Jansson’s Temptation (Janssons frestelse)

I still remember the first time I read about Jansson’s Temptation and it was at least ten years ago. Since then I have been meaning to make it at least hundred times, so when I saw it on Charles’s blog (Five Euro Food) I felt it was high time I realised what was so special about it. This mysteriously named potato gratin is one of the biggest stars of the Swedish cuisine and, known as Janssonin kiusaus, it also appears on Finnish tables. According to wikipedia, some say it has been named after Pelle Janzon, a famous XIXth century Swedish singer, others claim the name comes from the 1928 film titled “Janssons frestelse”. I have also read some stories about a saint called Jansson… Whatever the origins, Jansson’s Temptation is much more than just another potato gratin.

Traditionally served for Christmas, but apparently also throughout the rest of the year, Jansson’s Temptation sounds as simple as most of the Swedish dishes. It is composed of layered potatoes, onions and pickled sprats (or anchovies), baked in a mixture of milk and cream. These outwardly ordinary ingredients produce an incredibly aromatic, complex and flavoursome gratin. Whoever Jansson was, I totally understand why he was tempted. Thank you, Charles, for making me discover the Swedish cuisine and its simple, but surprising delights! (Click here to see Charles’s recipe and photos.)

Even though the gratin is terrific in its traditional form, I must confess the second time I made it something pushed me towards slight modifications (I hope Charles will forgive me). First of all, since I am very fond of canned anchovies, I doubled their amount. The biggest modification however was the addition of white wine, which resulted in a sharper and less “homely” aroma and taste, but I loved this version. I strongly encourage you, however, to try it first without wine.

TIP: The original recipe calls for pickled sprats, difficult to get in certain countries, but I was delighted to use my beloved canned anchovies, advised by Charles as an excellent substitute.

Preparation: about 2 hours

Ingredients (serves four-six):

1 kg peeled potatoes, cut into matchsticks or into very thin slices (easy to make with a mandolin)

1 can (50g) pickled sprats or anchovies (or two cans if you love anchovies), cut into small pieces

200 ml liquid cream

about 200 ml milk

2 medium onions, finely sliced

salt, pepper

30 g butter


(200 ml dry white wine)

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Drain the anchovies/sprats and cut them into small pieces (do not throw the liquid/oil away).

Put a layer of potatoes in a baking dish, cover with onions and anchovies, sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Repeat this once or twice, ending with a potato layer on top.

Place small butter knobs on the top of the dish and bits of anchovies, if you still have some left.

Combine the cream with the drained pickling liquid or oil (and white wine, if using) and pour onto the gratin.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Take the dish out of the oven and lower the temperature to 140°C.

Cover the gratin with milk so that it arrives just below the last potato layer.

Sprinkle with bread crumbs and bake for about 1 hour until the top is golden brown.

Serve as a main course with a salad or as a hearty side dish.

38 Replies to “Jansson’s Temptation (Janssons frestelse)”

  1. Thanks so much Sissi – so glad you could try it, and it looks beautiful. I’m all for the doubling of the anchovies… I bet that would be delicious, the adding of the wine sounds interesting… worth a try, although I do really love the comforting “homeliness” of the dish 🙂

    I’ll definitely be taking your advice on the fish quantities next time – you can never have too many anchovies 😉 Hope you’re having a great day, and I’m so please you tried it again 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Charles! I am glad you like it. I am afraid I have slightly “Frenchised” this dish with wine 😉 I think what I like in the wine version was that the dish lost a bit of its sweetness (and homeliness 😉 ) but frankly I loved both.
      I am one of these people who keep on eating whole anchovies while adding them to the dish, so I was very happy with the double amount.
      Thank you once more for this discovery. I am sure I will make it very often.

  2. Oh yum! This looks somehow comforting. Love the anchovies part best 😀
    Not too fond of breadcrumbs tho but I guess I could omit that and have grated cheese on it instead? I wonder if that’ll be just as tempting to Mr Jansson?

    1. Thank you so much, Ping. Actually Charles doesn’t use bread crumbs and his Jansson’s Temptation looks excellent, so I’m sure you can skip them with no problem. They only add a crumbly texture. I wouldn’t add cheese though. It will spoil the whole balance between the ingredients. Try first without cheese and then modify for the second time.

  3. Will try that, too. Sounds a bit fishy, actually, but that’s what I might like best about it. Thanks! Congratulations on your constantly beautiful photos; they always light up my day.

    1. Thank you, Ullrich, for the kind comment and the compliments. I am very flattered! I am always very happy to see you here and am looking forward to see the development of your Cheese University.

  4. Your version sounds really delicious, quite different and more delicious than the original version.
    The original version uses ansjovis. The Swedish ansjovis is quite different from anchovies. Anchovies is called sardeller in Sweden. I love anchovies, I hate ansjovis, its salty, sweet, spicy, moist…and you are lucky that its hard to find where you live. I’ve never bought it but tried it once. My German friend bought it once because the can looks really nice, he took a small bite and threw the rest away. Jansson’s temptation with anchovies instead of ansjovis would be far more tempting for me:)

    1. Thank you so much, Mr. Three-Cookies. I am particularly proud to see your approval. I have no idea how the Swedish sprats taste like. I have tasted only sprats in oil (like sardines in oil), but they were smoked I think and had nothing to do with pickled/salted anchovies (and they were not Swedish). From what you say I haven’t lost a lot using anchovies instead 😉 (I love anchovies, I could eat a couple of them just on their own, without any dish). If you like anchovies, I’m sure you would love this version.

  5. That is the gratin we had for Christmas!
    I just took zwiebackcrumbs instead of regular breadcrumbs because I loved the idea of their sweetness paired with the saltiness of anchovies.

    Such a lovely dish…
    I still wait for an oocasion to try your avocado and walnut salad!

    1. Thank you so much! Now I remember you had Swedish dishes on your blog during Christmas! It must be very interesting with zwieback crumbs (although I have never had zwieback in my life).

  6. Oh, my… what a delicious version of Jansson’s Temptation Sissi! I don’t think I’ve ever had anchovy in potato – but why not! (I seem to remember Charles cautioning me not to use anchovy paste, so I will keep that in mind too). The dish reminds me of potato Kugel with its crispy exterior and tender, creamy interior – but the wine and anchovies bring this rendition to a whole new level 😉 Fab Sissi, I have to save this one to try on my family next Christmas!

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. I don’t think you have to wait for Christmas 😉 It’s an incredibly good Winter dish.

    1. Thank you very much, Jeno. Maybe you can try it with soy milk and soy cream? It would be a very interesting experiment!

    1. Thank you, Barb. In this case you can make it in two different dishes or half with anchovies and half without? It would really be a pity to taste it without anchovies (anchovies make it a very special dish, otherwise it’s just a simple potato and cream gratin 🙁 )

  7. For a potato lover like myself I can’t pass this kind of potato recipes!!!! With anchovies or not, and wine or not, I can imagine this looks and sounds terrific!!! I love anchovies too. The saltiness goes well with potatoes. This is a keeper!

    1. Thank you so much, Nami.I’m happy you like anchovies because frankly without them it’s just another cream and potato gratin.

  8. Dear Sissi,

    I think I will most definitely go with the white wine recipe because I think it works wonders with cream and gives the dish more complexity and “oomph”. One recipe I always cook with cream and white wine is my fave 70s dish of chicken ala king 🙂

    The golden brown on top also makes this such an enticing winter dish for me.

    1. Something tells me we both like wine not only in a glass. You are totally right about the “oomph” and the complexity. The wine has put the dish into a different, less homely category. I still haven’t tasted chicken à la king. I must make it at least once.
      Putting anchovies on top was my own idea and at first I was worried they would burn, but they simply grilled and were amazingly good. (I didn’t mind the grilled potato matchsticks either). Thank you for the kind compliments.

  9. Sissi, this sounds fabulous!!! My family loves potato dishes….and this creamy potato dish sounds both delicious and comforting. Perfect for our chilly nights!

  10. wow definitely looks scrummy!! great idea on the anchovies instead of sprats. I dont know how i would be able to find sprats here. oh wait that was the amazing charles haha. in that case, great idea on doubling the anchovies hehe! I love anchovies (:

    1. Thank you so much, Shuhan. Mr. Three-Cookies says sprats are not very good, so maybe it’s better to stick to anchovies 😉

  11. I make potato gratin quite often, and I am definitely going to try this recipe next time. I love the anchovy (doubled) idea and the addition of white wine as well.

  12. What a warm-looking dish! Lovely! Now you reminded me how I kept buying potato with the plan of making potato gratin that was never realized. I never buy canned anchovies, but now I`m really curious. Thanks for sharing this dish!

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