"It looks a lot scarier than it tastes": 10 foods to try when you travel to Norway

January 21 | Guest post by Whitney Love
the beauty of Norwegian gastronomy
Unless otherwise noted, all photos courtesy of Whitney

The last few years of living in Stavanger, Norway have opened me up to the beauty of Norwegian gastronomy.

Here is a short list of traditional and modern Norwegian foodstuffs to sample in case you want to eat your way through Norway and enjoy the good, the better and the amazing from the Norwegian table.

By: color lineCC BY 2.0

Norwegian strawberries: Strawberry season is a short, but high point in summer. I've never been a huge fan of strawberries but the Norwegian variety is to die for! Sweet and slightly tart — try them and see what I mean.

By: AnneCNCC BY 2.0

Smalahove: It looks a lot scarier than it tastes. I suppose food which looks back at you while you eat it has a tendency to do that, right? However, eating smalahove definitely makes for a good photo opportunity to take home with you. I hear the cheek cavity contains the best meat.

Big mouth lutefisk
Big mouth lutefisk

Lutefisk: Beloved and feared, lutefisk is a Christmas dish many in Norway enjoy. Try it and judge for yourself.

Meatballs: Norwegian "meatcakes" are cousins to the Swedish variety, but better.

Potato lefse
Potato lefse

Lefse Norwegian flatbreads: Similar to Mexican tortillas. Usually served with butter and sugar, sometimes cinnamon too. Occasionally made with potato.

Smoked salmon: The best in the world, hands down. Stavanger has a smoke house which still does smoking the old way.

By: jennifer wuCC BY 2.0

Hot dogs and sausages: Norwegians love hot dogs. Stavanger's A. Idsøe butchery is the oldest butcher in Norway and sells the best hotdogs and sausages I've ever had. They are 90-95% meat plus many are gluten-free. If you ever make it to Stavanger, pop in for hot dogs (called pølse in Norwegian), dried and cured meats plus excellent Norwegian cold cuts (generally called pålegg).

Pickled fish: Herring and other types of fish are pickled in Norway and eaten year round but especially during the Christmas season.

liver pate
By: stu_spivack – CC BY 2.0

Leverpostei: Liver pate is normally served on brown bread then topped with sliced red onions or sweet pickles. Protein rich and very tasty if you like pate.

Fish pudding and fish balls: The fishy versions of meatloaf and meatballs. Béchamel sauce is a common accompaniment.

If you are feeling even more adventurous, check out these last two suggestions as well…

Game meats and game off cuts are quite popular in Norway, especially in the fall and winter. Commonly eaten animals are reindeer, deer, moose, venison.

Dairy Products
Norway has some of the best dairy Europe has to offer which is a good thing because there is so much around most of the time. Butter here is to die for, especially the stuff coming from Røros. Yogurt is very popular in Norway, although you will have a hard time finding the full fat stuff. Most of the yogurt sold in Norway is low-fat or fat-free, but comes in a variety of flavors not commonly found in North America.

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  1. Great and mouth-watering list, brings back memories! 🙂

    You forgot to include "Brunost", by the way – it's a kind of brown cheese, it's chewy and tastes sweet, a little like caramel, strange but addicting! Oh, and Norwegian blueberries are delicious as well (in case you're like me and don't love strawberries).

    Alas, eating and especially eating out in Norway is incredibly expensive, even more so if you leave the larger cities and go further north. We toured the country for 3 weeks last summer (all the way up to Nordkapp!) and to be honest, we could rarely afford trying the local cuisine because a main course alone would cost the equivalent of 25€ or more (and we're not talking fancy high-end restaurants or American-style supersize servings here!) … we weren't on the tiniest of budgets, but not able to splurge everyday either, and after a week or so we were sick to death of pølse sausages which is basically the only affordable food you can get. Regular groceries are also way pricier than in the other Scandinavian countries. Just keep that in mind when you're planning your trip …

    4 agree
    • Yes! I clicked on this article, fully expecting to read about the brown cheese 🙂 I'm not an adventurous eater, but I loved that. I also loved Norwegian breakfast. We don't generally eat cheese and lunchmeats for breakfast in America, but I so prefer it to the more standard protein sources in an American breakfast.

      1 agrees
  2. YES! I have been living in Sweden for the past 7 months and the strawberries here are AH-Mazing!

  3. …why are yogurt and game meats more adventurous than the rest of the list? I'm more likely to eat reindeer than lutefisk, personally!

    9 agree
    • I know, right? I currently have wild venison defrosting for dinner tonight, but I feel slightly ill reading more about and looking at that sheep's head!!!

  4. There is a restaurant near me that serves European food, from all different regions. One night I tried their fish balls. They were quite tasty! I believe they were served with a brown sauce (like a German jaegersauce) on top of spaetzel and served with steamed carrots. It was something so different from what I'm used to, but very good!

  5. Messmör. Seriously, peoples. It's like cream cheese. In a tube. BUT BETTER. Sweet, slightly caramelized taste – it's whey with cream cooked for days. Sometimes a family member imports it here into the US, but it costs an arm and a leg. One of my favorite foods ever is a good cardamon roll (släta bullar) with messmör on it. (Given, messmör is Swedish, but super popular in Norway.)

    Joikaboller is another one that my husband misses greatly, ever since they stopped importing it to the US. Evidently reindeer meat carries a mad-cow danger…which makes me sad.

    There's lots of variations of lefse, but the general variation in the US is with potato – I feel like it's the universal version of lefse, and more localized recipes vary.

    Other favorite things: knekkebrød, krumkake, goro, cucumber salad, and rulle pølse. A rulle pølse open faced sandwich is one of the more amazing things ever. My in-laws love pickled herring, but that's not something I'm keen on.

    1 agrees

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