Rakfisk – A Norwegian specialty – Do you dare to eat it?

Rakfisk – Fermented trout

As the Christmas season starts in Norway, so does the season for enjoying many of our traditional dishes. I’ve decided to present to you one of the more peculiar ones… It’s called Rakfisk.

Techniques for preserving food is a large part of Norwegian food culture. Be it salted, cured, dried or like in this case; fermented. It might sounds a bit scary to eat fermented fish… And trust me, it’s not for everyone, but with the right combination of side dishes, it can actually be quite a nice food experience.

What is Rakfisk?

The “rak” process of the fish is fairly simple. You gut and rinse the trout (or any freshwater fish), and stack the fish in a bucket while adding plenty of salt. Normally about 6-10% of salt relative to the amount of fish. You then add pressure to the fish by placing a weighed down lid on the top. A brine is formed as the salt draws moisture from the fish. You store the bucket for about one to three months at a temperature just below 5-6 celsius. (42 fahrenheit).

During this time, the enzymes (which are not affected by the bacterial process) break down the proteins to amino acids and the fat to fatty acids. This makes the fish taste savory. The longer the fish ferments, the more savory the taste will be. As with many fermented products, the smell can be quite intense, and if you are a rakfisk-newbie, it could be wise to start out with a milder version.

After taking the fish out of the bucket it is good to go. You do not cook the fish, but cut it into smaller pieces. (Btw. most Norwegians don’t make their own rakfisk, they but it ready made at the store).

How to eat Rakfisk?

Some like to eat the rakfisk just plain as it is. The majority however, will wrap it into a lefse (potato tortilla). Then put beets, onion, sour cream, potato and butter together with the fish. We tend to say for fun that we need to add a lot of extra flavors “to hide the flavor of the fish”. Personally I think they complement the fish flavor well.

Rakfisk is served with juleøl (Christmas ale), white wine or prosecco. And of course some Aquavit (our traditional potato liquor) .

Make sure to try some if you are ever in Norway during Christmas, and perhaps you can find a “rakfisk-festival” where you are going. It’ll be a food memory you will never forget!

God Jul!


Interested in Norwegian food? Check out this cookbook by Nevada Berg

Hei Hei! I’m Pål. Your travel guide to Norway.

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Tour guide, travel writer & YouTuber. Passionate about sailing, hiking, history, food, art and travel.