The Swedish Semla or Lent Buns


In Sweden we eat Semlor on Fat Tuesday which usually falls in February but this year it is on March 8th.  You ask what is Fat Tuesday?

Fat Tuesday is the last day before Lent, also called Shrove Tuesday.  Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday and it is all related to the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lent season, which starts on Ash Wednesday.

I am sure folks have tons of traditions for this time of the year and I would love to hear about them.

The way I grew up is that we had to have Semlor.  Most of the Swedes i know do not care about fasting before Lent. Semlor are being made and sold from Christmas through Easter, and each Swede consumes an average of five bakery-produced Semlor a year. Add to that all those that are homemade!



The name semla is a loan word from German Semmel, originally deriving from the Latin semilia, which was the name used for the finest quality wheat flour or semolina.

A Semla is basically a sweet bun, spiced with cardamom, top is cut off, scraped out the insides of the bottom of the bun and stuffed with almond paste lost of whipped cream, and then the top is put back on and sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar.

Some folks put the semls in a bowl and pour walk milk over it.  I prefer the semla by itself. Also I am not a huge fan of almond paste I used to remove it as a kid and either eat it plain or stuff it with jam or you can even use coconut instead of almonds as you make your paste.

In some place you can find almond past in the store but if you cannot I have also attached a recipe at the bottom of how to do it at home.


Print Recipe


Yield: 16-20 buns

Total Time: 2 hours


6 tbsp butter

1 cup milk

1 packet dry yeast or 50g of fresh yeast

1 pinch salt

3 tbsp sugar

3 cups wheat flour

1 tsp cardamom

2 eggs, beaten (one for brushing)


10 oz. almond paste (recipe below)

1/2 cup milk (only if you are using almond paste that is store brought)

1 1/2 cup whipping cream

confection sugar

Almond paste:

4 oz or 3/4 cups almonds or 3/4 cups almond meal (you can get this at Trade Joes)

1/2 cup milk

1/2 sugar


Melt the butter in a saucepan, pour in the milk and warm until lukewarm (99° F). Pour the yeast in a bowl (Crumble the yeast if using fresh yeast) and stir in a little of the warm butter-milk mixture until the yeast is completely dissolved. Add the rest of the butter/milk mixture, 1 egg, salt, sugar, cardamom and most of the flour (save some for kneading). Work the dough. It should loosen from the edges of the bowl.

Allow the dough to rise under a towel/cloth for 40 minutes. Sprinkle flour on the counter and place the dough there and kneed a few minutes, especially any air pockets. Roll the dough into one big roll. Divide into 16-20 pieces. Make each piece into a round ball and put them on a baking sheet with parchment paper and let them rise for additional 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 440° F.

Brush the buns with the beaten egg and bake them for about 10 minutes in the middle of the oven or until golden brown. Let them cool on an oven rack under a towel/cloth.

Once cooled cut off the very top of each bun. Take out part of the insides and put it in a bowl.

If you have not store bought the almost paste this is a good time to make it. Warm the milk and then pour the milk, the almonds/almond meal, sugar, and the insides of the roll into a food processor until a nice smooth paste. The warm milk will melt the sugar.

If you have store bought the almost paste then crumble it into a food processor, mix it with the insides of the rolls, and add the milk to a rather smooth paste.

Put this filling back into the buns. Whip the cream and put a large dollop in every bun. Put the tops back on and sift some confectioners’ sugar over the buns.

Eat as is or server them in a bowl with warm milk.


Other Similar Recipes:

Swedish Easter Traditions Leg of Lamb and Gravy
Swedish Cinnamon Buns “Bullar”
Steamed chocolate Pudding
Swedish Pancakes “Pannkakor”

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