Travel Update


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Nordic Eats: What's the Deal with Licorice?

By: Jessica
Last Updated: 08/08/2022

Browse the candy aisle at a Nordic supermarket or convenience shop and you'll see this salty-sweet confection dominating the shelves. What's up with the Nordic licorice obsession?

Licorice: love it or hate it?

For fun, we put the love-or-hate question to Nordic Visitor staff in an informal survey and the results were overwhelmingly in favor of licorice... with exception of one North American employee who shall remain nameless. [For what it's worth, the North American author of this post likes it.]

And that seems to be the case in general: there is no grey area with black licorice. While visitors to the Nordic countries have mixed reactions to this polarizing yet popular candy, the locals for the most part have an acquired taste for it.

Opal lakkris candy in Iceland
The clever packaging may just just hypnotize you into loving these Icelandic candies.

Why is it so popular in the Nordics?

We're asked this a lot by our travelers. We're not the only part of the world that likes licorice (Hello Holland and Germany); we just seem to have a lot more of it. Now, we're no candy-historians, but our team has some theories of how this licorice-love came to be.

Some thought of historical explanations:

  • "It probably has something to do with the Vikings." - Björn
  • "Because the Nordics were too isolated throughout history to know better..." - Catharine
  • "It was probably cheaper to make at some point than, for example, chocolate or else the ingredients were more readily available." - Brynjar

Others made a weather connection:

  • "It's bitter and sweet, just what we need in the cold winters." - Klara
  • "Because people of the Nordic region are so relaxed and the winter is so long and cold. We need licorice to get our blood pressure up and heat in our bodies—it's just science." - Linda

While a few had more straightforward (i.e., Nordic-style) answers:

  • "Because it is delicious! And we really like to jeopardize our health." - Sara
  • "Strong candy for strong people." - Perla
licorice roll
Licorice candies come in all forms in the Nordic countries. (photo: Flickr/Dawn Huczek)

Feeling brave? Or not?

In case you're trying to find—or avoid—this flavor during your Nordic travels, look for these:

  • Iceland: lakkrís
  • Norway: lakris
  • Denmark: lakrids
  • Sweden: lakrits
  • Finland: lakritsi or salmiakki (a stronger salty licorice, not for the weak)

At least in Iceland, chocolate-licorice combinations are a big deal. You might also stumble upon some licorice-flavored ice cream and schnapps.

If you want some tasty (to us, anyway) souvenirs to take home and try out on your friends, our staff count these candies among their favorites:

  • Iceland: Þristur, Djúpur, Draumar and Kúlusúkk (chocolate-licorice combos); Stjörnurúllur (marzipan licorice rolls); Gamaldags Lakrids (old fashioned licorice); Saltlakkrís (salty licorice lozenges); and Appolo Lakkrís marzipan pieces.
  • Denmark: Tyrkisk Peber (candies with hard salt licorice shell and hot pepper filling)
  • Sweden: Djungelvrål salty licorice monkeys
  • Finland: Salmiakki Kala fishes. Finnish confectioner Fazer also makes good salmiakki-infused chocolate bars.

But fear not, licorice-haters! Nordic folks have worldly sugar cravings, so you're likely to find recognizable brands of North American, British and European candies in shops as well.

Have you tried any Nordic licorice candies? Which side of love or hate are you on?

If you want to do a thorough taste-taste, we suggest a holiday combining two or more Nordic countries. Besides comparing the sweets, you can also sample the hot dogs, seafood, rye breads and coffee drinks—other foods with strong common links across the region.

(Featured blog image of marzipan-licorice candies by Dan Cook. Photo source: Flickr)
Post by: Jessica

When not writing about Northern European tourist attractions, Jessica Bowe is busy daydreaming about her next trip or scouring Instagram for travel inspiration. Originally from Wisconsin (USA), she's lived in Iceland since 2008 and has since become fully immersed in Eurovision mania and Scandinavian coffee culture.

Find Jessica on LinkedIn.

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