Janssons frestelse – Jansson’s temptation


The first Christmas we were dating, my husband spent the holidays with my family and made Janssons frestelse as his contribution to the Christmas Eve meal. Translated at Jansson’s Temptation, the casserole of julienned potatoes, onions, pickled sprats, and cream is standard fare for the Swedish julbord (Christmas table). The idea of fish layered with potatoes can be a bit foreign, so I was really surprised how well my family received it, and how much I liked it too.

Fondly referred to as “fishy potatoes,” my family looks forward to having this whenever we visit for Christmas. It’s a bit of work to make if you don’t have a mandolin, but it’s worth the effort. The potatoes can be grated in a food processor, but in my opinion that changes the consistency substantially and it’s worth doing the work to julienne by hand or mandolin.

The origin of the name is up for debate as to whether it’s named after the gourmand opera singer Pelle Janzon, or the 1928 film Janssons Frestelse. Regardless, the recipe was first published in the 1940s and has become an expected dish to appear on the julbord. It’s also a festive dish that turns up at momentous occasions such as weddings. However, it was a bit too much for me to take when they busted out the Janssons at midnight at an August Swedish wedding. I prefer it as part of the julbord in the dark and cold Swedish winter.


The fish used for Janssons are called ansjovis in Swedish which is often mistranslated into anchovies. Ansjovis are actually pickled sprats that have a sweeter, milder taste than anchovies, but you can use the latter in a pinch. A good Jansson’s has evenly cut potatoes layered with onions and ansjovis, all bathed in cream, and baked until soft with a crispy, golden top. The sweet fish combined with the cream and onions makes for a unique and interesting combination that may find its way into the hearts of your family too.

Janssons Frestelse (adapted from Vår kok bok)
serves 6-8 as a side
2 1/4 pounds (1kg) potatoes, peeled and julienned 1/4″ thick
2-3 yellow onions, peeled and sliced into thin rings
12-14 ansjovis or anchovies
2 cups (470 ml) light cream
bread crumbs
2-3 tablespoons butter
Preheat the oven to 430°F(225°C). Fry the onion until soft in 1 tablespoon of butter. Do not let the onions brown. Butter a 9×14 (3.3 liter) casserole dish, and put a single layer of potatoes in the bottom. Add the onions, a layer of ansjovis (see image above), and the remaining potatoes. Pour over half of the cream, sprinkle with bread crumbs, and dot with remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Bake uncovered in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes. Pour over the rest of the cream, and bake an additional 20-30 minutes uncovered until the potatoes are soft and the top is golden. Serve hot.  

Tags: , , , ,

Categories: recipes, side dish, Swedish classics


I moved to Sweden in 2008. This blog is for people who would like to learn more about Swedish food and culture.


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

17 Comments on “Janssons frestelse – Jansson’s temptation”

  1. Bill Brindley
    December 12, 2013 at 12:09 am #

    YES YES YES !!!! It was wonderful. I tried to find and make it once. Glad to have the recipe;. Dad

    • December 12, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

      Gee dad, you didn’t need to wait for a post….should’ve just asked! 🙂

  2. December 12, 2013 at 6:59 am #

    I have to confess, I’ve never been that tempted by Jansson’s Temptation! A bit too fishy for me…

    • December 12, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

      I have to confess that now after eating it for 5 days in a row (after making it myself and having it for Christmas lunch at work twice) I am done with it until 2014!

  3. Teresa Standen
    December 12, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    What a coincidence, or perhaps it’s commonplace, but my daughter and her husband served it at midnight as the supper snack at their Stockholm wedding celebration this August.

    • December 12, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

      It does seem to be the midnight snack to keep you going on the dance floor. Go figure. It was just too heavy for me at midnight. I guess it’s all what you are used to. 🙂

  4. Eric Anderson
    December 22, 2013 at 7:20 am #

    Tough to get sprats here (Atlanta GA-USA)–I’ve only seen them at Ikea. Fortunately, my family likes it better with the salty anchovies lol

  5. Ayal
    January 26, 2014 at 6:39 pm #

    if you live outside of Sweden, what’s the substitute for the Swedish Ansjovis? We don’t have the Swedish ones… I think the Swedish Ansjovis are slightly sweeter than normal ones… am I correct? Thanks 🙂

    • February 18, 2014 at 10:35 pm #

      The substitute would just be regular anchovies, which are definitely more salty than the Swedish sprats, but will work.

  6. Barb
    July 2, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

    I think anchovy paste would be really good instead of sprat, which I am not fond of. Anchovy paste just melts into a dish, so subtly. Also, the Swedish version of anchovies also contain funky spices—like cloves. Ok cloves are not funky but turn funky once it is placed in a can with little fish 😉

    • July 5, 2014 at 3:07 pm #

      Anchovy paste could well work. I actually like the sprats, and I like the matjessill at midsommar too, which has even more of a clove taste. But once a year is sufficient. 🙂

      • Barb
        July 10, 2014 at 4:36 pm #

        I cannot go anywhere near fish in a can, jar or toothpaste tube 😉 To be fair, I was not a big fish eater at home, either. Oh wait, I lied. Abba tonfisk filet is good. I can do that 😉

  7. Renate
    February 4, 2015 at 2:37 am #

    So good a casserole. Even my Midwest US MIL who wrinkles her nose at the mere thought of “them little fishes” had seconds, and dug in with relish. Thanks for the recipe! I used the salted (and rinsed) anchovies from the big can. Totally yummy!

  8. Gun P
    March 27, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

    In the original Jansson’s recipe you put the ingredients in the oven for 10 minutes BEFORE adding the cream. That is the part that gives Jansson’s the classic crispy surface.

    • April 3, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

      There are certainly different ways to do it. The recipe in Vår Kok Bok calls for adding half of the cream at the beginning and half at the end. Like meatballs, each family probably has their own version and way of doing Jansson’s starting without cream would be interesting to try.

  9. jenni_amerikkalainen
    January 17, 2016 at 11:36 pm #

    My husband is a Sweden Finn, his parents are Finnish and moved to Sweden during the years after WWII. I’m an American Finn, though I do have roots from Northern Sweden, albiet when they drew the line that separated Finland from Sweden there were more Finns than Swedes in the North of Sweden, but also more gold and ore and silver and other minerals, and Sweden had a lot more power in the game. But I digress….as much as Nordic food has always been a part of my life, Jansson’s was never in the equation until I married the man from Sweden. I have to admit, my dad loves the stuff and we bring it every Christmas and it is now a part of our family tradition. There is a Scandinavian store in Minneapolis that carries all the assorted Scandinavian delicacies, and so we buy the sprats there. And my recipe never had me julienne the potatoes, will have to try that and see how it tastes!

  10. Gerald Swanson
    September 21, 2019 at 1:41 am #

    Just found your blog. I’m an American, Swedish Grandfathers, and trying to get in touch with my inner Scandinavian. That involves food. Swedish food. Not easy getting ingredients in LA, especially in the moment with our only Scandinavian deli under reconstruction. I happened upon Jansson’s Temptation and it sounds great. Alas, I cannot get Swedish anchovies (sprats) in time. My options include “white anchovies” in water and sea salt; lightly smoked Swedish anchovies; smoked salmon; or think of another dish. What do you think? Sorry for the emergency request, but time of the essence! Happy to be a new subscriber, too.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: