Around the World in 80 Plates: Helsinki, Finland// Karelian Pasty

Captain Create is in the far north again, this time tasting all sorts of Nordic foods in Finland! This Nordic country is famous for a few things, including the Northern Lights, herds of wild reindeer, and it has over 180,000 lakes1! You’ll need to be tough to swim in the lakes here; The water is cold!

The city of Helsinki is in the southern part of Finland and is the most densely populated place in the country. It is the capital, and houses important government, art, and education buildings, as well as acting as a major shipping port. Finland has both coastal regions, and mountains with boreal forests1 (made up of coniferous trees like pine and spruce, but more humid than a forest in Utah).

Finland has short warm summers and long cold (dark!) winters because they are so far north on the globe. What do Finns do for fun? Just like us, they love to get outside and stay active, even when its cold and snowy! As with many cold places, they play hockey, and the Finnish Hockey team even won the 2022 Hockey World Championship! Other things to do in winter include downhill and cross country skiing, sledding with both dogs and reindeer, and hiking or even somethign as simple as a snowball fight. In summer, you can paddle or kayak on many of the thousands of lakes, go for hikes in the mountains, ride your bike, run, or play games like soccer and field hockey.

They eat a lot of fish and poultry in Finland, and the long winters here make getting fresh vegetables a little bit more difficult. Because of this, lots of hardy vegetables are used in many of their foods1. Think turnips, potatoes, cabbages, and whole grains like rye, barley, and wheat. They preserve lots of things, especially berries; their most famous are lingonberry, bilberry, raspberry, cloud- berry, and buckthorn berry. Nearly every meal is served with rye bread1. One Finnish food you can find in nearly every city, much like you can find pizza in the United States, is the Karelian Pasty. It’s made with a rye flour crust and filled with rice and potato, then topped with “egg butter”, which is made by mixing hard cooked egg in soft butter2.

Left to right: Karelian Pasty, wild strawberry, fried vendace with lemon and parsley, rye bread slices.

The recipe for Karelian Pasty is shared below, and does take a bit of preparation before you start, as well as rye flour, which is available in the baking section of most large grocery stores, or online.

The Karelian Pasty is a culturally significant recipe, and is protected by the European Union with a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed designation. This means that the recipe must be made the traditional way with traditional ingredients to maintain its character. This prevents big companies from taking something traditional and changing the recipe to something “close enough”, and helps keep an old recipe from getting lost.

When making your own Karelian Pasty, aim to meed these standards2:

  • are small oval pasties with an open exposed filling in the middle
  • have a flat profile so you don’t need to exaggerate with the filling
  • the rye crust is rolled out thin and the pasty bakes crispy in a very HOT oven
  • the size of Karelian pies varies between 7cm – 20cm (2.8-7.9 inch)
  • the crinkled look is achieved by pressing the folded edges with fingers (there is no wrong way to do this bit, but it is more difficult with long fingernails.)


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finland
  2. https://myvintagecooking.com/homemade-karelian-pies-with-rice-filling-recipe/

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