Photo: CH/visitnorway.com
Fjord Tours Articles / 11 Nov 2021

Norwegian Cuisine and Tradition

Norway has a lot of interesting traditional food, and any travelers visiting Norway would do well to sample some of the local cuisines. Culinary traditions in Norway have been dominated by meat, fish, and seafood that could be hunted or caught. These days the Norwegian food space represents an interesting mix of old and new due to culinary influences from all over the world.

What is traditional Norwegian food?

Traditionally, Norwegian food has revolved around meat or fish, potatoes, and vegetables. Since fishing and hunting have always been fairly common in Norway, a lot of Norwegians have historically caught their own dinner to serve up at mealtimes.

Due to Norway's extensive, Norwegians have always relied heavily on fish and seafood for sustenance. Seafood remains a big part of Norwegian cuisine, and no matter what region of Norway you visit, you’re likely to be able to sample fantastic locally sourced seafood. Especially in Bergen, a city that has heavily relied on income from fishing; check out some great food experiences in Bergen here

Norwegian food traditions have a lot in common with the other Nordic countries, but there are several unique Norwegian dishes that travelers may be interested in trying out for themselves.

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Photo: CH - visitnorway.com

What are some typically Norwegian dishes?

Over the last 100 years or so, typical traditional Norwegian dinner dishes have included meatballs (made with beef, pork, lamb, or reindeer meat), lapskaus (a stew made with potatoes, vegetables, and whatever else you have to hand – this is a great dish for using up leftover meat), fårikål (a hearty stew made with mutton, this is considered by many to be Norway’s national dish), lutefisk (dried, salted codfish), sodd (mutton soup) and of course pølse med lompe (a hotdog in lompe, a traditional potato pancake).

While travelers usually enjoy sampling the local cuisine in Norway, some Norwegian foods are a little more controversial. Norway is well-known for the unusual dish smalahove, which a lot of travelers make it a point to try out despite the fact that many find it off-putting. This dish basically consists of a boiled or steamed sheep’s head served with potatoes and rutabaga. Now considered a local delicacy, this dish used to be eaten by poor peasants who couldn’t afford to waste any part of the animal.

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Photo: Smalahove, Thomas Rasmus Skaug

Norway also has a strong tradition of enjoying bread with ‘pålegg’ – this is basically an open sandwich with one slice of bread paired with different types of topping. Norwegians will usually have bread or crispbread with toppings for breakfast and lunch, with brunost (delicious brown cheese from Gudbrandsdalen, one of Norway’s most famous foods), other cheeses, sursild (pickled herring, popular across Scandinavia), and smoked salmon often commonly eaten at these meals.

If you’d like to sample some of Norway’s most unique and delicious foods, why not join one of our great food tours? No matter what part of the country you’d like to explore, you’ll find the perfect tour for you at Fjord Tours.

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Photo: Cabday/Foap/Visitnorway.com

What foods are most popular in Norway now?

Historical food trends in Norway have centered around meat/fish paired with potatoes and local vegetables. However, Norway is a modern, multicultural society, and contemporary food trends are fairly different from traditional Norwegian eating habits.

Over the past 30 years or so, there’s been a gradual culinary revolution in Norway, as exciting food from all over the world has made its way to our corner of the world. Tex Mex-inspired food is very popular, with tacos being one of the nation’s favorite foods. Pasta is very commonly eaten in Norway, and sushi has also seen a huge boom in popularity. The American food trends are also big in Norway, with burgers and deep-dish pizza becoming staples for eating out.

However, typical Norwegian foods like meatballs, lapskaus, fårikål, and more are still going strong in the country. These traditional dishes are still commonly eaten across Norway both in homes and in restaurants. Some restaurants will prepare traditional Norwegian dishes according to old recipes passed down through generations, while other modern restaurants are focused on serving the old favorite dishes with a contemporary twist.

If you are visiting Oslo, check out this article about Oslo for foodies.

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Photo: Tina Stafrèn/Visitnorway.com

Must-try foods for any visitor to Norway

Anyone visiting Norway would enjoy trying some of the local delicacies and sampling the traditional food of the region. It’s certainly recommended to taste some of the nation’s favorite dishes, whether you’re enjoying a meal of locally caught fish in someone’s home, homecooked meatballs at an intimate restaurant, or taking on the intimidating smalahove.

Beyond the dinner foods, it’s a great idea to enjoy the popular open sandwiches with a range of different toppings at breakfast and lunch. Also, Norway has a strong tradition of making and enjoying excellent baked goods. Norwegian waffles (often topped with brown cheese or jam) are one of the nation’s favorite sweet treats, and they’re sold all over the country. In fact, you’ll often find waffles being sold where you might not expect – like in a little hut positioned near popular walking trails, so people can take a break and enjoy a waffle before finishing their walk.

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Photo: Espen Mills/Matlangsnasjonaleturistveger.no/Visitnorway.com

Food tours in Norway

Northern Cuisine and Aurora Chase in Tromsø

The Northern Cuisine and Aurora Chase combine two precious local ingredients: the northern lights and locally sourced and prepared food by a great chef. This is an exclusive small-group tour, all to give you a relaxed and cozy experience while triggering your senses.

Meteorological Shellfish Tower at Cornelius Seafood Restaurant

Just outside the City of Bergen, you will find one of the most exotic attractions in the whole of Western Norway’s archipelago. Cornelius is one of Norway’s best seafood restaurants and a meal here is truly unforgettable. Experience a shellfish tower at Cornelius including transportation from and back to Bergen on a scenic boat ride!

Coastal Scenery Safari with Local Lunch in Tromsø

Experience the Northern Norwegian culture by seeing the spectacular landscapes, tasting delicious local food and meeting the friendly locals during the magical polar nights.

Coastal Scenery Safari with Local Tastings in Tromsø

Join in on a safari to Tromsø’s stunning coastal landscape, full of mountains, fjords, islands, and a fascinating history dating back more than 9,000 years. The safari includes visits to the mountain valley of Kattfjordeidet and the beautiful island of Sommarøy.

Meteorological menu at Cornelius Seafood Restaurant

Just outside the City of Bergen, you will find one of the most exotic attractions in the whole of Western Norway’s archipelago. Cornelius is one of Norway’s best seafood restaurants and a meal here is truly unforgettable. Experience a 5-course meal at Cornelius including transportation from and back to Bergen on a scenic boat ride!