The Viking Diet

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The Vikings of medieval times led a difficult existence. They had to accustom themselves to a short growing season, poor soils, scarce resources, long and cold winters, frequent feuding and other violence, and extreme poverty. Their diet consisted, for the most part, of what they could grow, fish and hunt. There was little variety from season to season, with most Vikings relying on a few abundant and dependable staples. If you want to eat like a Viking, you have to follow strict guidelines.

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For meat, use only cattle, goats, horses, sheep, pigs and chickens. The Norse also raised cattle, sheep and goats for milk. Meat was boiled in a pot or roasted on a spit. Lamb was considered a delicacy, and was only eaten in the warm months. The Vikings hunted for deer, bear, elk, rabbits and boar meat. Vikings living near the coast also gathered seabirds and their eggs.

Bread and Vegetables

Eat barley or oat bread, not wheat, which was not common in medieval Scandinavia. The Vikings ground their grains using millstones, then cooked the bread in a pan over an open fire. For vegetables, use only the hardy northern growers, including peas, carrots, cabbage and beans.

Wild Food

You can also gather nuts and herbs, along with wild fruits such as apples, pears and berries. The red algae known as dulse also provides good nutrition and can be dried and preserved. Sugar was unknown to the Norse, who gathered wild honey to use as a sweetener.


Fish was a Viking staple. The Norse consumed herring, cod, haddock, shellfish, along with seal and walrus meat. For use in months of famine, fish was preserved by smoking it in specially made sheds, drying it on outdoor drying racks, or keeping it in the upper rafters of a Viking home. Fish could also be preserved in briny water, or in a barrel of salt. Game meat was preserved using the same methods.


Your Viking-era drinks can include mead (made from fermented honey), whey, ale and the milk of cows, sheep or goats.


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