Norwegian Hardanger Lefse Recipe for Christmas

Becky and I had such a great time making Scandinavian recipes last month we decided to do it again!  Be sure to check out her recipe for Swedish Pickled Cucumbers.

Norway holds a special place in my heart.  Being able to visit the land of my great-grandparents eight years ago is truly an experience I will always treasure.

I miss my Norwegian grandfather at this time of year.  His birthday is a few days before Christmas.  He passed away two years after our trip.  He knew it would be his last time in Norway.  His body was weary from its long battle with bone cancer.  Even during our trip he suffered from terrible pain.  But he almost always put on a good face for us.  It made him so happy to show us his Norway.  And it made me happy to be there with him.  Oh, I have so many good memories from that trip.

I loved every museum and sight we visited, but especially the day we spent at the Norsk Folkemuseum in Oslo where I was first introduced to this Norwegian Hardanger Lefse recipe.  We were there in August and it had been even warmer than normal.  That day it was a little rainy and chilly.   We trekked around the outdoor exhibits that showcased traditional Norwegian houses through the centuries.

One small house was particularly warm inside from the wood-burning stove.  A woman was bent over a table rolling out flat pieces of lefse.  This wasn’t potato lefse that I’d had before.  It was a very sweet lefse made from wheat flour, buttermilk and eggs.  And after the first bite, I was completely smitten.

It might have been that I was tired, hungry, and cold.  I was seven months pregnant and spent most of my trip waddling around in a thin dress and sweater because my luggage had been lost.  That warm lefse slathered with salty butter and sprinkled generously with cinnamon and sugar was the best thing I’d ever eaten, I was sure of it.

I wondered if I was too shameless to beg for another lefse, decided I’d better not, and settled for taking the recipe with me instead.

As soon as we arrived home, I started making lefse as often as I could.  It brought back good memories of the trip and filled our bellies with comfort.

As I said, lefse is traditionally made with potatoes and Hardanger Lefse is made with flour.  I read somewhere that it dates back to the Vikings before potatoes were introduced to Norway.  I like that story, whether it’s true or not, because it’s fun to think I might be making something the Vikings might have made.

The dough is very sweet and easy to work with.  It’s kind of like a cross between bread and cookie dough.  It smells like buttermilk-scented sugar cookie dough.

This is a slightly adapted version of the recipe from the museum.  The pink slip of paper with the recipe from the museum is spotted with melted butter and flour and has my carefully calculated conversions to the side.  It’s well worn from being pulled out of my recipe binder and laid out in front of me as I mix the dough.

I haven’t made Hardanger Lefse in forever.  I used to make it all the time.  It’s easy to make, the recipe yields enough for a small army, and they keep for a long time, so it’s easy to pull a few out for a snack or quick breakfast.  Now that I’m thinking about it, the recipe below is doubled because if I’m going to make one batch, why not two?

The original recipe does call for corn syrup.  If that bothers you, use extra sugar or another kind of syrup.  Lyle’s golden syrup or the Swedish syrup (found at IKEA and other places) is a good substitute.  The buttermilk is essential for a tender dough, though you can use soured milk (1 Tbsp. white vinegar or lemon juice for every cup of milk.)

BUT you can’t skimp on melted butter and cinnamon and sugar.  That is a must.  We eat ours with jam sometimes too, but the cinnamon and sugar is traditional.  The leftover lefse can be reheated in the microwave or warm oven and will roll  nicely.

The dough should be soft and pliable, not sticky–just a little tacky.  They use barley flour when they roll them out, but all-purpose flour is fine too. I had great success making gluten-free lefse using a combination of brown rice flour, sorghum flour, and tapioca starch with a little xanthan gum.  Any gluten-free flour mix will work just fine–homemade or store-bought.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Norwegian Hardanger Lefse Recipe for Christmas
Author: 
Recipe type: bread
Cuisine: Norwegian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12-24
 
A traditional recipe for Norwegian flatbread made with tangy buttermilk and served with plenty of melted butter and cinnamon and sugar.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 stick (8 Tbsp.) melted butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup corn syrup (or another syrup like brown rice or golden syrup)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • about 7-8 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • Butter, for serving
  • Cinnamon and sugar, for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Whisk the buttermilk, melted butter, eggs and corn syrup together. Add the sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the flour a cup at a time, stirring with a large, heavy-duty wooden spoon, or using an electric mixer, until the dough is smooth and a little tacky to the touch.
  2. Divide dough into small balls, about the size of a lemon.
  3. Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle until moderately hot. Do not add any oil or grease. (I keep two cast iron skillets on medium heat.) Working with one or two balls at a time, roll each one out on a well floured surface and cook the lefse for about one minute and flip over and cook for another two to three minutes, or until nicely browned and cooked through. (If the heat is too hot, they will burn before they are cooked through.) Transfer to a plate to keep warm until ready to serve.
  4. To serve, spread softened butter on the warm lefse and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and sugar.
Notes
Makes between 12-24 depending on the size and thickness. Keeps for several weeks well-wrapped and refrigerated. To rewarm: Heat in a microwave for 30-60 seconds or warm oven for about 10 minutes, until soft and warmed through.

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15 Comments

  1. i love the story behind this recipe. i want to try this out. i think i need to pick up some buttermilk.

    sometimes we warm up crappy grocery store tortillas and spread with butter/cinnamon/sugar but this looks way more delicious.

  2. I loved that place and I remember it like it was yesterday! My mouth waters just seeing your pictures and remembering back to that wonderful experience! I haven’t made it yet, but I might now that I’ve see your pictures! It looks SO good!!

  3. Dear Lindsey,

    today is my birthday and i celebrate it in Oslo, as every year. Just like you, i was in the Norsk Folkemuseum today. And what shall i say, in the little bakery “Hardangerlefse” was made! It is an fantastic experience.
    Thank you for your report and the beautiful pictures.

    Sincerely yours

  4. In the introduction to the recipe for Handangerlefse it is referred to as flatbread. Please note that flatbread is very thin and dry like a cracker, very different from Hangerlefse.
    Vennlig hilsen,
    Roar irgens

    1. Hi Roar! Thanks for the comment. I know the flatbread in Norway is different than flatbread in other places around the world. There are flatbreads that are soft and pliable, like tortillas or pita bread, for example. I can’t think of a better way to describe Hardangerlefse to people who have never had or heard of it before. It is a bread that is soft and flat. We often buy “flatbread” from Scandinavia that is hard, dry, and like a cracker. I know the two are different, but I don’t have a better term to describe Hardangerlefse. But thank you for clarifying! :)

  5. Wow… My bestamor use to make this for us every christmas. She is much too old now and couldn’t remember the recipe. I had her over for brunch today and served them to her hot off the skillet and she almost cried. She said they brought her back home. Thank you so much (Tusen takk) for helping me give such a wonderful gift.

    Sincerely,
    Savanna Naylor

  6. My grandfather was from Norway . My mother always made lefse. I did make some this Christmas & it turned out really well . This recipe sounds yummy , I am going to try it .
    I am going to teach my daughters & grandaughter to make lefse . To carry on the Norwegian tradition .

    1. That’s wonderful, Noreen! Did you mom make this kind of lefse or the potato one? I need to try making the potato one. We ate in when we were in Norway, but I haven’t had it since. My family still loves Hardangerlefse though. I love that you want to carry on the Norwegian tradition!

  7. Thank you! is this the recipe that they hand out at the Folk Museum? i accidentally threw away my copy when i got home this past August. Kicking myself completely. My daughter and i each purchased a wedge of this and were totally smitten. Yummy!

  8. I can’t tell you how happy I was when I found this recipe, as I had neglected to grab one of the recipe cards when I visited the museum in Oslo. A few small notes I have from making it myself: I once tried using maple syrup instead of corn syrup, and considered it a great improvement, although I doubt vikings had access to maple syrup. I also for a while made my own butter, and I used the leftover buttermilk to make these, and it had a much richer flavor than using store-bought buttermilk. Lastly, I’ve had much more success reheating them in my toaster oven on the same setting I use for toaster waffles than I have with a microwave or a conventional oven.

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