Norwegian food isn’t very well known outside of the Scandinavian countries.
Norwegian cuisine is characterized by its use of fresh, local ingredients, often influenced by the country’s coastal geography, rugged terrain, and long winters. Here are some key aspects of Norwegian food:
- Seafood: Given Norway’s extensive coastline and maritime heritage, seafood plays a central role. Salmon, both fresh and cured (gravlaks), is a staple, along with herring, mackerel, and cod. Dishes like “Bacalao” (salted cod) and “Fiskeboller” (fish balls) are common.
Meat Dishes: Game and lamb are prominent in Norwegian cuisine. “Fårikål” (mutton stew with cabbage and peppercorns) is considered a national dish. Reindeer, elk, and moose are also used, especially in more rural or northern areas.
Dairy Products: Norway produces a variety of unique cheeses. The most famous is “Brunost” or brown cheese, which has a sweet, caramel-like flavor due to the way it’s processed.
Breads and Pastries: Norwegians enjoy a range of breads, from whole grain to flatbreads. “Lefse,” a traditional soft flatbread, is particularly popular. Pastries like “Skillingsboller” (cinnamon rolls) are a common treat.
Preserved Foods: Due to the long winters, preserving food is an essential aspect of Norwegian cuisine. This includes pickling, fermenting, drying, and smoking, especially for fish and meats.
Soups: Hearty soups are a staple, often made with fish, meats, and root vegetables. “Sodd” is a traditional Norwegian soup with meat and meatballs.
Berries and Fruits: The summer brings a bounty of berries like lingonberries, cloudberries, and blueberries, often used in desserts, jams, and sauces.
Traditional Festive Dishes: Special occasions might feature dishes like “Rakfisk” (fermented fish), “Lutefisk” (lye-soaked fish), and “Pinnekjøtt” (dried, salted lamb ribs), especially around Christmas.
Below are seven authentic Norwegian foods that you absolutely must try, whether you’re looking for new breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack ideas. I promise you won’t regret it!
Lefse is a huge staple in Norway as a teatime or breakfast food. It is essentially a sweetened flatbread, traditionally served with butter, cinnamon and sugar on top, and then rolled, or cut into portions. Many Norwegian families make lefse from scratch, but it can also be found prepackaged in almost every supermarket.
This is also a super popular snack sold on ferries, especially up in the north of Norway, that many people pick up when they’re on their way to their summer houses.
Lefse essentially means ‘bread’ in Norwegian, but when talking about any kind of Lefse, this is usually what they mean. If you’re looking for a new snack to get obsessed with, I would definitely recommend Lefse. It’s sweet, satisfying and impossible to put down.
Where to find Lefse: Any supermarket will sell them, and many cafes will as well. Try a local cafe in your area!
This is a hearty food, traditionally eaten at Christmas Eve on the Norwegian dinner table. It can be eaten year-round but traditionally is prepared for Christmas. Pinnekjøtt is salted, air dried sheep rib, that is then rehydrated and steamed, traditionally over birch sticks. This can also be baked, and many families have their own secret recipes when it comes to making Pinnekjøtt. It is usually served with mashed swede (rutabaga) but can be eaten with a variety of sides including mashed potatoes and vegetables. And don’t forget the gravy!If you’re a lover of ribs, you’ll be sure to love this hearty Norwegian version.
Where to find it: Pinnekjøtt isn’t usually served in restaurants as it’s more of a special occasion meal, so your best bet would be finding the ingredients and attempting to make it yourself; it’s surprisingly easy!
Norwegian food revolves a lot around seafood, as in the past it was predominantly a fishing country and still is today. There are a lot of fish in the Norwegian diet, but one of the traditional favorites is Fiskakaker.
These are not like your traditional fish cakes however, as the texture of these is a lot smoother and almost creamier. They are most commonly made from haddock but can also be made from cod or other white fish, depending on who makes them. The fish is usually put through a meat grinder many times in order to achieve that smooth texture and is then blended with spices and potato flour, formed into cakes, and fried. Fiskekaker is served with boiled potatoes, vegetables and hvit saus (white sauce that resembles a bechamel). This is a must try dish for anyone wanting to learn about Norwegain food, and it’s great even for people who don’t like fish because there are so many other flavors in the dish.
Where to find it: Most food courts in Norway serve fiskekaker, no matter where you are in the country.
Some people love brunost and others absolutely hate it, but either way this is a quintessential Norwegian cheese that everyone must try at least once.
Brunost is translated as brown cheese, and it’s a mixture of cow and goats milk cheese, but what makes this cheese so unique is the flavor. There really is no other like it. Brunost has a kind of caramel flavor to it, making it a little sweeter than other cheeses, and doesn’t even taste a lot like any other popular cheeses in supermarkets.
This is because the milks are boiled together until a curd forms, like any other cheese, but keeps boiling in big kettles so the sugars are left to dissolve and caramelize. This gives Brunost its distinct brown color, as well as giving it that caramel flavor that many Norwegians know and love.
It is known as a lunchbox staple in Norway, and is used on anything from sandwiches to crispbread to waffles, and can easily be found in any supermarket. This is a must try cheese, and many people get super addicted once they try it, so be careful!
Where to get brunost: All supermarkets in Norway sell brunost, but if you want the best, then find a local delicatessen in the area where you’re staying, and you’ll find the best quality brunost there.
#5 Norwegian Waffles
Norwegian Waffles are a huge part of any Norwegian person’s childhood, and adulthood. Belgian waffles may be more popular around the world, but nothing compares to the lightness and crispiness of a Norwegian waffle.
Made in special waffle makers, the Norwegian waffle turns out to look a little like a flower, with six hearts that can be torn apart. The exterior is sweet and slightly crispy, with a super fluffy, soft interior.
Norwegian waffles are usually served with jam and sour cream, or most commonly, jam and brunost. It’s a surprisingly good combo, don’t knock it till you try it!
Where to get Norwegian waffles: These are widely available from food stands throughout the summer season, perfect to be enjoyed outdoors. You can also find them in most cafes during the year, and they’re always reasonably priced and perfect with a cup of coffee.
Sursild, also known as pickled herring, is very popular and can be found in most Norwegian supermarkets. It is also popular in other parts of Scandinavia such as Sweden.
Sursild can also be made at home quite easily and only takes a few ingredients. Many people get put off by Sursild but it is actually a very popular and flavorful food, and can be eaten in a variety of ways, most popular in open faced sandwiches, for breakfast or lunch, but can also be eaten for dinner, served with potatoes and sour cream. The flavor can be considered quite strong, but definitely adds depth to any dish it is served with.
Where to find it: Buy sursild at the supermarket with some cheese and crackers and have a little picnic in the park. Perfect for a sunny afternoon!
#7 Pølse med Lompe
This may seem like a weird one but trust me, it is a great Norwegian food. Pølse med Lompe is essentially a hot dog wrapped in Lompe, which is a tortilla-like bread.
The bread is made from potato flour, making it a lot soft and thin. It is wrapped around a pork hotdog and served everywhere, from gas stations to kiosks, to IKEA. It is a popular snack food or light lunch and is incredibly delicious and loved by many Norwegians.
The best part of this is that when you get your hotdog, you can put sauces on yourself. Many people opt for ketchup or mustard, but the real winner is hotdog dressing: a mayonnaise-based dressing that is to die for. This is a must try for when you get to Norway, and although it seems so simple it is honestly the most comforting and satisfying food.
Where to try it: A personal favorite is the corner shop Narvesen, which is open every day of the week.
Which Norwegian foods are you most intrigued about? Let me know if you’ve tried any of these and what you thought about them!