Fattigmann (Poor Man Cookies)

November 22, 2016
Fattigmann (Norwegian Poor Man Cookies)

Fattigmann (Norwegian Poor Man Cookies)The farm has become a blanket of white, with only the contrast of branches and jetting rock to add depth and structure. It’s tranquil and all encompassing.

With the holidays fast approaching and the weather conveniently allowing for more time indoors, baking is on the mind. For centuries, people have gathered around the oven, the stove, the griddle, and the fire to produce baked goods befitting of a celebration. It’s a social event from the moment the ingredients are combined all the way to the last bite.

Fattigmann (Norwegian Poor Man Cookies)Fattigmann (Norwegian Poor Man Cookies) Fattigmann (Norwegian Poor Man Cookies)Fattigmann is a beloved Norwegian cookie served during Christmas. It most likely entered the Norwegian food culture around the late 1700s or early 1800s. Many cultures have their variety of this knot-shaped cookie, which are deep-fried. Italy has cenci fritti, France has merveilles, Sweden has klenater, Denmark has klejner, Iceland has kleina and the Faroe Islands have kleynur.

Its name (translated to ‘poor man’) is very misleading since its ingredients were both expensive and exclusive. Ingredients such as sugar, egg yolks, cream, and cognac were top commodities. These cookies were not an everyday occurrence for people with more ‘moths than money’ in their pockets. The name seems purely satirical, yet it is possible that the name could have derived from the Swedish term klenät. It then could have been translated to mean poor man or poor thing because in Eastern Norway, the word klen has this meaning. (Ganens Makt, Notaker)

Fattigmann (Norwegian Poor Man Cookies)Fattigmann (Norwegian Poor Man Cookies)Fattigmann is relatively simple to make and quite an extravagant gesture. The dough is gently deep-fried until lightly brown and sprinkled with a generous dose of cinnamon powdered sugar. These are guaranteed not to last long. And don’t worry about not getting the shape right, they are quite forgiving when fried and I think it adds a more rustic and homemade charm when they vary a bit.

Fattigmann (Poor Man Cookies)

(Makes around 30 fattigmann)


  • 6 egg yolks
  • 6 tablespoons (72 g) sugar
  • ½ cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons cognac or brandy (I used a good quality whiskey as that’s what I had on hand and it worked great)
  • 2 ½ cups  (300 g) flour, approximately
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 16 ounces (500 g) lard or vegetable oil
  • Cinnamon and powdered sugar for sprinkling

*You will need to prepare the dough a day in advance, so it can rest in the refrigerator overnight. At a minimum, make the dough at least a couple of hours ahead of time.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until light and fluffy and add in the cognac.

Whip the heavy cream until firm and fold it into the egg mixture.

Add the flour and cardamom and blend well. Sprinkle a little flour over the dough, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.

When ready to cook, heat the lard or vegetable oil in a large saucepan.

Roll out the dough very thinly on a lightly-floured surface. Using a pastry wheel (or a dull knife), cut the dough into diamond shapes and place a small slit in the middle of each diamond. Lifting one up at a time, pull one end of the diamond through the slit to make a knot-shape.

Check to see if the lard or vegetable oil is hot enough (it will begin to bubble when a drop of dough is placed inside). Place the fattigmann, a few at a time, in the hot lard/oil and cook until golden brown, turning once. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Sprinkle the fattigmann with a mixture of powered sugar and cinnamon (3:1 ratio, or to your liking).

Store in airtight containers or place in the freezer.

♦ More Holiday Baked Goods: 

Krumkaker with Juniper Cream and Espresso Cream


Lefse from Mollas Bakeri

Lefse (Kling) from Uvdalsleiven Tradisjonsbakst

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  • Reply Shauna Solomon February 2, 2017 at 3:29 am

    Thank you for introducing me to a new cookie! Are these best served right after they are cooked? I guess I’m wondering if they should be consumed immediately.

    • Reply nevada February 3, 2017 at 4:42 pm

      Hi Shauna! These are great served right away, but also very good long after – just as long as you store them in a good cookie tin. Since they are a typical Christmas cookie, it is normal to store them and eat them when you want.

  • Reply Paul Strandoo December 11, 2017 at 7:31 pm

    Hi. Fattigmann have long been a Christmas tradition in our family. I was told that the name comes from the fact that a poor man has empty pockets — and the cookie is like a poor man’s pocket when displaying this fact (reach in your pocket and turn it inside-out).

    • Reply nevada December 13, 2017 at 6:34 pm

      I love that story! First time I have heard it, but it’s a great tale to go along with these cookies – thanks for sharing! 🙂

  • Reply Chelsea Romero December 19, 2017 at 2:01 am

    I was always told that they were called poor man’s cookie because after buying the ingredients to make them, you’d be poor. 😉

  • Reply Kristie December 30, 2017 at 6:32 am

    Would this be ok to leave out the cognac? We try a new recipe for these every year to try to find the best, but I don’t want to add the alcohol. Thanks!

    • Reply nevada January 3, 2018 at 10:58 am

      You can certainly leave out the cognac if you prefer – no need to substitute it with anything, just omit it 🙂

  • Reply BONNIE J FIELDSON November 19, 2018 at 5:35 am

    i have tried this cookie and when i fry it it never seems crispy, don’t know how crispy it is supposed to be. i have only eaten it once and i loved it. thanks,

    • Reply nevada November 25, 2018 at 3:34 pm

      They should be crispy to the touch, but not too crispy when biting into. They should be firm but light-textured. Like an airy, gently crispy cookie (if that makes sense).

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