Viking food - small recipe collection

Table of contents

Making cheese in the Viking and Middle Ages

By Sten Hansson, Foteviken

The written sources mention cheese in different situations. In old nordic litterature fresh cheese in recommended for poor health, for healing wounds and against scurvy and kidney stones. There are also numerous laws underlining the importance of cheese and cheese production. According to a law from the end of the 12th century people in Bohuslän were required to make cheese for the Church and the poor with "all milk gotten the friday before the Jons service" (day of John the Baptist). In the Halland list of Valdemar's property book you may read that cheese was used as taxes to the Danish crown, and according to a statute from 1346 farmers on Ă–land  were required to leave groceries as altar gifts at every church feast - including cheese.

The archeaological finds indicate that cheese making took place in Scandinavia already during the Roman Iron Age, 0 - 400 AD. In Sweden and Denmark finds from this period include hollowed clay jars assumed to be used for cheese making. Excavations in Lund have revealed a tool that has been identified as a cheese chute made of oak, used to produce cheese. It has been dated to the time period 1020-50 AD. Cheese mass has been placed on it and then kneaded until the whey poured out of the groove below. The whey was then used for cooking and baking.

Milk from cows, sheep and goats has been used (and still is used) for making cheese. Both clabber cheese and rennet cheese was made. Clabber cheese is made by heating clabber. Rennet cheese is made from sweet heated milk where rennet is added. It has been assumed that clabber cheese is older than rennet cheese, from before the latter took over.

â–¶ Making cheese

â–¶ Making buttermilk

â–¶ Butter

Baking bread

During the Viking Age bread was most often baked in the form of flat cookies on embers, directly on the hearth stone, or on frying pans, flat plates with long shafts that were held over an open hearth. There were also occasional vaulted baking ovens for larger fermented bread.

The higher up on the societal ladder the finer bread you ate. Flat grain bread was often used as a plate to eat from. The sauce from the food was then sucked into the bread and could be eaten afterward.

Viking Age bread ingredients: oats, rye, wheat, pea flour, bark, flax seed, bone meal, eel weed, emmer wheat, grains, mashed acorns, hazelnuts, roots and weeds.

▶ Öländish frying pan bread

â–¶ Small corn cookies

â–¶ Four clover shaped bread

â–¶ Whey bread

â–¶ Small flat breads


Barley porridge
  • 3-4 dl coarse barley flour
  • 1 litre water
  • 2 apples and maybe a handful of hazelnuts
  • salt

Boil the water. Once the water boils, whisk down the flour a little at a time. Continue boiling for 5 minutes while continuously stirring. The apples and chopped nuts are boiled the last minutes. Take the pot off the fire and place it close to the fire for 30 minutes to an hour.

A bit of honey or butter on top of the porridge adds taste. The apples can be replaced or complemented with the fruits and berries of the season.

The water can partially or entirely be replaced with milk, but then the porridge burns more easily. If you have made butter the butter milk from that can be used.

Apple porridge

Slice the apples into small pieces. Boil them with a bit of water and add honey for flavouring. Adding stinging nettle seeds adds taste.

Mixed porridge

Slice the applies into small pieces. Clean rosehip, elderberries and hawthorn berries. Crack the nuts and roast stinging nettle seeds and plantain. Mix all the ingredients and boil in water until it is tender. Sweeten with honey.

Meat and fish

The Vikings had a meat diet based on pig meat. Sheep meat, fish and game also played a large role. The seal in particular bears mention, which left meat, blood and fat. Clams and other shellfish occasionally made for a variation in diet.

Some meat was eaten fresh, but most was preserved in some way - drying, souring, buried by digging it down, smoking, salting and during the cold season even freezing. The majority of the meat and fish was boiled in iron pots hung in a chain over the fire, though clay jars were also common for cooking. When cooking in clay jars the following should be kept in mind:

  • When the hearth is lit the clay jar should be placed at the side of the fire. The jar will be heated from the side rather than the bottom as is usually the case. Pay attention to prevent the food from burning into the side of the jar. Stir the food to keep it from burning but also ensure even heating.
  • It is also necessary to turn the jar. Since clay jars conduct heat poorly the food might otherwise boil at one side and be cool at the other.
  • Don't hit the edge of the jar with the spoon after stirring as the jar might crack. Keep a small bowl nearby to put the spoon in insead.
  • If heated stones are used for boiling, be careful when placing the stones in the jar. Use a large clay fragment or two wet wooden spoons. Always keep a vat of water nearby.
  • Clay jars cannot stand in the fire with just a little bit of food or water in without breaking. The jars must always be at least half full. Thus it is important to choose the correct size of the jar.
  • If the food is salted it should be added just prior to serving. If you salt early salt crystals will be formed inside the jar clay making it brittle and porous.

â–¶ Cooked cod with butter and mustard

â–¶ Cooked wheat kernels with meat and spices

â–¶ Spitfrying

â–¶ Cooking in clay

â–¶ Fish in cooking pit


Meat soup
  • 1 - 1.5 litres of water
  • 500g meat (pig, ox, sheep, chicken or fish)
  • about 3 cups of top shoot from stinging nettle, may be supplemented with other herbs
  • salt

Place the meat in cold water and boil for about an hour. Nettles and herbs are washed and hacked and added to the soup. Slice the meat into small pieces when it is tender and put them back into the soup. Add salt.

The soup will taste best if the nettle is supplemented with other herbs, for example young dandelion leaves, bishop's weed, broadleaf plantain, wild gooseberry, wild onion, garlic mustard, thyme, wild marjoram, dille, garden angelica or cumin. You are obviously not supposed to use all of these herbs in the same soup, and remember that the spice herbs should be used in small quantities.

If you desire a more filling soup you may add whetted wheat kernels, course flour or pea flour. If you have made cheese a bit of whey can be added to the soup, providing a somewhat sourish taste.

Elderberry soup

Boil the elderberries in water. When the soup is cooked add honey for taste. While this soup is tasty in itself you can also add apples, rosehip or stinging nettle seeds.


During the Viking Age people drank beer, mead, milk and water. The mead was made from barley with added honey where the amount of honey decided the alcohol percentage. Alcoholic beverages were also made from for example birch sap. Though trading connections they were introduced to wine, though it was an expensive luxury that only saw more common use later during the Middle Ages.

Alcoholic beverages were considered to have divine power. Mead for example was considered to bestow immortality, poetic talent and wisdom.

Cow horns were used for drinking, but around the 11th century AD these were, under continental influence, replaced with wooden bowls.

Herbal beverage

You can make herbal beverages from many plants. Tasty drinks can be had from young leaves of stinging nettle, mint, howthorn, raspberries and strawberries, and on flowers of linden, hawthorn or chamomile.

The drink is made by placing flowers or leaves in boiling water and letting it cook for a couple of minutes.

And some more

Viking snacks

Roast whole wheat corns with some water on a frying pan. The wheat should pop up a little. Add honey or salt.

Almond oil

Put almond kernels in hot water and scald them. Dry them over the embers in a hot cloth when they are cleaned then squeeze the oil out of the almond. The oil is good for all kinds of food.

Almond milk
  • 2 dl cold water
  • 200 g almonds
  • 50 g sugar

Mash the almonds as finely as possible while adding water.
To prevent the mashed almonds from becoming oil, add sugar if the dish needs a sweet almond milk.