Norwegian specialities to discover

Salmon, bread, hot berries, reindeer… Here are the best Norwegian specialities to enjoy during a Scandinavian holiday!

In northern Europe, Norway is exceptional in every way. Dominated by nature, dotted with fjords and overlooked by mountains, the country has many facets, each more beautiful than the next. As in all Scandinavian countries, the exceptional Scandinavian setting is conducive to a superior quality of life – albeit at a higher cost.

A trip to Norway means discovering a world of natural, artistic and architectural wonders. But it’s also an immersion in the local culture: Norwegian specialties. Emblematic and renowned, Norway is brimming with delicious dishes! A journey to faraway lands where exceptional cuisine rhymes with simple products.

Your mouth watering? Perfect, let’s take a look at some of the Norwegian specialties you can discover during your stay. Trust the Chef!

Eating habits

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Eating habits often vary from country to country. Such is the case in Norway, with its particular climate, which implies a different way of life… right down to meals and eating habits!

  • Frokost (breakfast): in Norway, breakfast is a mixture of sweet and savory. It’s quite common to find liver pâté, cooked salmon, fish roe, ham, hard cheese… as well as cottage cheese, oatmeal and cereal bread with jam. Bread is an important staple of the Norwegian diet. The best known is grovbrød, made with wholemeal flour.
  • Matpakke (lunch): midday (actually, it’s a little earlier, around 11 a.m.) is more akin to a snack break than the lunch we’re used to in France. Their meal isn’t really well-balanced, consisting of sandwiches, hot dogs, pizzas or burgers.
  • Middag (dinner): nicknamed the hot meal, this often takes place after work, between 4 and 6 pm. Like breakfast, it’s fairly hearty, often consisting of a protein (meat or fish) accompanied by starchy foods and vegetables (often potatoes and cruciferous vegetables).
  • Kveldsmat (evening meal): the final meal, more like a snack, takes place around 10pm. It’s at this meal that Norwegians like to accompany their food with alcoholic beverages.

Maten er klar (At the table!)

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Seafood madness

As you’d expect, part of the Norwegian cuisine is based on fish, seafood and shellfish. Of course, when we talk about Norwegian specialties, we immediately think of salmon, but there are plenty of other dishes to discover. Here are some typical seafood dishes you can try in Norway:

  • Salmon: you can eat it with any sauce. A staple of their diet, Norwegians eat it smoked and accompanied by bread for breakfast. You can also find it cooked, in soup, gravlax or marinated.
  • Rakfisk: trout generally served in slices or fillets with raw red onion, sour cream, lefse (traditional Norwegian bread made from potatoes, milk or cream, and flour) and potatoes, this meal is eaten raw.
  • Herring: renowned for its nutritional value, Norwegians are very fond of herring. They like to eat it on buttered bread with sliced almond potatoes and chopped onions. It’s usually accompanied by beer or schnapps! Grilled, boiled, in soup, fried or in salad, herring can be prepared in a thousand different ways.
  • Lutefisk: this dish is eaten in winter, just before Christmas. It consists of dried white fish, often tørrfisk (dried cod), accompanied by potatoes, bacon, mustard and goat’s cheese. Note that this dish is rather unusual for foreigners: its smell and taste are quite pronounced.
  • Seafood: popular with Norwegians, seafood is eaten in abundance. Surrounded by water, the country makes the most of its maritime advantages! In many restaurants, you’ll find both shrimp and shellfish. One of the specialties is fish and shrimp gratin, again accompanied by… potatoes.

Jeg er sulten! (I’m hungry!)

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For carnivores

Norwegian meat specialties are impossible to ignore! Just like fish, Norwegians eat it at every meal. If you have the opportunity to travel to this Nordic country, here’s what you absolutely must try:

  • Game: elk, reindeer, deer, duck and other gallinaceous animals are very much a part of Norwegian specialties, especially during the festive season. Because of its pronounced taste, the meat is often accompanied by a thick sauce. A few berries may also be added for flavor. Note that the price of meat in restaurants can go up very quickly!
  • Fårikål: a typical Norwegian dish, this is the country’s emblem. Composed mainly of mutton and cabbage, it’s usually served in a casserole dish. As usual, Norwegians serve it with potatoes. For the record, this dish entered the record books in 2012, with 594.2 kg of Fårikål prepared for 10,000 guests in Oslo!
  • Sausages: a key ingredient in Norwegian gastronomy, sausages are served with bread and crème fraîche. The best-known sausages are fenalår (a salted leg of lamb) and morr (a smoked sausage whose composition varies from region to region). Please note that some sausages contain a variety of meats!
  • Finnbiff: this is a traditional Scandinavian meal. Made from thinly sliced reindeer, this stew is served with mashed potatoes and red berries. We recommend you try it, as the dish is extremely tender and tasty.
  • Dried meat: Norwegians love dried meat! They love elk, reindeer and deer. In short, dried meat can be eaten like cold meats, with bread and beer. However, it can also be used for stews such as pinnekjott (mutton stew) or finnbiff. In fact, one of the most popular dishes is fenalår: a salted and dried leg of lamb, served with unleavened bread, scrambled eggs with chives and Mack beer.

Jeg er vegetarianer! (I’m a vegetarian!)

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Surprising as it may seem, Norwegian gastronomy comes very close to vegetarian cuisine. Indeed, the practice of offering a vegetarian dish has become commonplace for restaurants. And in Norway, you’re spoilt for choice!

A large part of the diet is based on starchy foods such as potatoes. Inexpensive and easy to grow, they are the staple food of many Scandinavian countries. As far as fruit and vegetables are concerned, we recommend that you eat what’s in season. Don’t miss out on berries, which can be cooked in a variety of ways.

Who said the French had a monopoly on bread? Bread is an important staple of the Norwegian diet. Nothing like the traditional baguette, Norwegian breads are quite large and often wholemeal or cereal-based. We recommend you try flatbrød (unleavened bread). These thin, crunchy slices will make your mouth water!

How can we talk about Norwegian specialties without mentioning dairy products? Few in number, but no less interesting! Milk lovers, you should know that Norwegians don’t skimp on cheese and other dairy products.

The best-known dishes are :

  • Mjølkkultur: a type of fermented milk.
  • Jarlsberg: typical goat’s cheese.
  • Brunost: caramelized reduction of goat’s or cow’s milk.
  • Gammelost: highly aromatic, overripe cheese made from curdled milk.
  • Pultost: curd cheese flavored with caraway seeds.

Godteri eller kaker? (Sweets or cakes?)

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Don’t worry, you’re not going to be left out! Norwegians LOVE sugar! Here are a few mouth-watering dishes:

  • Julekake: this is the traditional Christmas cake. The bread is filled with dried fruit and spices. Delicious, it’ll make your mouth water!
  • Fyrstekake: a Norwegian tart with almonds and cardamom. So simple, yet so delicious! The taste of this cake is halfway between caramel and cookie, so it’s a real winner!
  • Norwegian waffles: you might say that waffles aren’t Norwegian. However, the locals love them, which is why they feature in this top list of Norwegian specialties. They’re best eaten soft, with sour cream and jam, or with a slice of ham or a piece of goat’s cheese. In any case, Norwegian waffles will not leave you indifferent.
  • Tilslørte bondepiker: a traditional Scandinavian dessert made with mashed apples and whipped cream on toast. Like a mille-feuilles, there are several layers. This aesthetically pleasing dessert, served in verrines, is very popular in Norway, and we can see why!

Helse! (Cheers!)

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Alcoholic beverages

Alcoholic beverages are extremely expensive in the Nordic countries. You won’t find anything but beer and wine in supermarkets. Strong spirits, on the other hand, can be found in stores called Vinmonopolet.

  • Mjød: this drink is similar to mead.
  • Aquavit:the quintessential Norwegian spirit, this potato-based brandy is flavored with cumin, aniseed or coriander, and served chilled.
  • Cider: the climate of the fjords is perfect for growing apples.
  • Beer: beer connoisseurs, come to Norway! Excellent quality, appreciated by locals and tourists alike. Juleøl is a spicy beer traditionally brewed at Christmas.
  • Karsk: a drink made with coffee and vodka or moonshine, Karsk can be drunk with or without sugar. The alcohol content depends on the consumer’s taste and can vary from 10% to 90%. A popular recipe is to place a coin at the bottom of the glass, pour in coffee until the coin is invisible, then pour in alcohol until the coin appears again.

Non-alcoholic drinks

  • Hot berries: it’s cold in Norway, so Norwegians are big fans of hot drinks. They drink a lot of juices with berry extracts. If you like red fruits like blueberries, cranberries, redcurrants, raspberries and strawberries, you’re in for a treat!
  • Coffee: Norwegians drink over 150L a year! It’s common to drink it several times a day, at breakfast, for a snack, at a party..

Now you know what Norwegian specialties are! Nyt måltidet!