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Rife with raw, fresh ingredients from Norway’s sweeping mountains and crystal lakes, Norwegian food is a unique culinary experience.
Many of the country’s traditional dishes have been prepared for centuries. Forest animals and fresh fish feature prominently, and many foods are prepared to last through the long Norwegian winters.
Close your eyes, and let a native writer take you through luscious forests and sweeping valleys, as we explore 15 traditional Norwegian foods you have to try in Norway.
1 – Fårikål – Mutton and Cabbage
Fårikål, directly translated to “mutton in cabbage”, is the Norwegian national dish. Hearty and juicy, this recipe is surprisingly simple.
Fårikål is similar to a stew. Mutton and cabbage are added to water and seasoned with salt and pepper. The stew is then cooked on the stove for several hours until the meat and cabbage are tender.
Even though it is such a simple dish, it is often served for family gatherings or as a weekend meal.
Fårikål is mostly eaten in the fall when the temperature in Norway drops. It’s a Norweigan favorite and a traditional dish that has been eaten in Norway for generations.
It’s a must for anyone visiting Norway in the fall and winter who wants to enjoy traditional Norwegian cuisine!
2 – Lapskaus – Stew
Lapskaus is a much-loved traditional Norwegian dish. It originates from Germany, but it has been enjoyed by Norwegians since the 1800s.
Norwegians eat lapskaus for dinner any day of the week all year round. It’s wholesome and filling, particularly during the colder months.
Traditional lapskaus is made with beef, potatoes, carrots, swede, and leeks. All are added to a pot, as you would with a stew.
The meat and vegetables are boiled until they are tender. Once the juices are running and the dish is piping hot, lapskaus is normally served with flatbread and butter.
There are two variants of lapskaus: light and dark. The dark kind is made with a brown sauce base, giving it even more flavor.
3 – Kjøttkaker – Meatballs
You can’t have a discussion about traditional Norwegian food without mentioning meatballs.
Kjøttkaker, however, are not to be mistaken for Swedish meatballs. Norwegians will be offended if you say it is the same thing!
Kjøttkaker are balls of minced beef, rolled with spices like nutmeg, pepper, and ginger. This gives them a spicy flavor and an aromatic quality.
Norwegian meatballs can be served with a wide range of sides and foods. Common serving pairings include potatoes, cabbage stew, and brown sauce.
Every grocery store in Norway sells them, but meatballs always taste the best when they are homemade.
This is the dish Norwegians long for when abroad. Students who move away from home will utter the sentence “I can’t wait to go home and eat meatballs and potatoes that my mom makes” at least once!
This Norwegian dish is easy to make and is eaten for dinner all year round. It’s a flavorful traditional food.
4 – Smalahove – Sheep’s Head
Smalahove is definitely not a dish for everyone. It’s very much a delicacy for those who enjoy it.
Smalahove, or sheep’s head, is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a Norwegian recipe that has been cooked for generations.
Half of a sheep’s head is cooked on very low heat. It’s then served with mashed swede and potatoes.
For those who eat smalahove, the most flavorful parts are said to be the eye and the tongue.
The dish originates from the district of Voss, an hour by train from Bergen. It has been prepared for many centuries, through times where one did not waste a single part of the animal.
Traditionally, smalahove was served around Christmas. In some Norwegian villages, it is still a tradition to have smalahove on this last Sunday before Christmas.
The sheep’s head was eaten on the last Sunday because farmers saved the better parts of the sheep for Christmas dinner.
5 – Rømmegrøt – Sour Cream Porridge
Rømmegrøt is a simple Norwegian dish, commonly prepared and served during the summer.
The recipe consists of sour cream, flour, milk, and salt, which are then boiled for several minutes until a thick, creamy consistency is achieved.
The recipe often varies in different regions of the country, and some recipes are family secrets.
Rømmegrøt can be served on its own with just sugar and cinnamon, but different districts and villages often have their own traditional sides.
In Røros, in central Norway, rømmegrøt is often served with boiled trout. In other areas, it is served with a selection of cured meats.
Traditionally, rømmegrøt is considered to be a celebratory food. Nowadays, Norwegians don’t need much of a reason to prepare this hearty Norwegian staple.
6 – Raspeball – Potato Dumpling
This Norwegian food has more names than you can imagine, depending on what part of the country you are from.
It’s known as raspeball, potetball, klubb, kompe, and komle, among others. The recipe also varies from village to village.
Flour is mixed with boiled potatoes and mashed into a big ball of goodness. The mixture is then cooked on low heat.
Popular side dishes for raspeball include mashed swede, juicy sausages, or tender lamb.
As they are dumplings, some Nowergians eat them with sugar or syrup and crispy bacon on the side.
At a traditional Norwegian restaurant, you may find that raspeball is not served every day, only on Thursdays. This is due to an age-old tradition, especially in the western part of the country.
7 – Pinnekjøtt – Dried Lamb Ribs
Pinnekjøtt is normally served on Christmas eve as a celebratory meal. The type of Christmas dinner served in Norway varies from district to district.
This Norwegian food is one of the two main dishes that most Norwegians eat on Christmas Eve. It is very popular in the western region of Norway.
Pinnekjøtt, or lamb ribs, need plenty of love and preparation to achieve the desired flavor. Traditionally, the lamb is salted, dried and smoked for weeks.
To get the lamb meat really juicy and tender, you should let it soak for 30 hours, before steaming it for 3 hours.
Pinnekjøtt is delicious on its own, but for Christmas, it is normally served with mashed swede and sausage.
It’s a classic Norwegian dish and definitely worth trying when visiting Norway around Christmas!
8 – Fiskeboller i Hvit Saus – Fish Balls with Béchamel Sauce
Food brand Vesteraalen started producing canned fish balls in 1912, and since then they have been a staple in Norwegian cuisine.
However, as with any foods, the homemade recipes are always the best.
Homemade fish balls are normally made with a combination of haddock and cod, cornflour, milk, and eggs.
All these delicious ingredients are mixed into a mince. The mince is then rolled out into balls, and the balls are boiled on low heat.
Fish balls are normally served with potatoes, carrots, and a white béchamel sauce.
Some like to sprinkle a little bit of curry powder on top, whilst others enjoy fish balls with crispy bacon.
Fish balls are a traditional, everyday Norwegian dish. It’s enjoyed by both children and adults, and it’s definitely a Norwegian dish worth making at home.
9 – Brunost – Brown Cheese
If you truly want to discover a unique Norwegian food, you have to try brunost.
Brunost is a traditional Norwegian cheese, made with either milk or cream. Brunost can be made with both cow’s and goat’s milk.
There are several types, and different areas in the country produce their own kind.
Even though brunost is a cheese, it does not have a conventional cheese taste. Its sweet flavor has a similarity to caramel.
Due to its flavor, it’s used in many different ways. Brunost can be used on sandwiches, waffles, in sauces, and even in ice cream.
This is a product that is not produced anywhere else in the world. Hence, it is a must to try if you ever visit Norway.
To go with it, you also need to purchase a cheese slicer, or ostehøvel in Norwegian. The cheese slicer is a product that originated in Norway in 1925.
The cheese slicer makes it easy to cut even slices of cheese, and most Norwegian kitchens have at least one of these.
10 – Vafler – Waffles
Norwegian waffles are a staple of the country’s cuisine, and it’s one Norwegian food that has traveled well.
This is because the Norwegian Church Abroad serves around 30,000 waffles a year to Norwegians and foreigners who visit the churches located all over the world.
Norwegian waffle mixture varies by region, but it’s always delicious. Traditionally, farmers would use leftover oatmeal in waffles to prevent food waste.
The most common recipe includes flour, sugar, baking powder, milk, eggs, butter, and plenty of spices, the most common being cardamom.
Waffles, like so many other Norwegian foods, have local varieties. In Moss, in the eastern part of Norway, they eat waffles with their hot dogs.
Instead of a traditional bun, the hot dogs are served in a waffle. For that reason alone, it’s a must-try Norwegian food.
11 – Lefse – Griddle Cake
Lefse, or griddle cakes, can be both sweet or savory. The savory griddle cakes are made with potatoes, flour, and milk. The savory cakes are often used as a substitute for bread.
The sweet griddle cake is made with milk, flour, butter, sugar, baking powder, and ammonium bicarbonate.
It can be enjoyed both thick and thin, and is most often served with butter, sugar and cinnamon.
Like several other Norwegian dishes, the type of lefse that is served depends on the district, and recipes are often passed down through generations of families.
The name griddle cake comes from the way lefse is cooked. Griddle cakes are cooked on a griddle, a large flat surface.
When making a thin lefse, the dough is rolled super thin before it is cooked for a short while on the griddle.
12 – Grovbrød – Whole Wheat Bread
Whole wheat bread is a staple in almost every Norwegian home. Norwegians eat bread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The type of bread used is essential. In 2014, Norwegians ate an average of 52 kg of bread per person. The Danish traditionally eat dark rye bread, and Norwegians eat whole wheat bread.
For many Norwegians, a piece of freshly baked bread topped with cheese, preferably brown cheese, is heaven. The smell is amazing, and the taste is even better.
Grovbrød is a common term for many types of bread, and grovbrød itself does not have a set recipe.
However, a grovbrød always contains yeast, salt, water and flour. Whole wheat flour is common, due to its taste and health benefits.
13 – Matpakke – Packed Lunch
Speaking of the Norwegians and their love for bread, the packed lunch is another staple piece in the Norwegian diet.
Whereas in other countries it is common to visit the cafeteria at work or school or go out for lunch, Norwegians bring their lunch wrapped in waxed paper or a lunch box.
Matpakken is said to have originated in Oslo in the early 1930’s, when the chief of school health services realized that children at school had to eat healthier.
However, public schools could not afford to prepare healthy lunches for all their students.
He therefore encouraged parents to pack whole wheat bread, raw vegetables, milk, and fruit for their children at school.
A traditional packed lunch consisted of a few slices of grovbrød topped with brunost, a piece of fruit, and a bottle of fresh milk.
14 – Tilslørte Bondepiker – Layered Dessert
Tilslørte Bondepiker is a delicious layered dessert, with an interesting story as to its origin.
Supposedly, it gained notoriety because of Ivar Aasen, a Norwegian philologist and poet, who lived during the 1800s.
He was served the dessert by a peasant girl, whom he fell madly in love with. Unable to blossom the romance, he referenced her when naming the dish.
The dessert is normally layered in a dessert or glass bowl. Its layers consist of whipped cream, apple sauce, and breadcrumbs roasted in sugar.
This Norwegian delight should be served right away, to prevent the breadcrumbs turning soggy.
Variations are made by changing the type of jam in the mixture or mixing in cinnamon.
You can also try using cereal instead of breadcrumbs. It’s a delicious Norwegian dessert, that tastes delicious and looks impressive!
15 – Trollkrem – Lingonberry Cream
Most people have heard about the Norwegian trolls who lives in the forests, but few have heard of troll cream!
This lovely Norwegian dessert is both fresh and sweet, and it looks fantastic. Also, it is super easy to make yourself.
Consisting of just lingonberries, sugar, vanilla sugar, and egg whites, it is an easy dish to whip up any day of the week.
The mixture is whipped into a meringue-like texture. It is then served right away, to make sure the egg whites do not collapse.
To prevent this from happening, frozen berries are sometimes used. Trollkrem can be served as is, or with whipped cream or custard.
This is a typical Norwegian dish made during the fall, as this is when the lingonberries grow in the forest.
Read more: Trollkrem Recipe
Norwegian Food Summary
Norwegian food has an astounding, fascinating history. Despite limited ingredients, the country’s cuisine is defined by some truly wonderful and flavorful dishes.
Few places in the world can offer meat and fish with such freshness and sublime organic qualities.
And today, with a heavy European influence on mainstream Norweigan food, it’s even more important these traditional foods continue to be cooked and loved by millions.
If you visit Norway, be sure to venture out to the smaller towns and villages. There, you’ll be able to try some of these delicious foods, with the freshest ingredients.
So, before we go, let’s take one last look at the full list of all Norwegian foods covered in this article.
Be sure to have this list of Norwegian food handy when you visit so that you can try one or more of these popular and traditional foods.
- Fårikål – Mutton and Cabbage
- Lapskaus – Stew
- Kjøttkaker – Meatballs
- Smalahove – Sheep’s Head
- Rømmegrøt – Sour Cream Porridge
- Raspeball – Potato Dumpling
- Pinnekjøtt – Dried Lamb Ribs
- Fiskeboller i Hvit Saus – Fish Balls with Béchamel Sauce
- Brunost – Brown Cheese
- Vafler – Waffles
- Lefse – Griddle Cake
- Grovbrød – Whole Wheat Bread
- Matpakke – Packed Lunch
- Tilslørte Bondepiker – Layered Dessert
- Trollkrem – Lingonberry Cream
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Contributor: Marte Hansen is a Norwegian-English writer and translator, hailing from Honefoss. She is deeply passionate about Norwegian culture and shares it through her writing.
Images licensed via Shutterstock
Tuesday 8th of November 2022
I enjoyed reading your article about Norsk food . I am an Italian/ American born and raised in New York-- living in the South for past 50 years married to a Norwegian seaman I met while on vacation 26 years ago. He's from the west coast so I have eaten all the recipes you posted ( except sheep's head ( although I attempted. ) I have spent much time there and got to know and appreciate the local, traditional foods. His whole family, barns and barnebarns , live there . I was given , my first Christmas there, the cook book , The Norwegian Kitchen...but it was in Norsk.. so I was forced to learn the "Norwegian Way " ..culinary !!!! Til this day, we eat Norsk food several times a week and always serve it to our Southern dinner guests . Thank you for sharing the recipes . We will be in Norway this summer, finally !!!
Tuesday 13th of September 2022
I have made note of all these dishes as I will be visiting Norway in a week and I will know what dishes I should eat! Thank you for this information and I look forward to trying some of these.
Monday 18th of April 2022
I need to learn more about my heritage As far as the cuisine goes.