Wondering what to eat in Norway during your first trip to the land of the midnight sun? Read on to find a dozen traditional Norway food favorites you must try during your visit to Europe’s northernmost country.
If you’re familiar with signature Norway food like Fiskekaker and Kjøttkaker, then you’re way ahead of where we were before we traveled to Norway for the first time. Our knowledge of food in Norway was basic at best.
Sure, we knew that Norway exports a lot of salmon since we’d previously eaten more than our fair share of the salty, orange smoked fish inside bagels over the years. But we wondered: What do Norwegian people eat in Norway?
A Norwegian cruise gave us the opportunity to fill this gap in our culinary repertoire. Since the cruise lasted a week, learning about Norway’s food culture was a big part of our Norwegian cruise adventure.
Stops in Oslo, Kristiansand, Stavanger and Flåm gave us ample opportunity to taste traditional Norwegian food as well as modern variations like sushi. Though our port visits were relatively short, we managed to pack a lot of food tripping into our days.
As the Niew Statendam ship navigated its way through epic fjords during long summer days where the sun never totally set, we looked forward to stopping at ports where we could eat and drink like Norwegian locals.
Table of Contents
- What Defines Norwegian Cuisine?
- What Do People Eat in Norway?
- Norway Food Favorites You Should Not Miss
- 1. Brunost (Brown Cheese)
- 2. Sjømat (Seafood)
- 3. Fiskesuppe (Norwegian Fish Soup)
- 4. Fiskekaker (Norwegian Fish Cake)
- 5. Rørkaviar (Tubed Caviar)
- 6. Kjøttkaker (Norwegian Meatballs)
- 7. Pølser (Hot Dogs)
- 8. Bær (Berries)
- 9. Vafler (Waffles)
- 10. Norsk Kanelboller (Norwegian Cinnamon Bun)
- 11. Kvikk Lunsj (Norwegian Kit Kat)
- 12. Salt Lakris (Salty Licorice)
- Bonus – Spesialitetskaffe (Specialty Coffee)
- Norwegian Food for Advanced Diners
What Defines Norwegian Cuisine?
Seafood is a huge part of Norway’s food set.
As the world’s second-largest seafood exporter, only surpassed by China and ahead of Vietnam, Norwegian fishermen export fruits de mer including trout, cod, shrimp, crab and, of course, salmon. However, the country keeps plenty of fish for the enjoyment and nourishment of its own people.
In Norway, locals smoke and grill their fish. They also transform fish into cakes, soups and balls. Norwegians are proud of their sea bounty, and seafood is integral to their culture.
What Do People Eat in Norway?
Beyond fish, Norwegian cuisine is a feast for those who prefer to eat local, seasonal foods. This food culture dates back to Vikings who feasted on beef, mutton and reindeer when they weren’t pillaging for more exotic fare. Today, foragers collect edible delights like berries along the rugged coast while farmers bring great cheeses to market.
These markets sell a range of meats and produce to both home cooks looking for fresh ingredients and shoppers seeking quick, easy meals. The best restaurants in Norway are more upscale affairs for food travelers with big appetites and even bigger budgets.
A little planning goes a long way in Norway. Although food prices are not cheap, it’s possible to sample a variety of Norwegian dishes at markets, food halls and casual restaurants without breaking the bank.
Norway Food Favorites You Should Not Miss
Many first time visitors to Norway expect to experience the country’s natural beauty but have either limited or low expectations about the food. True confession: We fit into the first category ourselves before our first trip to Norway.
However, adventurous diners like us won’t get bored in Norway while sampling foods with names that are difficult, if not impossible, to pronounce. The food may not be cheap in Scandinavia but it sure does taste good.
If you’re curious to explore Norway and its food, we suggest you start with our new favorite Norwegian foods:
1. Brunost (Brown Cheese)
Brunost is a Norwegian food favorite that locals enjoy on a regular basis. Some people even eat the unique brown cheese every day of the week as part of a traditional Norwegian breakfast or as an energizing snack.
Not your typical cheese, Brunost is created when producers boil goat milk whey until it caramelizes into a brown cheese-like substance. Savvy shoppers can find Brunost around the world. As for us, we tasted this Norwegian specialty for the first time at a cafe in Oslo.
We won’t lie – Brunost looked kind of odd to us with its tannish brown color… and then we tasted it. Served over freshly baked sourdough bread, Brunost was a pleasant surprise. Both sweet and salty at the same time with a texture similar to cream cheese, this brown cheese reminded us of savory salted caramel.
2. Sjømat (Seafood)
In Norway, seafood is more of an everyday food than a luxury item. Most Norwegians live near the coast, giving them ready access to all sorts of fish including but not limited to salmon.
Salmon reigns supreme among fish in the Norwegian diet. If it were up to us, we’d exclusively eat salmon in Norway – smoked, cured or raw. It doesn’t matter. We’ve yet to meet or eat a Norwegian salmon that we haven’t loved.
It should be noted that most if not all Norwegian salmon is farmed. That being said, we found Norway’s salmon to be a superior, refined product that tastes best at the source.
Norway’s seafood options go beyond salmon. Fish fans will want to try Norwegian classics like salted cod and pickled herring as well as shellfish like shrimp and crabs. However, more adventurous diners shouldn’t miss sushi. Norway’s ultra-fresh fish elevates the Japanese delicacy to something special.
Ironically, Norway deserves credit for popularizing salmon sushi in Japan during the 1980s. At that time, the Asian country was resistant to raw salmon due to parasites associated with Pacific salmon. After Norway’s Project Japan successfully introduced and promoted Atlantic salmon to the sushi-crazed country, salmon became an integral part of Japan’s sushi zeitgeist.
Michelin-starred Sabi Omakase offers the ultimate Norway sushi experience at its tiny Stavanger restaurant. For those who can’t score a reservation for one of Sabi Omakase’s ten seats or visit when the restaurant is closed for its summer holiday, sister restaurant Sabi Sushi is a fine lunchtime substitute.
Since our Stavanger stop coincided with the omakase’s annual holiday, we ‘settled’ for a lunch at Sabi Sushi. Our meal included a medium nigiri sampler with some of the freshest fish we’ve ever eaten plus a signature Flambert roll with lightly flamed salmon and avocado. Our total cost for lunch was 340 NOK or approximately $40 US – a true Norwegian bargain.
Where We Ate Sjøma
Sabi Sushi in Stavanger
3. Fiskesuppe (Norwegian Fish Soup)
Norwegian fish soup known as Fiskesuppe is a great, comforting dish to eat in Norway on a cold winter day. It was also ideal to eat on the rainy summer day when we ate our way around drizzly Oslo.
Our bowl of Kremet Fiskesuppe (creamy fish soup) was filled with cod, mussels, vegetables and herbs. We sopped up every last drop with the basket of bread served to us with aioli.
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This luscious bowl of soup cost 208 NOK or approximately $23 USD at the time of our visit. Did we mention that Norwegian restaurants are expensive?
Where We Ate Fiskesuppe
Fiskeriet Youngstorget in Oslo
4. Fiskekaker (Norwegian Fish Cake)
Fish cakes known as Fiskekaker fill the culinary void between American fish sticks and French croquettes. Norwegians cook these fishy cakes with fresh fillets based on availability, often using cod, haddock, pollock and salmon.
After sharing one fluffy mackerel Fiskekaker at a fish market at Fiskebrygga, a gentrified wharf in Kristiansand, we bought a second. Priced at 15 NOK (approximately $2 USD) each, these Fiskekaker were practically free.
Where We Ate Fiskekaker
Fiskebrygga in Kristiansand
5. Rørkaviar (Tubed Caviar)
Tubed caviar called Rørkaviar is a thing in Norway. We heard about it before our Norwegian cruise and finally found tubes of luxurious Kavli caviar at the same Kristiansand market where we ate Fiskekaker.
Based in Henningsvær, Kavli has been tubing caviar since 1917. Their caviar contains up to 60% cod roe as well as ingredients like rapseed oil and sugar.
Sweden makes a version of tubed caviar too. If you can’t get to Norway, you can satisfy your caviar craving by buying tubes of Kalles Kaviar online.
Where We Ate Rørkaviar
Fiskebrygga in Kristiansand
6. Kjøttkaker (Norwegian Meatballs)
Although Norway is world-famous for its fish, Norwegians frequently eat meat at home when dining with their families. Varieties include beef, pork, lamb and sheep as well as moose and reindeer.
While in Norway, we scratched our carnivorous itch with Kjøttkaker, hearty Norwegian meatballs made with seasoned minced meat, onions and seasonings. Pan-fried and drowned in a rich gravy, our Kjøttkaker came with mushy peas, potatoes and sauerkraut. A side of Lingonberry jam completed the meaty meal.
Where We Ate Kjøttkaker
Restaurant Schrøder in Oslo
7. Pølser (Hot Dogs)
Norway currently has numerous Michelin-starred restaurants including Oslo’s three-starred Maaemo. While these upscale restaurants offer memorable dining experiences, Norway’s cheap eat options are not to be discounted. And by cheap eats, we mean Pølser – hot dogs.
Norwegians eat a lot of Pølser. They eat them at Norwegian supermarkets, convenience stores and food halls at all hours of the day and night. They truly seem to love this fast food icon as much as Americans love hamburgers.
During our visit to Norway, we shared a loaded Pølse at Syverkiosken in Oslo where owner Erlend Dahlbo makes his own condiments from scratch and boils hot dogs in housemade bone broth. Dahlbo welcomed us to his graffiti-covered kiosk as if we were old friends and prepared our order himself.
At Dahlbo’s suggestion, we ate this Norwegian hot dog in a tortilla-like Lompe instead of a standard bun. Made with potato and flour, Lompe was the ideal vessel for our mid-afternoon guilty pleasure.
Where We Ate Pølser
Syverkiosken in Oslo
8. Bær (Berries)
Although Norway’s northern location isn’t conducive to growing exotic fruits and vegetables, the Nordic country grows excellent berries and a lot of them. During the summer, Norway’s berry selection includes cloudberries, lingonberries, strawberries and bilberry (i.e. European blueberries).
Motivated locals forage forests for berries, carting coveted fruit home for their eating and baking enjoyment. Food travelers can take a short cut to Norwegian berry bliss by shopping for Bær at local markets.
Where We Ate Bærn
Outdoor Market in Oslo
9. Vafler (Waffles)
Shaped like hearts and served for dessert, Vafler are a simple yet tasty food in Norway thanks to toppings like chocolate, sugar and jam. Food travelers can eat waffles at cafes and food halls in most Norwegian cities.
Add Brunost, camarel-like brown cheese featured above, for a true Norwegian Vaffel experience. Or better yet, ramp it all the way up by adding Brunost, Rømme (sour cream) and Syltetøy (jam) like we did during a decadent snack break in Oslo.
10. Norsk Kanelboller (Norwegian Cinnamon Bun)
Cinnamon buns known as Kanelboller are easy to find in Norway. Perfect to eat along with a cup of specialty coffee (see below), these sweet treats are prominently displayed at bakeries all over Norway.
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Some bakers add spices like cardamon or ingredients like chocolate to Kanelboller, but classic Kanelboller get their flavor from cinnamon. Readers who have traveled within Scandinavia will find Kanelboller similar to Kanelbullar in Sweden and Korvapuusti in Finland.
Krumkake is a great option for those tired of Kanelboller if such a thing can happen. Also found in Norwegian bakeries, Krumcakes are rolled cakes filled with whipped cream.
Where We Ate Norsk Kannelboller
Renaa Xpress in Stavanger
11. Kvikk Lunsj (Norwegian Kit Kat)
How similar in shape is Norway’s Kvikk Lunsj to Nestle’s Kit Kat? It’s similar enough that Nestle unsuccessfully tried to ban candy competitor Mondelez from producing its chocolate wafer bar for the Norwegian market. Mondelez owns Cadbury as well as Freia, the name on the colorful Kvikk Lunsj package.
Despite the relatively recent failed lawsuit, Norway’s Kvikk Lunsj is no flash in the pan. Norwegian chocolatier Freia introduced the four-fingered wafer bar back in 1937. Decades of marketing Kvikk Lunsj bars to skiers and hikers have turned the chocolate treat into a national treasure.
As for us, we like the crunchy, chocolate bar for what it is – a quick snack on the go. Although we prefer the crunch of a Kit Kat slightly more, we appreciate the consistency of Kvikk Lunsj‘s milk chocolate with its rich, Cadbury-like creaminess (which make sense considering the company that owns it). Click here to decide for yourself.
Where We Ate Kvikk Lunsj Bars
7-11 in Oslo
12. Salt Lakris (Salty Licorice)
Salty licorice is an acquired taste that some people never acquire. As for us, we love the intensely-flavored candy popular all over Scandinavia including Norway where it’s called Salt Lakris.
For the unfamiliar, salty licorice gets its intense flavor from ammonium chloride. Licorice lovers can buy Salt Lakris in different shapes like fish and coins at Norwegian convenience stores and candy shops.
We’re not going to lie – most travelers won’t like Salt Lakris on the first try. But those (like us) who do will want to stock up on the addictive confectionary. Another option is to order Salt Lakris from Amazon since it’s challenging to find the Nordic treat beyond Scandinavia’s borders.
Where We Ate Salt Lakris
7-11 in Oslo
Bonus – Spesialitetskaffe (Specialty Coffee)
Norway is no exception to this rule. Trailing only Finland in terms of per-capita coffee consumption, Norway is a leader when it comes to third wave coffee. Norwegians may not have invented this type of coffee but they’ve fully embraced the concept.
Specialty coffee fans will find cafes in cities throughout Norway as we did in Oslo, Stavanger and Kristiansand. With an emphasis on quality over quantity, these cafes easily satisfy discerning coffee connoisseurs like us.
Expect to spend around 40 NOK (approximately $4.50 USD) for a crafted cappuccino or flat white and a bit more for pour-overs. Though higher priced than commodity coffee, specialty coffee may be one of the best value purchases in Norway.
Norwegian Food for Advanced Diners
But wait, there’s more! After you eat the dozen foods recommended above, try the following Norwegian dishes to expand both your horizons and waistline:
Be sure to also try Akevitt, distilled Scandinavian liquor, to complete your Norway food explorations. Norwegians have been drinking this potent potable since the 16th century!
Video – Norway Food Tour
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
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Original Publication Date: August 24, 2019