Fancy serving a Scandinavian appetizer the next time you have guests? Nordic pesto with smoked shrimp is a hit. Nordic pesto is pretty similar to classic Italian pesto, but made from ingredients found in Sweden: a parsley pesto with rapeseed oil. Smoked shrimps are a classic in Scandinavian cuisine. Serve them over a bowl of ice to dip in this fresh nordic pesto for a stunning Swedish appetizer. You don’t need to make a pasta dish to enjoy pesto with shrimp!
What is Nordic pesto?
Nordic pesto is a variation of classic pesto made with ingredients found in Northern Europe. A fresh parsley pesto with rapeseed oil and Swedish hard cheese. Basil is swapped for fresh parsley; olive oil leaves its place to cold-pressed rapeseed oil. Pine nuts are substituted with sunflower seeds, while Parmigiano is subbed by Västerbotten. The only ingredient shared with the original Italian recipe is garlic. Although not endemic of the nordic region, garlic is grown in the south of Sweden.
Making nordic pesto follows the same procedure as Italian pesto. Fresh parsley leaves are combined with the oil, sunflower seeds, grated cheese, pressed garlic and a pinch of salt. Original pesto is made with mortar and pestle, but nowadays food processors or hand blenders are the most common tools. I personally prefer the blender.
Nordic pesto ingredients
Fresh parsley is the basis of nordic pesto. Although fresh parsley and basil are both easily available in Scandinavia, parsley is more common and widespread. It is an excellent source of vitamins and its fresh taste is just like the Swedish summer.
Cold-pressed rapeseed oil is the equivalent of olive oil in Scandinavia. In fact, research has shown that cold-pressed rapeseed oil has the same nutrient benefits as olive oil. Cold pressing the seeds maintains their natural nutrients, while also leaving the flavour unaltered. While cold-pressed rapeseed oil might not have olive oil’s specific taste, it is still packed with a lot of the good stuff and works just great in nordic pesto. I used one that is produced locally.
Västerbotten is an aged cheese made in the Västerbotten province in northern Sweden. It was invented around 1870 and has since been exclusively produced in one single dairy. Aged a minimum of 12 months, Västerbotten is one of the most expensive cheeses you can find in Sweden, due to its long aging process and limited production. It is a favourite at crayfish parties at the end of summer.
Sunflower seeds are another excellent source of vitamins and good fats. Furthermore, they are a great substitute for nuts in recipes that call for nuts. Since Sweden is home to no pine nuts, we’re using sunflower seeds, which also happen to be the most widespread bird’s food sold in Sweden.
Furthermore in this nordic pesto recipe I have used one fresh garlic clove and a pinch of salt.
How to make Nordic pesto with smoked shrimps
Remove the parsley leaves from the stems, rinse and pat dry. Grate the Västerbotten cheese. If you don’t have access to this Swedish cheese, take an aged hard cheese like parmesan. Ideally you are using a cheese that is fairly salty in taste, and grates easily. Combine the cleaned parsley leaves, grated cheese, rapeseed oil and sunflower seeds in a tall container. Press one garlic clove and add about 1/4 tsp of salt. Blend this mixture using a hand blender. This mixture should blend quite easily; if too dry and clogging the blender just add a little oil to ease the process.
Fill a serving bowl with ice cubes and arrange your fresh smoked shrimps over the ice. Transfer the nordic pesto to a smaller serving bowl and serve it as a dip next to the shrimps. If you want to aid your guests, you can clean the shrimps before serving. I think that serving them with the shells is more visually appealing and it keeps the shrimps nice and juicy.
The inspiration for this recipe comes from a trip on one of the cruise ships that ferry across the Baltic. I am a lover of the Baltic cruises and their scrumptious buffet dinners. It was on one such occasions I came across this Nordic pesto and had it with a selection of smoked fish and shrimp. Curious to know more? Check out my experience dining at the Buffet on Viking Cinderella.
Looking for a more classic pesto recipe with basil and olive oil? Here’s my easy pesto recipe .
Nordic pesto with smoked shrimp
- 30 g fresh parsley leaves (about 1 cup)
- 40 g Västerbotten cheese
- 100 ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil
- 20 g sunflower seeds
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 600 g smoked shrimp
- ice cubes (for serving)
- Remove parsley leaves from the stems. Rinse and pat dry. Grate the cheese. Combine parsley leaves, cheese, rapeseed oil and sunflower seeds in a container or food processor. Press the garlic clove and add the salt. Pulse or blend with a hand blender.
- Transfer the nordic pesto to a serving bowl. Fill another bowl with ice cubes and top with the shrimps. Serve together with the nordic pesto as a dip.