Lutefisk Season is upon us Posted by on Oct 23, 2011 in Culture, Holidays, Traditions


Whether you like it or not, it is Lutefisk season for Norwegians and Norwegian Americas alike!  I must be honest, I have never ordered lutefisk at a restaurant and I have never chosen to eat it.  The St. Olaf (my alma mater) cafeteria serves it every year in early December during the St. Olaf Christmas Festival and I always chose to avoid the cafeteria during that time.  Again, I’m sorry to admit, but the lutefisk that I have been exposed to is vile and makes me lose my appetite.  This is actually quite strange for me as I actually can count the foods I dislike on one hand.  In any case, lutefisk…..I’ll try to promote it in this blog post just because I believe that it can actually be tasty if it is prepared well and paired with delicious accompaniments.

Most of you probably know what lutefisk is-that white jelly-like fish that has been soaked in lye, the same chemical soap is made of.  Lutefisk became popular due to the lye extending it’s shelf life. Soaking the fish in lye preserves the fish, which was an extremely important quality hundreds of years ago.  Although preserving the fish is not important today as it was when sailers were crossing the ocean without modern refrigerators, diners today still enjoy this fall delicacy.


From early October through Christmas Norwegians shell out the dough for good lutefisk.  A fair price for this delicacy at a good restaurant in Norway is in the 350 kroner (about $65 USD).  It isn’t just in traditional Norwegian restaurants that one can find lutefisk on the menu during this time in Norway.  The dish is so popular that even Chinese restaurants serve it!

Lutefisk is traditionally served with a purée of kremet erter (creamed peas), but the adventurous will try it with other accompaniments such as ferske erter (fresh peas), bacon, sennep (mustard), and even geitost (goat cheese), mandelpoteter (almond potatoes), or small gulpoteter (yellow potatoes) particularly in northern Norway.  Lutefisk is usually served with something salty, something rich, and something sweet (like honey for example).

Here is an example of lutefisk on a julemeny (Christmas Menu) in Oslo at Mona Lisa Restaurant:


Meny nr.2

Lutefisk med ertestuing, bacon, baconfett, geitost,sennepsaus, tyttebær, fransk sennep, sirup og lefse. Kokte poteter.

Multekrem med kransekake

kr 590,-

Sounds pretty tasty actually.  Lutefisk with mashed peas, bacon, bacon fat, goat cheese, mustard sauce, cranberries, French mustard, sirup and lefse.  Cooked potatoes, cloudberry cream and kransekake (a kind of Norwegian cake) for 590 crowns.

Depending on ones preference, vin, øl, or akevitt pair well with lutefisk.  Akevitt would be the traditional choice, but a god Norwegian lager or a German riesling would pair well.

The below is a simple lutefisk recipe:


  1. 1
    Place the lutefisk in a kettle, and add enough cold salt water to completely cover them(some people like to place the lutefisk in cheesecloth and tie the ends itno a bag, before placing in the kettle.).
  2. 2
    Bring gradually to a boil. (Caution: It will be done when brought to a full boil, and if boiled too long the fish will fall into pieces.).
  3. 3
    Remove from the burner, skim off any foam that appears and the let the lutefisk stand for 5-10 minutes.
  4. 4
    Drain well, and serve steaming hot on warmed plates.
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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. Jonn:

    ive had lutefisk before…. its ummm different! 😛

  2. John Challey:

    How silly .. lutefisk is food of the (Norsk) Gods.

    My grandparents always served lutefisk on Christmas eve. This was followed by oyster stew at midnight. That was followed by the opening of the presents. Amazing how that made the lutefisk and the oysters go down.

    I have carried on the tradition and look forward to it every year. Rather than peas, we always have dampkokt kalrøt ( steamed rutabaga). And of course, always kokt poteter og hjemmelaget flatbrød.


  3. Sarah:

    Hmm, fish soaked in lye… no thanks. Put me down for a Grandiosa instead, takk! 🙂

  4. lois:

    Whatever happened to lutefisk served with melted butter, alt and pepper? That’s the traditional way my ancestors always served it. Rutabaga, boiled potatoes, and a vegetable. And, of course, lefse!

  5. Keith Halversen:

    What is the shelf life of frozen lutefisk ? We bought it at a dinner in November and it has been frozen since then.

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Keith Halversen @Keith Uh, I don’t know… I’d imagine it to be pretty long. In the Middle Ages, I’ve heard, lutefisk was sailed all the way from Northern Norway to central Europe. So it must be some time! 🙂