Norway’s brown cheese Brunost is a caramel-flavoured local secret

When a food is described as a national dish, rarely eaten outside its home nation, alarm bells start ringing. So it was for me on a recent trip to Oslo, Norway where I discovered Brunost, or brown cheese. In this interconnected world of international cusine, why hasn’t this particular food or ingredient escaped its national or regional border.

Finely sliced Brunost , a brown cheese from Norway
Finely sliced Brunost , a brown cheese from Norway

Sitting quietly, largely untouched on the breakfast buffet of a hotel on the outskirts of the city of a suburb called Lysaker, a plate of thinly sliced something caught my eye. Always on the lookout for regional or locally produced food and drink, this plate looked of interest.

A tabletop sign helpfully explained Brunost and what it offers … a deeply savoury taste of dulce de leche. Scandinavian food writer Signe JohansenIMG_8355 describes the sweetness as coming “from overcooking whey until a Maillard reaction kicks in and the milk sugars caramelise. Brown cheese doesn’t go through any maturation process, and it keeps in the fridge for a few months.” Made with pasteurized or unpasteurized cow’s (fløtemysost) or goat’s (geitost) milk, whey and cream, it can be added to gravy to be dribbled over a plate of roast beef or added to sour cream waffles.

According to, Brunost has several (mostly unprounceable names for most of us) including Mysost (Norwegian), Mesost (Swedish), Meesjuusto (Finnish), Mysuostur (Icelandic), Myseost (Danish) and Braunkäse (German).

For many non-Norwegians it’s a Marmite reaction … love it or hate it! My first experience of Brunost was at breakfast and while I didn’t have a Marmite moment, I didn’t return for more. The texture was a bit odd, slightly chewy and sticky in the mouth, and the caramel tones weren’t what my breakfast palette was expecting.

It’s commonly placed on toasted rye or dark bread or finely sliced on crisp bread. With a high content of of iron, calcium and B vitamins it is often found in healthy recipes.

So, while I didn’t become a brown cheese evangelist, I’ll have another slice of Brunost on breakfast, crisp-bread topped next time I see it on the buffet.

Bruce McMichael

Food writing, discovering food stories, meeting producers, chefs and food enthusiasts are all part of desire to inspire, inform my readers and fellow food lovers. I am a freelance writer, journalist and published author focusing on the international world of food and drink, culture and travel. In 2019 I graduated from the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy with a Masters in Food Culture, Communication and Marketing. I am now a visiting Professor at the university teaching Food & Drink Writing. Based in London I travel widely, particularly across western Europe. I have chaired many conferences and meetings, spoken at conferences and events and often appear on radio and TV talking most about food, the business of food and being an entrepreneur. In 2017 I won an episode of the ITV (the UK-based national television channel) cooking competition show, 'Gordon Ramsay's Culinary Genius'. I took my children on holiday to Sicily with the prize money. As an experienced farmers' market manager and operator of a small marmalade/ preserves company, I am very familiar with the issues surrounding local food, farming, enterprise and the environment.