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Norway isn't exactly known as the most veggie-friendly country in Europe. Traditional dishes such as ribbe and pinnekjøtt during the Christmas season and hot dogs for 17th May are just a couple of examples of how meat-heavy Norwegian cuisine really is.
Nonetheless, vegetarianism, veganism and food allergies are all widely known in the country and if you're visiting, you shouldn't have to lose any sleep over where and what to eat during your trip. Therefore I decided to give you the rundown of allergy-friendly Norwegian dishes and restaurants in the biggest cities of the country that cater well for anyone on a special diet - whether you're vegetarian, vegan, lactose-intolerant, or suffering from an IBD/IBS or celiac disease.
Having recently been diagnosed with colitis and been put on a no-milk/no-red-meat diet (at least for the time being), I know how frustrating it can be to not be able to eat everything you'd like. As a Norway local, former vegetarian and picky eater, however, I've also learnt to navigate my way around Norwegian cuisine and did some restaurant research so that you don't have to!
Make sure to share the post with anyone you think would find it helpful and feel free to share any of your tips and recommendations in the comments :)
Table of content:
1. Norwegian Cuisine and Allergy-Friendly Dishes
(Vegetarian & Lactose-Free Dishes + Gluten-Free & Lactose-Free Dishes)
2. Guide to Allergy-Friendly/Veggie Restaurants in Norway
(Oslo / Bergen / Stavanger / Trondheim / Tromsø / Restaurant chains that you can find in more than one city)
3. Further Tips and Information
Norwegian Cuisine and Allergy-Friendly Dishes
1. Vegetarian (& Lactose-free) Dishes
Given Norway's history as a country that had to rely on farming and fishing for subsistence, it comes as no surprise that most traditional Norwegian dishes contain either meat or seafood, as well as dairy.
Whether that's fiskekaker ("fish cakes" = essentially fish burgers), kjøttboller (meatballs), fårikål (mutton stew with cabbage), lapskaus (vegetable stew with meat) or fiskesuppe (fish soup), vegetarian or vegan options are often quite limited in traditional restaurants and/or rural Norway.
However, there are a few vegetarian dishes that are readily available throughout the entire country - and some of them are even lactose-free:
Norwegian waffles: You can find waffles literally all over the country and at pretty much every cafe, museum or tourist attraction. They're usually only made with flour, eggs, sugar and water, so that they're fine to eat if you're allergic to lactose as well!
Lefse: Lefse are thin potato pancakes that can be eaten as a sweet version with jam or as a savoury version with sausages. The vegetarians among you would want to stick with the former, which should also be fine for the lactose-intolerant, as lefse are traditionally only made with flour, egg, butter and sugar. As butter is very low on lactose, most people would handle lefse just fine.
Lapper/Svele: Lapper (also known as svele) are thick pancakes that are eaten as an afternoon snack in Norway. They're made with egg, sugar, flour, butter and buttermilk, meaning that most lactose-intolerant people shouldn't have an issue eating these. If you do react to butter and buttermilk though, better pass this snack!
Krumkaker: Krumkaker are traditionally eaten at Christmas and can then be found in every supermarket and many cafes in the country. They're ususally made with flour, butter, eggs, sugar and cream, so unfortunately, they aren't for the lactose-intolerant.
Suksessterte: Suksessterte is one of Norway's most traditional cakes and served whenever there's something to celebrate. It has an almond sponge and custard frosting and also contains egg, sugar, cream, butter and vanilla. Very delicious but not for the lactose-intolerant!
Skoleboller: Skoleboller are buns with custard filling and grated coconut. They're pretty cheap and very sweet - and unfortunately not for the lactose-intolerant!
Brown cheese: A staple of Norwegian breakfast and lunch packs, brown cheese is made from goat milk (so, not for you if you can't have lactose) and tastes very sweet, almost caramel-like. It's traditionally eaten together with jam on either bread or even waffles.
As you might have noticed, you'd have most of these dishes for either lunch or afternoon tea, but they aren't exactly an option for dinner. If you're visiting Norway and plan to venture out of the cities and into more rural areas, I can only recommend you to find an Airbnb or hostel with kitchen access, so that you can prepare most of your meals yourself.
2. Gluten-free (& Lactose-free) dishes
Good news for the celiacs among you: many of the traditional Norwegian lunch/dinner dishes are already gluten-free to begin with, so that you don't have to worry too much about finding something on the menu of basically any restaurant in Norway - even in the rural regions.
However, if cross-contamination is an issue for you, make sure to tell staff about it right away and ask if they can prepare your dish separately from others. Celiac disease is definitely widely known around the country and if being asked politely, most restaurants will happily cater to your requirements. Note though: If you're visiting in peak season or during Christmas, restaurants tend to be quite busy, so it can't hurt to call first and ask if they have capacity to prepare a gluten-free meal.
These are some of Norway's traditional dishes that are gluten-free - and some of them are either lactose-free as well, or can easily be made lactose-free by asking for the dish without sauce:
Fiskesuppe: The classic Norwegian fish soup is usually prepared with cod or salmon - and cream, so this is a no-no if you're lactose-intolerant! Note: Double-check with the chef that they don't use flour to thicken the soup!!
Kjøttboller: Norwegian meatballs are usually served with mashed potatoes and gravy or cream sauce - if you can't have lactose, simply ask for the dish without sauce! Again: Double-check with the chef that they don't use flour to thicken the meatballs!!
Fiskekaker: Fisk cakes can be eaten as a burger, or good news for celiacs, simply with some potatoes and/or salad on the side. Depending on the recipe, they might contain milk so if you're lactose-intolerant, ask the staff first!
Lapskaus: Another popular stew in Norway, lapskaus traditionally contains potatoes, carrots and either beef or pork/ham.
Reindeer meat: You can't visit Norway without giving reindeer meat a try (if you're allowed to, that is). Reindeer meat is usually served with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, making it a perfect dish for celiacs and anyone who's lactose-intolerant (as long as the mashed potatoes don't contain milk).
Fårikål: Fårikål is a seasonal stew, which is eaten during the autumn season in Norway. It consists of mutton and cabbage with potatoes on the side. While it's fine for any lactose-intolerant to eat, some recipes include flour, so if you're celiac, double-check with the chef first!
Tørrfisk: Stockfish is cod that hangs outside to dry. You'll find fish drying racks all over the coast of Northern Norway and stockfish itself often is served with vegetables and potatoes.
Guide to Allergy-Friendly/Vegan Restaurants in Norway*
Most restaurants indicate dishes that may be problematic for those suffering from a food allergy with little symbols or letters on their menu, which makes it super helpful to research where you want to go for lunch/dinner just by browsing their website alone.
If the menu is only in Norwegian (shouldn't be a problem in any of the cities listed below but might be the case in rural Norway), these are the words you should avoid when ordering a certain dish:
Laktose = Lactose
Gluten / Gluten av hvete = Gluten (from wheat)
Hvete = Wheat
Norwegian suddenly became super easy, didn't it?!
Other words to avoid for vegans or anyone allergic to seafood would be:
Egg = Egg (duh!)
Fisk = Fish
Skalldyr = Shellfish
In order for you to save time preparing for your trip, I've asked around and made some research to find a few vegan/vegetarian/allergy-friendly restaurants in the biggest and most popular cities of Norway (Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim), and will also present a few options in the two cities that I know best: Tromsø and Stavanger!
Please note: These are just suggestions and recommendations, but not a complete list of veggie/allergy-friendly restaurants in the cities. If you know of one that's not on the list, feel free to mention it in a comment below so that others get to enjoy their food as well!
First things first, Oslo has, hands-down, got to be the easiest city in all of Norway to find vegan, vegetarian and allergy-friendly food. The city has a ton of cafes and restaurants offering all kinds of cuisines, so no need to worry about finding something to eat when visiting Norway's capital!
If you'd like to plan your meals nonetheless, though, here are a few suggestions:
Vegan Loving Hut Oslo - 100% vegan / mostly Asian dishes but also burgers / loads of gluten-free options!
Address: Fredensborgveien 29 / Open Mondays to Saturdays 12PM - 8PM
The Fragrance of the Heart - vegetarian cafe with vegan, lactose-free and gluten-free dishes, such as cakes, soups, curry, quiche, wraps, burgers and salads
Majorstuveien 2 & Fridtjof Nansens plass 2 / Open 7 days a week - varying hours
Nordvegan - 100% vegan restaurant with a changing menu every day / main dishes, such as lasagna and curry, as well as desserts available / gluten-free dishes availableKristian IVs gate 15b / Open 7 days a week from noon to 8/9PM
Eataly - Italian restaurant with a couple of vegetarian options / gluten-free pizza and pasta is available on request / IBD & IBS people: all dishes containing garlic and loads of spices are clearly marked on the menu - yay!
Bryggetorget 18 / Open 7 days a week from around noon to around 10/10.30PM (except Sundays - they close at 8PM then)
Hansen Frogner Bakery - bakery chain with over 30 stores in the Oslo region / fresh selection of gluten-free bread, pastry and cakes every day except Sundays
Treats Bakery - organic and gluten-free bakery offering loads of cakes and pastry without refined sugar
Skippergata 22 / Open 7 days a week from 9AM to 7PM (11PM/12AM on weekends)
Dwell Bergen - "Health and Yummy" is their motto / loads of vegetarian and vegan options, nothing gluten-free though
Sparebanksgaten 2 / Open Tuesday to Friday from 4PM to late at night, Saturday and Sunday from 12PM to late at night, close on Mondays
Maharaja - Indian restaurant close to Bryggen with a vegetarian/vegan menu and a couple of gluten-free dishes
Rosenkrantz gt. 5 / Open 7 days a week from 3PM to 11PM/Midnight
Akademisk Kvarter - the student cafe of the university is one of the cheapest options to eat out in Bergen and offers a yummy selection of burgers, bagels, pancakes and other snacks / plenty of gluten-free and vegetarian options
Olav Kyrres gate 49 / Mondays to Fridays from 11.30AM to 9PM, Saturdays with brunch menu from 2PM to late at night
Gresk Pai - an entire bakery focusing on Greek pai - how delicious! / plenty of vegetarian and vegan options but unfortunately no gluten-free ones
Jonsvollsgaten 5 / Open Monday to Saturday from 11 to 6.30PM
Jakob's Brød - organic bakery and cafe offering salads, soup, pizza and sandwiches / a couple of vegetarian and vegan options available / nothing gluten-free though / IBD & IBS: be aware of the pesto on the sandwiches and pizza as it might contain garlic
Kvitsøygata 30 / Open 7 days a week from 7AM to 5PM (Sundays from 9AM to 4PM)
Ostehuset - local restaurant chain with a focus on fresh produce from the Jæren coast / plenty of vegetarian and a couple of vegan options / nothing much for celiacs though
Hospitalgaten 6 / Open Monday to Saturday from 8AM, closed on Sundays >> note: closes early (between 6PM and 9PM depending on the day of the week)
Crêperie Take Away - newly opened creperie in Stavanger with a great selection of vegetarian crepes (all made of lactose-free milk!) / gluten-free crepes are available for 15 NOK extra
Pedersgata 55 / Open 7 days a week from 10AM to 10PM (8PM on Saturdays)
Original Thai Food - Thai restaurant with a super allergy-friendly menu (as in, everything is clearly highlighted) / all dishes can be prepared as vegetarian or vegan by swapping meat with tofu
Pedersgata 6B / Open 7 days a week from 3PM to 9PM (Sundays from 2PM)
SunKyss - newly opened healthy food restaurant in Sandnes near Stavanger / plenty of vegan, vegetarian, lactose- and gluten-free dishes such as burgers, salads, tacos, hummus and soup
Gamle Stokkavei 1, Sandnes / Open 6 days a week from 10AM to 8PM, Saturdays until 6PM, closed on Sundays
Hagen Bakklandet - Incredibly veggie-friendly cafe/restaurant offering gluten-free breakfast, a veggie/vegan lunch buffet and several more allergy-friendly dishes a la carte >> Thanks to Kelly for this insider tip!
Nedre Bakklandet 75 / Open 7 days a week (Mo-Fr 9.30AM to 8PM / Sat 11AM to 6PM / Sun 11AM to 8PM)
Habitat - pizza joint offering 2 vegetarian and one vegan pizza / all pizzas are available gluten-free as well
Olav Tryggvasonsgate 30 / Open Monday to Saturday from 11AM to late at night
Persilleriet - organic and vegan cafe / limited selection but always fresh ingredients
Erling Skakkes gate 39 / Open Mo-Fri 11AM to 7PM, Saturdays from 12AM to 6PM
Bangkok Cafe - Thai restaurant with a great selection of vegan/vegetarian and gluten-free dishes
Dronningensgate 23 / Open 7 days a week 12PM to 9PM (Sundays 2PM to 9PM)
Sivertsens Kafe - Tromsø's only 100% vegan restaurant / they only have a selection of 2 dishes plus 1 dessert a day but their food is super yummy!
Vestregata 48 / Open 7 days a week from 3PM to late at night
Casa Inferno - The best pizza restaurant in Tromsø (in my humble opinion) / they have a selection of veggie pizzas and also offer gluten-free ones - although these cost 58 NOK extra which is a bit of a buzzkill...
Vestregata 2 / Open 7 days a week from 4PM to 10/11PM
Suvi Tromsø - Tromsø's only Vietnamese restaurant with its own menu for veggie and vegan dishes / gluten-free options are available on request
Grønnegata 48 / Open 7 days a week from 2PM to 9/10PM
Da Pinocchio - Italian restaurant offering a couple of veggie pizzas / gluten-free ones available on request for 30 NOK extra
Grønnegata 37 / Open 7 days a week from 2.30PM to 10PM (Sundays 3PM - 9.30PM)
Pastafabrikken - My favourite Italian restaurant in the city / they have plenty of vegetarian options, but unfortunately nothing lactose- or gluten-free
Sjøgata 17A / Open 7 days a week from 11AM to 10PM (Sundays 2PM to 10PM)
Rå Sushi - Sushi restaurant with a couple of veggie, gluten-free and lactose-free options / IBD and IBS people: watch out for garlic and onion!
Skippergata 16 / Open 7 days a week from 3PM to 10/11PM
Kafè Globus - Ethnic cafe with plenty of veggie, vegan, lactose-free and gluten-free options such as burgers, samosa, falafel and soup
Storgata 30 / Open Monday to Friday from 10AM to 7PM, Saturdays 11AM to 5PM, closed on Sundays
Burgr - the best burger in town / they have one veggie burger on the menu but all others can be ordered as veggie version as well / unfortunately not suitable for celiacs, IBD/IBS people and those intolerant to lactose
Skippergata 6A / Open Tuesday to Saturday from 12PM to 10.30PM and Sunday to Monday from 12PM to 7.30PM
Huken Pub - one of the cosiest pubs in the city / they mostly focus on burgers but also offer veggie meals (pancakes) and gluten-free options (baked potatoes)
Strandgata 22 / Open 7 days a week from 2PM to late at night
6. restaurant chains that you can find in more than one city
Pizzabakeren - probably Norway's biggest fast food joint, Pizzabakeren is not my first choice when I'm craving pizza but I include it anyway as you can find their restaurants pretty much all over the country (even in rural areas), so if you ever find yourself starving and not able to cook yourself, Pizzabakeren has a couple of veggie pizzas on offer that'll do! / they can also prepare all pizzas gluten-free and they have pizzas containing garlic clearly marked on the menu which is a big plus
Can be found: pretty much everywhere!
Egon - one of my all-time favourite restaurant chains in Norway as I always know what to expect / they have the option to select allergies on their online menu >> only in Norwegian but Google Translate is available / a lot of their dishes can be adjusted to allergies and they also have a couple of veggie options
Can be found in: Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger, Trondheim, Tromsø and many more cities around the country
Døgnvill Burger - many claim that Døgnvill offers the best burgers in the country and they might be right / they have 2 vegetarian and one vegan burger on offer / even though they don't offer gluten-free options on their menu, I know that their Stavanger restaurant does serve gluten-free bread on request
Can be found in: Oslo, Stavanger & Trondheim
Olivia - recently discovered and immediately fell in love with this one / it's an Italian restaurant chain that offers plenty of vegetarian and even a vegan pizza / all of their pizzas are also available gluten-free / they are more than happy to adjust any of their dishes according to your diet/allergy
Can be found in: Oslo, Stavanger, Bergen & Trondheim
Peppes Pizza - Peppes Pizza is another pizza joint in Norway, offering plenty of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free (the latter costs 10 NOK extra) options / they even have a discount on all veggie/vegan pizzas on Mondays!
Can be found: pretty much everywhere!
*Disclaimer: All opening hours mentioned in this post are from June 2018.
Further Tips and Information
What to pack
1. Consider bringing snacks and dry food that you know you can safely eat, so that you don't end up being hungry or having to desperately hunt down food quickly when you're out and about! You're generally not allowed to import any dairy products or meat from outside the EU, but items like cookies and gluten-free bread should be fine!
2. No matter whether you're staying at a hotel or an Airbnb with kitchen access, one of the things that I've learnt to value being on a strict diet is an egg cooker. You'd be surprised by how many meals you can prepare with an egg cooker besides eggs - from pancakes to bread and even cake! It essentially functions as a mini-steamer and allows you to quickly and easily prepare at least some meals that you know are safe to eat.
3. As Norway has quite strict rules when it comes to medicine and prescriptions, make sure you also bring all necessary medicine you (might) need from home. If you're staying for a longer period of time and bring a larger amount of medicine, you might need to bring a statement from your doctor, though!
While ordering allergy-friendly food might seem easier when visiting one of the larger cities of the country, there's one simple thing that those suffering from an IBD/IBS or lactose-intolerance can do pretty much anywhere if the menu doesn't seem particularly stomach-friendly: ask for plain meat and/or vegetables.
If your stomach is anything like mine and absolutely hates anything spicy or milk, you can always just order any of the traditional dishes mentioned above but ask for the cook to leave out the sauce. Restaurant staff in Norway is generally very understanding and welcoming towards your needs as a guest and serving plain meat with vegetables is one of the simplest things they can do for you!
Vegan Norway App
If you're vegan and visiting Norway, consider downloading the Vegan Norway App. It's available for Android phones and iPhones and shows you all vegan-friendly restaurants, cafes and shops in (for the time being) Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim.
Scandinavia & Nordics Travel Community
Are you headed to a city in Norway that my restaurant guide didn't cover? Or are you just looking to chat with other travellers who've already been where you're headed? Then join our Scandinavia & Nordics Travel Community on Facebook!
Here, you'll find a bunch of like-minded travellers, expats and locals in the Nordics who are all more than happy to answer any and all question you might have about visiting Norway and its neighbouring countries.