Why Do Finnish People Love Salty Liquorice So Much?

Selection of salmiakki candies
Selection of salmiakki candies | ©Denni Schnapp / Flickr
Jessica Wood

From a foreign perspective, Finns seem to have some highly peculiar eating habits. They are one of the world’s largest consumers of rye bread, they happily eat ice cream in temperatures below freezing, and they enjoy reindeer meat on their pizza. But one of the most baffling things about Finnish food is their choice of sweets, particularly salty liquorice. Here’s why they love it so much…

What is salty liquorice?

Salted liquorice, or salmiakki, is popular throughout the Nordic countries, the Netherlands, and Germany, but is most popular in Finland. It can be found in practically every variety bag of sweets sold in Finland and is an ingredient in chocolate, ice cream, and liquor among other things. Finns living abroad will frequently ask relatives to send them bags of salmiakki which they can’t find overseas.

Salmiakki liquor

In most other countries, a tongue-numbing sweet-and-salty mix would only be popular amongst adults, like the recent trend of salted caramel. But in Finland, salmiakki is enjoyed by people of all ages and is a favourite weekend treat amongst children. It is a highly acquired taste and most expats or visitors to Finland can’t stand it! Many even become frustrated at how difficult it is to find bags of sweets in Finland that don’t contain salmiakki.

Where did it come from?

It is believed that salty liquorice originated from drug stores. Ammonia chloride, the ingredient which gives salmiakki its flavour, was originally used in cough medicine, and supposedly it was combined with liquorice to encourage children to take their medicine. By the 1930s, it had been adapted into regular candy which was being sold throughout the Nordics, and it has remains popular to this day.

Why do Finns love salmiakki?

There is no real answer as to why the strange flavour combination is so popular in Finland, or why it is practically a part of Finland’s national identity. If you ask a Finn why they love it so much, they will probably say they like the taste and that they have been eating it since childhood. It is simply a food that is common and unique to Finland, like red bean paste in Japan or saltwater taffy in the USA.

What to try

As mentioned, salmiakki is a highly acquired taste which most non-Finns find it hard to adapt to if they haven’t been eating it since childhood. If you do wish to try it, just to see what it tastes like, it isn’t difficult to find salmiakki candies in any supermarket or corner shop in Finland. They are also sold online (see Amazon) and shipped worldwide. Salmiakki comes in different strengths, but Pantteri candies (recognised by the panther on the bag) sold by the Fazer confectionary company, are one of the milder varieties and recommended for first-timers.

Salmiakki ice cream

You can even make some yourself with this recipe from Food Worth Cooking. For more daring foodies, you can use salmiakki to flavour meat or as an ingredient in this zebra cake by Kinuskikissa.

If, however, salmiakki isn’t to your liking, take care when buying sweets in Finland, and watch out for those dreaded black candies.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article