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What Did the Vikings Eat?

What Did the Vikings Eat?

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The popular History Channel saga Vikings, inspired by Ragnar Lothbrok, a mythological Norse raider, depicts looting, torture and epic adventures. But I wanted to know —what did these medieval Norsemen eat? How did they celebrate two centuries of successfully sacking Europe’s coastal settlements?

There certainly aren’t any cookbooks to consult. And Viking women, who had more rights than many of their peers (they could own property and divorce their husbands, for example), didn’t waste time chiseling out recipes.

So I went to the Lofoten Islands in Norway, where, in 1983, archaeologists excavated a 272-foot longhouse, the biggest on Viking record. Today, this village, which existed between 500 and 900 A.D., has been turned into a living history museum with life-size replicas of a Viking ship, a blacksmith’s forge, and the powerful chief’s longhouse — complete with intricate carved lacework and the heads of mythical beasts.

The Lofotr Viking Museum offers visitors the chance to row the lightweight Viking ship, throw axes, and partake in a Viking feast. The feast is a nightly ritual that bears at least some authenticity, since those same archaeologists painstakingly scoured the village’s latrines and middens for evidence of the Viking diet.

The drive to the museum from our port in Stramsund took 45 minutes, during which our guide, an Italian lawyer dressed like a Viking, informed us that many of the myths we’ve long believed about these seafaring conquerors are just that — myths.

For example, Vikings never wore horned helmets. You can blame Wagner and the comic strip Hagar the Horrible for that misconception. They also practiced excellent hygiene, buried their dead in boats, used urine to insure long-burning fires, and brandished more scythes and hoes than swords. We learned that Vikings, when not plundering European ports, kept small farms on which they raised cattle, goats, pigs, sheep, and such crops as wheat and barley.

So while farming is not quite as romantic and swashbuckling as Ragnar’s History Channel adventures, it certainly improved the quality of our Viking feast. After being led into the three-room longhouse and seated at long, skinny tables, members of the powerful Viking family welcomed us, told stories, led us in circle dances around the fire, and encouraged us to cheer the nightly sacrifice to the gods: a winter tradition of imploring the light to once again reappear.

With that minutiae out of the way, our Viking hosts presented us with the answer to my earlier question. Vikings, who by all reports were well-fed, celebrated the coming of the sun with lamb, wild boar, carrots, turnips, barley bread, and, of course, mead.

The only downside was the absence of forks, which weren’t invented until the fourth century.

The Viking Feast can be booked through Hurtigruten, whose 11 ships regularly deliver mail and supplies along the 1,490-mile Norwegian coast from Bergen to Kirkeness.

To understand Viking culture, take a look at their plates

Daniel Serra likes to bust myths about Vikings. Like the image of Vikings gnawing on huge chunks of meat pulled from the fire.

"It's a myth of course, and it's the myth of the barbarian, the wild man," said Serra, a Swedish culinary archaeologist. "To start with most of the Vikings would have been farmers or traders. You had the fighters and raiders of course, but that's just a small part of it."

Viking food varied depending on the region, but Serra said most food in the Viking age was boiled in clay, soapstone or iron pots.

"A stew would have been common. A porridge, a savory porridge almost like a risotto would have been common," said Serra. "They did have some roasted meats but that would have been quite the upper class."

Vikings had knives, spoons and fingers, but no forks. That meant food was usually cut up before it was cooked to make it easier to eat. And dried or salted meat needed a good boiling to be rehydrated so it could be eaten.

Serra has spent years immersed in Viking Age history and he looks the part. A long flowing beard is whipped by the wind as he stands in swirling smoke tending an iron pot boiling sausage over an open fire in Moorhead, where he's appearing at the Midwest Viking Festival.

He grins as he pats his slightly rotund middle and explains his choice of research might have been influenced by his fondness for food. The Vikings left little documentation of what they ate, but Serra studied archaeological finds, and pored over Norse sagas and medieval texts to develop a list of ingredients and cooking techniques that were likely used during the Viking Age that lasted about 300 years from the 8th to 11th centuries.

Food archaeology became his specialty. Through research and trial and error he developed recipes he says are as "historically accurate as possible with the information we have".

He co-wrote a cookbook called "An Early Meal: A Viking Age Cookbook and Culinary Odyssey."

Of course, fish was a staple for many Vikings. Stockfish was a dried cod which Serra says is much drier than beef jerky he describes it being "like a block of wood." Preparing stockfish involved beating it with the back side of an ax.

"A medieval cookbook says you should beat your stockfish for a good hour. When I tried it, the good hour was two hours and I smelled like . well put it another way, cats really loved me that day," said Serra with a chuckle.

The Vikings often survived on this leathery cod, but no the Vikings did not create or eat lutefisk. Serra glances surreptitiously over his shoulder before sharing this bit of culinary heresy.

"The first recipe for that is not from Scandinavia. The first recipe for lutefisk I found was from France in the 14th century," explained Serra. "I'm not sure if I'll get out of here alive, but yes, that's the origin."

Aside from dried fish, Vikings apparently didn't hunt or gather much. Serra says most bones found in archeological sites are from domestic cattle, sheep and goats. And Vikings grew most of the grains and vegetables they ate.

They made bread from the grain and, more importantly, beer. Serra says beer was a staple, an every meal drink. It had health benefits, helping prevent waterborne illnesses and providing some necessary nutrients.

Beer was mostly brewed in open vats without hops. Instead, Vikings used aromatic plants like bog myrtle for flavor.

Beer, Serra says, was a social expectation.

"If you don't serve the beer when you have it, people will take offense," said Serra, adding with a laugh, "And that is important today as well, I think."

The pleasure of good food aside, Serra finds value in learning about historical food culture.

"It is an understanding of how people are living.This is giving an everyday understanding of life," said Serra. "Everyone can relate to people eating. And that makes it a very good way of displaying history I think."

Serra demonstrates Viking cuisine Friday and Saturday at the Midwest Viking Festival in Moorhead. Next Tuesday and Wednesday he's at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis.

When did the Vikings Eat?

In the Viking diet it was customary to eat two meals a day. Their day meal, called dagmal, was basically breakfast and served about an hour after rising.

The evening meal, called Nattmal, was served in the early evening at the end of the working day. Both Viking meals would have been hearty and probably include meat or fish, to give the Vikings the energy they needed to complete the day’s work. Meals were usually eaten out of a wooden bowl using a knife and spoon.

But the Vikings also knew how to eat for pleasure, and feasts were a feature of life, regularly mentioned in the sagas. They had several major feasts throughout the year, including Jól, the Old Norse winter festival, Mabón, the autumn equinox, and Ostara, the spring equinox renewal festival. There would also have been harvest celebrations, and feasts for occasions such as births and marriages.

Feasts could last for several days, for example Jól lasted from 20-31 December. At these festivals all Vikings would have been able to eat a more varied range of foods than they would normally. These would have made them not only important community events,

How to Eat Like a Viking

It's no surprise that the fearsome raiders relished wild boar meat. But yogurt?

All that marauding must have left the Vikings famished. It’s easy to envision a group of them around a table, ravenous after a long day of ransacking, devouring giant hunks of meat and hoisting horns-full of ale.

But that wouldn’t quite be fair, or accurate.

As tempting as it is to assume that Viking meals were crude and carnivorous, the truth is that everyday Viking fare included a range of foods that a health-minded modern person would applaud.

Picture, for example, that burly, bearded warrior throwing down his sword to enjoy a tart treat similar to yogurt, or refuel with a tangle of fresh greens.

“The Vikings had a wide range of food and wild herbs available to make tasty and nutritious dishes,” says Diana Bertelsen, who helped research and develop recipes for Denmark’s Ribe Viking Center—a reconstructed Viking settlement where visitors can immerse themselves in just about every aspect of Viking culture, including what and how they ate.

“There are no original recipes from the Viking age available,” says Bertelsen, but “we know for certain what crops and animals were available a thousand years ago. Excavations reveal what the Vikings ate and what they imported, for instance peaches and cinnamon.”

(Follow our quest to #LiveLikeAViking on Instagram.)

Of course a specific Viking’s diet was heavily influenced by his or her location, says medieval scholar Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough. In cold, dry, coastal Scandinavia, for example, fish such as herring and salmon provided a key source of protein and were typically dried and preserved in salt.

This “stockfish,” as it’s called, “is a bit like beef jerky, only fishy,” says Barraclough. “It would have been a valuable food source on long sea journeys.”

Wealth also played a part in determining one’s diet, says Barraclough. “In Greenland, Vikings ate more seals, particularly on the poorer farms, while on the richer farms they ate more caribou.”

Seasons, too, dictated a Viking’s daily provisions. Depending on the time of year, meals might include a wide variety of berries, turnips, cabbage and other greens—including seaweed—barley-based porridge, and flat bread made from rye. Dishes were typically simple, but “we have no reason to believe that the food was bland and tasteless,” says Bertelsen.

Indeed, archaeological evidence suggests that Viking cooks were fond of flavor-enhancing ingredients like onions, garlic, coriander, and dill.

Vikings also prepared special food to celebrate seasonal events. "Boars were said to be sacrificed during the winter Yule celebration, and solemn oaths taken on their bristles," says Barraclough.

Dairy would have made a frequent appearance in many a Viking diet. The seafaring warriors were farmers, after all, and skilled at animal husbandry. Cows and sheep did provide meat, but they also gave the Vikings a reliable supply of buttermilk, cheese, butter, and other products.

In Iceland, especially, Vikings enjoyed their dairy, and often ate it in the form of skyr, a fermented, yogurt-like cheese that today is sometimes marketed as a dairy “superfood.” Viking lore mentions the creamy substance, says Barraclough, who recalls a “saga where a man hides from his enemies in a vat of skyr—which comes very specifically up to his nipples.”

Like much about the Vikings, their eating habits remain a source of fascination—and inspiration—for many people. In fact, given the Vikings’ physical strength and surprisingly healthy diet, it makes sense to wonder: Could the “Viking Diet” be the next “Paleo?”

Viking Food Revisited Through Norse Sagas And Archaeology

The Vikings generally only ate two meals a day. The first, dagmál (day-meal), filled Norse bellies in the morning approximately two hours after the day's work had begun and the second, náttmál (night meal) concluded the workday. The times when these meals were eaten depended on the time of year and hours of daylight, but they were generally about 12 hours apart.

Unfortunately, the Vikings didn’t write cookbooks and there are no known recipes surviving from the Viking Age. But reconstructing the Viking diet and some of their cooking methods has been possible by studying the Eddas and Sagas stories and legends, which sometimes mention food in passing and tell us that women were the ones in charge of cooking. In fact, a character in the Brennu-Njáls Saga even asserts “it is not for men to get mixed up in the preparation of food.” When details from the Norse literature are combined with the results of archaeological midden excavations and pollen analyses from bogs and lake bottoms, the picture of the Viking Age diet becomes much clearer.

Turns Out The Vikings Ate Better Than Us — Here Are The Foods They Really Consumed

Although the Vikings were very much a real group of people, they seem somewhat mystical. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to imagine the Viking diet. How did they live off the land so successfully? Let’s not even mention how much they resemble the Wildlings from Game of Thrones. According to popular TV shows, Vikings are fur-coat-covered, sword-wielding wild men, always going into battle. So naturally, people want to demystify the Vikings. What were they really like?

How did they truly survive?

What food did they eat long ago? It’s easy to think the Viking diet included raw meat and scraps, but that’s not really true. As it turns out, the Vikings probably ate better than most of us do right now. And sure, some of their food wasn’t exactly conventional, but it clearly worked for them.

The Vikings actually had surprisingly healthy and balanced diets.

They worked with what they had, finding much of their sustenance in nature. Moreover, the Vikings’ innovation helped them create filling meals they certainly needed all the energy they could get to stay alert for all those raids.

Apparently, even the poorest Vikings maintained healthy and fresh diets.

Historians suggest they actually ate better than Middle Age English peasants. While peasants lived in a more industrially advanced era, the food they farmed wasn’t technically their own. English lords leased land to the Middle Age farmers and could claim any of the land’s fruits. Vikings, however, often had an abundance of food. And while Viking lords did raid one another, their communities rarely went hungry.

The Vikings only ate twice a day.

Snacking wasn’t really a thing. But maybe they just didn’t have extra time to set aside for midday meals. When the Vikings did eat, though, they often gathered together in homesteads or long familial halls that were fortified against the weather and intruders. Open fire pits kept the family members and their food warm throughout the long nights.

The first meal was very similar to a modern breakfast.

However, Vikings called their morning meal “dagmal.” They ate it about an hour after waking. Usually leftovers from the night before, the breakfast might also be accompanied by bread, fruit, porridge, and dried produce. Adults and children, however, might have different breakfasts. The men in the family would enjoy stew from the previous night, and the children often had bread with buttermilk.

Their second meal was basically dinner.

Called “nattmal,” this second dish was served at the end of the day. The nighttime meal might consist of stewed meat or fish with vegetables. Dried fruit with honey wrapped up dinner. Many Viking families had tables in their homesteads. They were quite civilized! And many of the wealthier families even outfitted their dining areas with linen tablecloths.

The Viking diet wouldn’t be complete without drinks.

This group of early people loved to have ale or mead, a strong alcoholic drink made with honey. Usually, they had a mug or two with each evening meal. They usually drank their cold beverages from wooden cups. Craftsmen also created drinkware from metals like silver and copper.

The men were responsible for finding protein sources.

Typically, male Vikings hunted, slaughtered, and prepped the meat for the dagmal and nattmal meals. And they were able to find food no matter the weather. In fact, the notorious six-month-long Scandinavian winters hardly stopped the determined providers. As long as the men had a knife – the preferred tool for every occasion – they could bring down almost any animal.

The Viking women also had major roles as well.

They more than pulled their weight. Women cooked the meat men harvested. Furthermore, they made sure each meal was balanced, adding veggies, bread, and even a special, yogurt-like dairy concoction called skyr when necessary. The food prep was more advanced than you might think. The women worked over open fire pits. And rich stews were frequently on the menu.

Unfortunately, we don’t have many Viking recipes.

According to Viking expert, Diana Bertelsen, no recorded evidence of the people’s food measurements endured through the years, but they would have definitely been interesting. Bertelsen noted:

There are no original recipes from the Viking age available [but] we know for certain what crops and animals were available a thousand years ago. Excavations reveal what the Vikings ate and what they imported, for instance peaches and cinnamon.

They ate meat nearly every single day.

Vegetarianism was hardly a viable lifestyle choice for any Viking. In fact, the raiders tended to eat pork very often. It was a popular menu item because hogs were easy to raise, and they matured quickly. When the men couldn’t hunt, though, they relied on pickled meats. Women would preserve the protein in advance to prepare for winters and other rough times.

Horses provided another source of protein.

The Viking men and women raised the animals specifically to provide food and labor. Other nations really disagreed with the practice, though. Christians from England, especially, found the habit incredibly distasteful. In fact, Christian lawmakers forbade any man (even Vikings!) to use horse meat as food.

The Christian ban didn’t deter the Vikings, though.

They ate as much horse meat as they liked and supplemented the supposedly forbidden protein with a variety of other livestock like beef, mutton, goats, chickens, sheep, ducks, cows, and oxen. The Vikings raised most of the animals themselves. But when local resources were short, the people might raid areas with better farming land.

The Vikings didn’t usually view hunting as a sport.

Instead, they valued the practice for its usefulness. But only the especially capable men could capture reindeer, elk, and the occasional bear. Raiding, however, was initially considered a sporting activity. The first Vikings who sailed to other lands only sought treasures. Whichever group amassed the most wealth helped secure allegiances and marriages when the ships returned home.

Contrary to popular belief, Vikings didn’t only eat raw meat.

They didn’t have conventional stoves or ovens, but the Viking cooks would roast and fry meat over open fires. Their cooking utensils were pretty advanced, too. Vikings used cauldrons made of soapstone and iron to hold most meals. Skilled blacksmiths formed the pots out of thin sheets of iron.

They even boiled certain dishes.

Evidence suggests the Vikings boiled certain meats as well. In fact, one popular dish, called skause, was a boiled stew. Made of meats and vegetables, the skause boiled for a few days until it formed a nice broth. Vikings ate it with bread made of grains, beans, and sometimes even tree bark. They especially liked birch bark.

Speaking of bread, the Vikings made their own sourdough loaves.

They took their old bread dough and flavored it with soured milk and buttermilk. The Viking harvesters didn’t just use grain for bread, however. After chopping and drying barley, for example, cooks added the grain to oatmeal-like dishes and to meads. Its versatility made it extremely valuable, but it was hardly an easy crop to grow.

On normal days, though, they ate flatbread.

Vikings used their homegrown barley, rye, and oats to make unleavened loaves. And they frequently scooped up portions of their boiled meats and stews with the multigrain flatbreads. The community cooks didn’t just pop bread into an oven, though. They heated the dough in sturdy skillets that often rested on hot stones and bark.

Seafood was another popular option.

In fact, Vikings spent a lot of time on the water, so it’s not surprising that they ate a wide variety of sea animals. Both fresh and salted bodies of water offered them an abundance of food options. When it came to fish, they often dined on herrings prepared in a few different ways. They might dry it, salt it, smoke it, pickle it, or preserve the fish in whey.

Depending on their locations, the Vikings also dined on other water creatures.

They enjoyed salmon, trout, eels, shellfish, and cod. Because their diets were balanced, fruits and vegetables were important parts of the daily meals too. Viking sailors, especially, relied on fish for their meals. During long sea voyages, properly prepared fish could provide sustenance for extended periods of time.

Viking farmers grew their own vegetables and added them to stews.

The hearty stews included things like cabbage, beans, peas, endives, carrots, onions, garlic, leeks, and turnips. Unfortunately, the Viking land wasn’t always hospitable. The soil was often cold and hard to manage. In fact, many Vikings raided various English countries to find better farming grounds. Yes, some people wanted riches, but many Vikings just wanted soil that could grow produce.

Fruits were especially valuable.

As one of the only sweet things in the Viking diet, fruit didn’t appear at every meal. Everyone enjoyed the natural dessert, though. In fact, farmers either grew their own or ate wild fruits from the surrounding areas. They often enjoyed apples, cherries, and pears. Wild berries like strawberries, cloudberries, and lingonberries were popular, too.

They didn’t have granular sugar.

So if the Vikings wanted to sweeten a dish, they used honey. Sometimes they added the sticky treat on loaves of bread and fruits for extra flavor. Even without traditional sugar, though, the Vikings could still ferment their ales. They soaked barley in water until the grain formed malt. Then they dried and heated the malt until it released the malt sugars necessary for alcoholic beverages.

The Vikings even used seasonings.

We don’t know how much seasoning they used. But research proved the Vikings liked coriander, cumin, mustard, dill, and wild horseradish. Interestingly, the seasonings weren’t used to simply mask the smell and taste of rotten foods. Many Vikings actually used spices to enrich various dishes. They liked flavor.

They also drank a lot of milk.

Maybe that’s why they grew so big! In fact, the Vikings raised a variety of milk-producing livestock, so all dairy products were commonplace. Milk, buttermilk, and whey helped the Viking women form various cheeses, curds, and butter. Viking communities stockpiled those items for the winter seasons when cows stopped releasing milk.

Even the Vikings loved eggs.

And of course, all of their eggs were free-range! Not just limited to chickens, the Viking people ate eggs from ducks and geese, too. Wild eggs, like the ones from gulls, were considered delicacies. And Vikings would ambush the seabirds, swinging from ropes to reach the birds’ clifftop nests. They had no qualms eating the bird, too.

In addition to their normal activities, Vikings hosted plentiful feasts.

The occasions were usually held to celebrate major occurrences. Plus, food and drink were plentiful to satisfy the many attendees. Vikings served special foods at these seasonal events. For example, the communities sacrificed boars during the winter Yule celebrations. The meat roasted on spits over the open fire, and everyone was invited to partake in it.

Feasts also marked other important moments.

To celebrate things like weddings and births, the Vikings would host large gatherings with food. They were just like us! Religious rituals and successful raids might also be reasons for feasts. The host’s wealth would determine how extravagant the food choices were, though. Vikings who weren’t especially wealthy still celebrated, but instead of having more luxurious menus, they just provided more of the typical foods.

The Vikings might expand their palettes for special feasts.

They served all sorts of items if they could afford to. Roasted meats, buttered vegetables, and sweet fruits on platters were often in rotation during a celebratory feast. Of course, they drank plenty of ale. And those horns that you always see fictional Vikings use on TV shows? They were real. Just like the Wildlings on Game of Thrones, the Norsemen used huge animal horns and tusks as cups, especially on feast days.

The weather played a vital role in the Viking diet.

If rains were scarce, for example, the Vikings had to plan for a meager crop. When the winter seasons were especially harsh, the entire food stores had to be rationed. Vikings spent most of the summer days drying fish and preserving meats, vegetables, and fruits for the colder weather. If they neglected their duties, entire clans would struggle for most of the remaining year.

So, yes, the Vikings were serious warriors. But they also paid a great deal of attention to eating well. They actually did a pretty good job considering their living conditions. We’re impressed!

What Did The Vikings Eat

We know little of the recipes from the Viking era, but knows a lot about the ingredients the Vikings had at their disposal through archaeological excavations. It is among others found “remnants” of food in pans and waste piles. Something is also featured in writings from this era. Everyday food for the Vikings was often porridge and soups / stews. Meat was mostly for celebrations. They also had access to milk, honey and eggs. They used sour milk and made cheese, beer and mead. The beer was thin and was drunk everyday. Mead is a honey wine that was drunk for special occasions.

A great thanks to Daniel Serra for correcting
some mistakes on this table.

Absolutely crazy about fish
Fish, especially herring, often stood on the menu when the Vikings sat down to eat. They ate lots of stockfish and dried fish too. They also ate whales and seals. And believe it or not, they ate sandwiches made from thick slices topped with a type of butter, and meat of wild boar, deer, elk or bear. Honey was often used as sweeteners in these dishes: they loved sweetening in soups too so they added honey and they sometimes had garlic.

Many ingredients were the same as today, but they could have a different status. For example, horse meat was considered a delicacy and was only served on special occasions. Porridge of barley, oats and other grains were prevalent among the poor. It was often sweetened with berries or apples. They had no sugar.

English sources refer to the Vikings as great eaters.

About the book “An Early Meal – A Viking Age Cookbook and Culinary Odyssey: To assemble credible recipes they had too look at the ingredients that are proven by archaeological excavations in Viking settlements. Written sources from England and Scandinavia also tells a lot about the ingredients Viking Age Scandinavians knew and used, and through studying later general culture like if one knows some methods and recipes from later medieval times. Using this information, and by experimenting, they have put together recipes. The authors point out that what one ate depended on who you were, in what occasion the food was served, and not least in which season.

Herbs that were cultivated / used in the Viking Age

Has been cultivated since Viking times and is the only herb that was exported from Norway to the rest of Europe. Every farm would have its angelica garden. Angelica comes early in spring (in mild winters sprouts in January), can be used as vegetable and is rich in vitamin C.

In Norse mythology, nettles was the god Thor’s growth. When he thundered across the sky Vikings threw nettle on the fire. Then they were safe from lightning because they had sacrificed Thor’s growth to him.

Already in the Stone Age nettle fibre were used in fishing nets.

Nettles was Scandinavia’s main textile plant. Stems contains fine, strong fibres treated in much the same way as flax. Nettle fabrics resembles a cross between cotton and linen. Nettles was also used both for clothing, fishing lines and ropes.

“Where there are elder, honey and cabbage, the doctor is a poor man.” (quote from Edda). It was believed in ancient times that elder was Freya’s residence and that it brought misfortune if one eliminated elder close to the house without planting a new one.

Elderflower tea: Dry blossom. Take a few clusters in a cup and pour in boiling water. Let it steep, sweetened with honey.

Yarrow has been known as a medicine plant for more than 6000 years.
It was regarded as a panacea that seemed styptic, wound healing. The Vikings had yarrow with them on raids. They made an ointment from crushed yarrow leaves and fat and applied it on wounds.

Yarrow is also said to have a calming effect. It dissolves mucus and reduces cramping and prevents inflammation in the intestines. Chew it against toothache. Yarrow in hair wash gives a fine, shiny hair.

Yarrow contains thujone and is therefore suitable as an insecticide against mosquitoes and moths. Yarrow was useed in food and drink, as a seasoning for mutton, soups, on fatty fish, in sausages.

The plant is also called “terrestris” or “ølkong” because it was used as a flavouring in mead and beer.

Garlic (Allium sativum)
Garlic is mentioned in one of the Edda poems as antidote to poisonous drink and was in the Viking age known as preservative.

All harmful animal shuns the smell of garlic. Whoever eats garlic, can without endangering drinking water from unfamiliar places. Garlic was used for crushing and swelling, and it reduces headaches. Along with goose fat it was in the ears against ear aches and put on the gums against toothache. It was also used against for cough, dropsy, constipation and jaundice.

was cultivated and used by the Vikings for seasoning of beer. Statutory hops cultivation was started already approximately year 1000. Hops were grown by every farm. And god helps whoever stole from another man hops farm.

Hops is a climber and can be up to 15 ft. / 5 m long. You reap just pinecone fruits of female plant and the Vikings used these for beer production and partly in soothing tea blends.

Meadowsweet has large space in Scandinavian cultural history as a fragrant plant. Previously, it was customary to sprinkle floors with chopped meadowsweet on holidays because it smelled so good.

Meadowsweet contains salicylic acid and has been used as antipyretic and analgesic.

The bees are said to become quiet by the scent. It was therefore common to rub the inside of the cubes with Meadowsweet. Fresh flowers can give nice taste of homemade wine and meadowsweet was used to rub the inside of the vessels used for making mead.

broadleaf plantain
Came to the north with the first Stone Age settlers 6-7000 years ago. Called “groblad” (healing leaf) in Norwegian.

Broadleaf plantain really deserves its name, Dioscorides, a herbalist from 2000 years ago, recommended broadleaf plantain for its styptic, cleansing and vulnerary properties. Haavamaal in the Viking Saga recounted broadleaf plantain as vulnerary agent. It is also known that the Roman legionnaires treated their wounds with broadleaf plantain, and the Vikings had knowledge of the plant’s healing effects. They punched a hole in the leaf with a needle before putting it on the wound. The back of the leave was used for inflammation and the front to help wounds grow. Not even modern drug chemists presumes to completely reject the effect of broadleaf plantain on inflammations and wounds.

It has grown flax in Norway since the early Stone Age. Flax is an important raw material in textile production. Linen was with wool one of the Vikings’ main textiles.

The cooking utensils and methods used by the Vikings

A selection of Viking dishes.

When it came to cooking a hearty meal the primary cooking method in old Norse times was to boil it. Cauldron and iron pots were used to cook the meals, hung from the ceilings of their homes, and cooked over the internal fire pits. All kinds of ingredients would be thrown in here, and if the water was not reaching the required temperature, hot stones often heated from a large outside fire pit could be added to the cauldron bringing the temperature back up.

Other utensils commonly used were a cooking iron, a flat circular iron sheet on a long arm. This could be used to fry foods or meats quickly and efficiently over the fire pit, Bread could also be cooking using a tool like this. Meet forks and spiral cooking irons were used for similar purposes also.

Viking Feast

Beef stew, rye bread with butter, non-alcoholic mead, and soft cheese.

No feast has been more highly anticipated in our home than the Viking Feast. My husband can trace his Norwegian heritage all the way back to Harald Hardrade, the Norwegian King who was killed in 1066 in the Battle of Stamford Bridge….and beyond. My sons take great pride in their Viking blood.

My mother-in-law makes a pilgrimage to Wisconsin every year to eat Lutefisk. In olden-times, Norwegians ate a fish that was so hard and bony, they had to use Lye to soften it. I’m not sure how they make it now, but everyone says it is an acquired taste (i.e. it tastes horrible). Needless to say, we didn’t have that on the menu.

We do eat Lefse every Christmas, which is a tortilla-like Norwegian flat bread spread with butter and brown sugar. I didn’t have that on hand for this feast, and I doubt it was around in Viking times anyway.

We did not have costumes for this feast, either. Sorry! The white sheets used in our Egyptian Feast, Greek Feast and Roman Feast could not be adapted for the purpose, and we didn’t have time to pull anything else together.

My Vikings enjoyed this feast. We used or Hnefetafl Board as a centerpiece.

Want to know what we did have? Keep reading for the menu and recipes. I relied heavily on The Viking Answer Lady and on a PDF file from Tjurslakter titled Viking and Anglo-Saxon Recipes for my information about what people ate during Viking Times, as well as for some of these recipes.

We learned that Vikings typically only ate twice a day, morning and evening, and their fare was simple.

The Menu:
non-alcoholic, homemade Mead
Rye bread with salted butter
soft cheese
Stewed beef
Norwegian pancake with berry sauce
Stewed fruits with yogurt

The children wanted to taste Mead, so I searched the internet for a non-alcoholic version. I found a few. Here’s the recipe I used, taken from the Group Recipes site:

Soft Mead
4 cups water
1 cup honey
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 lemon

The instructions said to boil this but I was in a rush, so I did it in the microwave. It turned out fine. I put the water, honey and spices into a dish and heated it until it boiled. Stir in the honey until it dissolves, and squeeze the lemon into it. The instructions I found said you can also use orange slices, and that the drink should be cooled and strained. We did not strain it, and we drank it warm. It was yummy!

Another recipe that sounds even simpler called for 2 parts apple juice, 4 parts honey and 6 parts water. Mix in a pan, bring to a boil and let simmer for half an hour, then cool and strain.

Research indicated that the Vikings also drank herbal concoctions. Chamomile or Rose hip tea might be a good choice.

For the stewed beef, I simply put chunks of stew meat into my crock pot, along with some root vegetables and onions. My kids like carrots, but turnips or parsnips would also do. I added a bit of water and a couple packages of stew flavoring, and set it on low for several hours.

Viking fun without the fuss!

I know it would have been more authentic in a giant kettle over the fire, but I try to keep most of our “feasts” something that is reasonably done on a regular school night, in the same time I might normally spend making dinner. The main point to keep in mind about Viking stew is that they did not have potatoes or tomatoes, so your stew shouldn’t have them either!

We purchased the rye bread and cheese. We used Brie, as our whole family loves it. We learned during our studies that the Vikings conquered quite a bit of territory, including part of France, so we felt fine about our choice.

I had told my husband to get Brie at the store, but the children wanted to buy Jarlsberg, which is a Norwegian cheese. Hubby bought the Brie anyway, certain that he should get “whatever mom wants”!

When they got home and told me about their shopping trip, I knew that the kids were right. To be more authentic, we should have had Jarlsberg. Those boys certainly do know their cheeses!

Dessert: Norwegian Pancake with Berries, and Summer Fruit, Honey and Hazelnut crumble with yogurt

Pancake with Berries (this recipe came from The Viking Answer Lady and is for four servings).

2/3 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup lingonberries (we used raspberries)

Turn the oven to 425F. Whisk the batter together without the butter and stir in the berries. Melt the butter in a heat resistant baking pan or oven proof skillet, and pour in the batter. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 25 minutes or until the pancake has a nice color. Cut into pieces and serve with jam.

I doubled this recipe, and there was a lot left over. It took 45 minutes for the larger pancake to set. I didn’t think the kids would like it, as you could clearly taste the whole wheat flour, and there was no sugar in the recipe. I melted the jam in the microwave so it would pour onto the pancake like syrup. The kids loved it, though. So did my husband! Everyone wanted the leftovers the next day, and asked if I would make it again in the future.

Vikings in Anglo-Saxon Britain: Summer Fruit, Honey and Hazelnut Crumble Recipe from Viking and Anglo-Saxon recipes.

2 pounds mixed soft summer fruits (raspberries, lingonberries, strawberries, currants, cherries or similar)
honey or brown sugar (to taste)
3 oz. toasted hazelnuts
3 oz. whole wheat brown breadcrumbs

Put the fruits in a pan or in a microwave dish with about 1″ watr in the bottom. Cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes (microwave for 4 to 6 minutes on high), or until the fruits are soft without being totally mushy. Sweeten to taste with the honey or brown sugar.

Drain off the extra juice and save it to serve with the pudding. Chop the hazelnuts in a food processor, then mix them with the breadcrumbs. Pour the fruit into an over-safe dish and cover it with a thick layer of the nut mixture. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Serve with cream or plain yogurt and the warmed fruit juices.

We enjoyed this. I serve plain yogurt very often, flavored with a bit of brown sugar or honey and some fresh fruit, so this was not too unusual for us. I liked the way it tasted with the warm fruit. The kids enjoy it more without the nuts and crumbs.


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