Swedish creamy potato gratin with anchovies. Janssons frestelse is traditionally eaten as a part of the Christmas table, but it makes a nice lunch or dinner all year round.
Why is it called Jansson's temptation?
This potato gratin was called just anchovies-potato casserole in history before the 1900s. The nowadays name Jansson's Temptation is most likely named after Per, (Pelle) Janzon, a Swedish actor and singer, known for his love of the dish. The dish is called frestelse, temptation, because it is said to be so delicious that it is impossible to resist.
Another possible origin for the name is the family Jansson, which was famous for serving this type of casserole. There was also a film called Janssons frestelse in the year 1929.
- Swedish anchovies. For example, Grebbestads original anjovis or Abba anjovis.
- Potatoes. Choose firm ones in consistency.
- Yellow onions. Even red onion or shallots can be used.
- Heavy cream
- Bread crumbs
The type of potato affects the consistency of the casserole. You don't want it to be like mash. All-purpose potatoes are ok to use, but even better if it says firm on the label or waxy. One famous type of potato to use is the Yukon Gold. Russet potatoes make a bit softer casserole, since they have more starch.
What are Swedish anchovies
Swedish anchovies are not anchovies at all but sprat fillets. In Swedish skarpsill, sprattus sprattus in latin. When sprat is conserved, they are called anchovies in Sweden. A bit misleading, I know. They have a strong and salty flavor. Anchovies can be found in specialty food stores or online, and they can be purchased in a canned or jarred form.
Sprats belong to the same family as herring but don't grow as big. Herring is called sill in Swedish. Sill is also eaten all year round. Sill can also be used in Jansson's frestelse, but use matjessill since it is not as heavily salted as the regular one. If you want to read more about Swedish herring, I have the recipe for Swedish pickled herring and also how to eat pickled herring.
- Peel the onion and cut them into strips or small cubes.
- Fry the onions over gentle heat with some butter until soft.
- Peel your potatoes and rinse them in water.
- Cut the potatoes into thin strips using, for example, a mandolin, food processor, or julienne cutter. In the picture you see a mandolin multicutter with julienne blade.
- Lightly grease an ovenproof baking dish. Cut the anchovies into 1 cm, 0,4 inch thick slices. (or leave them bigger if preferred, as in the picture) Cover the bottom of the dish with a third of the potatoes, then add half the fried onions and half the fish pieces. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on top.
- Layer with ⅓ potatoes, add the rest of the onions and anchovies, and on top, the rest of the potatoes. Add salt and pepper. Pour the anchovy brine with the cream and pour the mix on top of the potatoes.
- Spread out the breadcrumbs on top and some thin butter pieces.
- Bake in the oven for about an hour, so the top is golden brown, and the potatoes are soft. If it starts to brown too much, add a piece of foil on top the last 10-15 minutes
Best ways to shred the potatoes
Janssons frestelse has thin sticks of potatoes. Like julienne slices but a bit thicker, still smaller than french fries. It is easiest to use a mandolin, but some food processors can also make this type of thin potato stick. If you have patience, you can always use a knife and do it by hand.
Tip: The potatoes might start to brown a bit when slicing them. Usually, you would have them in cold water, but this is not a good option when making Jansson´s temptation, since then the potatoes lose starch. You want to store all the starch. If you are a bit slow, then pour the sliced potatoes into the oven dish and put them in the warm oven to soften.
Substitutions and variations
Matjessill can also be used in Janssons frestelse; it is conserved herring fillets with flavors like dill, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and sandalwood. It gives a more sweet and less "fishy" taste to the dish.
One variation of the dish is to use beets instead of potatoes.
Replacing the anchovies/sprout
If you want to make a creamy potato casserole without the Swedish anchovies, you can make a variation with some of this instead:
- Fried bacon bits
- Sundried tomatoes
Jansson's Temptation is typically seasoned with salt, white pepper, and allspice. These spices help to balance the flavors of the anchovies, potatoes, and onions in the casserole. Other spices that may be used in the dish include a pinch of nutmeg, ginger and cloves to give more Christmas tastes.
You can also add additional spices to the dish to suit your personal taste. Some options might include herbs such as parsley, dill, or basil, or other seasonings such as garlic, onion powder, or chili flakes. Experiment with different combinations of spices to find the flavor profile that you like best.
Vegetarian and vegan versions
The vegetarian version of Janssons frestelse is called Hanssons frestelse. It is made without the fish. Here are some more vegetarian alternatives for Jansson's Temptation:
- Replace the anchovies with a plant-based protein, such as tofu. You could marinate the tofu before adding it to the casserole. Try some traditional spices like
- Use a vegetarian fish sauce or a seaweed-based seasoning to add depth of flavor to the dish.
- Add additional vegetables to the casserole, such as diced bell peppers, zucchini, or eggplant.
- Use a plant-based cream in place of the heavy cream. You could also try using a vegan cheese sauce to add creaminess to the dish.
What to serve with Janssons temptation
- Pickled beets and pickled cucumber. This is the most traditional to serve and what I ate as a kid with Jansson's.
- A green salad: A simple green salad with mixed greens, vegetables, and a light vinaigrette dressing would be a refreshing and light accompaniment to the casserole.
- Cabbage salad: Thinly sliced cabbage with a vinegrette, some fresh herbs, and capers makes a refreshing and crispy side to the dish.
- Roasted vegetables: Roasted vegetables such as beets, asparagus, broccoli, or bell peppers make a delicious side dish.
Storing and other tips
Freeze the casserole for up to 3 months. Reheat in oven at 240F *(170C ) for an hour or until you have the temperature above 150F (65C)
Store in the fridge for up to 3-4 days. Store at under 46 F (8C).
Reheat in microwave or oven. Make sure it is warmed over 150 F, before re-serving. It takes around an hour to warm it in the oven, cover with foil so the top does not burn. Reheat at 350 F (175C).
Don't let the potatoes soak in water for too long. (you may want to do this to prevent them from turning brown) The problem is that this pulls out the starch, and then the liquid does not bind.
- Mandolin cutter optional
- Large baking dish
- 3 pounds potatoes 1,4 kg
- 2 onions
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cans Swedish anchovies (canned, spiced sprat fillets)
- 2 cups heavy cream 4,8 dl
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoon bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoon butter
- Preheat the oven to 225°C (435°F).
- Peel the onion and cut into strips or small cubes.
- Fry the onions in a pan with some butter until they are soft.
- Peel the potatoes and then cut them into thin strips using, for example, a mandolin( with julienne blade) or food processor.
- Mix the cream and the spiced brine from the anchovies.
- Cut the anchovies into 1 cm, 0,4 inch thick slices. (or leave them bigger if preferred)
- Lightly grease an ovenproof baking dish.
- Cover the bottom of the dish with a third of the potatoes, then add half the fried onions and half the fish pieces. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Add another layer with ⅓ potatoes, the rest of the onions and anchovies, salt and pepper. On top add the rest of the potatoes.
- Flatten the surface, then pour the cream mixture on top. Spread out the breadcrumbs on top and some thin butter slices.
- Bake in the oven for about an hour so the top is golden brown and the potatoes are soft. If it starts to brown too much, add a piece of foil on top for the last 10-15 minutes.