Kari Nordmann

Norwegian cuisine in its traditional form is based largely on the raw materials readily available in Norway and its mountains, wilderness and coast. It differs in many respects from its continental counterparts with a stronger focus on game and fish. Many of the traditional dishes are results of using conserved materials, with respect to the long winters.

Main dish

The one traditional Norwegian dish with a claim to international popularity is smoked salmon. It is now a major export, and could be considered the most important Scandinavian contribution to modern international cuisine. Smoked salmon exists traditionally in many varieties, and is often served with scrambled eggs, dill, sandwiches and mustard sauce. Another traditional salmon product is gravlaks, (literally "buried salmon"). Traditionally, gravlaks would be cured for 24 hours in a mix of sugar and salt and herbs (dill).

The largest Norwegian food export (in fact the main Norwegian export of any kind for most of the country's history) in the past has been stockfish ("tørrfisk" in Norwegian). The Atlantic cod variety known as 'skrei' because of its migrating habits, has been a source of wealth for millennia, fished annually in what is known as the 'Lofotfiske' after the island chain of 'Lofoten'. Stockfish has been a staple food internationally for centuries, in particular on the Iberian peninsula and the African coast. Both during the age of sail and in the industrial age, stockfish played a part in world history as an enabling food for cross-Atlantic trade and the slave trade triangle.

Norway is one of the few places outside Asia where sweet and sour flavoring is used extensively. A more peculiar Norwegian fish dish is Rakfisk, which consists of fermented trout, a culinary relation of Swedish surströmming. Until the 20th century, shellfish was not eaten to any extent. This was partly due to the abundance of fish and the relative high expenditure of time involved in catching shellfish when set against its nutritional value, as well as the fact that such food spoils rather quickly, even in a northern climate. However, prawns, crabs and mussels have become quite popular, especially during summer.

Fruits and desserts

Fruits and berries mature slowly in the cold climate. This makes for a tendency to smaller volume with a more intense taste. Strawberries, bilberries, lingonberries, raspberries and apples are popular and are part of a variety of desserts, and cherries in the parts of the country where those are grown. The wild growing cloudberry is regarded as a delicacy. A typical Norwegian dessert on special occasions is cloudberries with whipped or plain cream. Strawberry-Apple pie is also popular because of its rich flavour of strawberries and apples. Rhubarb pie (rabarbra pai in Norwegian) is another favoured dish in Norway.

German and Nordic-style cakes and pastries, such as sponge cakes and Danish pastry (known as "wienerbrød", literal translation: "Viennese bread") share the table with a variety of homemade cakes, waffles and biscuits. Cardamom is a common flavouring. Another Norwegian cake is Krumkake, a paper- thin rolled cake filled with whipped cream. (Krumkake means 'Curved Cake' or 'Crooked Cake'). Baked meringues are known as "pikekyss", literally translated as "girl's kiss".

During Christmas (jul), the traditional Norwegian Holiday season, many different dessert dishes are served including Julekake, a heavily spiced leavened loaf often coated with sugar and cinnamon, and Multekrem (whipped cream with cloudberries).


Norway has a particularly strong affinity for coffee and is the second highest consumer of coffee in the world, with the average Norwegian drinking 142 liters, or 9.5 kg of coffee in 2011. Coffee plays a large role in Norwegian culture; it is common to invite people over for coffee and cakes and to enjoy cups of coffee with dessert after the main courses in get-togethers. The traditional way of serving coffee in Norway is plain black, usually in a mug, rather than a cup. As in the rest of the west, recent years have seen a shift from coffee made by boiling ground beans to Italian-style coffee bars, tended by professional baristas. Coffee is included in one of the most traditional alcoholic beverages in Norway, commonly known as karsk, from Trøndelag.