences in Sweden, visit

3 thoughts on “Pancake day? Not in Sweden – it’s time for Fat Tuesday!

  1. How do you convert the Swedish measurements to what we use in the United States. How much margarine is 75 grams to cups and the dl measurement in teaspoons to tablespoons. Need this info asap. My daughter needs to make this for a class project on Sweden. Thanks

  2. Hi Karen

    You should find the following website helpful for metric to imperial conversions:

    This will help you convert dl to tsp/tbsp. There does not seem to be a way to convert grams to cups, but you will be able to convert to other imperial measures which will hopefully be helpful. Good luck with your daughter’s class project!

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