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The magic Norwegian wrap

Soft and sweet ...

... or wrapped around your favourite flavours!

Discover Norway's traditional “tortilla” – one of our oldest food traditions.

“There are so many different varieties of lefse, from sweet treats to wraps”, says Gry Nordvik Karlsen, co-author of a Norwegian cookbook with traditional recipes for flat pastry, including lefse.

Karlsen and her sister Ane Nordvik Hasselberg decided to gather traditional recipes in a book because they’re not easy to find.

“No one is showing off their lefse baking skills on YouTube or dedicating a blog to baking lefse. But every region, fjord village and small town in Norway have their own lefse traditions,” Hasselberg explains. And, of course, countless secret family recipes are passed down from generation to generation.

“A lot of people have family recipes, but not everyone is happy to share them. We didn’t want these baking traditions to fade out and thought everyone should have the opportunity to learn how to make flat pastry like lefse”, Karlsen adds.

The sisters are passionate about Norwegian baking traditions and say that lefse has always had a special place at the table.

Ancient baking traditions

Lefse is inspired by what we call flatbrød (flatbread), which is a super-thin crispbread often served with soup, cured meat and the weird Norwegian food tradition rakfisk (fermented trout)”, Karlsen explains.

Flatbrød doesn’t require a lot of ingredients. The tradition dates back to the Vikings and their brauðiskr (bread plate), and flatbrød consists of water, whole-wheat flour and a pinch of salt.

Lefse is a soft version of flatbrød, often made with a few more ingredients, like milk and butter. We use it to wrap all the goodies together – just like a tortilla.

“When I was young, lefse was considered a real treat. It required a lot of work, so we only made it for holidays and special occasions,” Karlsen says.

The magic lies in the perfect combination of pastry and filling.

Top the lefse with butter, sugar and cinnamon for a delicious treat …

… or swap bread for a healthy lefse-wrap in your matpakke (homemade lunch that you bring to work, school, hiking trips and so on).

Lefseruller, rolls made with lefse, are also perfect for bite-sized snacks at a party or for a tapas evening with your friends.

Who can say no to salmon rolls like these?

Lefse is a versatile pastry, but as Karlsen points out: it takes time to make it from scratch.

Luckily, you can easily buy potetlefser (lefse made with potatoes) in more or less every grocery store. They are perfect for lunch wraps and tapas. You can also use it as a blanket for your hot dog instead of buns! We just call it pølse og lompe (hot dog with lompe, a small potato lefse).

Some shops also sell lefse with sugar and cinnamon, but Karlsen advice you to visit farm shops and bakeries that have lefse as one of their specialities.

“Nothing tastes better than homemade lefse. It’s the first treat to sell out at Christmas markets and the one thing everyone eats at birthday parties or celebrations”, Karlsen says.

Labour of love

The passionate food enthusiasts explain that people often come together when making lefse, dividing the tasks between them to make the job easier.

“Whether you’re old or young, there’s always something you can do to help. Some people make the dough, while others use the rolling pin to make the dough flat. Then someone is in charge of frying the lefse on a large griddle, add sugar and cinnamon, or slice the large lefse into smaller pieces.”

This is how they pass the tradition down to younger generations. It also makes baking fun and social. The lefse is, essentially, made with love.

From dinner to dessert

How the lefse is made and what it is filled with, varies around the country. The lefse we use for dinner, tapas and similar, is not as sweet as those served as a dessert or a treat.

“I’m from Salten in Northern Norway, and møsbrømlefse was a delicious dinner growing up. It is my favourite lefse”, Karlsen explains.

Møsbrømlefse is lefse with a filling called møsbrøm, a brown cheese spread. Karlsen also highlights kjøttlefse (lefse with meat) which is similar to taco, where you add meat between the lefse and heat it.

In Fjord Norway, the Vestlandslefse (lefse from Western Norway) is very popular. This is the sweet version with sugar and cinnamon.

“A similar version is the tjukklefse (thick lefse), which also has a sweet filling,” Karlsen says.

Another popular treat is the krinalefse. Originally from Nordland in Northern Norway, this lefse has a lovely pattern and takes a bit more time to make. Back in the day, the pattern represented the farm that produced the lefse.

Passion for flat pastry

Lefse is only one of many popular flat pastries to try in Norway.

Here, we never ride a ferry without buying a svele, and neither should you. Sveler are Norway’s version of American pancakes. They are eaten as a snack, often with coffee, and served with butter and jam, sugar or brown cheese.

“The locals in the Trøndelag region are known for their pjalt, especially in Røros”, Karlsen explains.

Pjalt is a soft round cake, often served with butter and a delicious Norwegian cheese. The traditional Røros area is well known for its local food, from dairy products to reindeer meat, and the locals all have their own version of pjalt. Here, lefse is also often called lemse.

The Norwegian baking traditions also include a great variety of buns – called boller – and bread, our favourite food. Read more about our sweet treats

Make a quick lefse snack at home

Can’t wait to try lefse? Well, you don’t have to. It might not be the same as homemade lefse, but there is no reason you should try to make a quick lefse snack at home.

Lefserull (lefseroll)

Perfect for tapas!
Serves four.

You need
5 large soft lefser or lomper
125 g of cream cheese (or “Snøfrisk”, a creamy Norwegian goat cheese)
100 g smoked salmon (or sliced ham if you prefer that)
Rucola salad

Spread the cream cheese.
Add thinly sliced smoked salmon and rucola.
Roll and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Sugar and cinnamon bliss

A sweet treat to go with your coffee.
Serves one.

You need
1 large soft lefser or lomper
1 tbsp butter (softened)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon, ground

Spread the softened butter.
Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.
Fold in two, or roll it together.

More delicious recipes

Make traditional Norwegian waffles, kjøttkaker, or other Norwegian culinary delights. 

The Norwegian Cookbook

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