Norwegian Christmas dinner: Regional delights

by | Nov 13, 2016 | Uncategorized

Dinner on Christmas Eve in Norway can vary from region to region. In the East, many will eat pork roast – or “ribbe”, which is much like the Danish flæskesteg. In the South, fish is common – lutefisk and cod. And in the North, they eat ribs of mutton (Pinnekjøt).

The meats are usually served with white potatoes, pickled red cabbage, caramelized small potatoes, and a black currant jelly. Some families also add sweet apples. And, dessert is made up of mulberry cream or rice porridge.

Mouth watering yet? Read on and make your picks for your Norwegian Christmas dinner this holiday season.

… here’s your shopping list for a Norwegian Christmas dinner!


Ribbe is a very fatty, but delicious piece of meat that is not commonly found in stores in the US. You may have to do a bit of legwork to get this dish for your Norwegian Christmas dinner. But trust us, it’ll be worth it.

Start by asking your local butcher if they have pork belly or ribs off the bone, but with the rind on. They’ll usually be able to handle this request, but you may have to pre-order it. Getting the rind is key to getting the crackling on top. To get a good non-rubbery crackling, you will need to score the skin. Some butchers may be willing to score your skin, but not all. If you have to do it yourself, use a utility knife. To get the traditional Norwegian look, score the skin in squares a little less than one inch apart. Don’t cut into the meat as it can result in the loss of flavor and moisture. Once your meat is scored you’re ready to cook it.

If you don’t have a local butcher, you can alternatively order your ribbe online. Just remember that the online sites have deadlines for when the last order can be placed.

Pinnekjøt (Ribs of Mutton)

Pinnekjøt is made from mutton, which is the meat of an adult sheep. It’s possible to make it from a rack of lamb ribs as well, but it doesn’t offer the same taste. That said, getting your hands on a rack of mutton, is not easy, so if lamb is all you have, go for it.

Once you’ve secured your rack, the challenge doesn’t end. Pinnekjøt will need to be cured, dried, and/or smoked, which will take you weeks to do. If you manage to get through this step, you are in luck because the dish is fairly easy to cook. My Little Norway has an excellent recipe. You can also order pre-cured and dried ribs of mutton online.

Contrary to popular belief, this dish doesn’t get its name from the way it looks, but rather from the birch sticks on which it’s cooked. These sticks help to give the meat a slightly minty flavor. Unfortunately, birch sticks are not easy to find in the US—we’ve had no luck so far. If you’re really dedicated, you could make some yourself. Just make sure you get rid of all the bark. No need to fret, cooking it without the sticks works perfectly fine. Just check out the recipe from North Wild Kitchen.


These are not your typical IKEA Swedish meatballs. First of all, they are Norwegian. And, second, they are much more flavorful, savory, and juicy. They are made from pork and not beef, and are large flat patties fried on a pan. They closely resemble the Danish meatball known as ‘frikadeller.’ In fact, we would go as far as to say that the Danish and Norwegian meatballs are exactly the same. Each family throughout these two countries have their own recipe for it. They may seem easy to make, but it takes years of trial and error to get that exact flavor you are looking for.

We’d highly recommend you find a basic recipe you like and then start playing around with your own flavors to create the Medisterkaker you want at your Norwegian Christmas dinner. Some families add nutmeg and ginger in their medisterkaker, while others add curry.

For Christmas, medisterkaker is served alongside ribbe or pinnekjøt with potatoes and gravy. However, during the year medisterkaker is also served as a stand alone dish. In the summer, many families play up their medisterkaker with fresh ingredients like spring onions or parsley and serve it with potato salad.

Red currant jelly

Lutefisk is an acquired taste. It’s usually made from dried cod, rehydrated in a bath of lye and water. There are people that loathe this dish due to its spongy texture, odor, and oily flavor. Yet, it remains a part of the traditional christmas dinner, and many Norwegians (and some Swedes as well as people in Minnesota and Wisconsin) still eat it with great pleasure. The fish is either baked or boiled and served with mashed potatoes, mashed peas, bacon, bacon grease and mustard.

Preparing your own lutefisk requires a great deal of work. The fish will need to be dried, then soaked in lye to rehydrate, and finally placed in fresh water. It can take days to weeks to prepare. But, if you like to try this unique dish, go for it. Some recipes skip the drying part to save time, but if you want it dried, and don’t want to do the work, order it online from one of the Scandinavian Stores.

Pickled red cabbage

The sides for the Norwegian Christmas dinner are pretty simple. Any of the meat dishes are usually served with regular boiled or mashed potatoes, and red and white cabbage (sauerkraut).

For a wonderful pickled red cabbage, you can follow our recipe. Or, if you want to keep it easy, purchase it at you local grocery store. It’s usually available in the international isle. We’ve frequently bought the German brand Kuhne, and it does the job. Add a little bit of sugar and cinnamon while heating it if you want to beef up the flavor.

The Norwegian way of eating usually means piling you plate with the meat and the sides, and then poring a delicious gravy over. Add some lingonberry jam, and enjoy! Lingonberry jams have become fairly common in the US and can be bought in many grocery stores, but if yours should end up not selling it, get it from IKEA or one of the Scandinavian food stores.

The desserts

Some Norwegians eat risalamande, which is also common in Sweden (ris a la malta) and Denmark. Others serve multekrem, a creamy dessert made of whipped creme, vanilla, sugar and cloudberries. This dessert only takes 10-15 minuted to prepare and is best if made just before serving.

Cloudberries are considered the king of all berries. They are expensive, hard to come by, and wanted by everyone. Most families will use a cloudberry jam for this dish, but if you can find fresh cloudberries, use them just the way they are. IKEA sells a perfectly fine cloudberry jam and the Scandinavian food stores also stock up on them.

Given that this dessert is basically just heavy whipping creme, you don’t want to think about the calories that you are taking in. But, isn’t Christmas the one day we don’t have to care about calories?

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