Something Swedish

Thursday Swede-ness: Pea Soup, “Ärtsoppa”

24 Comments

There is a very special tradition on Thursdays in Sweden: Eating pea soup – “ärtsoppa.” I moved here 8 months ago and have been avoiding this tradition ever since. My husband insists that I am never going to be accepted in Sweden if I can’t sit down and eat ärtsoppa like a grown-up, or even a kid… or at all. I can’t even think of it without grimacing!

Today was the day I finally gave in. And it wasn’t bad! My taste buds seem to be adjusting to this Swedish life. And besides, who doesn’t love a filling, cheap, and easy meal?!

The tradition of eating weekly ärtsoppa comes from needing to fill-up the belly for fasting on Fridays and has continued through the Swedish armed forces being served this every Thursday since WWII.

Swedish ärtsoppa is made of yellow peas and usually contains pork and mustard (which some say is the most important part). Crisp hardbread is usually eaten alongside and Swedish (crepe) pancakes, pankakor with jam as dessert (read: reward). Punsch, a traditional sweet liqueur served warm, is the side beverage of choice. The pancakes and jam are sometimes served together with the  ärtsoppa, as it is more part of the meal than an actual dessert.

Many restaurants offer ärtsoppa on Thursdays, along with school meals, and work cafeterias. It is also common to eat it at home either homemade or store bought – like many foods in Sweden, it is sold in a plastic tube.

 Next time we will make the homemade recipe. If your looking for a way to be more Swedish, try setting aside your Thursday to be Ärtsoppadagen!

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24 thoughts on “Thursday Swede-ness: Pea Soup, “Ärtsoppa”

  1. I actually like pea soup quite a bit so I bet I’d love it!

    Josh and I would really love to visit you and Esby someday 😀

  2. Funny, I lived in a Swedish family for one year and w never ate it. Sure we had the pannkakor, many times but never the soup. But I learnd to make a big pannkaka in the oven, just do the dough without the margarine or butter, put the butter in a deep Sheet pan and when it’s melted add the dough, then wait unit it looks good and eat with Applesauce! Yummie

  3. If you do make ugnspannkaka (oven pancake) as descibed above, I recommend trying fläskpannkaka. It’s pancake in the oven with pork in it. Eaten with lingonsylt. The sweet and the salty goes perfect together!

    Ugnspannkaka is also great more as a dessert with pieces of apple and cinnamon (and sugar) in it! And so easy to make! Just mix the ingredients for pancakes and pour them onto an oven tray with high edges.

  4. And since I understand that it can happen, for me as a Swede it sounds increadibly weird that a swedish family wouldn’t eat peasoup for an intire year! I guess someone in that family must’ve really hated it!? It’s very, very common in schools, lunch restaurants, and other places though. On thursdays, that is. 🙂

    But the best kind (except homemade) isn’t on a plastic tube. It’s “soldatens ärtsoppa”, the soldiers peasoup, sold in a can.

    • My husband got very excited when I he read flaskpannkaka! I think that will be on the menu this week!

    • Yeah my husband like’s that kind. I’m sure there’s a couple of cans in the pantry right now. With ‘extra much flesh meat’. LOL
      Funny though, he ate it somewhat often when I first arrived, but he almost never eats it anymore. Or pannkaka. He often spoke about how often he ate it in the army or in school, and seemed to love it, but just once he started eating my cooking, he ate it less and less. I can’t remember the last time I saw him eat it. But I’m a really good cook. I think he gained 20 kilos in 6 months; not because the food I make is particularly fattening, but anything will make you gain weight if you eat a kilo of it at one sitting !! HAHA

  5. I don’t like pea soup but that does look tempting!

  6. Just like Lotta I lived in a swedish family and we never ate it in that time. Anyway, I suppose the kids got ärtsoppa at the dagis…
    But of course we ate pannkaka med lingonsylt. A lot! 😉

  7. That’s awesome! I will have to try some sometime. I just moved up to the Minneapolis area, we’re bound to have some good Swedish food up here…

  8. Looks fantastic. We have to try it one Thursday. I had some pea soup at a Danish community in California named Solvang and it was great. The mustard is a key ingredient for sure.

  9. Midsommarflicka: Actually, it’s not that common to eat pannkakor with lingonsylt. Lingonsylt is commonly used to food that isn’t sweet, like meatballs. To pancakes most swedes eat strawberry-, raspberry- blueberry- or “drottningsylt”, “queensjam” a mix of raspberries and blueberries.

    The only time I have eaten lingon with pancakes was in school, and then it wasn’t the ordinary lingonsylt but somethong they called “allsylt”, “everythingjam”, a mix of lingonsylt and other berries. And that was the only jam they served in school, the same for everything, meatballs as well as pancakes. 🙂

    • I always eat pannkakor with strawberry jam, but have accidentally mixed up my jars and eaten it with lingonberry- I wasn’t very happy! I have tried it with hallon jam, but that isn’t sweet enough either. Absolutely love lingonberry with most meats though!

  10. Try “soldatens ärtsoppa”, its the best! I crave it all the time … Try the one with a lot of extra pork in it :p

  11. Thats funny in Norway the Thursday tradition is Komle (potato dumpling) I really have grown to like it. I have also tried Norwegian ertesuppe (pea soup) and don’t like it. I guess we need to just give it some time and these things will grow on us…

  12. Born in Sweden, lived here my entire life, and have spent all 29 years of it avoiding ärtsoppa like the devil. Kinda goes for fläskpannkaka as well 😀 Thursdays are pizzeria-day!

  13. Pingback: Meals on Monday – The Mr. H Plan | The Hemborg Wife

  14. Yup, it’s true. When I did my “värnplikt” we ate Peasoup for every thursday for 10 months. I really learned to like it there but it could have something to do with being constantly hungry as well…

  15. Reading through your entire blog in the middle of the night (I LOVE the perspective you bring to what’s normal to us Swedes) I have to stop and add a comment about the ärtsoppa. When we had mandatory military service for all men (or soon-to-be men) it was indeed always ärtsoppa and pannkakor every thursday, and I would be surprised if they have changed THAT.

    I was never a fan of ärtsoppa before my military service, but during those 15 months I could have eaten it every meal (and why not as fika?). While I now can enjoy ärtsoppa at times, it’s no longer as good. It has been suggested to me that making enormous batches of ärtsoppa and eating it “fresh” (not the prefab plastic sausages you by at the supermarket!) is what makes it divine. Or… It can be like Alexander mentioned above – being constantly exhausted and hungry might have something to do with it. Perhaps the dish just has all the nutrients the body needs and craves after a day crawling through the Swedish forests 😉

    • Hey there Mikael! Thanks for reading – I’m happy you enjoy the fresh perspective 🙂 Ärtsoppa is something that I never look forward to, but enjoy when I’m actually eating it. It makes sense that it would be tasty while in military service. I think it’s pretty neat that it is a staple outside of that context, still to this day. It’s nice with some tradition.

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