What did the vikings eat 1

The Viking kitchen

A horn with wine or mead, juicy meat over the fire - this is how most people imagine the eating habits of the Vikings. In their Scandinavian kitchen, however, it was very different.

The Vikings are best known as seafarers. But first and foremost they were farmers, which was also reflected in their diet. Reconstructed Viking ship in Iceland. | © istockphoto / stockcam

The Vikings were one thing above all else: farmers. No bloodthirsty and ardent warriors. But how can we find out today what was on their menu? The archaeologists who have dug up numerous remains of food, but also examined the stomach contents of found bog corpses, are particularly helpful here. Descriptions in the traditional sagas also provide information about the eating and drinking culture of the Vikings.

Something that landed on the plate almost every day was cereal porridge or puree. The taste of the porridge could also be varied with nuts, fruits or herbs - the forerunner of today's muesli, so to speak. The Vikings mainly grew rye, barley and oats, as these cereals had proven to be the most resilient. The wheat grain, which is so popular in Central Europe today, was considered by the Vikings to be of particularly high quality, was very rare, and accordingly was also called "grain of the rich". To make bread, the grain was first ground with a grinder. Incidentally, this explains the poor condition of the teeth in Vikings who are still quite young, whose skeletons archaeologists have found over the years. As a result of the grinding, tiny stones got into the flour, which were later chewed with the bread and thus damaged the teeth. However, bread was not part of the daily menu, as it did not last long and hardened quickly.

Fish made the Vikings great

The Vikings were also known as cattle breeders: cattle, sheep, goats, pigs - the Scandinavians always made sure to have as much cattle as possible. For this reason there was no shortage of milk, which was processed into a wide variety of products. But: Despite the amount of cattle, the Vikings did not eat meat that often. Most of the time, an animal was only slaughtered on festive days or special occasions. Milk and wool production was more important.

What the Vikings could always eat was fish. The constant protein intake also explains the difference in size between the men from the north and the Teutons. The Vikings were at least ten to fifteen centimeters taller, and that was solely due to the fact that, even with poor harvests, they could get enough protein to promote growth.

Milk and water were the main drinks

When it came to drinking, water and sour milk were the main components of the liquid diet. But brewing beer was also known to the Vikings and very popular with them. It was mostly brewed from barley or from oats. They differentiated between thin and strong beer. The former was drunk almost every day and was often taken on boat trips. The strong beer was reserved for festivals at which, according to legends, it was always drunk in large quantities.

Wine, on the other hand, was only available through trade in the far north and was therefore a real rarity. With the time of the Viking raids, the wine supply increased, solely for the reason that they first plundered the wine cellars in monasteries and churches. The Vikings could only produce fruit wine, for example from apples.
And to get rid of one cliché: The mead, which is now typically associated with the Vikings, was drunk by them too, but not very often. Met did not last very long and was therefore only made for special occasions and then drunk immediately.


Julia Rienäcker


Last changed: 02.06.2015

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