This simple potato side dish is a mainstay on the Swedish smorgasbord at Christmastime, where it is referred to as Jansson’s Temptation or Janssons frestelse. It is a rich and creamy comfort food made with potatoes, onions, cream and the secret ingredient of anchovies. Perfect for the holiday table, no matter which country you celebrate in!
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What is Jansson’s Temptation?
This Swedish side dish (also served in Finland as janssoninkiusaus) is typically made as a baked casserole of potatoes, onion, cream and anchovies. It is frequently topped with bread crumbs giving it the feel of a potato au gratin.
In Sweden the recipe calls for “spice-cured sprats” which are tinned fish similar to anchovies but not as salty as tinned anchovies from the US. The recipe below uses readily available tinned anchovies, but rinses them to remove some of the salt.
Now, potatoes are certainly not low carb, but if you are leading a low carb lifestyle and want a “potato-like” dish for your holiday table, try this Faux Mashed Potato recipe. Our family actually prefers it over regular mashed potatoes.
Ingredients & Variations
As noted above, the most common variation to the classic recipe is to use rinsed anchovies rather than the tinned spice-cured sprats found in Scandinavian countries.
As with most recipes, different versions are favored. Here are some of the main variations and/or substitutions for this classic dish:
- Use a combination of milk and heavy cream for the dairy.
- Add some warm spices to offset the briny anchovies.
- Leave off the bread crumbs (or panko) to emphasize the creaminess without the crunch.
- Top the casserole with cheese to enhance its richness.
Variation in Method:
The classic method for making Jansson’s Temptation is to layer the ingredients in a baking dish and bake as a casserole for 45 minutes to an hour.
I have simplified the recipe a bit by cooking the potatoes ahead of time and then baking all the ingredients in the skillet the onions were cooked in. This method is a bit faster as the skillet of ingredients only bakes for about 15 minutes.
I have also added cheese to the recipe and excluded the breadcrumbs. The cheese adds to the richness and creaminess and foregoes the crunch of the breadcrumbs. Truly a comfort food!
You can also double or triple the recipe to enjoy for a second meal! My family loves it the morning after Thanksgiving or Christmas to pair with Make-Ahead Breakfast Strata (Casserole) with Swiss Chard & Sausage. So good!
The recipe is simple using only 5-6 ingredients. Here are the 5 key ingredients:
Tip: Like I mentioned earlier, Jansson’s Temptation is often served in or with smorgasbords in Sweden or Finland. I you want to customize your own food board, check out this category for 6 food board ideas. And of course, you need a large enough serving platter to showcase your creation!
Illustrated Step by Step
The recipe card below gives the details, but here is a visual summary of the directions:
Easy Swedish Potato Onion Bake
- 4 large potatoes russets if possible
- 1 large onion sliced
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 cloves garlic
- 5-7 anchovies
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup cheese gruyere or parmesan
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Peel potatoes and slice into 1/2-inch strips. Place into saucepan and cover with water. Cook over medium heat 10-15 minutes. until ”al dente” (fork will penetrate them easily but they are not mushy).4 large potatoes
- While potatoes are cooking, slice onion and cook in butter over medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until softened but not caramelized.1 large onion, 2 tablespoons butter
- Rinse the anchovies and mash up 4-5 with the garlic (muddling them together with a mortar and pestle works well here). Add the anchovy garlic mixture to cream in a bowl, along with the cayenne and white pepper and salt.3 cloves garlic, 5-7 anchovies, 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 1/4 teaspoon white pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Drain the potatoes and add them to the onions in the skillet. Pour the cream mixture over the potato/onion mixture and top with 4-5 anchovies. Then sprinkle cheese over the entire mixture in the skillet.Place skillet in the oven and bake about 15 minutes or until everything is heated through and anchovies are somewhat melted.Remove from oven, sprinkle with nutmeg and cover with aluminum foil until ready to serve.1/2 cup cheese, 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg