Like a potato-y flatbread and great topped with cured fish.
- 2 large russet potatoes, scrubbed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more
Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 400°. Prick potatoes all over with a fork and bake directly on the rack until yielding when pressed, about 1 hour. When cool enough to handle, scoop flesh into a large bowl; discard skins (or nibble on them with butter and salt—we won’t judge). Mash potato with a fork until only a few lumps remain. Let cool.
Mix in cream, butter, salt, and 1¼ cups flour with a fork until a shaggy ball forms. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead, working in more flour a tablespoonful at a time, until dough is smooth, elastic, and soft, about 3 minutes. Cover loosely and let rest 10 minutes. Divide dough into 12 portions.
Heat a dry griddle or large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat. Working with 1 portion at a time and keeping others covered, roll out dough on a floured surface as thinly as possible to make an irregular 8”-diameter round (perfection is overrated). Cook until dough looks dry and is browned in spots, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer lefse to a wire rack; let cool.
Do Ahead: Lefse can be made 2 days ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.
Nutritional ContentCalories (kcal) 160 Fat (g) 6 Saturated Fat (g) 3.5 Cholesterol (mg) 20 Carbohydrates (g) 24 Dietary Fiber (g) 1 Total Sugars (g) 1 Protein (g) 3 Sodium (mg) 125Reviews Section
Lefse: A Guide to the Norwegian Classic
From a traditional homemade staple to a quick on-the-go snack from a gas station or even a fancy dish at a wedding, the Norwegian lefse has a long history. Here's what you need to know about this classic of Norway cuisine.
When I first moved to Norway, it wasn't long before I encountered the lefse. It's hard to avoid, especially when driving around the country.
Often nicknamed “the Norwegian pancake”, lefse is a traditional Norwegian flat bread, soft, made of potatoes, milk or fresh cream, and flour, all baked on a hot plate. It is also found in Sweden where it is called läfsa or löfsa.
What is lefse?
In Norwegian, lefse is singular, lefser is plural.
Lefse is a Norwegian bread visually similar to a Mexican tortilla prepared with potato, milk and/or cream, butter and flour and baked on a hot plate or pan.
In Norway, lefse is a term for a flat, round and generally soft baked product.
Lefser are available in countless varieties both nationally and internationally.
What they all have in common is that they are greased or stuffed with different ingredients before being folded or rolled up.
The ones eaten for coffee or snacks are often spread with butter, jam, cinnamon, sugar or a hard Norwegian brown cheese called brunost.
Other lefser are more typical breads and can be filled with salted meats, minced meat, smoked salmon, salad and more.
Some are dry and crispy and rehydrated or not before being consumed.
How to prepare lefser
Most lefser still follow the principle of baking flat bread like the Moroccan harcha or baghrir, injera from Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Somali lahoh or palacinki from Macedonia.
The dough is usually divided into dough pieces that are rolled out and then rolled down and formed into a disk.
The key to the success of lefser is to refrigerate the mashed potatoes for many hours in order to prepare and handle the dough more easily.
It is also important to flour the worktop so that the dough does not stick.
To make the dough easier to roll out, you can place the ball of dough between two sheets of baking paper and spread it out with the rolling pin.
Wooden or silicone pliers or a long silicone spatula is absolutely necessary to turn lefser. Otherwise, and for the most initiated, it is possible to turn them over like crepes.
Lefser, like all flat breads, were originally baked or fried on a stone slab and later on an iron plate. Today, electric plates or stoves are used.
The different variants
There are many ways to accompany and flavor lefse. The most common way is to spread it with butter and roll it up, which is called lefse-klenning in Norway.
Other options include adding cinnamon and/or sugar, or jam, or cranberries on top.
Classic Scandinavian American variations can be enjoyed with a thin layer of peanut butter and sugar, with white or brown butter and sugar, with butter and corn syrup, with butter and salt, or with ham and eggs.
Lefse is also eaten with beef or other salty dishes such as ribberull and mustard. Ribberull is a meat roll made of boneless pork ribs, flattened, sewn to form a long rectangle, rolled, pressed and steamed.
In Norway, lefse is a traditional accompaniment to lutefisk, and the fish is often wrapped in lefse. Lutefisk is a dish based on dried white fish, often cod, but also white ling.
Lutefisk is a specialty of Norway, Sweden and Finland. This dish is also eaten in the American states of Minnesota and Wisconsin, where there are large communities of Scandinavian Americans. Lutefisk is consumed mainly during the months of November and December.
Tynnlefse (thin lefse) is a variant of lefse popular in central Norway. Tynnlefse is topped with butter, sugar and cinnamon.
Potetlefse (potato lefse) is similar and used like tynnlefse, but it is stuffed with potatoes.
Lompe or potetkake is often used as a hot dog bun and can be used to roll up sausages. It is also known as pølse med lompe in Norway.
Møsbrømlefse, a variant from the Salten district in Nordland in Northern Norway, consists of a classic lefse filled with melted goat cheese, buttermilk, syrup and flour. The combination is spread on lefse, and can be eaten as is or topped with additional ingredients such as butter, sugar or sour cream.
Nordlandslefse is a small lefse whose dough is composed of butter, syrup, sugar, eggs and flour. It looks like a classic lefse.
Hardangerlefse (from Hardanger in Norway), is composed of graham flour leavened with baker’s yeast. Contrary to what one might think, it is not obtained by reducing graham crackers to powder, which is sometimes recommended in baking recipes.
Graham flour is actually the ancestor of whole wheat flour. It is named after an American physician, Sylvester Graham, who in the 19th century crusaded for the essential role of sound in maintaining good health.
The typical ingredients of the dough are flour, sugar, buttermilk, butter and baking soda. Some richer recipes add syrup and eggs. The ingredients are mixed, left to rest, then finely spread and cooked like a classic lefse.
Some lefser are made of different types of flour, with or without potatoes. The original recipes consisted of barley and oats in Norway, but they were developed as the use of other cereals such as rye and wheat increased.
Some lefser, such as tjukklefse, contain a leavening agent such as baking soda or baking powder tjukklefse is filled with a spread made from beaten butter and powdered sugar.
Krinalefse is a lefse native to Krines in northern Norway. It has a striped pattern on the top made with a rolling pin that has deep grooves and makes a nice pattern on the top of lefse. It consists of a dough made of flour, butter, milk and lots of eggs. It is often stuffed with butter, sugar and cinnamon. Gomme filling is also popular.
Gomme is a traditional Norwegian dish usually served as a spread or dessert. It is usually a form of mild cheese made from boiled milk and yellow or brown.
Gnikkalefse is a lefse from northern Norway covered with a white layer of butter, sugar and cinnamon on top.
Mørlefser is found over large parts of northern Norway. They are two by two butter-coated lefse and assembled. It can be several thin layers covered with butter, sugar, cinnamon or brown cheese.
Kling consists of two very fine lefser coated with butter and sugar and cut into pieces like a cake.
What is the origin of lefse?
The history of lefse is closely linked to Norwegian history. Like the traditional Norwegian flatbread, flatbrød, it was originally invented as a way to store food during the harsh winter months.
In the 19th century, lefse was a popular way to store wheat or potatoes, which would otherwise be unusable. They were stored in a dry state, a bit like flat bread, and were rehydrated before use.
How To Prepare Lefse
My family eats lefse every Thanksgiving and Christmas. At Christmas, we always it serve it with oyster stew.
We don’t always make it homemade – sometimes we buy it at the grocery store.
Our preferred lefse toppings are simple: spread on a generous layer of butter and sprinkle with sugar.
Lefse (Norwegian Potato Flatbread)
Beloved by Norwegians everywhere, this traditional flatbread is similar to a crêpe, though slightly thicker. While in Norway lefse was traditionally made from a variety of flours, when brought to America it became strictly potato-based — because potatoes are what most Norwegian immigrants were able to grow quickly and successfully here. No longer a daily bread for most, lefse is a must during the holidays: buttered, rolled up, and served alongside lutefisk (baked salt-dried cod), it's a Christmas tradition. A sprinkle of sugar or cinnamon-sugar takes it from meal accompaniment to a light, sweet snack enjoyed any time of the day.
- 1 3/4 cups (269g) peeled, cooked, and riced boiling potato*, very lightly packed
- 1/3 cup + 4 teaspoons (53g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, divided
- 2 tablespoons (28g) butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons (28g) milk or cream
- scant 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/3 cup (43g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
Stir together the hot riced potatoes, 4 teaspoons (10g) of the flour, the butter, cream or milk, salt, and sugar, mixing gently just until well combined. The hot potatoes should melt the soft butter, so you shouldn't have to stir for very long.
Refrigerate the mixture for several hours, or overnight. This will make the lefse easier to roll out.
Gently (but thoroughly) stir in the remaining 1/3 cup (43g) flour.
Preheat a griddle to about 375°F, or preheat a skillet over medium heat.
Perfect your technique
How to make Norwegian lefse
Divide the dough into 12 pieces each will weigh about 30g.
Working with one piece of dough at a time, quickly and gently roll it into a ball, then place it on a well-floured work surface. Pat it into a 4" circle, then use a few quick, gentle strokes to roll it to about 6" in diameter, about 1/16" thick.
Place the lefse onto the griddle or into the skillet. Cook on one side until speckled with brown spots this should take about a minute. If it's longer or shorter than that, adjust the griddle's heat. Flip the lefse over, and cook the other side until it's flecked with brown, about 1 minute. Transfer the cooked lefse to a parchment-lined baking sheet or large plate.
Repeat with the remaining dough, fanning the cooked lefse out on the baking sheet or plate so they don't stick to one another as they cool.
Serve lefse warm or at room temperature, spread with softened butter and rolled into a cylinder or folded into quarters. Add sugar or cinnamon-sugar for a sweet treat.
Store lefse flat, wrapped in plastic, for several days at room temperature freeze for longer storage.
Tips from our Bakers
Keep in mind lefse is a soft, fairly delicate bread, thanks to its high percentage of potato. And it's difficult to specify exactly how much flour to add, given the variance in what type of potatoes you use, how you prepare them, and how you measure. If you find your first ball of dough impossible to roll, add just enough flour to the remainder of the dough that you can roll a ball out and move the resulting round to the griddle. It helps to flour the rolling surface thoroughly, and keep it floured.
Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces. Place in a pot, add cold water until covered and bring to a boil. Cook until tender and drain. Spread cooked potatoes on a baking sheet in one layer and place in preheated oven for 15 minutes. (This helps remove moisture from the potatoes.)
Use a ricer to rice cooked potatoes into a large bowl. You should end up with about 4 cups of riced potatoes.
Place shortening, butter, cream or milk, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and heat over medium-low just until shortening and butter melt and sugar is dissolved. Don't let the mixture boil.
Pour this liquid over riced potatoes and use a large spoon or spatula to thoroughly combine ingredients. Potatoes should be smooth and thick.
Pack the potatoes in an airtight bowl and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat a 10-inch to 12-inch round stovetop griddle or an electric lefse griddle to 425 F.
Use your hands or a pastry blender to work the gluten-free flour gradually into chilled potatoes. Turn the lefse dough onto a large pastry cloth or board liberally dusted with all-purpose gluten-free flour. Knead in just enough gluten-free flour to form a smooth and pliable dough.
Using either your hands or an ice cream scoop, remove walnut-size pieces of dough. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out each piece into a 9-inch circle on the floured board.
Using a lefse stick, carefully lift the dough and quickly transfer to the griddle. Cook until brown spots begin to appear, then flip and grill the other side. Place lefse between clean cloths to cool, then serve with butter and sugar.
Whereas mashed potatoes are best when made with creamy Yukon golds, lefse is most successful when a mealy, dry potato is used, like a russet potato. And a key to making perfect lefse is making sure the potatoes are completely dry before ricing them, so don't skip the step in the oven.
Lefse can be frozen for up to 6 months. Traditional recipes for lefse call for the cooked and cooled rounds to be folded into quarters, but gluten-free lefse keeps best when stored flat and sealed in zip-top freezer bags. Defrost and reheat before serving.
3 large potatoes
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups flour (more if needed)
Lefse (LEF-suh) is a potato flatbread.
For Hardware you'll need: a large pot, a large frying pan or griddle of some sort (at least 9 inch bottom diameter), a mixer or a potato masher, a bowl and plastic wrap or tupperware, a flat surface big enough to knead on, a rolling pin, a spatula.
First, peel your potatoes. The fresher they are, the easier this is to do and the less nasty they will be. If your potato has things growing out of it and you absolutely can't get a new one, cut them out and don't eat them for the love of god. Cut out all remaining black spots and cut them in half or until they're about evenly sized. This is so they all cook at the same speed. Now put them into a big pot and fill it with water to cover them. Put some salt in, around a teaspoon or so. Now cover the pot, and go do something else for a while.
When they're done, take them out and drain the water. We'll be using milk and butter for these potatoes, not the potato water. You can tell when they're done when the middle isn't hard and raw-potatoey anymore. Go ahead and cut one in half if you can't tell by looking.
Now, if you're lazy like me, you'll use a stand mixer to mash the potatoes. If not, you can go at them with a potato masher or a fork, whatever. Get them nice and mashed, then measure out two cups of potato and set whatever you have left over aside. You can add garlic and eat it by itself or make lazy noodles or shepherd's pie or something. There is no such thing as too much mashed potatoes.
Add the tablespoon of milk, tablespoon of salt, and two tablespoons of butter to it and then mash them again until it's all blended. Then put it into some sort of container - I used that mixing bowl with plastic wrap over it (make sure the plastic wrap is down inside the bowl touching the potatoes if you do this) but a Tupperware would be fine too. Stick it in the fridge until it's cold. Usually about two hours works, although when I'm lazy I leave it in there for a day or so. That should have taken about two hours.
Now pull the potatoes out and make sure that they're cold. Not room temperature, but cold, and slightly stiff. Get your flour out and flour up your flat surface. This is to keep the lefse dough from sticking to the counter, which it will probably do anyway a few times. Put the chunk of mashed potatoes down into the middle of the floured area and spread about half a cup of flour over the top of it.
Now knead it for about ten minutes, gradually incorporating another half cup of flour besides the amount of flour you'll have to add to replace the stuff it picks up from your counter. After it has a whole cup of flour in it, it will feel much doughier and nothing like mashed potatoes anymore.
Now you need to divide it into eight pieces and ball it up. But whatever floats your boat, so long as you get eight equally sized little balls of dough out of it. Spread more flour out onto your surface - no, more. Lefse loves getting stuck when you roll it out, it's infuriating. The best way to avoid it is to flip the dough over every time you take a roll on the rolling pin, flick a little more flour under it, and then roll the other side. Always keep your rolling pin well floured, too.
You want really thin pieces here, absolutely no thicker than your average flour tortilla, otherwise they won't cook all the way through and will taste a little doughy. They should work out to be about nine inches diameter.
Once you have all pieces rolled out, heat up your frying pan or griddle or whatever and grease it slightly if it isn't non-stick. Non-stick is great for this purpose, though.
Flip one of the uncooked lefse into the pan and quickly unfold any creases that might have happened with the spatula. You only turn lefse once, and you do it when you see air bubbles forming under the lefse. It won't need to cook for as long on the other side, but it will do the bubble trick again (harder to see this time, careful not to leave it on too long and burn it!) or you can just pick it up with the spatula and check underneath.
When it's done, put it on a plate and repeat. When you've done all lefse, you will have the a plate of goodness. You can now do just about anything with it. Use it as bread in sandwiches, wrap it around meatballs, eat it plain, or my favorite, dessert lefse - smeared with butter and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.
The history of Lefse
Lefse is a very typical food from Norway which is believed to have origins dating back to the 18th century, after the introduction of potatoes in Norway. Some rumors say that lefse was made by the Vikings, but that is not correct since potatoes didn’t arrive here until 1750.
With that said, it’s still very traditional and Norwegian settlers even brought it to America during the mass emigration. Still today, American Norwegians will prepare and eat lefse on holidays such as Christmas or Thanksgiving.
Cities and towns in the US with a large Norwegian population also have so-called Lefse Festivals. In Fosston, Minnesota, there’s even a yearly contest at the Lefse Fest in November. In Fargo, North Dakota, each year a popular Lutefisk and Lefse Festival is held in August.
Ingredients in a traditional lefse recipe
How do you roll lefse?
Rolling traditional Norwegian Lefse should be done with a so-called lefse rolling pin which has 1/8 inch (3 mm) wide grooves carved into the surface.
Photo: Jacob Boomsma/Shutterstock
When I was young, our Norwegan neighbors always put on a feast of Ludefisk (probably spelled wrong). It was salted, dried cod. I hated it, but loved the lefse that went with it. Seemed to me the feast was around Christmas. Anyway, we kds piled butter and cinnamon sugar over it, fold it in 4 and chow down on piece after piece. Being kids, there is no such ting as too sweet. Raspberry jam was also a staple. Some lefse was made with rye flour, but that was served with the fish and boiled potatoes, not with sweet additions. It was cooked on metal circles fully 16" wide and smoothed with some sort of wooden scraper, much like a window scraper for taking water off newly washed windows. Very thinly spread. Wow, lots of good memories of trying to get our dog to eat te fish. He thought it was terrible also. I guess it was an acquired taste. We never acquired it, thankfully. Thanks for the recipe and memories..
This recipe is very similar to my family's traditional lefsa or Hardanger Kaka made only from rye and white flour. It is rolled and baked on a griddle and then cut into quarters and set out until dried. Kaka will keep for 6-12 months if kept dry and cool. To serve, we soak each piece under hot water and set between towels until softened. Then top with butter and sugar to eat. I have not ever seen my Great-grandmother's kaka recipe in print.
Response to your "not really lefse": I grew up eating my Norwegian-American mother's potato lefse and was surprised to learn on a trip to Oslo this summer that traditional Norwegian lefse is made with flour. The potato version was an innovation of Norwegians who immigrated to the U.S. and discovered a way to capitalize on all the spuds they found here. At the Folk Museum in Oslo, they cook/bake their lefse on an iron surface beside the open fire(place). Since the dough already is sweet, just a bit of butter is added and nothing else. I have photos, if you'd like to see for yourself.
Maybe there are some regional varieties to the recipe but my grandmother was born and raised in Norway and she and my grandfather were bakers in Norway. The recipe they used to make it was my great grandmother's (made with potatoes). So I have to disagree that the potatoes *only* came into play from US immigrants as her mother never left Norway.