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Arctic cuisine

Fresh from Northern Norway

From the freshest seafood to world-class wild game. Locals claim that food from Arctic nature has a richer, more delicious taste.

Arctic cuisine from Tromsø .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com
Arctic cuisine from Tromsø .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com

In this Arctic fairyland, reindeer roam freely across endless pastures and snow-covered mountain plateaus ...

The Finnmark mountain plateau .
Photo: C.H. - Visitnorway.com
The Finnmark mountain plateau .
Photo: C.H. - Visitnorway.com

... and every winter, the world-famous skrei, the wandering Atlantic cod, comes home to spawn.

Cod fishing in Lofoten .
Photo: Visitnorway.com
Cod fishing in Lofoten .
Photo: Visitnorway.com

"One might think that areas north of the Arctic Circle are inhospitable in many ways, yet their ingredients are pure and very fresh, and taste good."

Gunnar Jensen, Head Chef at Mathallen in Tromsø

Gunnar Jensen in Tromsø .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com
Gunnar Jensen in Tromsø .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com

Come join us inside the Arctic kitchen!

If you consider yourself a true foodie, there are some unique delicacies in Northern Norway you simply must sample, fresh and close to the source.

Cooking reindeer game at Mathallen in Tromsø .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com
Cooking reindeer game at Mathallen in Tromsø .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com

Rich culinary traditions

Head Chef at Mathallen in Tromsø, Gunnar Jensen, has worked as a chef for over 20 years, most of them in Tromsø.

"I become inspired by good tastes and good stories. For me, it's all about taking a story or an emotion, whether my own or someone else's, and attempting to express it on the plate. Some of the dishes I have on the menu at Mathallen are based on foods I tasted as a child or that my grandfather from Lofoten used to eat," says Gunnar.

Skrei, the Atlantic cod

Due to its location beside the Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea, there are huge amounts of fish along the northern coast. Species like cod, halibut, saithe, redfish, haddock, and wolf fish often grow unusually large here. One of the most famous species is skrei, the wandering Atlantic cod, one of the most well protected and sustainable fish stocks in the world.
 
Skrei is one of the reasons people were able to survive so far north in the past. Skrei appear in Northern Norway between January and April, a migration that is still one of the largest seasonal fisheries in the world. 
 
"The cold and clear waters contribute to high quality," Gunnar explains. Their long journey from the Barents Sea also mean that the fish has more muscular and firmer flesh than regular cod.

It's a no-brainer that the fresher the fish, the better the taste! At most seafood restaurants in Northern Norway, if you ask for the catch of the day, you will be in for a real treat! For excellent budget options, ask for traditional Norwegian fiskesuppe (fish soup) or bacalao, a tasty tomato based stew with vegetables and klippfisk (clipfish - dried and salted cod).

It is also extremely popular to travel to Northern Norway to go fishing yourself. Hire a boat or join experienced fishermen out on the open sea, or look for good fishing spots in the wilderness. There are equally great freshwater fishing options, with many rivers and lakes where you can fish for salmon, trout, Arctic char, pike, and perch under the midnight sun

Sea urchins, clams, mussels, scallops, prawns, lobsters – the sea is full of culinary treasures that can soon end up on your plate. At Lofoten Seaweed, you can also sample sustainable superfoods from the Arctic waters of the Lofoten archipelago, including wild-harvested truffle and nori seaweed, sugar kelp and winged kelp.

Have you tasted tørrfisk (stockfish) before? It's a type of dried fish, usually made from skrei.

It's produced on a large scale In Northern Norway, due to its climate — not too cold and not too hot — and its perfect mix of sun, wind, snow, and rain.

It's one of Norway's oldest exports. Stockfish originating from Lofoten is a unique quality product, and has been granted Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status.

Stockfish, Reine, Lofoten .
Photo: Mattias Fredriksson Photography AB - Visitnorway.com
Stockfish, Reine, Lofoten .
Photo: Mattias Fredriksson Photography AB - Visitnorway.com

"It's said that there are only two things in Europe that have a longer history than stockfish when it comes to food and drink, and those are wine and olive oil".

Svein-Ingvar Bjørndal, theatre chef at Vertshuset Skarven

Vertshuset Skarven in Tromsø .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com
Vertshuset Skarven in Tromsø .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com

At Vertshuset Skarven in Tromsø, stockfish has been on the menu for 27 years, and is served in the traditional way with carrot stew and crispy bacon, and grilled in garlic butter.

Delicious!

Here, the stockfish has been diluted before being cooked and prepared as part of a meal. 

You can also try stockfish grilled, baked, and even as topping on pizza. Many also enjoys it as a salty snack – like crisps!

Over the centuries, several varieties of dried fish have been developed, such as boknafisk (unsalted), klippfisk (salted) and lutefisk (soaked in lye, giving it a jelly-like texture).

Stockfish from Arctandria restaurant in Tromsø .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com
Stockfish from Arctandria restaurant in Tromsø .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com

Norwegians are also very fond of sild (herring), which is very common in Northern Norway. We eat it in a variety of ways: fresh, smoked, salted, and pickled. 

Herring preparations at Mathallen in Tromsø .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com
Herring preparations at Mathallen in Tromsø .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visit Norway

Freshly caught king crab is some of the very best seafood you can get on your plate, and has become increasingly common throughout the north.

It is usually served au naturel, with melted butter and chives.

King crab at Mathallen in Tromsø .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com
King crab at Mathallen in Tromsø .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com

Check out this expert technique.

King crab prepping at Mathallen in Tromsø .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com
King crab prepping at Mathallen in Tromsø .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com

Why not impress your friends by cooking it yourself at home?

You can find a wonderful recipe for king crab and lots of other dishes in The Norwegian Cookbook.

Mathallen restaurant in Tromsø .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com
Mathallen restaurant in Tromsø .
Photo: Fredrik Ahlsen / Visitnorway.com

It's even cooler if you catch it yourself!

Join a king crab safari at Kirkenes, Honningsvåg, the North Cape, Alta, or Tromsø.

Kirkenes .
Photo: Terje Rakke / Nordic Life / Visitnorway.com
Kirkenes .
Photo: Terje Rakke / Nordic Life / Visitnorway.com

Sami cuisine

Few chefs bring as much of nature into the kitchen as Scandinavia's indigenous group, the Sami people. Traditional Sami food is based on local ingredients like fish, game, reindeer, berries and herbs. In addition, they often use some less traditional ingredients for cooking.

"I use blood and deep-fried reindeer lichen in my cooking. Blood sausage is a traditional food and reindeer lichen is a local ingredient," explains chef Martin Jönsson.

He has become a well-known name in Scandinavia and is the head chef at Linken Restaurant & Bar in Narvik. There, you can indulge in dishes based on traditional Sami food with a modern twist. The menu contains locally-sourced ingredients like fish and game. 

"I like working with fish, and we use a lot of char. The menu varies according to the season," he explains. 

Have you ever tasted reindeer meat? Its wild, tasty mountain aroma is unmistakable. The Sami traditionally use reindeer in almost every part of their everyday life, from meat for cooking, to fur and hides for clothes and shoes.

Bidos - Traditional Sami food
Bidos - Traditional Sami food.
Photo: Broadstone / René Bjerregaard / Visitnorway.co

This exclusive meat is a starting point for many traditional Sami dishes, of which bidos is one of the most famous. Bidos is a traditional soup made with carrots, potatoes, and slow-cooked reindeer meat, and is typically served at Sami weddings and other celebrations.

Reindeer is also often served at the very best Arctic restaurants in the region, where you can sample reindeer carpaccio and soft tenderloin, among others. But reindeer is not the only Arctic treat for meat lovers... 

World-class lamb 

You can have lamb almost anywhere in the world, but only exclusive Lofotlam comes from Lofoten in Northern Norway. The combination good breeding and nutritious grazing on steep mountain sides, means that the lambs' fat is marbled into the meat. This gives Lofoten lamb its unique tenderness and distinctive aroma.

The same goes for Lyngenlam, which grazes in the high mountains on the Lyngen Peninsula. Both Lofotlam and Lyngenlam are officially certified as unique delicacies by Norway, and have Norwegian protected geographical indication certification.

Slow-growing magic

Growing fruit and vegetables in the Arctic is an extreme form of agriculture. However, the struggle is worth it, as it provides chefs in Northern Norway with an abundance of exceptional ingredients. Round the clock daylight in the middle of summer compensates for the long and harsh winters north of the Arctic Circle.

"The midnight sun has a positive effect when it comes to growing fruits, vegetables and berries. Potatoes and root vegetables are extra tasty, and strawberries that have ripened under the midnight sun are especially delicious," says Gunnar Jensen at Mathallen. 

Cloud berries in a cup
Cloud berries in a cup.
Photo: Visit Norway

Cloudberry picking has a strong tradition in Northern Norway, where the berries are especially abundant. The golden berry makes a delicious jam, and a very tasty dessert: multekrem (cloudberry cream).

Just remember that the only place in Norway where you are not permitted to pick wild cloudberries is on clearly marked private land in Northern Norway.

Do you have a sweet tooth? Try Kvæfjordkake, a cake from Kvæfjord that is so good that some just call it "the world's best cake". It has also been named our national cake! Or share a piece of Møsbrømlefse, a well-known sweet treat from the Bodø/Salten area.  

Although many of the best restaurants are found in the cities, there are also some outstanding places in more remote areas, which are well worth the trip.

Sample a taste of the wild Finnmark plateau in rustic surroundings at Trasti & Trine in Alta.

Trasti og Trine, Finnmark .
Photo: Sara Johannessen / Visitnorway.com
Trasti og Trine, Finnmark .
Photo: Sara Johannessen / Visitnorway.com

And keep an open mind! A gourmet restaurant experience in Northern Norway can be somewhat different from anything you have experienced before.

At Kvitnes Farm, you will be given warm woollen socks to wear and be served a world-class meal.

Are you ready for an Arctic food adventure?

Kvitnes farm in Vesterålen .
Photo: Magga og Anders AS
Kvitnes farm .
Photo: Magga og Anders AS

Restaurants well-worth the trip

These outstanding restaurants are a worthy destination in their own right.

Top city restaurants in Northern Norway

Get a taste of Arctic nature – in the middle of the city.

Arctic adventures

Combine your culinary journey with some fantastic nature experiences in the Arctic.

Discover more

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