Jansson’s Temptation – Swedish Potato Bake

Swedish potato bake

My Swedish food temptation started some years ago when I visited the country for the first time. I was invited for dinner by a Swedish family and since it was time around Christmas, the conversation was evolving around Christmas traditions and food. I got particularly interested in Swedish potato bake, that was intriguingly called Jansson’s Temptation (Janssons Frestelse). The day when I was leaving the country, the kind hosts presented me with a hand written recipe and a tin of the essential ingredient – Swedish anchovies.

I made this dish shortly after I got back. It was simple to prepare and turned out so tasty that I baked it a few times again, but it did not taste quite the same. The reason was the essential ingredient – anchovies. It appeared that even though Swedish ansjovis traditionally used for Janson’s Temptation are close relatives of anchovies, in fact they are sprats pickled in savoury brine. Ansjovis are less salty and spicy and much sweeter than Spanish or Italian anchovies.

I only learned about this years later when visiting Sweden again. I also found out, that my version of the bake was a very loose improvisation of Jansson’s Temptation. I cut potatoes in larger pieces than they should be cut, used sour cream instead of cooking cream and never sprinkled bread crumbs on the top of the bake.

There was no better time to improve my Temptation cooking skills than during my stay in Sweden, so I decided to roll up my sleeves and make this bake the way it should be made using the right ingredients while being guided by my Swedish friend.

I had a chance to try a very interesting looking manual slicing and grating machine that I had never seen before and making a potato julienne was a breeze.

Manual potato slicer

The hardest part was to wait until the gratin gets ready, smelling truly tempting aroma rising from the oven. Needles to say, the bake turned out perfect and it tasted even better the next day, when potatoes got properly infused in ansjovi flavour.

The preparation time was around half an hour and it took another 45 minutes to bake it.


Makes 6 servings

Preheat the oven to 225ºC.

Peel potatoes and onions. Cut onions into thin slices and fry them lightly in the pan with 1 tablespoon of butter.

Slice potatoes using electrical food processor, mandolin or manual grater.

Potato julienne

Smear the baking dish with butter. Make layers starting with potatoes, then onions and anchovie fillets. Abba brand is the best when it comes to ansjovis and I heard that you can get them in Ikea, but if you can’t find any of those, substitute them with regular anchovies in brine instead.

There should be 3 layers of potatoes and 2 layers of onions and anchovies in between of those. Finish with the layer of potatoes.

Pour anchovie brine and half of the amount of cooking cream over the bake. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and add a few knobs of butter on the top.

Bake for about 45 minutes on the middle rack of the oven until the potatoes get soft. Towards the end of the cooking pour the rest of the cream on it. That way it will moisten up the crumb crust, otherwise it might turn out a bit too hard.

Janssons Temptation

Jansson’s Temptation bake can be eaten on its own or as a side dish to go with meat. Traditionally it is a typical Christmas dinner (julbord) meal in Sweden and it goes perfectly well accompanied with beer.

I made a mental note to myself to add more ansjovis when I cook it next time, but I wouldn’t suggest doing that when using regular anchovies, they might add too much of saltines and spiciness to the bake.

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