It's Not Christmas Till We Bake Norwegian Butter Cookies

A classic Norwegian cookie is perfect for ski trips, snowshoeing, and holiday cookie tins.

December  3, 2019
Photo by Emily Vikre

Norwegian cookies are, like for many of us, essential during the holidays in Norway. But what makes a Norwegian cookie plate? Seven cookies, first of all, and a wide variety of cookies based on whatever traditions your family hold. This week, we're celebrating December and the onset of the holiday season with these buttery Norwegian cookies from Food52 contributor fiveandspice.

When I was growing up, the only time of year we ever, ever had cookies was at Christmas.

It made the weeks leading up to Christmas even more intensely special—the evenings spent standing next to my mother, referring to the notes scrawled in Norwegian in her tattered folio of treasured recipes, helping to weigh out flour and butter and sugar, mixing and rolling the cookies into their appropriate shapes.

We never had a single sprinkle in our house or a bag of icing. All of our cookies were traditional Norwegian recipes: simple, rustic, and, for us, the very essence of Christmas. The lineup was usually pretty simple: nøttekaker (hazelnut cookies), krumkaker (cone-shaped cookies), sandbakkelse (“sand tarts”), and serinakaker.

Photo by Emily Vikre

Serinakaker, which are buttery, vanilla thumbprint cookies, have always been, and will always be, my favorite. The ingredients couldn’t be simpler—butter, sugar, flour, vanilla—but they make a classic, stout, homey cookie with a surprising complexity from the overnight rest in the fridge.

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Top Comment:
“I am Norwegian and Swedish and have been baking Scandinavian cookies for over 45 years! When I was younger I baked ten different kinds and displayed them in tall gallon glass jars on the counter. Now our kids are grown I ask each to pick one of their favorites. This year it will be krumkake, sandbakkels, peppernotter and pinwheels(butter cookie dough rolled out and coated with meringue, then rolled up, sliced and baked). ”
— Cheri K.

They are also one of the very most quintessential Norwegian Christmas cookies. For many families, it isn’t Christmas until they have serinakaker in their house. I would say it’s one of those recipes where everyone has their own version from their grandmother, but I have a suspicion that the formula for these cookies is so old and so perfect, everyone has precisely the same recipe as everyone else.

Photo by Emily Vikre

Sturdy and compact, serinakaker are also excellent for packing into a small pouch and carrying with you to give you energy on the long holiday cross-country skiing or snowshoeing outings we invariably find ourselves on at this time of year. Around Christmastime, the pockets of my mother’s ski jacket are always bulging with serinakaker.

And thank goodness for that!

One time, a couple of years ago, a friend of ours was out on a particularly long ski expedition with his wife (she has more stamina than the rest of us mere mortals) and he had run out of steam. He stepped to the side of the trail and began to pout, saying he wouldn’t go any further unless he could eat a serinakake. Miraculously, just moments later my parents skied by. (Of course they had cookies and of course they gave him one.)

The ski outing ended happily thanks to butter, sugar, flour, and vanilla.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • trvlnsandy
  • Kristin Baird Nicola
    Kristin Baird Nicola
  • Cheri K Falk
    Cheri K Falk
  • Judith Monis Christenson
    Judith Monis Christenson
  • Holly Keller Bertoti
    Holly Keller Bertoti
I like to say I'm a lazy iron chef (I just cook with what I have around), renegade nutritionist, food policy wonk, and inveterate butter and cream enthusiast! My husband and I own a craft distillery in Northern Minnesota called Vikre Distillery (, where I claimed the title, "arbiter of taste." I also have a doctorate in food policy, for which I studied the changes in diet and health of new immigrants after they come to the United States. I myself am a Norwegian-American dual citizen. So I have a lot of Scandinavian pride, which especially shines through in my cooking on special holidays. Beyond loving all facets of food, I'm a Renaissance woman (translation: bad at focusing), dabbling in a variety of artistic and scientific endeavors.


trvlnsandy November 28, 2022
For me it is Pfeffernusse. Make them before Thanksgiving and season in cans with apple slices until I'm ready to ship to family.
Kristin B. December 13, 2021
My grandmother always made Kringla…a soft vanilla cookie shaped like a pretzel. I am getting ready to make some now!
Drdoolittle December 16, 2021
Hi Kirsten, we love these pretzel shaped cookies & haven't had them since we lost our Aunt Jodi who was the only one who ever made them. Would you be willing to send me the recipe.? Also any tips you have for for making them I know one tip that I remembered was you not to roll that too much with the wooden roller. Thank you so much it'll be great to have those again.
Kristin B. December 16, 2021
I don’t use a rolling pin at all! I use a cookie scoop to portion the dough then roll them like a play-doh snake! I’m not sure how to send a recipe here. I have my grandma’s, but a good one is Midwest Living’s version. It takes less fussing than my grandma’s.
Cheri K. December 12, 2021
I am Norwegian and Swedish and have been baking Scandinavian cookies for over 45 years! When I was younger I baked ten different kinds and displayed them in tall gallon glass jars on the counter. Now our kids are grown I ask each to pick one of their favorites. This year it will be krumkake, sandbakkels, peppernotter and pinwheels(butter cookie dough rolled out and coated with meringue, then rolled up, sliced and baked).
Rwalsh18 January 23, 2023
Hi Cheri I was wondering if you would help me with something?

I have two old family cookie recipes and I want to know more about them/the history and I can’t find absolutely anything.

Have you heard of Comisbrad cookies? They are what I describe as a very soft, dense, moist (but somewhat lacking in actual flavor) shortbread cookies.

Thank you so much.
Judith M. December 13, 2020
Do you have the recipe for Nøtterkaker?
Holly K. November 27, 2020
Recently I found out (via that bloodline is from Norway and Sweden.....grew up believing from Germany so this year we are starting a new tradition by having a Nordic Christmas. I'm baking these now can't wait to try.....
Marlene S. December 7, 2019
Do you have a recipe for a cookie with ground almonds that is pressed into fancy little tin? I inherited the tins from my mother but do not have the recipe. I don’t know the name to find them. Any ideas appreciated.
Annie F. December 8, 2019
They are called sandbakkels. My daughter and I have the tins. She made them as a 4h project one year and they went to state!
fiveandspice December 8, 2019
Yup, I think you're thinking of sandbakkels. We used to make those but never could get them out of the tins, so we stopped when I was about 10, haha.
Anna December 9, 2019
They are called mandelmusslor, and are a traditional Christmas dessert. Here is a recipe, not sure if it’s the best one;
Annie F. December 9, 2019
Not sure how to add a pic on the thread. I tool pic of the tins and recipe on the back of the packaging for the sandbakkels
Annie F. December 9, 2019
Bethany housewares out of Iowa sells the tins and many other Norwegian baking supplies!
Corinne M. December 18, 2020
I had the same problem. Never tried them again. Would like to hear the secret of how to get them out in one piece . . . please?
GretchenBenson December 2, 2019
Looking for a recipe Not sure on the spelling Tebrud maybe? its like biscotti but not as hard made with heavy cream. I used to make it with my grandmother and cannot find her recipe. Does anyone know the correct name/spelling?
Solveig M. December 4, 2019
Try to google "tebrød", I think that's what you mean? I can't find a recipe with cream ("fløte" in Norwegian), but I found this one which I think is pretty close. Happy to help you translate if google translate can't help you.
GretchenBenson December 18, 2019
Thank you! Yes that is the one and I did finally find my grandmas recipe. I will share it online.
B November 15, 2017
Any suggestions on making these vegan? I have cultured, salted vegan butter, but am curious if you have a suggestion for the egg portion. I usually use a “flax egg”. Thanks!
Solveig M. December 4, 2019
Try? Serinakaker is like a sugar cookie, so whatever works in your sugar cookie recipe is likely to also work here. This recipe uses soy yoghurt in stead, maybe try that?
Connor B. October 24, 2017
Can I use margarine in this recipe?
Connie S. November 28, 2022
I would assume so. But…I tried for many years to replicate the taste of my grandmother’s sugar cookies, but the ONLY thing that made it finally happen was using butter instead of margarine. Butter makes a huge difference in flavor!
Katie P. December 26, 2016
Here is my email- and thank you!
Katie P. December 26, 2016
Katie P. December 26, 2016
Hello, I would love to know a few things about these cookies. How does one properly pronounce the name and when you put the dough in the refrigerator is it in a log shape or just in the bowl itself? Lastly, what temperature is the oven and for how long do you bake them. I am really excitd to try these "rustic" yet delicious cookies!!
Solveig M. December 4, 2019
Pronounciation is pretty straight forward, as in you prononouce ever letter and every vowel is same lenght. Seh-ree-nah-kah-ehr. Also make sure you make a proper Norwegian "R" sound (youtube it if you don't know what I mean ;)
I never put mine in the fridge, but I'm sure you can do both. For cooking instructions, go to the recipe itself here:
cndomino December 20, 2016
Our family came from Bergen on both sides. We had krumkaker,butter slices, kjotabaker(hard donut like with tails fried -Dad's favorites-guessing on the spelling), and a fruit /nut,pecan snow balls, chocolate chip cookies ,oatmeal raisins. Always seven cookies in our Norwegian-American family. I have fond memories of making cookies with my bestemor and Mom. god jul til alt!
Barbara C. December 19, 2016
Just curious.....why salted butter? Most recipes call for unsalted.
Solveig M. December 4, 2019
Most Norwegian recipes call for salted butter, I guess because its easier to find in the stores in Norway and cheaper? I don't think it matters as long as you add salt aftwards if you use unsalted butter.
n C. December 18, 2016
I made a half batch this weekend (yield 24 - 1 TBS cookies) and they are a wonderful addition to our holiday treats. Wow - just delicious. They are the best parts of a sugar cookie and shortbread - not too sweet not too buttery. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe and story!
Cheryl D. December 9, 2016
My mother used to make a cookie she called ludendeker or something like that. It was a butter cookie that she made sandwich cookies out of. Has anyone heard of it?
Lorna December 21, 2015
OH My what have I been missing all these years?? my family is from Norway but the only things I have gotten...and absolutely look forward to every year are Krumkake and Lefsa, not so much the lutfisk though but to keep my great grandmother happy I choke down a bite every year. May I please have these recipes for the cookies as well please? Oh my I can't wait! and I haven't even had any before... how do I get my email address to you without letting the whole internet know it?
Alexis V. December 21, 2015
I'm not sure how to do this, Lorna, perhaps contact Food52 directly for those instructions.
Shai December 30, 2015
Maybe you could just post the recipe here
Alexis V. December 31, 2015
see recipes below from 13 days ago
Shai January 4, 2016
Thanks, Alexis... :)
Michele W. December 17, 2015
I learned to bake most of the cookies mentioned here while standing at my Granmother's side. She was from Karmoy off the coast of Stavanger and she believed in 7 kinds at Christmas. She has long since passed and I long for a recipe for Harrevaflor (spelling?), a not too sweet, cardamon heavy cookie made in a heart shaped iron. You wouldn't by any small miracle happen to have a recipe for such?
Alexis V. December 18, 2015
Hi Michelle, I checked on Google Norway and found a recipe for havreflarn, a cookie using oat, butter salt and baking powder. Would that be the type of cookie that you remember? Do you read/speak Norwegian?
Alexis V. December 18, 2015
I've also found a recipe for havrevafler, Do you have an electric waffle iron that makes the heart shaped vafler? If youu want either recipe , let me know and I can send you the recipe in Norwegian, or translate it into English for you.
Ingvild L. December 18, 2015
I think you might be thinking of "harde vafler", meaning "hard waffles". The are basically a sort of crispy waffle, made in a waffle iron (Norwegian waffle irons make a round waffle that can be separated into 4 or 5 hearts).
fiveandspice December 18, 2015
I agree, they sound like harde vafler. We don't make those in my family, but I'm finding online recipes in Norwegian that I could translate and send.
Michele W. December 18, 2015
Yes, I have a heart iron. Sadly, no, I don't speak Norwegian. It is a hard, crisp cookie that I'm longing for not a soft waffle. I would so appreciate a translated recipe. I have Grandma's krumkake iron, sandkake tins, and her kransekake rings too. I wow my friends with her fyrstekake and would love to wow them with the harde vafler too. Thank You All
tch December 18, 2015
I would love the recipes! If you can translate to English, that would be great! I do have a heart-shaped waffle iron :)
[email protected]
Alexis V. December 18, 2015
Havregrynvafler (Oat Waffles)
2 dl sifted all purpose flour, 3dl quick oats, 4 - 5 TBSP sugar, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 tsp cardamom, 6dl milk (either sweet or buttermilk), 2 eggs, 4 - 5 TBSP melted butter or neutral tasting oil,
- Mix together all the dry ingredients. Stir in the milk and continue stirring until there are no more lumps. Mix in the beaten egg and the butter. Allow the batter to rest for a minimum of 15 minutes before you cook the batter.
Alexis V. December 18, 2015
Alexis V. December 18, 2015
Continuation of Havreflarn recipe: Preheat oven to 200 C/392F and cover cookie sheet with parchment paper. Melt the butter and pour it over the oats, mixing the two together. Beat the egg and sugar together until no long gritty. Sprinkle the baking powder over sugar/egg mix, stirring slightly, then fold in the butter/oat until all is combined. Using a teaspoon, place cookie dough well apart on the parchment lined cookie sheet, as they will spread out during baking. Bake 6 - 7 minutes on middle rack of oven and until golden and slightly brown at the edges. Watch the cookies well during baking as they quickly can be overdone and oven temperatures vary. Cool the cookies on the cookies sheet before removing them to a cooling rack, If you remove them too early they will roll up. If you do want to bend the cookies, place them over the handle of a wooden spoon or something similar while they still are somewhat warm. Makes about 24 cookies
Laura December 6, 2015
These sound delicious! And simple which I appreciate. I can't wait to make these this year for Christmas!
cndomino December 4, 2015
My family is from Bergen on both sides and we definitely were a krumkaker fans crowd and ,we had 7 kinds of cookies at our table. . We had butter slices, Kransakaker,among others.Those cookies are new to me.
Alexis V. December 4, 2015
I still bake kransekake for weddings, but do not even try to bake all the 13 kinds of cookies - our waists can't take all of that!
fiveandspice December 4, 2015
My mother always said we were supposed to have 13 kinds, but we never actually managed to make that many! More like 5, haha. I bet serinakaker are more popular in Eastern Norway. My family is very much east-landers on the whole (though my dad's family is from Narvik, but my mom is from Oslo, and we go with her traditions! :)
Alexis V. December 4, 2015
We moved to Norway from Canada in 1965, when my mother remarried, and she adopted all the Norwegian customs, actually out-Norwgianing the Norwegian housewives! She doesn't do all the baking and cooking now, but my brother does, making all the specialties. I'm sure he and I have so much interest in good food because of her great abilities and interest in good food and drink. But Norwegians never really need a special occasion to celebrate. Some make every day a celebration. God Jul!
Alexis V. December 4, 2015
I was fortunate enough to spend my teenage years in Larkollen, Norway where it was the tradition that there should be 13 different kinds of cookies for Christmas ( in addition to all the lovely home-made sild, sylte, riskrem, og lingnende), but serinakaker were never one of the 13. Looking forward to trying this recipe. Tusen takk!