The porridges of Norway: History, tradition, and recipes

Porridge has been a staple in Norway for times immemorial. The Vikings ate it, people before that ate it, and it is still an important part of Norwegian food and culture, so let’s explore what deliciousness it has to offer!

In this article you’ll learn about its importance, history, and also several recipes for delicious, 100 % authentic and traditional Norwegian porridges and desserts!

Porridges was a vital part of life in Norway and our historically mainly lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. It was what kept starvation at bay, when you were so poor “you didn’t have salt in your porridge” (as the Norwegian saying goes), and what was served for weddings, funerals and other feasts.

So passionate are we about our porridge that there was even “The Norwegian Porridge Feud” (grautstriden) back in the days; a series of heated public debates raging between 1864 and 1866, concerned with the optimal way of cooking porridge. More about that on Wikipedia.

It is important to understand what is defined as a porridge in Norway, cause it differs from, say, North America. What we need is a quick definition of terms:

  • * Grøt = Porridge: A thick, warm dish made with a liquid and a cereal
  • Velling = Gruel: A thinner, warm dish made with a liquid and a cereal
  • * Suppe = Soup: A thin, warm dish with a liquid and cereal/vegetables/meat/fish.
  • Pudding: A cold or lukewarm and sweet dessert that has set
  • Smørøye = butter eye: A knob of butter in the middle of the porridge

*to be very precise, Grøt and Suppe may also be cold or lukewarm sweet desserts, like a fruit soup (Fruktsuppe) or compote (Fruktgrøt).

So for example Risgrøt (some times called Risengrøt or Risengrynsgrøt) is a porridge with rice – what North Americans would call a Rice Pudding. But a Pudding in Norway is a sweet, cold or lukewarm dessert that has set. See?

It is also important to understand what crops were historically grown here in Norway. The old crops, primarily barley and oats (especially black oats), but also rye were the most common, simply because wheat was very hard to cultivate in our cold climate. Wheat was thus very exclusive and reserved for the big feasts.

My family ate a lot of porridge when I was a kid, usually Fløyelsgrøt (velvet porridge) or Risgrøt (rice porridge) as an early dinner on Saturday, and then we would have something delicious in the evening.

My grandmother, on the other hand, was raised by her aunt, along with more than a handful other kids, and money were tight.

She would tell how her aunt would make Vassgraut (Water porridge, with water instead of milk cause they were poor) every Monday, and it would get thinner and thinner as the days went by, and they ended up with Havresuppe (Oats soup) on Friday. Not very rich fare, that.

And speaking of rich fare – let’s start with the King of all porridges:

Smørgrøt – butter porridge:

Truth been told, it is debatable whether Smørgrøt is the King of all porridges, or if it is Rømmegrøt. I most certainly think it is, but I suppose it depends where in Norway you come from, and what your family traditions are. But if I were to recommend you just one Norwegian porridge to try, this would be it. No contest.

Either way, Smørgrøt, or butter porridge, is the most decadent, rich and silky smooth thing you can possibly imagine, and is absolutely worth making!

Recipe for Smørgrøt from Suldal here.

Rømmegrøt – Sour cream porridge:

Authentic Norwegian rømmegrøt

The contender to the throne is also the most misunderstood porridge in North America; There exists many recipes online, but at least 60 % of them are plain wrong, as they do not have sour cream in it.

Rømme means sour cream, and it is called sour cream porridge for a reason; the whole point of this porridge is the tartness and acidity from the sour cream, so it cannot be made on cream alone.

If you don’t put sour cream in it, and use cream instead, it’ll be more like a rich Fløyelsgrøt, or perhaps even as rich as Smørgrøt. Might as well make the real deal Smørgrøt then 🙂

The recipe for Rømmegrøt published on this blog is 100 % authentic, and also contains the very valid reason as to why so many other recipes out there are wrong.

Recipe for authentic Norwegian Rømmegrøt here.

Risgrøt – Rice porridge:

Risgrøt is also spelled Risengrøt or Risengrynsgrøt – or with a “d” at the ending: Risengrød or Risengrynsgrød. It is one of the most common porridges in Norway, very often served around, or for Christmas Eve.

In Norway, the big feast is always on Christmas Eve, and our tradition is to have Risgrøt on the 23rd, and use the leftovers for the dessert called Riskrem/Risalamande on Christmas Eve.

Recipe for Riskrem and Risalamande can be found here. The recipe below serves four, plus leftovers for the dessert.

Risgrøt Recipe:

  • 400 ml water
  • 400 ml long grain rice
  • 1.5-2 liters whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt

Add the water and rice to a pot, bring to a boil, and let the rice absorb most of the water. Add 3/4 of the milk, stir well, bring up the heat to medium-high.

Continue stirring until it simmers ever so gently. Bring the heat down to medium-low, simmer very gently under lid, and stir occasionally as the porridge thickens.

It is ready in 50-70 minutes. Adjust thickness with the remaining milk. Add in the salt before serving.

Serve with Smørøye (a knob of butter), and a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon.

Fløyelsgrøt Recipe (Velvet porridge):

It annoys me to no end that some people have the audacity to call this porridge Smørgrøt. It is absolutely not. Smørgrøt is the fucking king of porridges, while Fløyelsgrøt is a good, everyday porridge.

I ate A LOT of Fløyelsgrøt as a kid. We would often have it as an early dinner on Saturday, and then have a proper delicious treat, like pizza or wok or tarteletter or something in the evening.

  • 50 g real butter
  • 100 g wheat flour
  • 1 liter whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Melt the butter at medium heat and stir in the flour. Whisk in the milk as you stir. 3/4 of the milk, stir well, bring up the heat to medium-high.

Continue stirring until it very gently simmers. Bring the heat down to medium-low, simmer under lid, and stir occasionally as the porridge thickens.

It is ready after simmering for 5 minutes, to cook out the raw flour flavor. Adjust thickness with the remaining milk. Add in the salt before serving.

Serve with Smørøye (a knob of butter), and a sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon.

Tip: You can do the same with barley flour and get a completely different experience!

Semulegrøt Recipe (Semolina porridge):

Quite similar to Fløyelsgrøt, but using Semolina flour instead of regular wheat. It is important that this is not the yellow Italian type semolina, but white semolina flour. This is one of our everyday favorites.

  • 30 g real butter
  • 100 g semolina flour
  • 1 liter whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Bring the milk to a very gentle simmer, then gradually whisk in the semolina. Continue stirring until it very gently simmers.

Bring the heat down to medium-low, simmer under lid, and stir occasionally as the porridge thickens.

It is ready after simmering for 10 minutes, to cook out the raw flour flavor. Adjust thickness with the remaining milk. Add in the salt and butter before serving.

Serve with a sprinkle of sugar.

Semulepudding Recipe (Semolina pudding):

Make the semolina porridge above sans the butter, but add 2 drops almond extract and 3 tbsp sugar. Set aside in the fridge to set. Serve with home made strawberry, raspberry or cherry sauce or jam.

Havregrøt Recipe (Oats porridge)

  • 400 ml whole, rolled oats
  • 1 liter whole milk
  • 1/2 tbsp fine sea salt

Tip the oats in a pot, pour over 3/4 of the milk, stir well, bring up the heat to medium-high.

Continue stirring until it very gently simmers. Bring the heat down to medium-low, simmer under lid, and stir occasionally as the porridge thickens.

It is ready after simmering for 10 minutes. Adjust thickness with the remaining milk. Add in the salt before serving.

Serve with some home made jam, or maple or birch syrup.

Svarthavregrøt Recipe (Steel cut oats porridge)

  • 400 ml whole, steel cut oats (ideally black oats)
  • 1-1.5 liter whole milk
  • 1/2 tbsp fine sea salt

Tip the oats in a pot, pour over 3/4 of the milk, stir well, bring up the heat to medium-high.

Continue stirring until it very gently simmers. Bring the heat down to medium-low, simmer under lid, and stir occasionally as the porridge thickens.

It is ready after simmering for 20 minutes. Adjust thickness with the remaining milk. Add in the salt before serving.

Serve with some home made jam, or maple or birch syrup.

2 Comments

  1. My mother in the US always made flirtegrot ( not sure of the spelling but it’s the same recipe as floyelsgrot… I still love it today!!!

    • Porridge is soo good! Your mother’s “flirtegrot” could be fløtegrøt perhaps? Fløte means cream in Norwegian. Did she put cream in it? Else it was likely fløyelsgrøt with just milk, flour and salt:)

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