Norwegian Christmas Food

Christmas is coming up soon. Your first time experiencing a Norwegian Christmas? Read on to find out more about Norwegian Christmas Food.


Lutefisk – Photo credit from MatPrat

Lutefisk is a traditional dish of the Nordic countries. It is gelatinous in texture, and has an extremely strong, pungent odor. Its name literally means “lye fish.” Lutefiskis made by mixing lye of potash and water and soaking dried fish in it.

The first treatment is to soak the stockfish in cold water for five to six days (with the water changed daily). The saturated stockfish is then soaked in an unchanged solution of cold water and lye for an additional two days. The fish swells during this soaking, and its protein content decreases by more than 50 percent producing a jelly-like consistency. When this treatment is finished, the fish (saturated with lye) has a pH value of 11–12 and is therefore caustic. To make the fish edible, a final treatment of yet another four to six days of soaking in cold water (also changed daily) is needed. Eventually, the lutefisk is ready to be cooked.

Lutefisk is usually served with a variety of side dishes, including, but not limited to, bacon, green peas, green pea stew, potatoes, lefse, gravy, mashed rutabaga, white sauce, melted or clarified butter, syrup, geitost (goat cheese), or gammelost (“old” cheese).

Today, aquavit and beer often accompany the meal due to its use at festive and ceremonial occasions.

The taste of well-prepared lutefisk is very mild, and often the white sauce is spiced with pepper or other strong tasting spices to bring out the flavor. Other families prefer to eat it unseasoned with melted butter.
Lutefisk recipe


Juleribbe – Photo credit from MatPrat

Svineribbe, Norwegian pork ribs, is a traditional dish which is commonly associated with Christmas in Norway, especially in the eastern region. Svineribbe are distinct because of the way the rind is prepared. The rind is scored to make a tiny grid pattern, and rubbed with salt before the meat is cooked. The ribs are then roasted in a pan with a rack, wrapped in tin foil. The pan is filled with water to help steam and soften the rind.

Svineribbe can be served with sweet and/or sour sides such as sauerkraut, red cabbage and brussels sprouts. Other sides can be sausages, sosisser, meatballs, lingonberry jam, fried apple wedges, prunes and potatoes. Most important of all is perhaps the sauce, which can be anything from rib fat, to a smooth sauce with flavorings such as juniper or cranberries, red wine, goat cheese or other flavor carriers and spices. At least 300 grams of svineribbeshould be prepared per person for a dinner meal.

Aquavit and beer are normal accompaniments to a meal of svineribbe.
Svineribbe recipe


Pinnekjøtt – Photo credit from MatPrat

In Norway, pinnekjøtt is a main course dinner dish of lamb or mutton. Pinnekjøtt is a festive dish typical to Western Norway, served with puréed rutabaga and potatoes, beer and akevitt. This dish is largely associated with the celebration of Christmas, and is rapidly gaining popularity in other regions as well. Its unique flavor comes from the traditional preservation methods of curing, drying and in some regions also smoking as means of inhibiting the growth of micro-organisms.

Although lamb is today available fresh or frozen all year round, pinnekjøtt is still prepared both commercially and in private homes according to the traditional way due to the flavour and maturing the preservation process gives to the meat. In home preparation of pinnekjøtt, racks of lamb or mutton are cured in brine or coarse sea salt. Once sufficiently cured, and when the weather is cold enough, the racks are hung in a cool, dark, well ventilated place to dry. In some regions, particularly in parts of Hordaland, the fresh racks are smoked prior to curing to prevent mold growth during the drying process.

Before cooking, the racks are separated into individual ribs by cutting a sharp knife between the bones. The ribs must then be soaked in water in order to regain its natural moisture balance and reduce the amount of salt. Rehydration time varies slightly depending on how much meat is dried, the thickness of the meat and the water temperature. Lukewarm water rehydrates the meat faster. Today pinnekjøtt is available in most supermarkets before Christmas, smoked or unsmoked, ready cut and sometimes also pre-soaked, ready for cooking. It is recommended to calculate about 600 grams per portion.

After soaking the ribs are steamed over a little water in a large saucepan. A layer of twigs from the birch tree may be placed in the bottom of the saucepan instead of a metal steamer, hence the name pinnekjøtt(literally: stick meat) which refers to these birch twigs and not to the rather obvious resemblance the ribs have to sticks. It is also only in the last decade or so pinnekjøtt has been widely available in the eastern parts of Norway.
Pinnekjøtt recipe


Smalahove – Photo credit from MatPrat

Smalahove (also called smalehovud or skjelte) is a Western Norwegian traditional dish made from a sheep’s head, originally eaten during the Christmas season and to make full use of all the parts of the animal’s body. The name of the dish comes from the combination of the Norwegian words hove and smaleHove is a dialectal form of hovud, meaning head, and smale is one word for sheep. The skin and fleece of the head is torched, the brain removed, and the head is salted, sometimes smoked, and dried. The head is boiled or steamed for about three hours and served with sausages, mashed rutabaga and potatoes. It is also traditionally served with aquavit. In some preparations, the brain is cooked inside the skull and then eaten with a spoon or fried. Originally, smalahove was typically eaten by the poor, but today it is considered a delicacy.
How does one actually eat smalahove?

  • It is normal to first start with the ear. There is alot of fat here and it is advisable to get into it while it is warm. The same applies for the eye.
  • One starts at the front of the head and cuts backwards between the teeth in the upper and lower jaw. Then break out a jaw and one can easily reach the eye.
  • The eye should be cut and carefully scraped. The eye muscle that is left, is said to the best part of the entire sheep. But it has to eaten when warm. Another delicacy for others is the tongue.
  • One then continues downwards from the head and the meat with the least fat can be found in the area around the jaw.

Smalahove recipe