Photo: Ida Kristin Vollum - Vest Foto
Fjord Tours Articles / 18 Dec 2019

What Did the Average Viking Eat?

When your every-day activities include pillaging villages and exploring the impressive fjords in Norway, you are going to need a lot of energy to sustain yourself. This means eating some pretty astonishing meals in order to maintain proper health with such an active lifestyle. It goes without saying that eating filet mignon or waffles was obviously out of the question in the Viking Age. So, what exactly did Vikings eat? Keep reading to learn more about the average Viking diet.

How Often Did Vikings Eat?

Unlike modern Norwegians, Vikings tended to only eat two meals per day. These were known as dagmal and nattmal, which meant a day meal and night meal. Both meals would share similarities since there was not a lot of variety of food throughout Norway due to the frigid winter temperatures and limited cultivating technology. 

Photo: Camille Seaman - Hurtigruten

There would also occasionally be Viking feasts that took place during the celebration of various holidays or major events like weddings and the end of successful raidings. If these feasts were hosted by a Viking family of moderate stature, then they would feature large amounts of typical food. However, if these feasts were hosted by a wealthy Viking family, then some rare and endemism foods, such as brunost (brown cheese) and alcohol would occasionally make an appearance.

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The Most Common Viking Foods

The fresh food would normally be served as part of the nattmal and tended to consist of stewed vegetables and meat. Since Vikings tended to be located near the Norwegian coast, a lot of their meat options consisted of various types of fish. These dishes would then be served alongside a heaping amount of mead or ale.

Whatever portions of the meal were not eaten would then be set aside and stored in a cooler part of the household—since refrigeration technology had not yet been created—where it could be reheated and eaten the next morning for dagmal. Therefore, the dagmal would largely consist of the leftover stew and would be accompanied by bread, which was usually homemade rye bread, and various types of fruit such as cloudberries.

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Photo: Jorgen Haland / Unsplash.com

How Vikings Prepared Their Food

As previously mentioned, refrigerating and freezing foods was not something that Vikings were capable of doing. This created a bit of a challenge when it came to gathering enough food items to last them the entire year since the weather in Norway made growing crops and raising animals particularly difficult for almost a third of the year. Therefore, they needed other ways to make sure that they had enough food to get them through the harsh winters.

Vikings were able to do this by pickling a big part of their cuisine. A lot of their fruits and vegetables were pickled, which helped them to last up to six months without expiring. When it came to meat, they would frequently salt or dry it. These techniques would help them to not need to go out and gather more food supplies for as long as possible.

Photo: Roger Johansen / Www.Nordnorge.Com

Luckily, there were a lot of sources of meat available in the area, including cows, pigs, reindeer, and bears. There was also the abundant fishing industry, which most Vikings heavily relied upon. Therefore, hunting and gathering trips to collect more meat would occur about once a week and almost every part of the animal would be used once it was brought back, either for food or various tools and supplies.

Through this combination of strategic food preparation and heavy reliance on fish and vegetables, Vikings were able to supply themselves with a relatively well-balanced diet that allowed them to explore and plunder with ease. You can learn more interesting facts about the Viking lifestyle by visiting places like the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway.

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Photo: Museum of Cultural History, UiO