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Whale meat: What you need to know about Norway’s divisive delicacy 

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Whale meat: What you need to know about Norway’s divisive delicacy 
Here's what you need to know about eating whale meat in Norway. File photo: Whalers cut open and inspect meat from a 35-tonne fin whale. (Photo by HALLDOR KOLBEINS / AFP)

The practice of whale hunting is controversial in Norway and worldwide. In Norway, it is possible to buy and consume whale meat. So, how many eat it, where can you get it, and what does it taste like? 


Norway has hunted whales since the Viking Age, and the practice is still allowed today – despite demand for whale products dropping significantly. 

These days, there are alternatives to whales, so their blubber is no longer used for lamp oil and bones for tools and construction. 

While the commercial whaling industry in Norway peaked in the 19th and 20th centuries, it still exists today. 

Those for whaling in Norway argue that hunting whales has deep cultural roots in Norway and that it can be used for scientific research. It can also be argued the industry provides jobs in rural areas. 

READ MORE: Why does Norway allow whale hunting?

There is also another reason why whaling is allowed in the country, despite most of the byproducts being obsolete – and that is whale meat. 

Do people in Norway actually eat whale meat?

Yes, although there is some regional variance. Those who have lived closer to areas with a whaling industry are likelier to have eaten whale, or choose to eat whale. 

For example, someone from Lofoten in the north is more likely to have tried whale than someone who has lived their whole life in Oslo. 

Older generations also prefer whale to younger generations. 


Nowadays, most will have only been served it a few times in their lives. It is not a common thing to eat, and demand for the meat has fallen over the past few decades. 

Where can you get whale meat?

Hvallkjøtt (whale meat) is quite readily available in Norway. You can even find whale meat in supermarkets, and many recipes are available online.

Typically, you can find canned whale meat in supermarkets or sold in blocks at fish counters or in plastic packaging. Frozen whale meat is also available. 

Its bright red appearance means it can be mistaken for very lean beef if you don’t know what you are looking at. 

You can usually find whale sausage, too. This typically contains around 30 percent whale meat. Some restaurants have experimented by using the sausage as a pizza topping. 

Restaurants such as Rorbua and Lofotstua in Oslo regularly have whale on their menu. With Lofotstua, it is worth checking, as the menu changes with the season. 


How the whale is served will depend on the restaurant. Some prefer to go the fine dining route and serve the whale meat as steaks or carpaccio, while others prefer something more traditional, such as a casserole. 

You can even find it smoked or in the form of burgers. 

What does it taste like? 

From experience, you can (and probably will) go your entire life without trying whale and not miss out. 

I have only tried whale once, so I am far from an expert on the subject. When I did try it, it was in a casserole with creamed potatoes on the side. 

The stew and creamed potatoes were nice and very reminiscent of traditional Norwegian cooking (which isn’t for everyone) because they were hearty and warming. 

The meat itself was quite tough and gamey. Some compare it to a mix between game and fish. People I know who have tried it in more fine dining settings also agree that it is nothing special. 


Many also say that the toughness of the meat varies from whale to whale, with even the best meat having considerable bite resistance. 

Should you eat whale? 

Given its taste, the strongest argument you can make for trying whale is that it’s a Norwegian delicacy. Even then, there are much more famous and palatable dishes you can try first. 

Those in favour of eating the meat also argue that it is quite healthy due to its vitamin A, vitamin D and iron content. 

While the nutrients sound appealing, there have also been several reports pointing to high levels of toxins in whale meat. Japan, to which Norway sells most of its whale, has previously refused Norwegian Minke Whales due to their high toxicity levels. 

There are many who consider hunting whales cruel and unnecessary given the methods used and it being typical for whalers to unintentionally kill pregnant female whales much more often than males – even if Norway does claim that its whale hunting is sustainable. 


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Roger 2023/10/27 19:41
It didn't occur to me (who has never had whale) until now that different species will taste different. But all will taste gamey because they are wild mammals, like reindeer. Interesting article.

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