This creamy potato and fish gratin is called Janssons frestelse in Swedish, which means Jansson’s temptation (apostrophes don't exist in Sweden). The origin of the dish is not entirely clear as there are are a couple of theories. One is that it was named for a food-loving opera singer from the early 1900s, called Mr Janzon (his first name is disputed).

Whatever the origin, it is clear that the recipe was first published in 1940 and quickly became established as a classic of the Swedish Christmas dinner table. It is now so popular that no julbord (Christmas table) would be complete without Janssons frestelse.


This gratin is made with julienned potatoes, onion, ansjovis and cream. To confuse matters ansjovis are not really anchovies, but cured sprats! You really can’t make this dish with Mediterranean anchovies so you will need to buy a tin of spiced-cured sprats, sold as skarpsill in IKEA or ansjovis in specialist Swedish food shops or online.


• Even unopened tins of ansjovis or spice-cured sprats must be kept in a fridge.
• Don’t tell anyone that it is made with sprats until they have tasted it!
• Swedes might think the quantities below are for two people, but with some nice bread and salad I think there is ample for four people unless you are a real Janssons frestelse addict.
• For a blander flavour, reduce the amount of ansjovis and the amount of brine added to the cream in step 5.


450 g (1 lb) potatoes, preferably a floury type such as King Edward
1   onion
125 g (4½ oz) ansjovis (spice-cured sprats)
150 ml (¾ cup) whipping cream (light cream)
4 tbsp   milk
1 tbsp   white breadcrumbs
    salt and pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F, gas 8, fan 190°C).

2. Peel the potatoes and then cut them into juliennes or thin strips. (I use a julienne disc on a food processor to do this but the sizes are not critical.)

3. Peel the onion and cut into julienne strips.

4. Fry the onion in butter until it is softened without browning.

5. Drain the spiced brine from the ansjovis tin into a jug. Add the cream and milk.

6. Cut the ansjovis into 1 cm (½”) lengths.

7. Lightly grease an ovenproof baking dish.

8. Cover the bottom of the dish with a third of the potatoes, then add half the fried onions and half the ansjovis pieces.

9. Add another third of the potatoes, followed by the remainder of the onion and then the remaining ansjovis pieces.

10. Add the remaining third of the potatoes then season with pepper (you probably won’t need any salt as the ansjovis are very salty).

11. Flatten the surface then pour the cream, milk and spiced brine over.

A dish of Janssons frestelse about to go in the oven

12. Sprinkle over the breadcrumbs and then dot the surface with butter.

Janssons frestelse baked until the top is golden

13. Bake for about an hour until golden Brown.

14. Serve hot with knäckebröd, Västerbottensost and a salad, or warm as part of a smörgåsbord (buffet).

Published by Mighty Fox