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.Print
Norwegian Hardanger Lefse Recipe for Christmas
A traditional recipe for Norwegian flatbread made with tangy buttermilk and served with plenty of melted butter and cinnamon and sugar.
- Total Time: 50 mins
- Yield: 12-24 1x
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1 stick (8 Tbsp.) melted butter
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 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
- 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.
- Divide dough into small balls, about the size of a lemon.
- 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.
- To serve, spread softened butter on the warm lefse and sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and sugar.
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.
- Prep Time: 30 mins
- Cook Time: 20 mins
- Category: bread
- Cuisine: Norwegian
Oh my gosh, I haven’t thought about lefse since I was younger. A good friend of mine’s grandmother used to make it….I remember it fondly!!!
I love it when food conjures good memories! :)
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.
Nat–my mom used to do that for us. Same idea, only thicker. YUM!
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!!
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.
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.
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! :)
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.
I love that story, Savanna! Thanks for sharing!
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 .
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!
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!
Hi Tauna! Yes! This is the same recipe. Isn’t it delicious?! So glad you stopped by. :)
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.
Hallo Lindsey, I can’t find how much meal I must take. Please tell me and put it in the ingredients.
Hello! Can you tell me what “meal” is? I’m sorry I don’t know what that is– I’m sure it is a name for another ingredient that we call by another name in the U.S. Maybe a type of flour?
I was in Oslo at the same place and fell in love with this bread too. I also took the recipe but lost it since my trip was going on for months. I am so glad I found it agian. Thank you.
Thank you for the tip about keeping them in the frig. I have been making Hardanger for years. Do you put the lefse in the frig before or after it is fried?
This is so interesting. I have my grandmother’s old church cookbook from North Dakota full of old Norwegian recipes. I didn’t know there were all flour versions of lefse either. I have been making potato-flour lefse since I was 12 or so! I’m almost 72 now! There were at least 20 different potato-flour lefse recipes in that cookbook!
Can I put my 2 cents in about corn syrup? Here is something I found on another blog. Regular corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup are different.
Is the corn syrup one buys in the supermarket the same as high-fructose corn syrup?
No. According to Harold McGee, the author of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, high-fructose corn syrup goes through an additional process to make it sweeter than standard corn syrup. Karo, the company that makes most of the corn syrup found on supermarket shelves in America, has come out with Karo Lite, which contains no high-fructose corn syrup. And they have recently reformulated their corn syrups, both light and dark, so they don’t contain high fructose corn syrup. Well, that’s good to know.
We all need to make informed choices. And that is important. I have also read that some of the corn syrup like products in Europe don’t react the same way in cooking as American corn syrup… I don’t really know for sure.
Pamela, thank you so much for your comment! Oh, how I wish I had a similar cookbook from my relatives. I’ve got to try my hand at potato lefse. We typically buy it when we see it. But homemade would be so much better, I’m sure. Have you tried all 20 to find the best one? ;)
And I learned something today! I’ll have to watch for the Karo Lite. I love that you referred to On Food and Cooking. That is one of my very favorite books. I think I need to pull it off the shelf again.
I do think you’re correct about making informed choices. I tend to include all sorts of substitutions or suggestions when I create or post recipes so the cook can make their own decisions – nothing is really one-size-fits-all.
As far as using corn syrup or another syrup in this recipe, I think they are interchangeable. Where it may be of concern is in candy making. I’ve tried substituting maple syrup for corn syrup before and had the recipe not turn out the way the original did. For anyone looking for a corn syrup alternative, I really love brown rice syrup. It behaves the same way and tastes really good too!
My Greatgrandmother and Grandmother would cook these up, let them dry, and then store them in a box under the bed, to be handed out to family or made up for special occasions. These were pretty brittle, but safely tucked away. To use them we would run coolish water over them, let water drip off, then put them between 2 flour sack towels to hydrate for 20-30 min. Once hydrated they are pliable. We would then spread on margarine or butter, sugar and cinnamon on half and fold the top over (unless you had some Goom present – yum). They were then cut into wedges and passed out or placed on a platter. These were never, ever, heated. There used to be ladies in the Seattle/Ballard/Tacoma area that made these to sell for the holidays. I had to give up on partaking in this wonderful dessert, due to gluten issues. Would love to know what your recipe was to recreate this GF.
Thanks for sharing this story about the flour Lefse. My husband’s family makes only flour lefse (including Graham flour and Rye flour). Lots and lots of butter, cinnamon, and sugar. It is folded in quarters length-wise and kept frozen – eat partially frozen. The process takes about 4 hours to make 18 large rounds on the lefse griddle. My father-in-law’s family was from north of the artic circle and perhaps the reason for non-potato lefse.
The Hardanger Lefse my family makes is very dry and quite brittle so it can be stored in a dry area(like in a closet or under the bed for a long period of time. To se, we reconstitute by running water over a lefse round place between a damp towel for a few minutes until soft.