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Lutefisk is a Norwegian dish of unsalted, dried white fish (usually cod, but it could be pollock or haddock) that is rehydrated for cooking in a lye bath.

There are many people who don't just hate it -- they loathe it. It has a rancid, oily taste, and if cod was used, an intense odour.

The dried fish is rehydrated in a water and lye bath for two days, then in fresh water for two days after that, then simmered in more fresh water for 10 to 15 minutes.

The rehydration process gives the fish a gelatinous consistency, because the lye breaks more than 50% of the protein down.

It is often served with mashed potatoes, mashed peas and bacon, bacon grease, and mustard. Sometimes there will also be a white sauce and / or melted cheese.

Akvavit and beer are traditional drinks to help diners work their way through it.

You can buy it frozen now, ready to heat and serve.

Lutefisk is traditional at Christmas. Near Christmas in America, there will be Kutefisk dinners at Sons of Norway lodges and in Lutheran church

Cooking Tips

Lutefisk has to be simmered gently in cheese cloth so it doesn't fall apart, or, it can be steamed. You can also bake it in foil, about 20 minutes.

Don't cook it in aluminum pots, as it will ruin them. Don't eat it with silver utensils, as it will also ruin them. It's best to use stainless steel for the cooking and eating.

History Notes

No one is quite sure how long this process has been done. The first written mention of it is 1540, in a letter penned by Swedish King Gustav I. The first written description is by Swedish archbishop Olaus Magnus in 1555.

Language Notes

"Lutefisk," pronounced "LOOT-ah-fisk", means "lye fish."


Endicott, David. The lore and lye of lutefisk. Seattle Times. 21 December 2000.


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Oulton, Randal. "Lutefisk." CooksInfo.com. Published 21 September 2010; revised 21 September 2010. Web. Accessed 03/23/2018. <http://www.cooksinfo.com/lutefisk>.

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