Norwegian Meatballs and Syttende Mai

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Today is syttende mai (May 17th), the Norwegian constitution day. On this day in 1814 Norway declared its independence, which it did not fully gain until 1905, when it finally broke apart from its union with Sweden. May 17th is a big and well-celebrated Norwegian holiday.

As I mentioned earlier, we lived in Oslo. In 2010, a few days before May 17th we were told by a Norwegian we knew "to go outside and look at the people." So we took a long walk to Oslo downtown, to Karl Johans gate. We saw people trickling in from around the streets, gravitating in the same direction, dressed in formal wear. Men were wearing suits, women formal dress. Some women were wearing beautiful long folk dresses, with embroidery on the front, white shirts, and long flowing skirts, the colors blue or red or black.  As we walked down towards the palace, people were blasting music and drinking and having fun on rooftops. When we reached the palace, we could not walk any longer. There were people everywhere, a crowd bigger than I've ever seen before, not anywhere, not even during the Yankees parade in New York. Karl Johans gate was completely filled with people, as far as the eye could see. And everywhere there were bursts of color, balloons and Norwegian flags, blond heads and traditional hats. It was easy to spot the tourists, because they, like us, were not dressed for it, and there were in a pitiful minority. Everywhere there were traditional dresses, the beautifully handmade bunad. Little children, almost angelic with their blond and gold and golden brown heads, were also wearing the traditional (but tiny, almost fit for a doll) dresses, each clutching a small flag in their hands. There were there for the children's parade, which is one of the traditions on that day.

Soon after, the crowd began to disperse, as people went home for dinner or to the outdoors for grilling and enjoying the evening outside. And I was awed and humbled by the national sentiment so strong which we were privileged to see.

So it is perhaps fitting to make Norwegian (as opposed to Swedish) meatballs today. They are similar but there are differences.


My experience with Swedish meatballs is rather limited (I've had them at IKEA and I've made them at a cooking class), so for fear of stirring some strong emotions that inevitably arise when it comes to the right way of making particular meatballs, I will not even attempt to claim to know them. It appears that Swedish meatballs are made using breadcrumbs which are soaked in milk for a bit. This is what gives them their light, springy texture. Norwegian meatballs appear to have a more meaty substance; breadcrumbs aren't always used, and if they are, they are used in lesser quantity. There are also differences in spices. In our cooking class, the Swedish meatballs called for caraway seeds. Norwegian meatballs and meat cakes call for nutmeg or ginger or both.


Norwegian meatballs are traditionally served with sauce or gravy and served with boiled potatoes. You can also serve them as an appetizer with a dipping sauce. To make a simple dipping sauce, mix some plain yogurt or crème fraîche with some garlic, dill, salt and pepper and serve it on the side. Anyway you like them, I'm sure you'll enjoy them.


Gratulerer med dagen, Norge!

Norwegian Meatballs
(Makes about 55)

You will need:
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/4 cup potato flour
1 cup milk
1 egg
Butter, for frying

1. In a large bowl, mix together beef, pork, onion, salt, pepper, nutmeg and ginger. Mix in potato flour until blended. Add the milk and egg and mix until the liquid is absorbed and the mixture is uniform.
2. Line a baking sheet or a cutting board with wax paper. Using a round tablespoon, scoop some of the mixture into your hand. Roll between your palms into a small ball and place on the wax paper. Repeat with the remaining meatballs.
3. Heat about 2 tbsp butter in a large pan on medium heat. Working in batches if necessary, place the meatballs into the pan and brown the meatballs, shaking the pan occasionally to flip the meatballs so that they brown on all sides. Once the meatballs are browned, lower the heat and cook the meatballs until fully cooked through, about 15 minutes total. Serve as an appetizer, or as a meal with boiled potatoes and your choice of sauce.

Sauce for Meatballs
(Makes about 1 cup)

You will need:
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp finely chopped onion
3/4 oz all purpose flour
1 cup chicken or beef stock
1 tsp mustard, or to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add the onion and cook until transluscent. Add the flour and mix until uniform (mixture will become very thick). Add the stock and the mustard, and whisk until combined (for a thicker sauce, double the flour). Bring to a simmer, and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Recipes adapted from: Tom Victor Gausdal og Ole Martin Alfsen,  Familiekokeboka.


  1. Gratulerer til deg også. =)
    Hipp hipp hurra!

  2. Kat, it's like this:

    I love your blog.
    Love your warm and expository writing.
    Love your beautiful photos and, most importantly, the delectable food and recipes you share with us.


    In case I didn't make that patently clear. Hee!

    You're a champ!

    And the Norwegian meatballs look like some miiiiighty yummy nosh!

  3. I have friends in Oslo and they posted some facebook pictures carrying little flags...I know it is a fun and festive tradition. I may be able to join in the celebration by trying this delicious meatball recipe.

  4. Haha, yay! These have made me so happy! The addition of the flags was a cute addition. I love it :)

  5. What a wonderful memory! I've only had 'Swedish' meatballs a few times, and am highly doubtful of any authenticity, and had never even heard of 'Norwegen' meatballs before. I'll have to give them a try sometime!

    Also - do you read Katherine Martinelli? She has a meatball blog hop going on this week, and I'm sure she would love it if you participated:

  6. Yea you're right what you said about Swedish meatballs :) But there are sooo many types of Swedish meatball recipes here hehehe I'm not even sure which one is the real recipe ;) & I love every single one of them. YUM!

    & thanks for your comment :)

  7. I love your blog!! I never knew the real difference between meatballs in different regions but now I know ^-^ I have to try this recipe out and I am your 99th follower!


  8. Hmm, I did not know the difference between Swedish and Norwegian meatballs! Very interesting...I will have to give these a try. :)

  9. They look delicious!

  10. I was wondering if you would like to put up a link to this beef recipe in my Food on Friday Series.

  11. I love your blog- so many recipes! I will definitely be trying some out sooon!!
    Would you like to follow each other on GFC? :)


  12. Just gorgeous! I'm so happy you linked up at my blog hop so I could discover your gorgeous blog :-)

  13. aaaah i love norway and its food! been there with my norwegian friend last summer and it was great. looks reeeeally yummi!

    Joelle xx
    La mode c'est chic!

  14. this looks so amazing. wish i could cook xx

  15. looks delicious!!!

    check out the giveaway going on in my blog if you want xx :)

  16. these meatballs look lovely. Thanks for linking up to Food on Friday.

    PS Next week it's apples

  17. I am absolutely making this recipe! I really enjoyed the story you included with this post. And I love your pictures. All around my favorite post of the day! :)

  18. OMG!!! delicious :D thanks for sharing. I'm following

    Check my blog and follow me if you like :)


  19. Hey lovely, just presented you with an award over at my blog so check it out when you get a chance...spasiba in advance! :-)

  20. It looks so GOOD! My husband is a sucker for all ground meat balls/loaves, this is a perfect dish for him.

  21. yumm I love meatballs, that looks delicious :D

  22. I had meatballs tonight! Love these too!

  23. Love the little flags, but the meatballs also look really good!

  24. these look delicious! i want to make norwegian meatballs, thanks so much for the recipe!!! :D

    <3, Mimi
    $100 Shopbop Gift Card Giveaway -- Open internationally!

  25. My roommate goes nuts for Ikea meatballs. Glad to learn of the difference between swedish and norwegian ones. I've always wondered how they get that light springy texture! At the same time though, I do like my meatballs with a but more meaty substance as you said, so these norwegian ones sound brilliant!

    also, ADORE the little flags you did, going to keep that idea in mind for all future party appetisers!

  26. These look delicious and thanks for sharing that wonderful experience.:D

    ***** Marie *****

  27. Thanks for the lesson in meatballs, I never know the difference! Perhaps I ought to just make both types myself and work it out more clearly. Anyway, they look absolutely stunning - a great colour.

  28. Wow
    Truly amazing blog
    The pictures are so beautiful
    Take care :)

  29. These Norwegen' meatballs look absolutely delish!! Your photos are so beautifuly presented.



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