Why I eat Greenlandic Food

In autumn I started a little unofficial ‘Portrait of a Greenlander’ series to highlight Anne Nivíka Grødem, the Greenlandic Foodlover. Now we’re cooperating in a new way. Here in February, I’m so proud to be a weekly guest blogger on her website, www.greenlandicfoodlover.com. Everything on the website relates in some way to food and health and Greenland – whether it’s delicious new recipes to try out or tips for keeping healthy skin in winter.

My posts on Greenlandic Foodlover are written in Danish, but I’m reproducing them here in English.



By: Sarah Woodall

When I came up here for the first time, I knew nothing about the Greenlandic food environment, and I knew nothing about the rules for importing and exporting food, for example. I had no idea how much vegetables cost, and I had absolutely never heard of seal- and whale-hunting.

Yes, I was completely new and unknowledgeable, but it also meant I had no preconceptions or prejudices against Greenland or the Greenlandic people. Everything I know about Greenland now, I learned here. With respect to food, I was totally open to eat anything that was served. One must try everything at least once, is what I learned as a child, and such a saying goes a long way here in the Arctic.

In the beginning, I ate Greenlandic food to show my respect and appreciation for the country’s culture. I thought to myself, When I am in your land, it should be me who adapts myself to your ways. Not the other way around.

I can remember the very first time I tried fried whale meat at a birthday lunch. Everyone at the table looked at me and waited to see my reaction (which was that I thought it tasted very good). And I can remember a time my friend came home with fresh raw seal liver. I ate that without a second thought, although maybe with just a small hesitation before the first bite. They were all completely taken aback that I could imagine trying such a thing!

P1000638 Whale on the barbie! Fantastic summer day on the terrace with short sleeves, sunglasses, and Greenlandic specialties! And with two (live) whales in the bay, too.

Now I eat Greenlandic food because I want to. It’s not every day, but, for example, I do buy whale meat and mattak (whale skin & fat), and I ask for Greenlandic food whenever there’s a choice. I have experienced overall that Greenlanders are surprised by my openness, my willingness, and even my desire to eat the Greenlandic specialties. One of my best friends always says that it is truly amazing I like the taste of ‘Arctic blood’. It makes me proud.

Top left: Boiled seal meat for suaasat soup. Top right: South Greenlandic lamb leg. Bottom: Mattak (whale skin & fat), served with aromat seasoning and strips of dark rye bread.

IMG_5051 An interesting find at the grocery store! Greenlandic Trio Pack of 1) ground Minke whale meat 2) ground muskox meat and 3) fish mashed with cream, vegetables, etc.

I think it is important as a foreigner to be open for the different food cultures you meet. It is also just as important for the culture one comes into to feel that it is valuable itself. The simple fact that a foreigner is open to take on new food habits and adopt them as their own is certainly a success, isn’t it?

I don’t mean that the value of a culture should be decided by the outside world. On the contrary! But when a foreigner wishes to immerse herself in the Greenlandic lifestyle and food culture, it’s a proof that such a lifestyle is unique and very special.

Therefore I eat Greenlandic food. Because it supports the Greenlandic culture, because I can, and because I want to.


The Greenlandic food scene: how to adapt and accept


In autumn I started a little unofficial ‘Portrait of a Greenlander’ series to highlight Anne Nivíka Grødem, the Greenlandic Foodlover. Now we’re cooperating in a new way. Here in February, I’m so proud to be a weekly guest blogger on her website, www.greenlandicfoodlover.com. Everything on the website relates in some way to food and health and Greenland – whether it’s delicious new recipes to try out or tips for keeping healthy skin in winter.

My posts on Greenlandic Foodlover are written in Danish, but I’m reproducing them here in English.



By: Sarah Woodall 

I was raised in Washington, D.C. in a huge food environment. There, nothing is missed in the grocery store, and there are tons of specialty shops with Asian, Mexican, and organic ingredients, to name a few. Everything is available everywhere, every day, and one can go shopping 24/7. When I would make dinner, I found inspiration by searching new and delicious-sounding recipes on the Internet and in magazines. There was never a question of whether I could find the special ingredients I would need for them.

When I got to Greenland, I experienced a completely different food environment. The choices were smaller, and season and price are always limiting factors. Due to these, most of the exciting recipes out there just don’t work in Greenland, especially in small settlements or in the middle of the winter season. But through the years, I have learned a few good tips about adapting to and accepting the Greenlandic food environment, which Greenlanders surely discovered themselves many decades ago:

  • Make dinner based on the daily specials at the store and market. That way, you will always be successful.
  • Harvest the Greenlandic nature whenever possible. Pick crowberries and blueberries to put into yummy sauces, smoothies, and cakes. Cut stalks of angelica to lightly flavor water. Go hunting for your own reindeer, muskox, seal, and ptarmigan. Fish for redfish, cod, trout, and capelin, for example.
  • If the necessary ingredients are sold out or otherwise unavailable, use your creativity and get similar ingredients instead. (For example: use pears instead of apples or creme fraiche instead of Skyr or greek yogurt)
  • Frozen vegetables are better than no vegetables.
  • Making food should be a pleasure.
  • Simple food is still tasty food. Meals made of 3 ingredients can be just as delicious as those made of 9.

But once in a while I find a recipe that sounds so good I simply must try to make it happen. A few days ago I found a recipe of Rachael Ray’s (the famous american TV chef). The recipe was for a stuffed chicken breast with potato pancakes. I thought it sounded so tasty, and it was completely different than the typical dishes I make. When I went shopping in Pisiffik, one of the grocery store chains in Greenland, I was actually able to find all the ingredients. So I thought to myself, Finally, a recipe which can be made in Greenland!

Are you looking for inspiration for dinner or just for some diversity to your recipe box? Try this Stuffed Chicken with Rösti Potatoes tonight!


Photo from: www.rachaelraymag.com 


Portrait of a Greenlander: The Greenlandic Food Lover, Anne Nivíka Grødem

Billede af Anne Nivíka Grødem Photo by: Ivìnguak Stork Høegh, via Greenlandic Food Lover Facebook page

A creative and beautiful soul

Anne Nivíka Grødem is an inspiring and creative soul through and through. She is an illustrator under the pen name by Nivíka, creating the sweetest drawings of Greenlandic motifs and animals, one of which hangs above my very own desk. She is an author, creating a trilingual activity book (in Greenlandic, Danish, and English) called Arctic Circus to help develop children’s inner creative spirit, connection with language, appreciation for diversity, and desire to learn. And she is a home chef of professional caliber, manning her @greenlandic_foodlover Instagram account for years and most recently developing it into a full suite of Greenlandic Food Lover resources – a print recipe book, Facebook page, and blog.

In Anne’s own words (translated from Danish to English):

“I am a foodie, and I love to experiment with recipes and to get inspired by food I eat and see. This blog is an expression of what I eat regularly, which is an easy and accessible starting point! I’m not religious or fanatic – but I am driven by visually outstanding beauty. I love when food appeals to all the senses!”

A vegetarian recipe book for the country with no vegetables

Anne is running wild with her Greenlandic Food Lover passion this year. In September she released a recipe book, Naatitanik Qerisunik Nerisassiornermut Najoqqutassiaq / Grønne Opskrifter med Frosne Grøntsager (Vegetarian Recipes with Frozen Vegetables, in English) to give Greenlanders a tool for how to be creative within the frames available in Greenland.

The Greenlandic diet never really had vegetables written into the game plan – only land and sea mammals, fish, and the tiniest bit of foraged foliage. Today, local agriculture is confined to a very short growing season in South Greenland, and imported goods come from the most expensive countries in the world. Needless to say, Greenland’s vegetable game remains a challenge. The price of fresh lettuces and cucumbers can soar to 6-7 USD or more, leaving frozen foods as the only economically reasonable possibility for many. For more discussion on food in Greenland, see here.

Thus, in classic Greenlandic pioneering spirit, Anne embraces this ‘limitation’ and makes it a strength. Use her recipes to spiff up ordinary green beans and your guests will swear the veggies came right from your own greenhouse.

Greenlandic Food Lover_Advertisement Photo credit: Greenlandic Food Lover Facebook page

Ambassador for healthy & happy lifestyle

Anne strives not only to educate Greenlanders about easy ways to add variety, nutrition, and flavor to their diets through recipes but also to inspire them to adopt the same style of relationship she has with food – a holistic one.

She knows that health goes further than eating food with high nutritional value; it includes an all-around balance in every corner of one’s life. Taking the clean lifestyle initiative to new heights, Anne focuses on health, happiness, and inspiration via the kitchen.

Here are a few of her cardinal rules for food:

  • It must be easy.
  • It must be healthy.
  • It must be available locally, either from Greenland’s own resources or the town’s grocery store.

Greenlandic deliciousness 

So what will Anne have us eat?

Italian meatballs over vegetable ribbons, Crowberry coconut popsicles, Green juice of cabbage & cucumber & avocado & mint & spinach, Date bars, Ginger-lemon shooters, Homemade almond milk and almond flour, and so much more!

Photo credits: Left – Emilie Binzer, Top Right & Bottom Right – Anne Nivíka Grødem

Is your mouth watering yet? Get more Greenlandic food inspiration at www.greenlandicfoodlover.gl.

Eating Green in Greenland

Arctic food debunked

The Arctic diet is often under great scrutiny. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres recently funded anti-seal hunting organizations, U.S. President Barack Obama is urging Iceland to cease its whaling practices, and the official Instagram feed of National Geographic has blown up more than a few times with criticism over photos of hunting in East Greenland.

Despite what the media show, food in Greenland is not all about seal hunting and whale hunting. In fact, fruits and vegetables of all kinds are available here.

Ambassador for healthy and happy eating

May is “Make May Healthy” month with initiatives of relay running races, healthy food tastings in the mall, and the like, but there’s one particular Greenlander who wants a focus on healthy eating habits and physical activity to carry through the entire year.

Anne Nivíka Grødem, the Greenlandic Food Lover, takes the healthy lifestyle past her own kitchen and shares it with all in Greenland. She has come with a new cookbook with recipes for frozen vegetables, a blog, and a Facebook group, all in 2015. Read more here about this ambassador for a healthy and happy relationship with food.

Lead by example

Meet one Greenlander (@hannekirkegaard83) who puts these principles to the test and makes my mouth water every single day with her photos of delicious homemade meals chock-full of green stuff! Are you surprised to see such variety in Greenland?

Homemade chicken soup with carrots, cabbage, leeks, spring onions, Greenlandic shrimp, garlic, chili, lemongrass, coriander, and lime leaf.Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 10.58.54 PM

Arugula salad with bell peppers, cranberries, sunflower seeds, fresh basil and basil oil. Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 10.23.36 PM

Vanilla custard with macaroon and Greenlandic paarnat (crowberries, in English).Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 11.04.37 PM

Homemade fish soup with fresh parsley.Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 11.03.50 PM

Homemade pizza with mozzarella, fresh basil, and pepperoni.Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 10.55.41 PM

If these shots by @hannekirkegaard83 whet your palate, just wait until you see her homemade desserts!


For a bite-size lesson on the Greenlandic diet, read about food in Greenland and challenges with Greenland’s food industry below.

What does one eat in Greenland?

The diet in Greenland is a mixture of native Greenlandic foods and imported Danish & international foods. 

From Greenland, there are 3 main categories of foods, and they are all protein. Their common preparations are drying and smoking.

  1. Land species. Primarily reindeer and muskox. Also lamb, snow hare, ptarmigan, and many bird species. (Also blueberry, crowberry, and lingonberry.)
  2. Sea mammals. Primarily seal and certain species of small whales. Polar bear is also eaten, but its consumption is much more regional than other sea mammals.
  3. Seafood (Fish & Shellfish). SO many choices like halibut, redfish, trout, cod, Arctic char, salmon, capelin, snow crab, shrimp, mussels, scallops, and even caviar (lumpfish roe).

As a traveler, one’s best bet for tasting many Greenlandic foods is to eat at a Greenlandic buffet or try a Greenlandic tasting menu out at a restaurant. The courses will come one after another, and the presentation is usually quite impressive. Here are a few dishes, for example, from two different dinners at Sarfalik at Hotel Hans Egede in Nuuk.

Left: Crowberry sorbet with sourdough breadcrumbs and chocolate igloo; Top Right: Greenlandic lamb from Narsaq with whipped parsnip; Bottom Right: smoked halibut from Ilulissat with a candied egg yolk (March 2015)


Left: Dried seal; Top Right: smoked Greenlandic salmon tartare two ways; Bottom Right: Greenlandic scallop with pea puree and seaweed cake (April 2015)

From Denmark and elsewhere, there are all the foods you could find in any grocery store in the world. (But, availability and variety are related to town size. Nuuk [the capital city] and other towns like Sisimiut, Ilulissat, and Qaqortoq are very well stocked. As you get into the smaller towns and villages, the selection becomes more limited.)

  1. Carbohydrates & Grains. Especially dark rye bread (rugbrød), baguettes, buns, full grain cereals, müsli, and many others.
  2. Fruits & Vegetables. It’s all imported, but you can find pretty much anything you want, save a few items. I’m not sure I have ever found an avocado?
  3. Saturated fats like cured meats, sausages, tons of cheeses, and paté.
  4. Dairy. Yogurt, milk, cheese. Even Icelandic Skyr.
  5. Sweets. Think of any dessert you have ever dreamed of, and it is here, but especially Danish pastries and anything with marzipan filling! And literally 30 varieties of Haribo candy 🙂

What are the challenges with the food industry in Greenland?

  1. Agriculture is virtually non-existent. There is very little arable soil in Greenland, so Greenland relies heavily on imported goods. The suitable soil that does exist is all in South Greenland, and farms are working toward growing fruit & vegetable crops for domestic distribution (like potatoes, strawberries, and lettuces, and there is even small-batch honey being made)! BUT at this time, there is not enough yield to support even the small Greenland population of 57,000 or the 60,000 annual tourists, so imports remain the largest food source.
  2. Greenland is an island. Every item that Greenland imports must come in via airplane or container ship.
  3. There is no domestic ground transportation. With no roads between towns and villages, every item that Greenland imports must also be distributed throughout the country via airplane or container ship. There are over 70 inhabited areas in Greenland, and many of them are inaccessible by boat for part of the year due to a frozen sea. For example, the East Greenland town of Ittoqqortoormiit (population: 444) receives only a few shipments by boat a year; the rest of the deliveries must be made by air. By the end of winter, you can imagine the residents are in dire need of variety and freshness! Nuuk’s shipment situation is not so drastic, but the wish for fresh ingredients remains. Check out my friend’s excitement to receive a bag of fresh lettuce as a housewarming gift!
  4. Food is expensive… because of #1-3. Not to mention, Greenland’s food imports are coming primarily from Denmark and Scandinavia, widely known as some of the most expensive countries in the world.