How to Make Lefse

Today’s post is brought to you by my dear friend Hibby (with a guest appearance by Hubby’s hand).  She’s a proud former Minnesotan, a Scandinavian-blooded sweetie.  I can’t think of a better person to teach you how to make lefse.  Enjoy!

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God Jul (Merry Christmas). Välkomna till Minnesota Mammas blogg: Svenska Edition!

Today brings us 2,000 miles away from Minnesota, to my little kitchen in Los Angeles. We will be making beginner-level lefse, a yummy, cozy, Scandinavian potato crepe that evokes images of warm kitchens in the dead of winter, twinkling Christmas trees, and jingling sleigh bells. Growing up, I loved standing around in the kitchen, eating lefse with my mom and sisters. Never did I think I could make it myself! But here I am, telling you how I did. Join me?

My recipe calls for four cups of riced potatoes. To be on the safe side, I boiled four medium-large potatoes. I ended up not using the entire bowl of them riced, but I’d probably do the same amount again—just to be safe. Oh, and do this step the night before! (That’s important to mention, right?)

Now, there’s a lot of controversy on how to boil the potatoes correctly. If you’d like to know the different options, feel free to leave a comment here. In the end, I peeled and didn’t cut them.

Cover them with cold water with a tablespoon of salt and of sugar. I ended up boiling mine too long—oops! You’ll want to boil yours just until a fork pierces easily. Don’t stab them too much; you don’t want the potato flesh water-logged like mine. Mine still worked; I just needed more flour in the end to counterbalance the excess moisture. So, do what I say, not what I do.

After they’ve finished boiling, pull them out and rice them together with a stick of butter (8 tablespoons).  Hint: that nifty little gadget pictured here is a potato ricer.

Once riced, I threw mine in the fridge for a couple minutes to cool them down a little before I patted them down. If that’s too high maintenance for you, I’m sure you can just pat them down right after ricing them. Don’t smash them down, but pack them down enough that they’ll end up relatively solid. Inside the bowl, place a couple paper towels and cover with plastic wrap. The paper towels will absorb any condensation overnight.

The next day, take the potatoes out and re-rice them back into the bowl.

Now gather the rest of the ingredients and our supplies. Perhaps you don’t have that honkin’ lefse grill or graceful lefse wand. S’ok, neither do I. Along with the prepared potatoes, this is all I used.

Ingredients to gather: Milk, salt, ground cardamom (optional, but seriously? Just do it; the smell is heavenly!), flour, sugar.
Tools to gather: shallowest skillet you have, broad spatula, rolling pin with sock (I also don’t have the grooved lefse rolling pin; no problem), pastry cloth, two smooth towels, and that’s it!

Measure out roughly (erring on more) 4 cups of the riced potatoes.

In a small bowl, mix together 1/3 cup milk, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/8 teaspoon cardamom. Pour into the potatoes and combine. Add in two cups of flour.

Work quickly to roll all the dough into egg-sized balls.

Stick the bowl into the refrigerator; we want the dough as cold as we can get it before we start working with it. At the same time, turn the heat on the skillet. I turned my stove top on the highest setting. Don’t add any oil or butter; we fry lefse dry.

In my little kitchen, there wasn’t room to have the production set up right in a row, but it still worked ok. My pastry cloth was fresh out of the pack, so I taped it to the counter and started rubbing flour into it. Keep rubbing flour into yours until it doesn’t hold any more. Seriously, you don’t want your dough sticking to the cloth. Same with the rolling pin sock; flour it up! Next to the skillet, set up the two towels. This is where you’ll deposit the finished lefse.

When you’re ready to begin, take one ball out of the fridge at a time, leaving the rest in the bowl in the fridge. Squish it flat, turn it over once on the cloth; you don’t want to over-flour the dough, but you don’t want it to stick. Roll it out using short strokes from the center out to the edge, lessening the pressure as you reach the edge.

Once it’s rolled out, use the spatula, and your other hand for support, to transfer it to the hot skillet. Depending on how hot yours is (and you can adjust as necessary), let it sit on the one side for just a bit, searing it. You don’t want the tell-tale lefse spots on this side, just light flecks of color. Flip it over, and cook until the lefse spots are light brown. Don’t cook longer than necessary, as overcooking dries it out. Play around with the temperature of the skillet (I turned mine down from the top heat by a little bit).

And guess what. My first one turned out horribly! Not circular, it had stuck to the cloth when I tried transferring it, and I left it too long on both sides.

After that one, though, I got into my lefse groove. I made sure to scrape, with a knife, any dough that had been left behind on my cloth. I also rubbed in extra flour over that spot. Remember to dust flour over the whole surface and sock between each sheet, just don’t over-flour. I rolled out subsequent balls of dough just the way my great-grandma said to: when you think you’ve rolled it thin……start rolling! Don’t know how thin you should get yours? See if you’d possibly be able to read a newspaper through it.

Once the lefse is finished cooking on the second side, transfer one on top of the other, between the two towels and cover the stack immediately. This is to help them cool, but to trap the moisture in.

Even Hubby joined in on the fun. He thinks making lefse ROCKS!

Now, for those readers who perhaps don’t know how to eat this delectable goodness, Hubby again steps in to demonstrate. The only change from the pictures below is that, depending on how big you made your lefse, I’d cut the circle in half, butter half of that, sugar it, fold it over, and roll that up. Otherwise it gets too log-ish.

Uff da, I know this was long, and if you stuck with me to the end, tack så mycket! I had a wonderful time making mine, and I hope you give it a try yourself! I think lefse-making will become a holiday tradition in our family….

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Thanks, Hibby! And because I can’t resist “introducing” you further to this lovely individual, and I know how much she would love me for posting this, here’s a photo of Hibby and I being awesome (circa January 2007–can you believe it was almost 3 years ago????). Heh heh.

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23 thoughts on “How to Make Lefse

  1. You know, I WANT to like lefse. I didn’t grow up on it (we’re Swedes, not Norskes), but I try it when I have the opportunity. But uffda–It’s bland! Maybe if I tried it with some cheese, salsa, and jalapeno peppers . . . do you think that would be sacrilegious? :)

  2. HA, you always DID love our possessed-totem-pole picture! :)

    And Sharkey, my husband is Mennoknight (Dutch/Ukranian)….and he felt compelled to try the lefse as if they were crepes…..yes, he ate them with syrup. Sometimes you just gotta do what ya gotta do.

    But jalenpenos?! If you can reconcile your Swedish blood with peppers, more power to ya… ;)

  3. Where’s the brown sugar??? :) Any ‘good’ Norwegian eats their lefse with brown sugar, not white!!! ok…I’m just Teasing!! I don’t know you, but you did a great job showing how to make lefse, I just had to put in a plug for the brown sugar.

    p.s. This would have made for an excellent 4-H demonstration growing up :)

  4. My great grandmother who came from Norway in the 1890s generously treated us as children to lefse. She always buttered it, sprinkled sugar and cinnamon over the butter and either folded or rolled it. I highly recommend this combination.

  5. Anybody know if there’s a way to “cheat” and not use a potato ricer? Like maybe just throw the taters in the Cuisinart? Grandma used to make lefse, and it looked just like your batch (of un-burnt ones..) It’s made me hungry, and I think I should get my kids hooked on a little Norwegian culture!

  6. I grew up eating lefsa, and I love it! I only put butter on it, and I raised my boys eating it. When I was growing up, ALWAYS had it on Thanksgiving and Christmas, not to mention the rest of the year. After reading your recipe, I think my son and I will try to make it on his next day off from work. (Yes I am 3/4ths Norweigin (excuse the spelling) and my boys are 1/3 Norweigen, 1/3 Swedish, and 1/3 German) Thank you for sharing this recipe

  7. I am a full bloded Norwiegen and grew up in Iowa and have made lefsa since I began cooking. I learned from my mother and grandmothers. We always washed the first cooked side of the lefsa wih an egg wash. It kept each piece moist.We then butter each piece and sprinkle with lots of white sugar. My daughters and grand daughters ane now learning this family treat.

  8. I love this post! I posted about making lefse last month on our family blog too! I have Scandinavian ancestors but didn’t try lefse until I married my husband, who grew up with it. We’ve been making lefse since then! Gjerde–we used to mash the potatoes/cream/butter with a hand mixer before we got a ricer. It worked fine, but sometimes little clumps of moisture (like 1/4 the size of a pea) would pop under the rolling pin and stick to the pastry board. We didn’t have that problem after we started using the ricer.

    Thanks for the recipe!!

  9. Lefse is SUPPOSED to be bland! Norwegian food is traditionally BLAND and BEIGE, otherwise it is just not Norwegian! Growing up with Norwegian cuisine, I find it nearly impossible to eat spicy or tangy foods.

  10. Thanks so much for this. I too come from Minnesota but have been gone for about 33 years and I miss lefsa…I once ordered it but a friend from MN on Facebook told me it is easy to make so off I go..thanks for this I appreciate it..

  11. First off, I’m not really the type of person to write a response/comment on someone’s blog – especially someone I don’t know, but I was just SO excited about this posting that I couldn’t resist!
    I’m so glad I found your posting on Lefse!!!! My husband and I are native Minnesotan’s, we moved to the state of Wyoming a little over a year ago. Don’t get me wrong, it is beautiful out here – the mountains are breathtaking, but it does not compare to MN (we both grew up in the St. Croix Valley area – Lindstrom to be exact) and I do miss the lakes and the BWCA and…. well, I could go on. Back to the point: Given the time of year right now (just after Thanksgiving), I’ve been having cravings for lefse and rice pudding (I’m also pregnant, so that may also explain ‘cravings’ ! ), but my husband has also agreed that lefse sounds like an awesome treat right now. The rice pudding thing is easy to satisfy, and easy to make. However, the lefse thing has been hard to come by. After visiting 3 local grocery stores and even a trip to super-Walmart, I’ve come to the conclusion that lefse is only sold in Swedish/Norwegian states, like MN. I’ve also discovered that no-one knows what lefse is – someone in the deli asked me if it was some kind of cheese, I just chuckled and said “not quite, but thanks for helping anyways”. My mother-in-law suggested I try making it, after all, I believe she was the one who bought a potato ricer for me for my wedding! So, why not? I’m going to give it a ‘go’ with your realistic step-by-step instructions. Wish me luck!

    • I am half Norwegian from my mother’s side, and her older sister and my cousins always made lefse from left over mashed potatoes, just adding flour. The basic mashed potatoes already had milk, butter and sometimes some sour cream and cream cheese. That is what was in the potatoes I made last night. I went from memory and just added flour. They weren’t very pretty! I need to improve my rolling technique, but they were delicious! Next time I’ll follow your instructions!

  12. We are brushing off my Grandma’s lefsa recipe for the first time in +20 years. She passed away and took with her the secret of this traditional recipe. Compliments of the internet, I have found that the type of lefsa she made was called Hardanger Lefsa. The only thing that I am struggling with is that she had an egg wash on one side of it. I am missing the instructions between putting the egg wash and what happens before you eat it. We all remember her burning her fingers while she dipped the lefsa in boiling water, but we don’t remember what happened in between the egg wash and then. Any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

  13. Hi! My husblands family is MN/SD homesteader Swedish and although I see you all saying Norwegian here – His family has been making lefse for generations (no one can remember it not being made and enjoyed). I have their family recipe and people have described the process to me – but I really apreciate your going into step by step directions with photos. Also – doing all of this without the specific grittle, stick, and board. I don’t have room to store all of it! I can’t wait to successfully put this on the table homemade myself!

  14. Thanks so much for this post! I’m from MN (the Iron Range) but am currently living in South Korea. Kitchens here aren’t that grand, so your recipe helped me make do with what I’ve got. Just made it tonight, and am planning on making more in the future! Thanks!!!

  15. Always had my grandmothers lefse Christmas eve with salted codfish, mashed potatoes, mashed rutabages and melted butter. Just made some tonite ,came out great. Actually taste lighter than my grandmas I used 4 to 1 potatoes to flour.she used 4 to 2. Thanks to my grandma for such a delightful Christmas treat! My great grandfather was Ollie Olsen from up by Suth Dakoota.

  16. I am a Minnesota native, but have lived on the East Coast for 30+ years (New York for the last 10). We really don’t find lefse out here and my trips to the Midwest are few and far between. I purchased a Lefse mix made by House of Jacob a year ago while I was in my hometown and finally decided to try to make lefse for the first time this week. However, I don’t own a lefse griddle or stick, so I was delighted to find your blog post here to help guide me through the process. I used an electric griddle and made 49 of these today. The mix came with instructions, but I followed your instructions and photographs for the most part. I am very pleased with the outcome. Thank you very much!!

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