Norwegian Potato-Ham Dumplings (Kumla, Kumle)

>> Monday, December 16, 2013

Kumla dumplings boiling in ham broth

Joe's Norwegian ancestors came from the Bergen area of Norway in the 1800s. As they moved across the U.S. to establish the town of Roland, Iowa, they kept their heritage fairly intact. Today that whole area is settled with very tall fair complected people, and the name "Duea" is often seen in the town records.

My first Christmas with the family, I was introduced to these hearty, dense potato dumplings in ham broth. I think you might remember that ham and potatoes are two of my most favorite foods ever. The next day my future sister-in-law Chris sliced them and fried them in butter for breakfast. Yes, I love butter so much. It was love at first bite with kumla, obviously.

Thankfully, his family is not big on lutefisk, a powerfully-flavored dish of cod preserved in lye. I understand this is a meal for the strong-hearted and the brave, and I'm glad they didn't want to test my courage before allowing me into the family.

So back to kumla (KOOM-lah). I have since learned that people also call these potato balls klimpor, klubb, kompe, kumpe, potetball and raspeball - I guess these must be regional differences. Clearly this is not lean and light food, but it's a big satisfying meal in your belly during a midwestern winter, when the wind can tear across an entire state without hitting much that would slow it down.

On old farms, here and in snowy Scandinavia, settlers would often tie ropes from the house to the barn so that they wouldn't get lost in a blizzard while tending the animals a couple times a day. For weather like that, you need food that will fortify you.

If you make this for a holiday meal, I'd suggest a good snowball fight or a long walk in the woods to work it off afterwards. For me, food like this makes me appreciate the exuberance of a people who find winter life-affirming with the joy of an ample meal and a warm home filled with family and friends. I truly felt this warmth a few Christmases ago when Joe's brother Alan and sister Carolyn finally shared their family recipe with me. It's their wonderfully talented hands that are cooking in these photos.

P.S. I forgot to mention that I hardly ever cook without listening to music. When I was making this recipe last time, and writing it yesterday, I was listening to the movie soundtrack "We Bought a Zoo" on Spotify. The music is from Scandinavian singer Jonsi, frontman for the group Sigur Ros. It's wonderfully upbeat.


1 4-5 pound ham
10-12 cups water
5 lbs potatoes, peeled and quartered
About 4 cups white flour (some people use a mix of white, whole wheat, ground oatmeal, and/or rye flour)
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp baking powder
6 tbsp butter, melted


Place the ham in a large stock pot and cover with the water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer into a rich broth, about 1 1/2- 2 hours. Remove the meat, slice it, cover it, and refrigerate until just about to serve.

Cutting potatoes for Norwegian dumplings

Shred the raw potatoes by hand, or grind them in a food processor until crumbly. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the potatoes, flour, salt, pepper, and baking powder. The dough should be thick like bread dough, but still sticky.

Stirring flour into Kumla potato dough

Bring the remaining ham stock to a boil. Scoop out dough about the size of an egg or a plum, form it into a 2-inch ball, and drop it into the boiling stock. If you'd like, you can press a bit of the ham into the center of each dumpling.  Stir the broth often while dropping in the dumplings, so that they don't stick to each other or the bottom of the pot.

When all the dumplings are in the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for 1 hour, then remove from the broth. Pile them on a platter, drizzle them with the melted butter, and serve with the hot ham on the side.

Makes 25-35 dumplings.

Hungry for more? Find more of these great recipes at Sons of Norway. 


Garrett Foster April 3, 2014 at 12:13 AM  

My (extended) family hails from Roland! Did you know the Ryans?

Angela Williams Duea April 4, 2014 at 12:02 PM  

What a small world, Garrett! I will ask my in-laws if they know the Ryans. Roland is a pretty town; I've visited a few times.

Anonymous,  October 5, 2014 at 12:58 PM  

I grew up in Roland and still carry on many Norwegian traditions. Kumla is one of them.

Angela Williams Duea October 9, 2014 at 9:22 PM  

What a small world! I wonder if we have any relatives in common?

Anonymous,  April 4, 2015 at 1:25 PM  

One of my favorite things!

My grandmother Aletta made these and taught my Dad who taught me. We used to have these often and I'll be making them tomorrow for Easter. Of course, I would never grind the potatoes in anything but a hand grinder :-) and I use flour and oatmeal. Grandma used to also put in an egg.

My ancestors (Lein & Omvig)also hail from Roland.

Angela Williams Duea April 6, 2015 at 10:02 AM  

That sounds wonderful! What are the proportions of flour and oatmeal that you use? I'd love to try your version too. Hope you had a great Easter.

Jill June April 9, 2015 at 8:57 PM  

My husband, John Twedt, grew up on a farm between Roland and Nevada. We now own the farm and it has been in the family more than 100 years. This weekend his mother's clan (Tendall) will reunion at the Nevada Senior Center. I'm in charge of making the kumla. Why? I can't imagine! I'm a good cook and I'll follow your recipe since I've never made it or eaten it before. Can I make it a day ahead?

Angela Williams Duea April 12, 2015 at 3:24 PM  

Jill, so sorry I didn't see your comment earlier! I'm surprised at how many people remember Roland Iowa. I hope your reunion was wonderful. When we make kumla in advance, or if we have leftovers, we fry them in butter or bacon grease the next day. Now my mouth is watering!

Anonymous,  July 18, 2015 at 2:03 PM  

I know Roland too..... my grandparents were from story city, and I used to drool at the Shetlands at the pony farm in Roland. Wanted one of them so bad!

Angela Williams Duea July 27, 2015 at 10:19 AM  

We love Shetlands too. Did your grandparents make Scandinavian foods too?

Connie (Lein) McCormick,  October 8, 2015 at 6:16 AM  

Love your article! My grandparets were from Roland and I was very close to them. I am a Lein and grandma was an Omvig. People may know "Knute & Aletta Lein". We loved her Kumla and she taught my mother to make it who taught me. it is the potatoe/oatmeal version with flour, but no egg. About half oatmeal and half potato. They are delicious dropped in hot ham broth! I don't use the old grinder anymore finding the modern appliances so much easier. We are going to Norway in 2017 and love my Norwegian heratige!

Angela Williams Duea October 15, 2015 at 10:27 AM  

So many folks from Roland have responded, how exciting! Do any of you know each other? Connie, I would love to try your recipe with the potato and oatmeal mixture.

Anonymous,  December 8, 2015 at 8:24 PM  

My daughter and I made Kringla this week. It was my grandmother's recipe. She and my grandfather lived in Roland. Louise and Elliott Thompson. We will now try your Kumla recipe. My mom made it every year.

Angela Williams Duea December 9, 2015 at 6:36 AM  

I haven't tried to make kuala yet - I should do it! Do you know any of the other people from Roland who checked in here? Good luck with the recipe.

Anonymous,  December 9, 2015 at 11:13 AM  

Hi, no I don't know any of the others who have commented. I love Roland. So many good memories of visiting my grandparents.

Anonymous,  December 14, 2015 at 3:25 PM  

Teri (von Bampus) Graf
We moved to Roland, Iowa when I was a sophomore (1964) and my brother was a senior. We attended Roland High School. My dad was the mechanic at Anderson's garage. We lived across the street from Orvis and Maryann Anderson. My dad became very sick and we moved to Florida to be by his family. This was in 1966, my brother Steve graduated from Roland High that year also. We loved Roland, I still have many good friends who were from Roland and Since my graduating class was in 1968, even tho I wasn't there, I was invited to the 40th Class reunion. We had so much fun.

Anonymous,  January 27, 2016 at 4:51 PM  

When I make kumla, I make pork chops and mushroom gravy, then serve the ham and kumla with a chop and butter and the gravy over all of it.

Angela Williams Duea January 28, 2016 at 2:31 PM  

That sounds wonderful and really filling! Is your recipe similar to ours?

Anonymous,  May 31, 2016 at 8:59 AM  

My father was born in Bergen in 1911 came to the US through Canada in 1913 to Mandan, ND. We called it Raspeball soup. Don't ever remember frying them the next day but does sound good.

Unknown June 1, 2016 at 10:34 AM  

I have spent lots of time visiting my sister & husband in Roland...Argyll and Louise Amenson. Wonderful town. Also, my husband is Norwegian, so I taught my Irish self to make kumla, using his mother's recipe. Ham broth becomes very thick, like lumpy gravy, it's as yummy. As the kumla dumplings! White flour only, no oatmeal. Has been our Christmas meal for 40 years.

Unknown June 1, 2016 at 10:34 AM  

I have spent lots of time visiting my sister & husband in Roland...Argyll and Louise Amenson. Wonderful town. Also, my husband is Norwegian, so I taught my Irish self to make kumla, using his mother's recipe. Ham broth becomes very thick, like lumpy gravy, it's as yummy. As the kumla dumplings! White flour only, no oatmeal. Has been our Christmas meal for 40 years.

Kris Hunter September 7, 2016 at 1:25 PM  

Both of my parents are from Roland. I still have many relatives that live in the Roland area. I was in Iowa visiting relatives a few weeks ago and we had a big Kumla dinner.

Angela Williams Duea September 7, 2016 at 2:01 PM  

That's wonderful! Now you're making us hungry for kumla. Is your recipe similar?

Anonymous,  October 16, 2016 at 4:55 PM  

Have not had kumla in many, many years and recently received a recipe for it from my brother in Casper, WY. Remember kumla as a great food source growing up in a Norwegian community in ND. Probably the best part is fried kumla with bacon drippings the following morning. We travel extensively internationally and Norway is still our favorite country and we've visited areas where all our grandparents grew up before coming to America. Yes, almost all Norwegians in Norway are tall and slim like those described in Roland.

Angela Williams Duea October 21, 2016 at 7:06 PM  

Fried kumla is the best! Sticks to your ribs. Glad you found us!

Bob,  February 12, 2017 at 2:58 PM  

Story City is a neighboring community to Roland where many Norwegian families also settled. My grandparents, Thomas and Anna (Mary) Thompson served their kummla with the thick gravy others have commented about. It was good! Found another post that used sour cream as a topping.

Angela Williams Duea February 13, 2017 at 11:28 AM  

Kumla in thick gravy sounds wonderful. I like it with sour cream, too. We've been to Story City, too - I think there may be Dueas living there as well.

Joy Abbs May 13, 2017 at 7:29 PM  

My 93 year old friend taught me how to make this 35 years ago, my children love them. We bake and eat ham and then use the bone and fat and skin in the pot with the dumplings. She also told me to simmer a couple of hours. Soooo good. They also use melted butter but my kids and I love sour cream. A friend of mine from North Dakota told me about frying them in butter the next day for breakfast to go with good.
We live in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Angela Williams Duea May 16, 2017 at 10:19 AM  

Joy, that sounds wonderful! You are making me hungry.

Calhawkeye September 28, 2017 at 10:34 AM  

I was telling my office mates about some of the dishes we enjoyed growing up in Iowa. I'm from Paullina. My father's family were first generation Americans from Norway. Kringla and kumla were holiday staples. There was no small amount of skill involved in making the kumla, so the dumpling stayed together and didn't stick to the other dumplings. My brother and I used to have contests to see who could eat the most. We were always miserable afterwards but worth the pain. Leftovers fried in butter the next day were a big favorite as well. Kringla was my brother's favorite care package from home when he served in Vietnam. I don't recall ever having lutefisk but we did have lefsa occasionally. Potato flat bread, buttered, sprinkled with sugar, rolled and cut into bite sized pieces and served chilled. I can feel my arteries clogging just thinking about it.

Angela Williams Duea October 2, 2017 at 4:23 PM  

I agree, kumla takes some practice to make well. I need to learn to make lefse - do you have a recipe you could share?

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