What did the Vikings eat? Find out what Vikings ate with our interesting facts about Viking food. Discover the dagmal and the nattmal, and when you’re ready – take the Viking food quiz!
Fact 1: Viking diets were full of fresh vegetables, herbs, fruits and nuts
Historians have plenty of evidence to suggest that the Vikings farmed their own crops. This means that they planted and harvested their own food, such as vegetables, grains, herbs, fruits and nuts.
Vikings had their own farms where they would grow and eat their own foods. However, they would also gather food growing wild in nature too, such as berries.
It was common for each family to have their own farm for growing crops. These farms were generally rather small, but had enough room to grow enough food to keep everyone well-fed!
So, what types of foods did the Vikings grow?
They used grains such as oats, barley and rye to make porridge (a Viking staple!), beer, bread and stew. The most common bread eaten by Vikings was flatbread. This type of bread was made with ground barley or oats, water and baked on an open fire.
Vikings planted their vegetables in the spring so that they would be ready to eat by summer or autumn. It was also common for women and children to go into nature and gather wild plants and herbs, such as nettles, cress, parsley and thyme. They used these plants to flavour food and make broths.
Vikings also had salt and pepper to flavour their food.
Let’s watch a quick video about how Vikings ate!
Fact 2: A Viking diet was 25% fish
The majority of Vikings lived along the coasts of northern Europe, meaning fish was a big part of their diet. Historians and scientists believe that the Viking diet was 25% fish – which is more fish than we eat today on average!
Vikings ate ocean fishes such as tuna, as well as freshwater fishes such as certain types of salmon.
Vikings also had easy access to wild seabirds on the coast, and they would often eat the eggs of these birds. They would also eat the eggs of ducks and chickens, as we still do today.
The Vikings also enjoyed much of the meat that we still eat today, not just fish. These meats include:
They would eat these meats either by roasting them on an open fire, or by using them for rich and delicious flavours in a stew. Their stews were often made by throwing meats, vegetables, herbs and wild greens into a cauldron filled with water. The individual foods would release their flavours into the water, making a tasty and warming meal!
Fact 3: The Vikings enjoyed dairy
It was normal for Vikings to raise animals on their farms, and one of the more common farm animals was a cow.
Historians and archaeologists that have studied the Viking era have noticed that the majority of Viking cows were for eating. It was also normal for Viking cows to not live long enough to give birth to a calf.
However, there were some Viking cows that lived for around 10 years – this shows that Vikings kept cows for milk. This cow milk, much like today, could be used to make a variety of food products, including:
- Soft cheese
Milk, whey and buttermilk were used as a drink by Vikings, while sour whey was used to preserve their cooked meats in winter months.
Milk was used to create cheese and yoghurt-liked products, adding even more diversity to a Viking diet, showing that their diet was not too different from our own.
Fact 4: The Vikings drank beer
Seen as the Vikings grew a lot of grains, such as barley, on their farms, they would use these grains to make drinks as well as foods. Barley was used to make beer!
To make beer, the Vikings would mix barley with water and hops. The hops helped provide flavour to the liquid.
This ale was not enjoyed on a daily basis, just how today’s beer is not to be enjoyed every day either. However, the Vikings loved to have big feasts with lots of different foods. At these feasts, they would drink ale and sometimes mead.
Mead is another type of alcoholic drink. Mead is made by fermenting honey into a strong-tasting liquid.
Fact 5: Viking children had similar diets to the adults
Child Vikings ate a lot of the same foods as the adults, and you may even notice a few similarities between their diets and your own!
In the Viking era, children would begin their day with a bowl of porridge, possibly mixed with a bit of dried fruit. However, sometimes they might eat a bowl of buttermilk with a piece of bread.
In the evenings, children would usually eat a stew filled with cooked meats and vegetables. Or they may have some cooked fish instead. This stew may also have been paired with bread.
Did the Viking children have dessert? The answer is, yes! It is believed that Viking children may have been allowed the odd sweet treat. This sweet treat will have been dried fruits mixed with honey.
The most common dried fruits for Vikings to eat were cherries, dried lingonberries, strawberries, sloe-berries, bilberries and cloudberries. They also had pear trees.
Fact 6 – Vikings Collected Eggs
Eggs? I hear you say. Eggs? So what – I ate eggs this morning!
But did you know that Vikings used to collect gulls’ eggs from their nests? They thought gulls’ eggs were a delicacy, so if you came home from your daily forage with some gulls’ eggs, you would be a hero!
They farmed chickens, geese and ducks for their eggs, too, but a gull’s egg was a real treat.
Fact 7 – It was a lack of food that made the Vikings invade other countries
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that there wasn’t very much food for the Vikings.
In Denmark, particularly, the soil was bad. The winters were long and the growing seasons were short. So, the Vikings chose to invade other countries because the soil was better for growing food.
Well, that’s one of the reasons!
Fact 8 – The Vikings had a Day Meal and a Night Meal
Vikings typically ate two meals a day. They would eat their first meal an hour after they woke up.
They called this the dagmal. You can see how close this is to the English, if we call it “day meal”. Grown-ups might eat leftovers from the previous night while the kids would eat porridge with nuts and berries.
At night, after a long day’s work, they would then eat a nattmal – a “night meal” – again, see how close it is to the English!
At night, they would eat the food they had foraged and would often eat stew, combining those foods into one pot over the fire. Sometimes, they would have a feast.
Now try the Vikings Food Quiz!
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#1. Which of these foods did the Vikings NOT eat?
#2. What is the main ingredient Vikings used to make beer?
#3. What did the Vikings use sour whey for over the winter?
#4. What kind of fish is salmon?
#5. What did Vikings use to sweeten their food?
#6. What did the Vikings call their morning meal?
#7. What did the Vikings call their night meal?
#8. How much of a Viking diet was fish, according to historians?
#9. What bread did the Vikings most commonly eat?
#10. Mead is a favourite Viking drink, which includes what ingredient?
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