Norwegian traditional food

Time to write something about norwegian traditional food, that often causes foreigners reluctance.

The roots of norwegian cooking

Norwegian dishes often date back to very old times. Ways of preparing were adjusted to the needs and conditions in old-time Norway. Those were not favourable for vegetables and fruit growing on bigger scale. Rocky soil that was hard to use for agriculture, temperamental weather, winds, humidity and long winters caused norwegian traditional food to be based mainly on easy to get food that was plenty everywhere: the fish. The base of agriculture was breeding animals, with an advantage to sheep which easily adjusted to dire conditions and mountainous terrain. Most popular vegetable was certainly cabbage. Potatoes, altrough were introduced to norwegians as late as XVIII century, have gain a great popularity too and became one of basic foods.

Flour-based dishes were also very popular, mainly as a base to prepare all kinds of flat-pies. Some of them, as the mentioned by me in an other post hardanger lefse, were dryed after being backed. Than those were put in barrels and stocked for months. Hardanger lefse were again eddible after rincing with water (also salty sea water). That is why it was often taken on ships for the fishermen, vikings and sea-travellers. An ordinary lefse has many variations depending on types of flour used, sometimes potatoes are added. Lefse are being served both as sweet or as sour/salty dishes.

Traditional dishes:


Yes, that is exactly what it looks like. Sheep’s head. They say that the meat from the eye socket is most delicious (luckily I’m vegetarian so I don’t need to try if that is true). Smalahove is a rare dish eaten close to Christmas. The sheep’s head is at the beggining burned up to get rid of animal coat. Next they take out the brain and eyes, salt the whole thing and leave it to dry. Afterwards it’s being cooked for several hours and served, as most dishes in Norway, with boiled potates (no butter, just whole potatoes our of water). Well…

Norwegian traditional food


Norwegian traditional food is abundant of lamb. Typical lamb dish is fårikål, that is a kind of a stew made with cabbage and potatoes seasoned with whole grains of pepper.


Another lamb delicacy, and once again a dish eaten traditionnaly on Christmas time. Lamb’s ribs are cured, next dryed or smoked. Afterwards they land in a pot where they are steam-cooked. In the old days, when steam-cooking pans were not available pine tree’s branches were put at the bottom of the pot, some water was poured and ribs were placed on it to steam cook.


One more classical norwegian Christmas dish. If you have read the last post, you know that the base of norwegian everyday cooking is frozen pizza Grandiosa and tacos (if you haven’t read it i do recommend, you can read it here). Syltelabb are cured pig’s feet cut into little pieces. Norwegians eat it with fingers and drink traditional juleøl christmas beer or Akfavitt with it (I will write about it in a while). You have to drink while eating it, as it’s incredibly salty.


Also called stockfish. Dried skrei or other cod-related fish. If it’s dried ans salted it is called klippfisk. Salted fish before preparation is being beaten with a mallet and after that placed in cald water for sereral days. Also popular diring Christmas.

Norwegian traditional foodNorwegian traditional food


Salted trout that has been fermenting for a few months (even for a year!). Eaten raw. Looks quite nice (like smoked salomon) butit smells rather bad. Served with lefse and – what a suprise – boiled potatoes.


Famous “delicacy” made with dried fish (most often cod) soaked in sodium lye. This is a strong caustic and alkaine substance used for production of soap (you cen learn more about it here if you are a chemistry geek). After the fish is well soaked for many days it is put in water so it can loose it’s dangerous substance. The fish “swells” in lye (doubling it’s volume) and becomes jelly-like. It also looses half of it’s proteins. Afterwards lutefisk is cooked, fried or baked. It’s smell is described as “highly aromatic” but it’s just another expression to say it smells bad.

Lutefisk, as many other traditional dishes is being eaten on Christmas. It’s one more dish that is served with boiled potatoes.

Norweska kuchnia tradycyjna


Finally a dish not served with boiled potatoes, altrough it’s a Christmas speciality. Looks like a loaf of bread with rasins. Acompanied with other baked goods (traditionnaly seven different kinds like krumkaker, buns, gingerbreads and others).


Typical norwegian porridge made with flour, almonds, sour cream and butter.






Christmas porridge has rice in it. Traditionnaly families gather to eat it together. There’s a hidden almond in one of the bowls and the person who discovers it in his or her bowl will get a prize, which is most often a marzipan pig.









Norwegian traditional food should be acompanied by a thaditional norwegian alcohol, that is the Akwavitt.

Akvavit or aquavit is a strong (40%) liqueur made with herbs. Among many anise, dill and caraway seed. The name comes from latin, it means “water of life”. Most known brands are Loiten, Lysholm and Linie.


3 thoughts on “Norwegian traditional food

  1. Is it sacrilege to add a little butter to your boiled potatoes? Maybe a little salt and pepper?! ?

    I would be willing to try all of these dishes, but for the ones with strong fish smell and taste I would need some strong alcohol as well haha!

    1. @Demetrius Haha, you’re right, it’s not a sacrilege but a must for me and other polish people. I guess Norwegians just do it differently.
      To try the smelly fish, just like you I would definitely need something strong to rince my mouth afterwards. Or if it was really a bad experience to drink and forget 😉

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