Janssons Frestelse (Jansson’s Temptation)

Serves: ~8
Approx cost: €3.60
Approx calories (per serving): ~ 240 calories
Approx preparation and cooking time: 120 mins

[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #0B0B61;”]The first time I heard of this I have to say, I was dubious. I’m not one of these people who hates anchovies… I don’t mind them at all but they have a very unique flavour and to be honest, I really want sure if a creamy, luxurious potato gratin was the right place for them :D. That said – my wife convinced me to give it a try and I was hooked. It’s been a fixture on our Christmas table ever since (of course, I think it would have been a fixture anyway because Christmas without Janssons Frestelse for a Swede is like Christmas without Mince Pies for a Brit! As with many such traditional recipes there exist a great number of personalised versions, variations and alternatives, though at its heart, Janssons Frestelse is a type of potato gratin – creamy and delicious with onion, and most importantly, pickled sprats. Wikipedia says that the ingredients are often mistranslated as “ansjovis” in Swedish actually means pickled sprats, while “sardeller” is actually what we would know as anchovies. Regardless of this, I think the difference between the types of fish is fairly negligible. I’m told by at least two Swedes that the taste is the same with anchovies as the ones they used to eat when they lived back home, so since I’ve never seen pickled sprats for sale anywhere in France, feel free to go ahead and use anchovies.

Breadcrumbs are often added to the top for a wonderful brown topping and the potato is usually cut into matchsticks. Today I’ll be slicing it thinly on a mandoline and won’t be adding breadcrumbs. You’ll have to forgive me for those in advance 😉 The taste itself was delicious and is the perfect accompaniment for other Swedish Christmas delicacies – the Swedish Christmas Meatballs, Christmas Ham, Gravlax and so on.

Perhaps you’re wondering about the name though. Well – “frestelse” means “temptation”, so it’s the temptation of Jansson, or “Jansson’s Temptation”. The only problem is, I have absolutely no idea who Jansson is. There are some theories in the Wikipedia page:

It has often been claimed that the name originated with the opera singer Pelle Janzon (1844-1889), remembered as a gourmand. However, another claim for the origin of the name has been made by Gunnar Stigmark in an article – “Så var det med Janssons frestelse” – which appeared in the periodical Gastronomisk kalender. According to Stigmark, the name was borrowed from the film Janssons frestelse (1928) featuring the popular actor Edvin Adolphson; as a name for this dish it was coined by Stigmark’s mother and her hired cooking lady for the particular occasion of a society dinner, whence it spread to other households and eventually into cookbooks.

… though it seems no-one really knows for sure. In any case, I would advise you not to worry your heads too much about exactly who Jansson was, and why he was so tempted by this (well, that’s pretty obvious if you try this I think!). The next time you planning your potato-based dishes for Christmas and thinking that maybe mashed, boiled, roasted are all a bit passé, consider this instead! :) Have a wonderful day everyone!


Janssons Frestelse ingredients

  • 1kg Potatoes (peeled weight)
  • 40g Anchovy Fillets (drained weight) + the liquid they were stored in
  • 2 dl Cream
  • 2 Onions
  • Milk for topping up – ~2 dl
  • 30g Butter
  • Salt and Pepper


  1. Start off by pre-heating your oven to 190 degrees Celsius and then peel the onions and potatoes. Slice each one very finely. I used a mandoline for this, and if you don’t have one yet I really recommend it! You’ll need enough potato and onion to almost fill the roasting dish you’re going to use so plan accordingly. My roasting pan was about 30cm x 20cm x 6cm. Drain the fish, setting aside the liquid they were in, and chop them into small pieces.
    Chopping the onion and potato
  2. Starting with a generous layer of potato, arrange the ingredients in the order of potato, onion, anchovies, before sprinkling on some salt and pepper and then repeating – potato, onion, anchovies – finishing off with a final sprinkling of salt and pepper and then a layer of potato on the top. If your dish is deep enough, you can obviously add another layer of potato, onion and anchovies in the dish.
    Layering the gratin
  3. Cut the butter into chunks and arrange on the top and then mix the cream with the liquid you drained from the fish. Pour the cream mixture over the top of the potatoes and then bake in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.
    Ready for baking
  4. After 30 minutes has passed, turn the oven down to ~140 degrees Celsius. Pour over the milk – the level of liquid in the dish should then be sitting just below the top of the potato layers. At this point, if you have any, you can then sprinkle some breadcrumbs over the top, and then return to the oven. Bake until the potato is soft – this will take about 1 hour or so, depending on how thickly the potato was cut, and the efficiency of the oven. Serve up when hot, and enjoy! :)
    Janssons Frestelse


  1. says

    Mmmm… Not only do I like your use of the word dubious, but I also like the fact that I've decided to substitute anchovy for something else (I'll think of it) and do this dish. I've had anchovies many times before and gosh, I just can't seem to LIKE them. Any suggestions for substitutions? :)

    You know, this Jansson story reminds me of that Um Ali dish I made recently… hehehehee…

    • says

      Hi Fati, anchovies are really, really salty with a mild fishy taste, so I would say mix in a 'little' fish sauce into your cream and you probably have a similar end result. Although I will defer to Charles for his expertise!

    • says

      Hi Fati – I think you could probably give them a try in this dish. I try not to be biased because I like anchovies myself, but I do notice that with the amount I've added the anchovy taste is really quite negligible. I find myself wanting more actually. The amount there – what it does do however is give a wonderfully salty (but not too much) and ever so slightly fishy flavour to a bite when you get some. If you were to be careful to cut them up *really* finely then you probably wouldn't notice anything more than a background "fish" flavour though.

      My wife has made this before with pickled herring, as an after Christmas dish to use up the pickled herring we had left in in the fridge, so perhaps you could try that instead?

  2. says

    Potatoes and cream. How could you not love this dish? It reminds me of a wonderful Romanian casserole I grew up eating made with potatoes and milk/sour cream but with hard boiled eggs and polish sausage. No sardines (or onions) though … as my mom wasn't a fan of most fish especially pickled ones. The Hungarian version had breadcrumbs on the bottom of the dish and the top as well as some paprika on top for colour. Happy holidays

    • says

      Yeah! I've heard of this dish before, but I'm not sure from whom… maybe Eva wrote about it before on her blog… or maybe you did? It sure sounds really good. Something I'll have to try one day – need to find a place to buy Polish sausage first though!

  3. says

    Now this is a temptation…potatoes and cream. Mmmmmmm. It reminds me a bit of scalloped potatoes. I know Mike would enjoy the anchovies in this. I don't know that I would. I wonder though if Mr. N would…he seems to enjoy salty tasting things and he does like his seafood. Maybe I'll give this a try over the winter sometime. :)

    • says

      Hi Kristy – it is quite similar to scalloped potatoes, yeah 😀 It's too bad if you don't like anchovies, but I will say that the amount I added really isn't strong in the final dish. As long as you don't mind a bit of fishy flavour, the "anchovy power" isn't really smack you in the face… more "nudge your taste-buds" 😀

    • says

      Thanks so much Kiran – me too… with or without anchovies, which I know aren't everyone's cup of tea, they're so warming and hearty – a perfect side for winter dishes! Thanks for stopping by my site today :)

  4. says

    I've now found my potato side to go with my Standing Rib Roast for Xmas! Sounds absolutely delicious! Augratin potatoes are my son's favorite and he'll love this new twist!

    • says

      Thanks Linda! I love potatos done in this style too – perhaps more than any other style! I hope you will enjoy this if you get around to trying it! Have a great day :)

  5. says

    Okay don't get mad at me but you know what this dish reminds me of.. scalloped potatoes. I haven't had them in a while but when I saw this is just reminded me of it. The only thing you didn't have was cheese lol. But this dish looks amazing. I would love to try to make this

  6. says

    Delightful! This looks like our kind of side and although I tend towards anchovy paste over fillets, I think I would still try it in the suggested form. Looks great and we love the combo of onion and cream with potatoes…gorgeous golden finish Charles!

    • says

      Hi Kelly, and thanks! You know, I can actually provide first-hand advice in this case! Don't use anchovy paste! It's, like, nasty nasty usch bleurgh in this dish. I couldn't find anchovies last year so ended up buying some anchovy paste. It was really not good. It completely lacked the taste. It ended up being like a gratin with grey pasty smudges in it, so I'd definitely recommend the real thing! :)

  7. says

    I could eat anchovies on chocolate. OK, that's a lie, I'd ditch the chocolate. Seriously, this looks great. Also, my apologies if my dog made an inappropriate comment over on Kay's blog. That's why we try to keep him away from the computer.

    • says

      Hahaha, thanks Greg! I just noticed the comment <del>you</del> Coltrane made! Bad doggy. You can't lick my head! Only my cat is allowed to do that!

  8. says

    Hi Charles, I would probably omit the cream or even replace it with something less rich otherwise, this dish would surely do me in. I was with Kelly on the anchovy paste until I read "nasty nasty usch bleurgh" – honestly, don't want to go there! There is always something here that makes me laugh! Happy Holidays!

    PS. For the last couple of days, every time I try to post (around 11am Toronto time – I think) your blog says it's unavailable. FYI.

    • says

      Hehe, thanks Eva – you definitely need to try the "real thing" with anchovies, instead of the nasty anchovy paste cat-food type stuff first!

      Thanks for letting me know about my site – when you get the unavailable message is it the CloudFlare message or just a plain white page? I've been having a couple of problems recently. I did some maintenance on the database today so hopefully it should fix the problem :)

  9. says

    Hi Charles, I really want to try this dish but I don't know about the chunks of anchovies and their juice. I use the paste all the time as it is so convenient. What if I dissolved the paste with the cream or the milk? Then it wouldn't be any grey pasty smudges. I'm sorry I want to change your recipe.

    • says

      Hi Karen – you could of course, but all I can say is that in my experience it's really not so tasty. Conversely, the anchovies, if finely chopped, when cooked up, do not taste very strongly – just giving a lovely hint to the dish. I think if I was going to use the paste I'd leave it in "smudges", because blending it up with the milk might make the whole milk/cream base mis-coloured and then everything would be a funky grey colour! Let me know if you try it, in whichever format, though 😀

  10. says

    Charles, Jansson's Temptation has been tempting me for at least two years! I think I have almost learnt all the ingredients and recipe by heart 😉 As I once said, nothing motivates me more than seeing an intriguing recipe in a friendly blogger's post, so you can be sure I will make this dish soon. I love both anchovies and potatoes and your Jansson's temptation looks fabulous! Thank you for this wonderful idea.

    By the way, I know sprats, but have always had them canned like mackerel for example. I have never seen them salted… (The only place selling them here is a multi-ethnic shop and they come from Russia). In short, I will use anchovies.

    • says

      Hi Sissi – where did you first hear of Jansson's Temptation? I find it rare that people outside of Scandinavia know about it, but I'm glad that you want to try it, and in its true form! :) I've tried an "original" version once, with, presumably sprats, and to be honest, the taste was pretty much the same, so I think I'll never worry about using anchovies where sprats are not easily available! Let me know if/when you try it – I'd love to know what you think :)

      • says

        Hi Charles, you won't believe me, but I actually have two old Scandinavian cookery books… and the first time I heard about Jansson's temptation was in a newspaper, which edited every weekend a supplement with recipes from all around the world (there were about 30 countries).

        Not to mention Moomin's Cookbook!!! There is Jansson's temptation there too!

        You bet I will let you know: I hope to present it proudly on my blog :-) I simply cannot imagine I might not like it.

        • says

          Awesome – looking forward to seeing it :) Which are the Scandinavian cookbooks you have, btw? Maybe I've heard of them!

          Also, I was wondering – would you like me to keep an eye out for anything "Moomin Troll" related during my vacation? I can pick it up for you and send it over to you if I find anything good :) Might make a nice photo sitting next to your Moomin Cucumber Salad next time 😀

    • says

      Bah – if you don't dislike anchovies then you should at least try to give it a go. You can make a slightly different version with finely chopped pickled herring… but if you start removing the fish entirely then it starts to be just a plain gratin 😀

  11. says

    It should be tasty…it has all the ingredients to be tasty! It has potatoes! I can make my husband eat anything he dislike as long as it’s mixed with potatoes.

    Anchovies are used in many sauces by some chefs to enrich them without giving a “fish taste”. You can make the best olive tapenade with a sneaked anchovy blended in it…

    • says

      Haha, nice trick Nada 😀 “Want some tripes? No? What about now it’s mixed with potatoes!” 😀

      That’s a great tip about the tapenade… thanks a lot! I’m going to try it next time I make some tapenade :)

  12. WeshTacTacBienouBien ? says

    Going to try it tomorrow ! As the one you made us last winter was just… oh gosh, there’s no word to describe the awesomeness of this ! (And I must admit I’m not a fan of herrings & anchovies) 😀

    • says

      Wesh wesh – I hope it turns out well! Do you have a mandoline? The potatoes can be annoying to cut if you don’t have one. If you don’t have one you can either pre-boil them for 5 minutes or cook the dish a bit longer at a slightly lower temperature!

  13. WeshTacTacBienouBien ? says

    I have a crappy mandoline, so i’ve sliced them myself with a knife. That was easy because I took a potatoe variety called Mona Lisa, their flesh is naturally fondant, as if you just put them in boiling water for 10 min. So cutting slices of 2mm was easy !
    I have also used only like 120g of the ahcovies and added Emmental cheese on top of plate.
    It was NOM NOM NOM !

  14. KeepOurFreedoms says

    My husband is from the Swedish speaking are of Finland. He wanted me to make Jansson’s Temptation for him, but when he said anchovies…………yuck. He then said it can be made with ham. He will now have his Jannson’s Temptation for Christmas.

    • says

      Hey there, actually, in Sweden, this is made with something called “ansjovis”. It gets a bit complicated, because although it sounds like “anchovies”, it’s not actually the same thing. The fish that is used is called a “European Anchovy” which is a fair bit different, and bigger I think.

      It’s very confusing:
      Anchovies = Sardeller (in Swedish)
      European Anchovy = Ansjovis (in Swedish).

      It’s related to the herring apparently. I always used anchovies because I could never find the specific version required… personally either way is nice in my opinion, but perhaps knowing the difference might change your mind. It wouldn’t be a Jansson’s Temptation without the fish, but a potato ham gratin still sounds good! :)

  15. J.P. Ottoson says

    Wow! I just sent you an email about “fil” and you answered it right away. . I am impressed.

    I just found your website and blog and have forwarded it on to several people who like to cook and bake. We present/teach/ organize a Scandinavian cooking class monthly at our local Community College in Western NY State., ergo my search for a kringlor recipe, which will be presented next month.( “Fil” was noted as an ingredient.) By the way, all,of my blood relatives live in Sweden; in which area do you live?

    ***I am now checking yourJansson’s Frestelse recipe. We are able to buy Swedish pickled sprats, which we use in our Jannson’s at Premier Gourmet and Liquor just north of Buffalo, NY ( Right near the airport as you are picking up your relatives visiting for the holidays!)***

    I will continue searching your intereting, informative, and well,photographed recipes. Thank you

    • says

      Hehe :)

      So cool to hear you do a Scandinavian cooking class at the community college! Sounds really fun. Can I also heartily recommend “biskvi”?! Actually, I just realised I have categorised all my Swedish recipes – you can access them at this link:

      The third one in that link isn’t “truly” Swedish (I kind of made it up myself), but the rest are :).

      I’m up in the north, the nearest city is called Skellefteå. There aren’t that many people up here, lol, so I’d be surprised if I was near anyone you knew! Hope your courses go well, and enjoy the kringlor!


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