Estonia's national bread

Source: Jaak Nilson, Visit Estonia

Estonia's national bread

Estonians have a love affair with their bread - a dietary staple and cultural identifier. There are several varieties, but what is rye bread and why is 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 over one thousand years and was a central part of traditional agriculture. Rituals for prosperity and protection of farms sprung up alongside the grain, and in the Middle Ages, Estonia was known as a main rye exporter across Europe.

Bread variants 

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

Photo by: Angla Tuulikud

Sweet simplicity 

Shoppers today are greeted by a nearly overwhelming variety of breads in Estonian supermarkets, but they do not compare to a good 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. Fresh rye bread should be warm and have a crispy crust, best savoured simply. Enjoy a rich slice with soups, alongside main courses, with Baltic herring on top or with a dab of salted butter.

The perfect meal companion 

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

Photo by: Mart Vares

Where to find it 

The art of bread baking is experiencing a revival in popularity, and quality handmade breads can be found in neighbourhood bakeries and restaurants like Leib Resto ja Aed, which has bread right in the name. Just be careful not too eat too much of this heavenly baked good before your main dish arrives! If you're still longing for the bread after your meal, some restaurants even sell loaves to-go.

If you'd like to try baking your own rye bread, 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. Further instructions here.


Last updated : 22.04.2021

In category: Food & Drink & Nightlife