What Makes Swedish-Style Hot Dogs Unique?

If there is one food that ties the whole world together, it could possibly be the hot dog. It seems every single country has its own version of a wiener robed in a roll, topped with a plethora of veggies, condiments, and relishes, not to mention the numerous stylings of the snack floating around the United States. Occasionally, international hot dogs hit America's spotlight and become major food trends: Just look at the explosion of Korean corn dogs and Sonoran style wieners from Mexico. Others stay under the radar, despite their over-the-top extras that are at least worth a second glance. Case in point: the Swedish-style hot dog.

In the metropolitan areas of Sweden, namely Stockholm, you can find tunnbrödsrulle, or Swedish hot dogs. The name tunnbrödsrulle means "thin bread roll," which refers to the bread on which the dog is served. When you learn the gargantuan amount of toppings that the Swedes prefer on their hot dogs, you'll understand why a standard roll or bun just won't cut it. It is a monstrosity of a snack — one that makes New York City's dirty water dogs look like an amuse bouche. It's just the kind of local street food that appealed to the late Anthony Bourdain, who described tunnbrödsrulle as "the finest and best thing I've ever had in my life" on Travel Channel's "No Reservations," via YouTube. That's quite a statement from the culinary legend — one that makes tunnbrödsrulle worth looking at.

The origins of Swedish-style hot dogs

Like in America, hot dogs are a very popular street food in Sweden. In the 1600s, German immigrants to Sweden developed Falukorv, a ring-style sausage that is now a signature Swedish dish. While undoubtedly popular amongst the copper miners who were responsible for making it, the idea of hot dogs as people know them didn't reach the Swedish masses until it was showcased at the 1897 Stockholm World's Fair. Still, it wasn't until decades later when a Swedish, signature version of the hot dog came to be.

In the 1960s, hot dog and hamburger stand owner Elov Bråtfors took a Scandinavian flatbread called tunnbröd and filled it with mashed potatoes (a side dish he regularly sold), crispy onions, two hot dogs, mustard, ketchup, and sweet pickle relish, thus creating the first tunnbrödsrulle. 

Today, it is a Swedish staple and tourist bucket list item, a street food that is sold all day and into the nights, catering to night owls and hungry barflys.

A smörgåsbord of toppings

The tunnbröd flatbread is a must when creating tunnbrödsrulle, although, if you're making one yourself and cannot find the ingredient, a large flour tortilla or naan can act as substitutes. Generous dollops of mashed potatoes create a base for the one or two hot dogs you put on top. As mentioned, ketchup and mustard are drizzled on; You'll want to find a good Swedish mustard — not regular yellow because the Swedish version has a bit of sweetness in it. In a pinch, honey mustard can be used. In many versions, a drizzle of mayonnaise completes the trifecta of condiments on top. In addition, crispy onions and salad greens also top the dog. But, there is still one element that makes a true and original tunnbrödsrulle: shrimp salad.

It's not really known why shrimp salad tops the Swedish hot dog but it is an element that the Swedes (and anyone who tries it) seem to love. The dish is so positively stuffed with food that a fork or spoon usually accommodates the immense meal so you can scoop up some of the salad first and lighten the size of the wrap to take a bite. This is the "everything" version of tunnbrödsrulle. 

Diners can certainly opt to reject any of the fillings. Swedish hot dogs do have various versions; Hot dogs can be replaced with hamburger meat and reindeer stew and topped with different ingredients like cheese, slaw, and peppers.

Where to find Swedish-style hot dogs

If you can find Swedish hot dogs at your favorite hot dog joint, consider yourself fortunate. These immense beauties haven't found their way to the U.S. en masse quite yet. While there are some scattered Swedish food trucks and restaurants across the nation where you might be able to find them, your best bet in experiencing the authentic version is on your next trip to Stockholm. However, creating them at home is not out of the question. The most difficult element to track down might be the flatbread, but you're one step ahead of the game if you live near an IKEA store, which often sells it in its food marketplaces. If not, opt for online shopping.

In addition, IKEA sells containers of Swedish fried onions and Swedish mustard. You can use any type of hot dog you like and shrimp salad comes together with only a handful of ingredients. Fresh mashed potatoes are best, but even some Swedish hot dog stands use the boxed versions. It's a generous dish, to be sure, more in the realm of burritos or wraps than of the standard hot dog, so enter its presence with an appetite or a partner for sharing. Then again, don't be surprised if said partner doesn't hand it over after that first bite.