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Norway Food - Vafler - Waffle with Brunost

Norway Food Favorites for First Time Visitors

In Food Travel, Norway by Daryl & Mindi Hirsch9 Comments

Wondering what to eat in Norway during your first trip to the land of the midnight sun? Read on to find a dozen Norway food favorites you must try during your visit to Europe’s northernmost country.

Norway Food - Vafler - Waffle with Brunost

We arrived in Norway as Norwegian food novices.

Unlike pizza from Italy and pho from Vietnam, Norwegian dishes are not part of the global vernacular. 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.

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 actually eat in Norway?

Harbor in Flam Norway

Though we loved experiencing Norway’s’ epicness in its fjords, colorful harbors like this one in Flåm were equally impressive.

A Norwegian cruise with Holland America gave us the opportunity to fill this gap in our culinary repertoire. Since the cruise lasted for 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.

Norway Food - Sushi Roll

You’re missing out if you skip sushi in Norway. This is no surprise considering the quantity and quality of fish that swim in the country’s deep, cold water.

As the Niew Statendam 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.

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What Defines Norwegian Cuisine?

Harbor in Kristiansand Norway

Norway’s water-filled topography influences its food culture. Pictured here is the Kristiansand harbor.

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.

Norway Food - Fish

Fish fanatics won’t go hungry in Norway. The country has a seafood bounty that’s unrivaled in Europe.

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.

Pro Tip: 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.

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Norway Food Favorites You Should Not Miss

Brunost Selfie in Oslo Norway

Surprise! Brown is new yellow when it comes to Norwegian cheese.

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)

Norway Food - Brunost Cheese on Bread

Sourdough bread topped with Brunost cheese is a typical morning starter in Norway.

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.

Where We Ate Brunost: Sentralen Kafé and Haralds Vaffel in Oslo

2. Sjømat (Seafood)

Norway Food - Salmon Sushi

Salmon rules the sea in Norway.

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 of 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.

Norway Food - Sushi Platter

Norway sushi is both fresh and flavorful. We ate this raw fish platter at Sabi Sushi in Stavanger.

Fun Fact: Ironically, Norway deserves credit for popularizing salmon sushi in Japan during the 1980’s. 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 KON or approximately $40 US – a true Norwegian bargain.

Where We Ate Sjømat: Sabi Sushi in Stavanger

3. Fiskesuppe (Norwegian Fish Soup)

Norway Food - Fiskesuppe Bowl- Fish Soup

Norwegian fish soup called Fiskesuppe warms the bones on a cold or rainy Norway day.

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. This luscious bowl of soup cost 208 KON 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)

Norway Food - Fiskekaker - Fish Cake

Who needs hamburgers when you can eat Fiskekaker instead?

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 KON (approximately $2 USD) each, these Fiskekaker were practically free.

Where We Ate Fiskekaker: Fiskebrygga in Kristiansand

5. Rørkaviar (Tubed Caviar)

Norway Food - Caviar Tubes

Move over tubed cheese. We rather eat tubed caviar in Norway.

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 Bought Rørkaviar: Fiskebrygga in Kristiansand

6. Kjøttkaker (Norwegian Meatballs)

Norway Food - Kjottkaker - Meatballs

Don’t worry if you’re not a fish fanatic. Norwegian menus feature meat too.

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)

Hot Dog Stand in Oslo Norway

Hot Dog or Haute Cuisine? Erlend Dahlbo prepares Polser (Norwegian hot dogs) with high culinary standards. His family has been sourcing sausage from the same trusted butcher for 40 years.

Norway currently has eight 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.

Hot Dog Selfie in Oslo Norway

Eating this Norwegian hot dog made us happy in Oslo.

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. Bærn (Berries)

Norway Food - Berries

Colorful berries fill Norwegian markets in the warm summer months.

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 Bærn at local markets.

Where We Found Bærn: Outdoor Market in Oslo

9. Vafler (Waffles)

Norway Food - Vafles - Waffles

Unlike Americans who eat waffles for breakfast, Norwegians eat Vafler in the afternoon.

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.

Depending on your sweet tooth level, you can also try Norwegian pancakes called Sveler for an afternoon pick-me-up. If you want to eat like a local, top your Sveler with Brunost and Smør (butter).

Where We Ate Vafler: Haralds Vaffel in Oslo and Vatnahalsen Høyfjellshotell in Flåm.

10. Norsk Kanelboller (Norwegian Cinnamon Bun)

Norway Food - Kanelboller - Cinnamon Bun

A trip to Norway without eating a Kannelboller would be incomplete. We ate this Kannelboller in Stavanger.

Cinnamon buns known as Kannelboller 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.

Some bakers add spices like cardamon or ingredients like chocolate to Kannelboller, but classic Kannelboller get their flavor from cinnamon. Readers who have traveled within Scandinavia will find Kannelboller similar to Kanelbullar in Sweden and Korvapuusti in Finland.

Krumkake is a great option for those tired of Kannelboller 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)

Norway Food - Kvikk Lunsj Candy Bar

There’s one way to find out if a Kvikk Lunsj bar is better than a Kit Kat bar. Taste one for yourself in Norway.

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 who owns it). Click here to decide for yourself.

Where We Bought Kvikk Lunsj Bars: 7-11 in Oslo

12. Salt Lakris (Salty Licorice)

Norway Food - Licorice

The variety of Salty Licorice in Norway can be overwhelming. This little box contains a sugarfree version flavored with sea salt.

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. The only other option is to order Salt Lakris online since it’s challenging to find the Nordic treat beyond Scandinavia’s borders.

Where We Bought Salt Lakris: 7-11 in Oslo

Bonus – Spesialitetskaffe (Specialty Coffee)

Specialty Coffee in Stavanger Norway

We drank this crafted cappuccino at Kokko Kaffebar in Stavanger.

Scandinavians have a thing for coffee as we previously discovered on trips to Stockholm and Helsinki. And not just any coffee – we’re talking about lightly roasted 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 in Kiristiansand Norway

In addition to selling cigars to nicotine smokers, Cuba Life serves cappuccinos to coffee drinkers.

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.

Where We Drank Specialty Coffee: My Ugly Baby in Oslo, Kokko Kaffebar in Stavanger and Cuba Life in Kristiansand

Norwegian Food for Advanced Diners

Norway Food Feast

We sourced this photo to illustrate a true Norway food feast.

But wait, there’s more! After you eat the dozen foods recommended above, try the following Norwegian dishes to expand your both your horizons and waistline:

  • Fårikål – National Dish with Mutton and Cabbage
  • Lefse – Norwegian Flatbread
  • Reinsdyrkjøtt – Reindeer Meat
  • Smalahove – Sheep’s Head

Be sure to try Akevitt, distilled Scandinavian liquor, to complete your Norway food explorations. Norwegians have been drinking this potent potable since the 16th century.

Research Norway Hotels

Colorful Street in Stavanger Norway

Staying in a hotel will give you time to explore shops in towns like Stavanger.

Click here to research the best rates for hotels in Norway.

Book a Tour

You’ll want to explore Norway when you’re not eating Norwegian food and drinking specialty coffee. Click here to to find a fun tour or try one of the following Norway tours:

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We thank Holland America for hosting us to facilitate this and other articles.

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About the Author

Saveur Magazine's BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

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Comments

  1. What a smorgasbord of delights! This will be so useful for or Scandinavian trip next year!

  2. The cuisine looks divine in Norway, especially the fish! Only trouble is, I don’t think I’ll be able to afford eating there!!

  3. Norwegian food sounds absolutely divine. You have covered a lot here and will be useful for my next travel.

  4. Ok, I’m sold! For me travel is all about the food and this looks delicious!

  5. I never thought about Norway having good food, but this looks delicious. At first I thought my go to would be the waffles, and then the sushi, and then the berries. Oh, I’m not so sure now. Everything maybe!

  6. That cinnamon roll loos DELICIOUS!! I’m not a big fan of seafood so it looks like I wouldn’t love a majority of the food on this list. I’m really curious about that brown cheese though

    1. Author

      The brunost is available in many places around the world if you know where to find it.

  7. This is such a fun post! I loved eating the cuisine in norway and especially love their fish soups!

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