Kalles Kaviar—A Short History (And Some Cool Facts About Swedish Caviar)
If you’re Swedish you know your caviar. Especially the one you squeeze out of a tub. But what led to the creation of this kind of creamed caviar used as a topping on sandwiches (and made it so addictive Swedes pack it in their suitcase when going overseas)? That’s what we’re going to find out…


Swedish Caviar (No, It’s Not the Same as Russian Caviar…)

Swedes have eaten caviar for a long time. Probably as long as we’ve been eating fish! And it’s not just the roe (eggs) from fish we eat, either. Boiled shrimp, a Swedish delicacy (often served with the shell on which people peel themselves by the table at a so-called räkfrossa…a shrimp party) is often filled with roe that tastes delicious.

However, the kind of roe you buy in glass jars is fish roe that’s been salted and, sometimes, smoked. The roe comes from different types of fish. The affordable version you buy from Abba’s, for example, is made with lumpfish roe, or roe from herring.

Salted cod roe was popular in Sweden already in the 1800s. However, two of the most popular forms of caviar—Caviar of Kalix and Kalles Kaviar—were later inventions.

Caviar of Kalix is made from vendace roe from fish from a very specific area in Bothnian Bay. Due to the special qualities of the water in that area, the roe has a very distinctive color and flavor.

Caviar of Kalix hasn't actually been around for that long. While people in the local area have, presumably, been eating it for as long as they've been fishing, it only became a commercial  "thing" only in the 1950s and 60s. It received Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status in 2010 and has gone on to become a culinary delight around the world.

Kalles Kaviar is another Swedish classic, only it's not a luxury food. Rather the contrary—Kalles Kaviar is a household staple. It's creamed cod roe that you buy a tub and use as a spread or topping for sandwiches. It's incredibly popular on top of boiled and sliced eggs on a sandwich.

Thanks to Ikea, Kalles is now available in many countries around the globe and thanks to Swedishness you can have it delivered to your door pretty much anywhere. It seems it's not only Swedes who have taken a liking to this culinary treasure.


The History of Kalles Kaviar

As mentioned, salted cod roe was popular already in the 1800s and in the early 1900s, the flavors developed—sugar and spices were added. Then, around 1910 someone made a mistake and added oil, making the roe milder and more spreadable.

Some mistakes are worth making—people took to this new mild flavor!

As the 1940s came rolling round, people started smoking the roe, making it even milder and adding that distinct smoke flavor.

Then in 1950 Abba (the company, not the band, they didn’t exist yet), bought the recipe for 1,000 crowns (that’s about $100 but bear in mind that back then $100 was worth a lot more, still it was cheap bearing in mind what Abba was about to achieve with the recipe!).

Abba’s chefs didn’t just leave the recipe as it was, oh, no! They experimented and made alterations to create the perfect creamed roe. In the process they tested the recipe and found that kids loved it!

Abba claim they launched Kalles Kaviar in 1954 but rumor has it there was something on the market prior to that.

As kids were so happy to eat Kalles, the boss of Abbas’s son, Carl (and anyone named Carl is usually nicknamed Kalle in Sweden) ended up posing for the packaging. What did he get in return? Free supply of Kalles Kaviar for life. He’s still receiving it!

The first slogan for Kalles? “Everyone’s childishly delighted by Kalles.” While that might not sound like a great slogan today, they sold over a million tubs of Kalles in 1955 using that slogan. Remember that Sweden back then only had a population of just over 7 million people. In other words, people were eating a fair amount of caviar!

The tub was deemed ideal as it was easy to squeeze it out as a paste…but they did try using a box in the 1980s. Kids didn’t enjoy it as they couldn’t squeeze it and that was the end of that.

Over the years, Abba developed new flavors, such as a milder version, lighter version, a version with dill, and a…banana flavored one. That flavor combo didn’t last, but till this day, people enjoy Kalles on sliced bananas on bread. Well, it’s salty and sweet (always a good combo) even if it sounds as strange as…pineapple on pizza.

Another flavor they developed was cream cheese and caviar. It might sound weird but it’s a bestseller still on the market today (you know how good cream cheese and salmon are together!). A peculiar thing with this cheese and caviar combo, however, is that it comes out of the tub striped (as in stripes of cheese and caviar). How they’ve managed this feat is a well kept secret.

In 2022 Kalles vegan made its debut—made from algae.

There you have it. A short history of Kalles Kaviar. And if you haven’t tried Kalles yet, it’s about time you did! Or if you’re feeling fancy, get some Caviar of Kalix instead!


Variations on a Theme

Over the years, people have experimented with chocolate balls and come up with new variations. One is the “arraksbollar.” These chocolate balls are made with arrack (also known as arak)—a liquor from India—and instead of oats, old bread or cake is crumbled and used for the stuffing. These chocolate balls are usually rolled in chocolate sprinkles. Sometimes they are shaped as sticks instead of balls and coated in green marzipan, with the edges dipped in dark chocolate. This is popularly called a “dammsugare” (a vacuum cleaner…supposedly because some vacuum cleaners used to have the same shape).

As healthy foods have become increasingly popular, healthier versions of chocolate balls have also started appearing. In some recipes the sugar is exchanged for honey or some other sweetener, such as dates (if using a blender) or date syrup. In other recipes, the butter is exchanged for virgin coconut oil. And in some recipes, both fat and sugar is omitted and instead bananas are used as a substitute for both!

There’s also a “milder” version of chocolate balls, with less cacao, which is called oatmeal balls.

People simply add new flavors to the traditional recipe as well. For example, adding some orange essence, chili, or gingerbread spice can give the chocolate balls a flavorful kick!

And if you prefer, you can roll the balls in crushed nuts, cinnamon and sugar, melted chocolate, or even berry powder instead of using the traditional sugar or coconut. An if you're feeling creative, you can shape the dough into animals and turn them into Halloween treats, or treats for your kids/nieces/nephews next birthday party!

Today you can buy the traditional chocolate balls, the healthy versions, and arrack balls in bakeries and supermarkets in Sweden. In fact, we stock all three. We even offer Dave and Jon’s Dates in chocolate ball flavor and have DIG’s super healthy chocolate balls that taste like a dream!

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Kalles Vegansk Kaviar - Vegan Caviar 150g-Swedishness
SFr. 5.99