Estonia's National Bread

Source: Jaak Nilson, Visit Estonia

Estonia's National Bread

As a dietary staple and a symbol of cultural identity, Estonians have a love affair with their bread. Travelling in the country, you'll find several varieties of bread, but what is it about rye bread that makes it so special?

Rye, Estonia's Medieval export  

There is no food quite as quintessentially Estonian as rye bread. Rye has been cultivated in Estonia for more than a thousand years and is a central part of the nation's traditional agriculture. Rituals for prosperity and protection of farms sprung up alongside the grain, and during the Middle Ages, Estonia was known across Europe as a major rye exporter.

Varieties of bread 

If you find yourself on one of Estonia's western islands like Saaremaa, be sure to buy a loaf of the deliciously dark bread characteristic of the region.

Photo by: Angla Tuulikud

Delicious simplicity 

Shoppers today are greeted by a nearly overwhelming variety of bread in Estonian supermarkets, but nothing quite compares to a homemade loaf. Commercial rye bread often incorporates wheat flour into the mixture, which gives the loaf a fluffier texture compared to the density of pure rye bread. Fresh rye bread should be warm and have a crispy crust. The bread is best enjoyed without too many additions. You can enjoy a flavourful slice with soups, alongside main courses, with Baltic herring on top, or with just a dab of salted butter.

The perfect complement to a meal 

A slice of fresh rye bread pairs well with many meals. 

Photo by: Mart Vares

Where to find good Estonian bread 

The art of bread baking is experiencing a revival and quality handmade bread can be found in neighbourhood bakeries across Estonia. Just be careful not to eat too much of this divine baked good before your main dish arrives! If you're still longing for the bread after your meal, some restaurants even sell you loaves to go.

Of course, you don't necessarily have to go out to a restaurant or bakery to get good rye bread. If you'd like to try baking your own loaf, the ingredients are simple: water, rye flour, salt, sugar, and leaven. Seeds, dried fruits, and nuts make tasty additions, though not necessary. Patience is required, as the process takes over 12 hours. You can find further instructions here. However, if you want to learn from a pro, you can try out a bread baking workshop. At the Bread Room, you can learn about bread baking firsthand with a homemade bread workshop.

Last updated : 08.01.2022

In category: Food & Drink & Nightlife