Norway is renowned for its deep fresh fjords, dramatic mountain ranges and emerald-green forests, but what is not so well known is its distinctive cuisine.
Yet the country’s stunning natural surrounds, as well as its long winters and short summers, have created much of its weird and wonderful food. And although home to a cutting-edge contemporary food scene, many traditional dishes date back to the Vikings.
From creatively preserved meats to mouth-watering deserts made from local fruit, here are our top 10 picks of the Best Traditional Norwegian Foods:
What it is: Mutton and cabbage stew
Claiming the title of Norway’s national dish is Fårikål, a warming bowl of hearty stew made from mutton and cabbage, and seasoned with peppercorns and salt. Covered in water and cooked until the meat is tender, the dish is then traditionally served with a side of potatoes.
Commonly found in the western parts of Norway, it’s the perfect dish to warm up those on a Norway yacht charter, especially during the winter months. There’s also a national Fårikål feast day celebrated on the last Thursday of September each year.
What it is: Apple and cream dessert
This traditional Scandinavian dessert is translated as ‘veiled farm girls’ but how it got this name remains a mystery. What is commonly agreed upon, however, is just how delicious this trifle, made of apple, whipped cream and breadcrumbs, tastes.
Norwegian apples are characterised by their sweet and tart flavour, and delicate texture. For the pudding, the fruit is mashed, then layered with the cream, then the toasted breadcrumbs, which are typically made using kavring, a crisp rye bread. It’s served in glass bowls.
Other countries have similar versions of this desert with their own monikers, such as angel’s food in Sweden.
What it is: Salted, gelatinous whitefish
Another popular fish dish in Norway is Lutefisk. The delicacy starts out by drying unsalted fish, most commonly cod, in the cold air on a wooden rack (hjell). This is one of the world’s oldest preservation methods and the fish, known as tørrfisk at this stage, has a shelf life of up to several years.
Tørrfisk is then softened by being soaked in water infused with rye for around five days. During this process, the fish swells and loses protein, which gives it a jelly-like texture. Before serving the lutefisk is grilled and then traditionally served with boiled potatoes and mashed green peas.
What it is: Sweet waffle cookie cones
Beloved among Norwegians of all generations is krumkate, a sweet treat made of paper-thin rolls of waffle-like pancakes and typically filled with whipped cream.
Said to be similar to the Italian pizzelle, krumkate is cooked in a two-sided iron gridle, which usually imprints a pretty pattern. Once cooked, the krumkate is wrapped around a wooden spoon to create an ice cream cone-shape that can be filled with cream, or any other filling.
What it is: Smoked rack of lamb cooked in birch sticks
Come Christmas, households across Norway will be preparing pinnekjøt, a festive dish that begins by cold air drying cured lamb meat on racks. It’s often smoked, too, to prevent mold from forming, then sliced into individual ribs and soaked in water to loose its salt content.
Next up the meat is steamed while topped with birch branches (this explains the name –pinnekjøt is translated as ‘stick meat’). When cooked, the lamb is served with sausages, mash potato and pureed swede, and has an intense, savoury flavour.
Another festive speciality, this time not for the faint-hearted, is Smalahove. The skin and fleece of a sheep’s head is seared and the brain is removed. Seasoned and left to air dry, it’s then boiled until cooked. Sometimes the brain is left in and cooked alongside the meat or fried separately.
What it is: Coconut and custard buns
These cardamom flavoured buns filled with vanilla custard are traditionally treats for children, and found in lunchboxes across Norway, hence the translation: ‘school buns’. But their popularity extends into adulthood, and they go particularly well with an afternoon coffee.
Made from a simple yeast dough with added cardamom, these little buns are then covered in a sweet glaze and flakes of coconut.
Polse med lompe
What it is: Sausage in a flour wrap
Norway is claimed to be the biggest sausage eating country in the world, consuming an average of 100kg of pølse – a frankfurter-like sausage – a year per person.
An import from Denmark in the 1950s, pølse was originally served grilled or boiled, but Norwegians added their own stamp on the fast food, by wrapping it in lompe – a flat, tortilla-like bread made from flour and water. Ketchup and mustard are also added.
What it is: Sauteed reindeer stew
Norse stews often feature reindeer, and one such stew is called finnbiff. Reindeer steaks are thinly sliced, then fried in butter alongside mushrooms and bacon. Water is then added and the meat and vegetables are left to simmer to create a rich stock flavour.
Mixed juniper berries, cream, thyme, milk and goat’s cheese – although this is not cheese at all, but a by-product of the cheese-making process, and mostly sugar – is then added. Left to thicken, finnbiff is then mostly served with homemade mash potatoes.
What is it: Norway's national drink
Norway’s national drink and around since the 15thcentury, akevitt is made from distilled potatoes and flavoured with carraway, dill and other herbs and spices. The spirit is actually drunk across Scandinavia, but only in Norway is it matured in oak casks.
The word akevitt derives from the Latin aqua vitae, which translates as ‘water for life’, and the beverage is an essential feature of any Norwegian celebration or special event, and is drunk at room temperature from either shot glasses or long-stemmed tulip-shaped glasses.
What it is: Pickled herring on bread
Better known as an open sandwich, smørrebrød is also more often associated with Denmark, yet the dish is a Norwegian staple too. A piece of buttered rye bread forms the base to which all sorts of different toppings, from cold cuts of meat and fish to cheese and garnishes, are added.
Among the most popular traditional toppings are picked herring, eel and roast beef, although a simple slice of cheese or some jam are common contenders in Norway too.