A guide to dining in Norway with food allergies

Fish dishPhoto: Sebastian Coman Photography / Unsplash
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A common worry of travelers worldwide, including those visiting Norway? Food allergies and food intolerances. We’re here to help you enjoy your stay in Norway and make dining with food allergies as simple as possible for you while you’re in the country.

Forms of food allergies and food intolerances include, but are not limited to, egg, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy. These eight major food allergens are responsible for 90% of all food allergy reactions.

We’ll split these eight foods into four groups to make navigation of the article easier. Here are the groups: 1) dairy allergies, which include eggs and milk, 2) nut allergies, which include peanuts and tree nuts, 3) seafood allergies, which include fish and shellfish, and 4) grain allergies, which include wheat and soy.

Read on for our complete guide on how to access some of Norway’s most popular dishes, restaurants, and more – all while being mindful of whatever food allergy you might have.

Dining in Norway with food allergies and food intolerances

General tips

Whatever allergy/allergies you’re dealing with, you’ll make the somewhat stressful experience of ordering easier for yourself and restaurant staff if you familiarize yourself with the following words that are certain to pop up on Norwegian menus:

For dairy allergies:

  • Egg = egg
  • Laktose = lactose
  • Melk = milk

For nut allergies:

  • Mandel = almond
  • Nøtt = nut
  • Peanøtt = peanut
  • Tremutter = tree nut

For seafood allergies:

  • Fisk = fish
  • Fiskeboller = fish balls
  • Fiskesuppe = fish soup
  • Skalldyr = shellfish
  • Torrfisk = dry fish
  • Torsk = cod

Watch out for anything containing the word fisk – there are many variations on it.

For grain allergies:

  • Gluten av hvete = gluten from wheat
  • Hvete = wheat
  • Korn = grain
  • Soya = soy

If you’re traveling far from home, make sure to bring whatever medications and additional food supplements you may need.

Dry foods and snacks with a long shelf life are always a good idea. The Norwegian government can be strict when it comes to medication, so as you bring anything necessary, keep in mind that if you stay for an extended period of time you may need a doctor’s note.

Even though this article does not go into depth regarding vegan eateries, the Vegan Norway app might come in handy. It’s available for iPhones and Androids and offers a comprehensive list of vegan-friendly restaurants, cafes, and shops in Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, and Trondheim.

Chances are if you visit a vegan-friendly restaurant, they’ll have more food options that cater to your needs (especially if you have dairy or seafood allergies) compared to other food spots. 

Keep in mind that wherever you go, you should immediately alert your waiter or waitress to any food allergies. 

Another good idea might be traveling with a food allergy translation card. This a laminated card about the size of an ID or driver’s license, which indicates all of your allergies and foods that might trigger a reaction. The card makes it quick and easy to communicate your allergy concerns to a food establishment, and will further ensure your food safety.

Norwegian foods to try if you have dairy allergies

Ribbe is void of both egg and milk, so there should be no unfriendly surprises with this meal.

This is a traditional Norwegian Christmas meal and it’s comprised of roasted pork belly, sausages, meatballs, sauerkraut, boiled potatoes, and gravy. Ribbe is mainly eaten in central and eastern Norway.

If you’re interested in trying this hearty holiday dish, Trondheim, a city in Norway’s central Trøndelag County, hosts an annual Christmas market every year.

To try quality ribbe beyond Christmas markets and Norway’s central and eastern regions, visit Handverkeren Restaurant & Pub, located in the southern town of Kristiansand. This restaurant and pub offers a laidback, cozy vibe to enjoy while you munch reimaginings of burgers, fish n’ chips, and the highly-rated juicy and crispy ribbe.

Another must-try food, also free from eggs and milk, is sodd. The meaty meal, which has been around since at least the 13th century, consists of diced mutton, meatballs, carrots, and potatoes, all served in a clear broth. Sodd is usually served with lefse, a Norwegian flatbread. The Trøndelag region, which is most associated with sodd, serves the soup on special occasions.

So, what better place to try sodd than in Trøndelag’s largest city, Trondheim? Baklandet Skydsstation, situated in Trondheim’s charming neighborhood of Bakklandet, specializes in homemade Norwegian food in a cozy environment.

For a non-fish-meat-free, egg-free, and milk-free meal, Norwegian fish dishes come into play. For example, torrfisk, dried Atlantic cod, is especially prepared in Lofoten, Norway. Why Lofoten? The archipelago’s proximity to the Gulf Stream creates ideal conditions for the cod’s necessary preservation process, which entails hanging the fish to dry on logs with the help of the wind and sun.

Torrfisk - dried cod
Torrfisk – dried cod. Photo: Peter Boesken / Pixabay

Depending on which restaurant and region you visit, torrfisk may be either taken directly off the drying racks and immediately served with mashed potatoes and sour cream, or it may be cooked to become warmer and softer. At Du Verden restaurant in Svolvær, Lofoten, they opt for the latter, as the dried cod is grilled and served with a side of steamed vegetables.

Norwegian foods to try if you have nut allergies

For those with peanut and/or tree nut allergies, we highly recommend lefse. This Norwegian flatbread is made from flour, potatoes, milk, and butter, using traditional culinary tools, such as a special rolling pin and a lefse stick which acts as a spatula to flip the dough.

If you have a sweet tooth, you can eat the Norwegian lefse with jam or sugar and cinnamon, whereas if you lean toward the savory side, you can pair it with sausage, egg, and cheese for a hearty breakfast burrito.

Restaurant Steinstø Frukt – og Kakebu, located in Steinstø, Norway, is a family-run establishment featuring a restaurant, café, and functioning farm, which grows its own fruits and berries – perfect to top your lefse with. Visit the café to try natural and homemade lefse.

Kransekake is also an ideal dessert to try, as long as you’re not allergic to almonds. Popular throughout Scandinavia, this cake consists of rings created from ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites, formed into a cone or tower-like shape with white icing. In the center of the cake, candies, chocolates, or even wine bottles may be placed as a surprise. Kransekake is often topped with multekrem, a cream made with cloudberries, sugar, and whipped cream.

As kransekake is an elaborate cake, it’s usually ordered from specialty cake shops in Norway. If you dare to make the towering treat yourself, keep in mind that it’ll likely take you upwards of three hours. If your tree nut allergy includes almonds, many cake shops will be happy to customize your order. Another option is to check with local Norwegian bakeries and pastry shops whether they could customize individual kransekake cookies instead of the entire cake.

For a more substantial non-nut dish, Norway has an abundance of reindeer dishes due to the prevalence of game meat in the country and their nutritional value.

Finnbiff is a reindeer stew that involves a number of diverse ingredients and unique preparation which separates it from other reindeer dishes. First, the reindeer is cut into shavings and cooked in a pot with bacon and mushrooms. Next, water is added to the pot, allowing for the meat and vegetables to simmer. Finally, the flavorful stew is topped with a mixture of sour cream, milk, juniper berries, thyme, and brunost – Norwegian brown cheese.

Finnbiff is largely available throughout Norway, however, Bergen’s Zupperia restaurant is especially praised for the stew.

Norwegian foods to try if you have seafood allergies

The idea that there’s a high difficulty in finding traditional Norwegian dishes without any sort of seafood is actually a total falsehood. While the country’s food culture may seem fish-dominated, there’s also an abundance of nutritious snacks and filling meals that don’t involve any sort of fish, shellfish, and seafood.

One of these many options includes brunost, or brown cheese, a tangy, caramel-tasting cheese.

Some forms of brunost are made from cow’s milk, with the stronger tasting forms made from goat milk. One characteristic of Norway’s brown cheese that makes it so popular is that it can be incorporated into almost anything you see fit. For breakfast, serve it on top of toast and jam, use it to spice up waffles, or even incorporate it as a sauce for pancakes. For lunch and dinner, you can use it to create brunost grilled cheese or brunost mac and cheese – more unconventional methods.

Brunost brown cheese
Brunost. Photo: Zabdiel / Flickr (CC)

Brunost is served at most cafés and can be bought in supermarkets all around the country as well. Mocca Kaffebar (not to be confused with the café of the same name in Egersund, Norway) in Oslo is a quaint coffee shop serving tea and brunost, a small in-between meal which many Norwegians take part in.

A trip to Norway isn’t complete without a taste of Norwegian meatballs (which are seafood free!) Referred to as kjøttboller, the minced beef balls/patties are seasoned with nutmeg and ginger, and can also include eggs, onions, oats, and cornstarch. Once the kjøttboller are properly seasoned and fried, they are served with a thick gravy and often potatoes, mashed peas, cabbage, lingonberry jam, and/or caramelized onions.

For a taste of Norway’s answer to meatballs, head to Naboen Pub & Restaurant in Bergen, which serves them smothered in a creamy gravy sauce with lingonberries on the side for a sweet contrast.

Krumkake is a sweet snack, and it’s also seafood-free. Translating to curved/crooked cake, this dessert includes thin pancakes, which are layered and rolled into the shape of a cone, then filled with whipped cream or any other desired filling.

While krumkake is available in most Norwegian bakeries, what better bakery is there to visit than one which has specialized in Norwegian cakes for over 100 years? Vaaland Dampbakeri & Conditori in Stavanger offers krumkake in a variety of sizes, flavors, and fillings, and more, along with many other traditional Norwegian desserts.

Norwegian foods to try if you have grain allergies

Norway’s national dish is fårikål, literally translated to lamb-in-cabbage, an autumnal stew consisting of mutton and cabbages served with boiled potatoes. The only ingredients needed to make this recipe are mutton, cabbage, salt, pepper, and water.

Dovrehallen in Oslo’s city center is a great starting point to try fårikål. The dish is one of this affordable yet high-quality restaurant’s specialties.

For a sweeter grain-free meal, you can try one of Norway’s most traditional cakes. Suksessterte, translated to success tart/cake is usually eaten during special occasions or to celebrate the beginning of spring or summer, when sunny days return to Norway. The cake contains an almond sponge base and a creamy custard frosting, along with egg, sugar, vanilla, butter, and cream.

For a delicious taste of the dessert in a more secluded environment, you can head to Kafe Losen, located in Fedje, which is an hour and a half drive and ferry away from Bergen. Here, suksessterte can be served with strawberries and ice cream.

While Norwegian fiskesuppe, or fish soup, may have originated in Bergen, it is loved throughout the country.

The soup is essentially a mix of cream, fish, root vegetables, sugar, and vinegar, which blend to create the perfect balance between sweet and savory. As is the case with many dishes, the rest of the ingredients range by region, restaurant, and person, but the soup can also include cream, fish balls, parsley, onions, and/or potatoes.

Knarrlagsund’s Knarren Brygge Drift AS restaurant, located in Norway’s Trøndelag County, serves up a mean bowl of fiskesuppe.

Bergensk fiskesuppe Bergen fish soup
Norwegian fish soup. Photo: Bernt Rostad / Flickr (CC)

Note: This article only touches upon certain allergens in the category responsible for 90% of food allergy reactions. It does not account for the other 10% nor every possible food allergy, nor does it include a guide on vegetarian, vegan, or other similar diets. This article was created without referring healthcare professionals. Whenever you’re unsure about eating a food, or how to ensure allergy safety when traveling, check with your doctor and restaurant personnel.

Source: Norway Today

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