Norway's National Dishes
Norway is known for having some unique dishes that sometimes have tourists and foodies scratching their heads. Much of Norwegian cuisine stems from ancestors who had to use conserved materials due to Norway’s long winter season.
At its core, Norwegian food culture focuses on seafood as well as game, which are both readily available in Norway’s waters and wilderness. Here are a few facts about Norwegian cuisine and an overview of some of the country’s most popular dishes.
Norwegians typically have three or four meals a day. The first meal is breakfast or “frokost.” It consists of milk, juice or coffee and sandwiches with cold meat, jams or cheese. Cereal, oatmeal, and yogurt are also popular choices.
The second meal is post-breakfast or “lunsj.” It is typically a light meal of bread with “pålegg” (cheese, jams, cold meats etc.). The third meal of the day is dinner or “middag,” which usually happens around 4 or 5 PM. This is often the most substantial meal of the day and is rich in protein and carbohydrates like meat, fish, and potatoes. Finally, some Norwegians will also have a fourth meal known as “kveldsmat” around 7 or 8 PM. This is usually a light evening meal.
Fårikål is a popular Norwegian dish consisting of is a lamb and cabbage to make a sort of stew. It has several times been voted forth as our national dish. The meal is typically prepared in the Fall from the summer harvest of potatoes and cabbage. Also, the high season for slaughtering lamb is in September, so there is plenty of meat to go around.
Fårikål is very simple to make. The cabbage and lamb are seasoned with peppercorns which are said to aid in digestion. It is a popular dish to serve to guests and even has its own national day which occurs on the last Thursday of September.
Lutefisk is a quintessential Norwegian dish that consists of dried whitefish. Typically cod is used but ling and burbot are also popular choices. Making lutefisk is quite an intensive and laborious process.
The fish is first soaked in cold water which needs to be replaced intermittently over the course of six days. Next, the fish is soaked for two days in cold water and lye. This creates the jelly-like consistency of the dish. It also makes the fish inedible with a pH of 11 - 12. So, to make the fish edible again, it needs to be soaked in cold water for another four to six days when it will finally be ready to cook! It is typically served with boiled potatoes and peas as well as melted butter and fried bacon. Lutefisk is often a part of Christmas celebrations in Norway.
Pinnekjøtt is most often served during Christmas and is a hearty meal of ribs of lamb on mashed kohlrabi. Consisting of a rich and salty taste, these ribs are full of flavour and nicely balanced by the sweetness of the mashed kohlrabi. Pinnekjøtt is also quite easy to make. You take sticks (pinner) of birch and place them in the bottom of a pan. Cover the sticks with water and place the lamb ribs on top. You then steam the meat for between 3-5 hours till the meat nearly falls of the bone. Delicious!
Raspeballer are basically small balls of shredded potatoes mixed with corn and spices. They are about the same size as large meatballs and are simmered in a nice stock with fatty cuts of pork, and then served with pan-friend bacon. As a rule, this is very much a farmer’s favourite, for the mix of salt and fats can also protect the body and mind from the cold temperatures outside.
Kjøttkaker is a combination of seasoned minced meat with many optional ingredients such as rusk or onions. Basically the same as raspeballer, just with minced meat in stead of potatoes. After shaping the meat farce them into small meatballs, this delightful mix is pan-fried and simmered in gravy before being served with potatoes and mushy peas.
This isn’t exactly a traditional Norwegian dish, however, Grandiosa frozen pizza has a special place in the hearts of many locals regardless. Production of Grandiosa frozen pizza began in the 1980s and became wildly popular in Norway for locals who wanted to avoid frying up their own dinner. While some loathe the product, others adore it and a few have a love-hate relationship with it. In the early 2000s, two hit songs were even created about the frozen pizza brand. You’ll need to try it for yourself to decide where you fall in the Grandiosa debate!
Another modern-day food tradition in Norway is taco Fridays. In the 90s, tacos were introduced to Norway and families began to embrace Mexican cuisine. In Norwegian culture, Fridays are typically a time where families come together and enjoy a more indulgent meal. And, so, Taco Fridays were born and have become a popular staple for Scandanavian families ever since!
From frozen pizza to cod, Norwegian cuisine is full of interesting and surprising favorites! Be sure to immerse yourself in local culture and try out a few of Norway’s national dishes while going on one of our Norwegian Food Tours!