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Norwegian packed lunch

Ah, the good old matpakke (packed lunch) ... it always somehow tastes better after being stored inside a lunch box for a while.

In Norway, we have a close relationship with food brought from home. Our parents sent a packed lunch with us to kindergarten, and as adults we bring it for lunch at work or when we go out in nature – where it's best enjoyed.

It doesn't have to be complicated. The traditional Norwegian matpakke consists of slices of freshly baked bread (often as open-faced sandwiches) with a favourite pålegg (fillings and toppings), and maybe a few slices of fruit or vegetables, or berries.

Try some of the Norwegians' favourite toppings like brunost (sweet brown cheese), hvitost (white cheese) with peppers, kaviar (caviar) and boiled eggs, leverpostei (liver paté) with cucumber, spekeskinke (cured cuts of ham), or smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.

If everyone brings their favourite matpakke, you can enjoy a casual and pleasant pot luck!

The first key to a successful Norwegian packed lunch box is fresh and tasty bread!

In Norway, you can go to any bakery or supermarket and find a large selection of freshly baked bread (many have 10-15 varieties with different types of grain and wholemeal breads).

At many Norwegian hotels and staffed lodges, you can make your own packed lunch box to enjoy later in the day. Bring a lunch box to the breakfast buffet, make some sandwiches, and voilà – you have a free lunch! But be aware that some places charge an additional fee for doing this.

While you're at the breakfast buffet, do sample some of the more, um, 'exotic' Norwegian toppings and spreads – it's part of the Norwegian experience! 

Bake your own bread

Feeling inspired to try baking your own? Try the Norwegian Information Office for Bread and Grain’s recipe for brown bread with barley and oats! It’s healthy and delicious. This recipe was created by talented Norwegian baker Arild Mellemsæther.


This recipe makes: 2 loaves
Difficulty level: medium
Total time: 3-4 hours, including prep, rising, and baking time.

Grains to soak
150g wholemeal, brown
25g wheat bran
60g barley flour
60g oats
250 ml water

The main dough 
450g wheat flour
300g wholemeal flour
20g salt
25g fresh yeast
350 ml skimmed milk

A little milk for glazing, and oats for topping.


1. Soak the grains: Mix wholemeal, wheat bran, barley flour, oats and water in a large mixing bowl. Let the grains soak for approximately 30 minutes at room temperature.

2. Complete the dough: Add the rest of the ingredients to the mixing bowl. Knead the dough using a stand mixer (food mixer). First on low speed for 3 minutes, then another 3 minutes at a higher speed.

3. Let the dough rest for about 30 minutes, before kneading the dough with your hands. Let it rest for another 20 minutes.

4. Divide the dough in half and shape it into two loaves. Glaze the loaves with milk and roll them in oats before placing them in two 2-litre loaf pans. Cover the pans and leave the dough to rise in a warm place for about 40 minutes.

5. Preheat the oven to 210 °C. Bake the bread in the lower part of the oven until golden brown, which takes approximately 40 minutes.

6. Remove the loaves from the loaf pans right away and leave them to cool on a cooling rack/oven grid.

A good packed lunch tip is to use a box with several compartments. No one likes it when the slices of bread stick together or get stuck on the lid. Norwegians often use mellomleggspapir (thin sheets of wax or parchment paper to separate the sandwiches).

The Norwegian Cookbook

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