A Mackerel-less spread perfect for your smorgasbord

I’ve been speaking of and writing a lot about baking, cookies and cakes around the holidays as being a very big Norwegian tradition.  But what about the savory dishes? Don’t they get any love?
Of course. In fact, this time of year, long, leisurely breakfasts we call “julefrokost” are cherished (we’re talking hours),  and nobody does breakfast spreads better than the Norwegians.  Well, maybe the Swedes and Danes are up there too, I guess you can say we just love this meal in Scandinavia!  We love our open-face sandwiches and get very creative with the toppings.   Savory spreads are typically preferred over sweet, and one of the classics are “makrell i tomat”, or “mackerel in tomato sauce”.  These are sold in stores in cans and are widely popular.  The production of this product started in 1950s, and several surveys have shown this is one of the most preferred toppings in the country.  Even small kids love it and ask for it in kindergartens.
Here’s what the cans look like, Stabburet is one of the most widely sold brands:
Fish for breakfast you might ask? Hmmm…  Well, I participated in this tradition for a long time, but now I choose to leave the fish alone, as our oceans are severely overfished and also heavily polluted. Fish that once might have been nutritious are now riddled with mercury, bacteria and a number of chemicals that have been linked to numerous health issues. Fish is high in cholesterol and most of the fat in fish is not heart-healthy, despite popular belief.  I’m sure I’ll step on many Norwegian toes now, as mackerel in tomato sauce has been touted as one of the healthiest things you can eat… Well the research and scientific proof is there… If you are concerned about the environment and the rapid depletion of our oceans, I recommend this site.   But I digress…
I long have wanted to re-create many of the traditional spreads I grew up eating, like liver pate (leverpostei) and smoked salmon with scrambled eggs which I’ve done successfully,  but I never thought I would be able to find a vegan recipe for ‘makrell i tomat’.
That is, until I came across the ingenious recipe from my friend and fellow Norwegian vegan food blogger, Jane Helen, who runs the widely popular blog Veganmisjonen.  Jane is one of the most inspiring, positive and creative cooks I know, and she has done more for the food world and vegan movement in Norway than perhaps anybody else thus far.
Jane graciously agreed to let me translate and re-print her recipe for the vegan faux mackerel in tomato sauce which she cleverly entitled “Sprell i tomat”.     She replaced the mackerel with sun-dried tomatoes and red kidney beans, and uses nori flakes to re-create the “fishy” taste in the spread.  Along with some tomato paste, and adding a salty taste with soy sauce, I can tell you the result is amazingly similar to the original!
Jane also recently released a fantastic cookbook all about vegan burgers, here I am with her book that she so kindly sent me as a present!
I will be cooking up a storm from this book, and will blog about one particular Norwegian Christmas inspired dish soon.
If you don’t feel adventurous enough to try the faux mackerel for breakfast, I suggest offering this as a pate or spread at a holiday party with some bread or crackers if you want to serve something different than the typical hummus or pate.  I bet people will love it!
Click here for Janes original recipe if you would like to check it out (in Norwegian), and I highly recommend exploring the rest of her blog out too!


Makes about 1 quart
3.5 ounces (100 grams) sun-dried tomatoes
about 1 cup (2.5dl) boiling water
roughly 1/3 cup (50 grams) raw almonds
3-4 tbsp nori or dulse flakes (less if you want less fishy taste)
heaping 1/3 cup (100 grams) tomato paste
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp chopped chives
1 tsp smoked paprika
pinch of chili powder
3.5 ounces (100 grams) canned water chestnuts, drained
7 ounces (200 grams) canned red kidney beans, drained
Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.  Drain.
Add the nori/dulse flakes, almonds and drained sundried tomatoes to a food processor and roughly chop a few times. Don’t over process as you want texture to remain.
Dump the mixture into a bowl, and add the tomato paste, olive oil, soy sauce, onion powder, chives, paprika and chili powder and combine well.
Add the water chestnuts and beans to the food processor and roughly chop them by pulsing a few times. Add to the rest of the mixture, combine and you’re done!   The spread tastes even better if you leave it overnight in fridge so the flavors have a chance to blend.
Spread on your favorite whole grain bread  and enjoy for breakfast, lunch or an afternoon snack!
Jane Helen is a vegan food blogger originally from Telemark but resides in Oslo where she works full time blogging and teaching cooking lessons around Norway. She is the author of two books, Veganmat På Sitt Beste (Vegan Food the Best Way) and  Kjøttfrie Burgere (Meatless Burgers).



  1. Jane H. Johansen

    Thank you for the shoutout and for sharing my recipe, dearest Sunny 😀 So exited to see it translated and adjusted to suit American measurements.
    I can assure that it tastes very much like the original “Makrell i tomat”, only without any mackerel involved <3 Hope many of you americans will try it, it's really a lovely plantbased version of a traditional Norwegian spread. Preferably served on whole grain bread, and maybe with some fresh slices of cucumber on top! Yummmm!

    • Sunny

      Thank you so much for being such a great sport and allowing me to use your recipe, Jane – AND for serving as an inspiration to me daily! You’re the best!! <3

  2. Jennifer Bliss

    Sounds like a nice vegan version!

    • Sunny

      Thanks, Jennifer, it really reminded me of the original, only less «fishy», which is fine with me! 😀

  3. mistimaan

    Looks too tasty……….loved it 🙂


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