Jansson’s temptation (Janssons frestelse) is a creamy potato, onion and anchovy casserole. It’s a classic Swedish Christmas dish and a must for the Christmas table (jubord). It’s similar to a potato gratin, easy to make and has only 7 ingredients.
This essential dish for the Swedish Christmas table is full of flavor. The potatoes are soft and starchy, the anchovies provide a deep, umami flavor and saltiness, and the onions add a hint of sweetness, all bathed in a wash of cream and milk and finished with a crispy layer of breadcrumbs.
History of Jansson’s Temptation (Janssons Frestelse)
The origin of Jansson’s Temptation is unclear but there are a few theories. The most well-known theory is that this dish is named after the Swedish opera singer, Per “Pelle” Janzon. He was said to have been quite the gourmand who created this dish out of ingredients he loved. He would often invite friends over after a performance and serve them this creamy casserole of potatoes and anchovies.
What we do know is that the recipe for Jansson’s temptation was first published in 1940 and it quickly became a classic Swedish Christmas dish. It’s also a common dish on the Swedish påskbuffé (Easter buffet), and for Midsummer, but it can be enjoyed any time of the year!
Can I Make Jansson’s Temptation Without Anchovies?
Customarily, Jansson’s temptation is not made with anchovies, but with Swedish ansjovis, a sweet, pickled sprat (baby herring). Somewhere, long ago, ansjovis was mistranslated into English as anchovies and it became a common substitute for the Swedish ansjovis, even though they’re very different foods. Ansjovis are much milder than anchovies, so the flavor and effect is much different.
Another reason anchovies are used instead of ansjovis is that they’re easier to find in the United States. While you can find anchovies at most supermarkets, to find ansjovis you’ll need to go to a specialty store, order online, or look for it at your local Ikea.
If you don’t want to use anchovies or ansjovis, there are a few substitutes you can try, like pickled herring, smoked salmon or sardines. For a vegetarian version try using capers or even miso to replace the anchovies.
I’ve only eaten this dish when made with anchovies, so I’d love to hear any other ideas for substitutions and how they work with the dish so let me know in the comments!
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Potatoes: Use a starchy potato like Russets or Idaho potatoes.
- Onions: Sautéing the onions softens and sweetens them.
- Anchovies: Not traditional, but a common substitution for Swedish ansjovis, a sweet, pickled sprat (baby herring). Anchovies add a deep, umami flavor and saltiness to this dish.
- Heavy cream and milk: Makes this dish creamy and keeps the potatoes from drying out.
- Butter: I used unsalted butter, but you can use salted, just do a taste test before adding any more salt to the dish.
- Breadcrumbs: Adds a nice layer of crunch.
How to Make Jansson’s Temptation (Janssons Frestelse)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Peel and cut the potatoes into strips 2″ long and 1/4″ thick.
- Melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions to the skillet and cook until they’re transparent and soft, but not brown, about 10 minutes.
- Grease an 8×8 inch baking dish with butter.
- Layer half of the potatoes on the bottom of the baking dish, then add all the onions. Layer the anchovies on top of the onions and then add the rest of the potatoes on top.
- Pour the cream and milk over the potatoes.
- Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top layer of potatoes and dot the casserole with 2-3 Tbsp of butter cut into pieces.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife and the liquid is nearly absorbed. If it starts to brown too much around the edges or on top, cover it with aluminum foil. If it looks too dry, add a little more cream.
- Don’t skip sauteing the onions – Many recipes will have you add the onions without sauteing first. This is an important step that adds more flavor and depth to the dish, so don’t skip it!
- Don’t soak the potatoes – You might be tempted to soak the potatoes to keep them from turning brown, but don’t do this! Soaking rinses off the starch that helps make this casserole creamy and delicious.
How to Store Jansson’s Temptation (Janssons Frestelse)
Jansson’s temptation should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Let it cool completely, cover the baking dish in plastic wrap or transfer it to an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator for about 3-4 days. There’s fish in this dish so it doesn’t last very long in the refrigerator. This reheats well in the microwave or the oven.
Can You Freeze Jansson’s Temptation (Janssons Frestelse)
To make ahead and freeze the entire casserole, cook the dish per the baking instructions, but skip the breadcrumbs and butter on top. Pull it out of the oven just as the potatoes start to get tender, about 10 minutes before it’s done. You may want to use a disposable foil baking dish that can go straight from the freezer to the oven. Cool completely, cover it in plastic wrap and then in foil and freeze for up to 3 months.
When you’re ready to cook the frozen potato dish, remove from the freezer and defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Before cooking, add the breadcrumbs and butter to the top of the dish. Bake at 350°F until it’s heated through, adding more cream if it starts to dry out.
To reheat straight out of the freezer without thawing, cover the dish in foil and cook per baking instructions for about 50 minutes, then an extra 10 minutes with the foil removed.
What to Serve with Jansson’s Temptation (Janssons Frestelse)
- Serve it with a warm mug of glögg (Swedish mulled wine)
- Swedish meatballs of course!
- Swedish beetroot salad (rödbetssallad)
- Have some pepparkakor (Swedish gingerbread cookies) for dessert.
- 2 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled
- 4 cups onions, thinly sliced
- 2-4 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 13-16 whole anchovies
- 2 Tbsp fine breadcrumbs
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup whole milk
- salt and white pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- Peel and cut the potatoes into strips 2" long and 1/4" thick.
- Melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until transparent and soft, but not brown, about 10 minutes.
- Grease an 8×8 inch baking dish with butter.
- Layer half the potatoes on the bottom of the baking dish, then add all the onions. Layer anchovies on top of onions and then add the rest of the potatoes on top.
- Pour cream and milk over potatoes.
- Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top layer of potatoes and dot casserole with 2-3 Tbsp of butter cut into pieces.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife and the liquid is nearly absorbed. If it starts to brown too much around the edges or on top, cover with aluminum foil. If it looks too dry, add a little more cream.