Christmas Food Norwegian Food

Smalahove: The traditional Norwegian dish

Discover the unique Norwegian delicacy Smalahove, a traditional dish consisting of sheep’s head. Learn about its history, preparation methods, cultural significance, and where to experience this culinary adventure. Explore the flavors and traditions of Smalahove with our comprehensive guide.

Smalahove is a traditional Norwegian dish that is made from the head of a sheep. The dish is a delicacy in Norway and is typically eaten during the winter months. Here is a guide to Smalahove, including its history, preparation, and cultural significance.

Smalahove History

Smalahove has been a traditional Norwegian dish for centuries, with roots dating back to the Viking age. The dish was originally made by shepherds who would cook the sheep’s head over an open fire while out in the fields. The dish was a way to utilize all parts of the sheep and provide sustenance during the long winter months.

Smalahove Preparation

Smalahove is prepared by boiling the entire sheep’s head in salted water for several hours until the meat is tender and the skin is soft. The head is then served with boiled potatoes and rutabaga, or kålrabistappe in Norwegian.

To eat Smalahove, the skin is carefully cut away from the head, and the meat is removed from the skull. The eyes, tongue, and brain are considered delicacies and are often eaten by more adventurous diners.

Smalahove Cultural Significance

Smalahove is a dish that is steeped in Norwegian tradition and cultural significance. The dish is most commonly associated with the western region of Norway, particularly the areas of Voss and Sogn og Fjordane.

Smalahove is often served during cultural events, such as Christmas and Easter, as well as at local festivals and fairs. The dish has become a symbol of Norwegian culinary heritage and is often featured in tourism campaigns to showcase traditional Norwegian cuisine.

Smalahove Controversy

Despite its cultural significance, Smalahove has also been the subject of controversy in recent years. Animal rights activists have criticized the dish for its use of the entire sheep’s head, including the eyes, tongue, and brain. Some have called for a ban on the dish, citing ethical concerns and cruelty to animals.

Others argue that Smalahove is an important part of Norwegian cultural heritage and should be preserved. Many restaurants and chefs who serve Smalahove have made efforts to ensure that the sheep are ethically raised and that the dish is prepared in a humane manner.


Smalahove is a traditional Norwegian dish that is steeped in cultural significance and culinary heritage. While the dish has faced controversy in recent years, it remains a delicacy in Norway and is enjoyed by many during the winter months. Whether you are a seasoned foodie or simply curious about Norwegian cuisine, trying Smalahove is an unforgettable culinary experience that offers a glimpse into Norway’s rich cultural history.

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