Nordic pesto with shrimp, a Scandinavian appetizer

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!

Nordic pesto with smoked shrimp. Dip your shrimps in this lovely pesto made with all Nordic ingredients: parsley, sunflower seeds, rapeseed oil and Västerbotten cheese. A fantastic Scandinavian appetizer!

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.

Västerbotten cheese on a tray, fresh basil and rape seed oil in the background.
Västerbotten cheese is the Parmigiano of Sweden. Cold-pressed rapeseed oil is the nordic equivalent of olive oil.

A small bowl with nordic pesto and a large bowl filled with smoked shrimp.

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.

A small bowl with nordic pesto and a large bowl filled with smoked shrimp.A small bowl with nordic pesto and a large bowl filled with smoked shrimp.A small bowl of nordic pesto and a large bowl filled with smoked shrimp.

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.

Bowl of pesto and shrimps on the table.A small bowl with nordic pesto and a large bowl filled with smoked shrimp.

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.

Closeup of smoked shrimps in a bowl.
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 with cashews instead of pine nuts.

 

Nordic pesto with smoked shrimp. Dip your shrimps in this lovely pesto made with all Nordic ingredients: parsley, sunflower seeds, rapeseed oil and Västerbotten cheese. A fantastic Scandinavian appetizer!

A small bowl with nordic pesto and a large bowl filled with smoked shrimp.
5 from 11 votes
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Nordic pesto with smoked shrimp

Nordic pesto is a lovely parsley, Västerbotten cheese and cold-pressed rapeseed oil pesto. Use it as a  dip for smoked shrimps to make a delicious Scandinavian appetizer.

Course Starter
Cuisine Scandinavian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Author Eva

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

Recipe Notes

If the pesto consistency is too thick to blend evenly, add a little oil to ease the process.

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31 Comments

  1. Denise June 6, 2019 at 15:32

    This sounds wonderful! A nice change to traditional pesto that I am familiar with. And that cheese… is it as good as it looks?

    Reply
    1. Eva June 7, 2019 at 21:14

      It really is! The Swedes are very proud of it and for good reason. Highly recommended if you ever come across it.

      Reply
  2. Michelle June 7, 2019 at 16:42

    This is such a great alternative to regular pesto! I’m going to have to find that cheese, it looks amazing!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 7, 2019 at 21:23

      It’s very good, but production is also very limited. If you have a way to buy it somewhere I’d totally recommend tasting it.

      Reply
  3. Kate June 8, 2019 at 15:55

    It was so interesting to read this post about a totally different kind of pesto! It sounds really delicious, I would love to find that cheese somewhere!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 9, 2019 at 15:20

      Thank you Kate!

      Reply
  4. Sam | Ahead of Thyme June 9, 2019 at 00:22

    Yum, this pesto looks delicious! And so easy to make!! All I need to do is find some Västerbotten cheese.

    Reply
    1. Eva June 9, 2019 at 15:20

      It is a sort of parmesan, so if you can’t find it you can still replicate the recipe. sure, it would be great if you found the real thing,so you’d get a chance to taste it!

      Reply
  5. kushigalu June 9, 2019 at 15:13

    Pesto and shrimp. I am drooling here! Lovely combination plus two of my favorites. Looks fantastic!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 9, 2019 at 15:21

      Thank you very much Kushigalu!

      Reply
  6. Des June 9, 2019 at 18:14

    That pesto sounds amazing! Shrimp is a favorite of ours, but I never thought about pesto as a dipping sauce. Now it is all I can think about.

    Reply
    1. Eva June 9, 2019 at 19:32

      Pesto makes for such a healthy dip, and combined with shrimp you just make such a perfect healthy appetizer, and so full of flavour!

      Reply
  7. Jennifer T Tammy June 9, 2019 at 18:48

    I had had no idea that Nordic pesto was even a thing – I love pesto with everything, even as a salad dressing, but pairing it with smoked shrimp sounds divine!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 9, 2019 at 19:34

      Well, I guess every region of the world has their own sort of pesto. This one is clearly inspired by the Italian basil pesto, but I love the fact that it’s made with local ingredients.

      Reply
  8. Jennifer T Tammy June 9, 2019 at 18:49

    This post just makes me so excited for our Nordic family trip! The flavors of that smoked shrimp with the fresh pesto sounds amazing!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 9, 2019 at 19:35

      This is so cool that you and your family are headed to some Nordic destination! Whereabout?

      Reply
  9. j June 9, 2019 at 19:22

    My husband has many friends from Sweden and this is perfect to serve the next time they come over. I never thought of using pesto and to smoke the shrimp.

    Reply
    1. Eva June 9, 2019 at 19:36

      I have no way of smoking the shrimps myself so I bought them already smoked. But if you can do this at home it would be such a great thing! I’m sure your Swedish friends will love this combination! Let them know it was inspired by a restaurant on a Baltic ferry 🙂

      Reply
  10. Jagruti Dhanecha June 9, 2019 at 20:52

    This Nordic pesto sounds so amazing, such a beautiful colour, can I add in pasta?

    Reply
    1. Eva June 10, 2019 at 06:58

      I think so! I haven’t eaten this version with pasta but I don’t see why it should not work warm.

      Reply
  11. Natalie June 9, 2019 at 22:54

    I love that you used cold pressed oil here. Looks so flavorful and so tasty. I absolutely love the color. I must give this a try.

    Reply
  12. Daniela June 9, 2019 at 23:12

    This shrimp sounds so good and your pics ROCK! I’m loving all your photos in the post and they’re making me so hungry!

    Reply
  13. Charity June 10, 2019 at 02:49

    I love discovering the different implementations of a recipe.The subtle differences in a dish from one region to the next are fascinating!

    Reply
  14. Julie June 10, 2019 at 15:42

    I love how beautifully vibrant green the pesto is since you use parsley! Basil always seems to dull in pesto, but this is just stunning. I love parsley based sauces like chimichurri, so I know we will love this too!

    Reply
    1. Eva June 12, 2019 at 13:40

      Thank you Julie! I agree with you, basil does get darker. And chimichurri is delicious!

      Reply
  15. Priya Iyer July 1, 2019 at 07:57

    That cheese sounds super interesting! I’d love to try it out some day.

    Your pesto is a thing of beauty. Such a refreshing change from the regular basil pesto all of us are so used to!

    Reply
    1. Eva July 7, 2019 at 16:15

      Thank you! That cheese is very interesting, hope you get a chance to taste it.

      Reply
  16. Kacie Morgan July 3, 2019 at 13:53

    The pesto looks delicious but I’m also very interested in the shrimps; how does one go about smoking a shrimp? Do you think liquid smoke would do the trick?

    Reply
    1. Eva July 7, 2019 at 16:17

      Kacie, apologies for the late reply. I have no idea as smoked shrimp and fish is very popular in Scandinavia and I can get it at the store already smoked. Never tried smoking my own meat or fish, or shrimp. Liquid smoke might do the trick, but I have no experience with that either. You can pair this pesto with anything really, I went for smoked stuff to make it next level Scandinavian.

      Reply
  17. Fiona Maclean July 3, 2019 at 18:49

    I’m a bit of a pesto nut (no pun intended) so once my parsley grows back again I’ll be trying this (albeit probably with sunflower seed oil as I find rapeseed oil a little bitter)

    Fiona

    Reply
    1. Eva July 7, 2019 at 16:17

      Sunflower seed oil will work great for sure!

      Reply

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