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Foodporn: Smørrebrød In Denmark


by Noemi Brophy



When it comes to exploring different cultures and cuisines, there’s nothing quite like food travel. And if you’re a food lover with a passion for culinary delights, then Denmark should definitely be on your radar. Known for its rich food culture, Denmark offers a wide array of unique and delicious dishes that are sure to please even the most discerning palate.


And in the realm of Danish cuisine, one dish stands out as both a symbol of tradition and a culinary masterpiece – Smørrebrød. This open-faced sandwich has deep roots in Danish culture and is a must-try for anyone visiting the country.


But what exactly is Smørrebrød, and why is it such a beloved part of Danish gastronomy? In this article, we’ll dive into the world of Smørrebrød, exploring its origin, traditional ingredients and toppings, variations across Denmark, and the etiquette that surrounds its consumption.


So, get ready to tantalize your taste buds and embark on a culinary adventure as we explore the delectable world of Smørrebrød in Denmark.


The Origin of Smørrebrød

The history of Smørrebrød dates back centuries and is intertwined with the cultural identity of Denmark. The word “Smørrebrød” translates to “buttered bread” in Danish and refers to a traditional open-faced sandwich made with a slice of rye bread as the base.


Originally, Smørrebrød was a humble peasant dish that consisted of a simple piece of bread topped with leftovers from the previous night’s meal. It was a practical and efficient way to repurpose ingredients and minimize food waste. However, as time went on, Smørrebrød evolved into an art form, with chefs and home cooks alike becoming increasingly creative with their toppings and presentations.


During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Smørrebrød gained popularity among the working class in Copenhagen and eventually spread throughout the country. It became a staple in Danish cafés, restaurants, and households, solidifying its place as a national dish.


Smørrebrød is not just a culinary creation; it is a reflection of Danish culture and values. The Danish people take great pride in their open-faced sandwiches, considering them a symbol of Danish heritage and ingenuity.


Today, Smørrebrød continues to be a beloved tradition in Denmark, with both traditional and modern interpretations available. Whether enjoyed as a quick lunch on the go or as a centerpiece of a festive gathering, Smørrebrød embodies the essence of Danish cuisine and remains a cherished part of Danish food culture.


Traditional Ingredients and Toppings

As the name suggests, buttering the bread is an essential step in making Smørrebrød. The bread typically used is rugbrød, a dense and dark rye bread that adds a robust flavor and hearty texture to the sandwich. Rugbrød is known for its nutritional benefits and is a staple in Danish cuisine.


On top of the buttered rugbrød, Smørrebrød is adorned with an assortment of toppings that add flavor, texture, and visual appeal. Traditional toppings include:

  • Shrimp: With their sweet and delicate flavor, Danish shrimp are a popular choice for Smørrebrød. They are often accompanied by a dollop of mayonnaise, a sprinkle of dill, and a squeeze of lemon for a refreshing burst of flavor.
  • Herring: Herring is another iconic ingredient in Danish cuisine. It can be pickled, marinated, or fried and is often paired with pickled onions, capers, and a creamy sauce.
  • Roast beef: Thin slices of tender and flavorful roast beef can be found on many Smørrebrød variations. They are often topped with crispy onions, horseradish, and a tangy remoulade sauce.
  • Liver pâté: A classic topping for Smørrebrød is liver pâté, which is rich and savory. It is typically accompanied by bacon, pickles, and onions to balance the flavors.
  • Egg and mayonnaise: Simple yet satisfying, boiled eggs and tangy mayonnaise are often combined to form a creamy and indulgent topping.

These are just a few examples of the countless toppings you can find on Smørrebrød. The beauty of this dish lies in its versatility and adaptability to various ingredients and flavors. Whether you prefer seafood, meat, or vegetarian options, there is a Smørrebrød combination to suit every taste.


It’s worth noting that Smørrebrød is often accompanied by a variety of garnishes, such as fresh herbs, chives, radishes, cucumbers, or even edible flowers. These embellishments not only enhance the visual appeal of the dish but also add subtle flavors and textures.


With its diverse range of toppings and the freedom to mix and match flavors, Smørrebrød offers endless possibilities for culinary exploration and enjoyment.


Variations of Smørrebrød across Denmark

Just like the diverse regions of Denmark, the variations of Smørrebrød differ from one part of the country to another. Each region has its own unique spin on this classic dish, incorporating local ingredients and flavors to create a culinary experience that reflects the area’s distinct culture and traditions.


In Copenhagen, the nation’s capital, you’ll find a wide range of Smørrebrød options that cater to all tastes. From traditional toppings like herring and shrimp to more modern interpretations featuring international flavors, Copenhagen offers something for everyone. Some popular variations include smoked salmon with cream cheese and dill, chicken salad with bacon and avocado, and blue cheese with pear and honey.


In Southern Denmark, particularly in the region of Sønderjylland, you’ll discover Smørrebrød with a Danish-German twist. Here, you can indulge in delicious combinations like fried plaice fillets with remoulade and pickled cucumbers or roast pork with red cabbage and apple compote.


Head to the western coast of Denmark, and you’ll find Smørrebrød with an emphasis on fresh seafood. Lobster, mussels, and crab take center stage, often paired with tangy sauces and aromatic herbs. Smørrebrød topped with smoked eel, known as “røget ål,” is a particular specialty of this region.


In Northern Denmark, Smørrebrød takes on a more rustic and hearty character. Toppings like leverpostej (liver pâté) and salted beef are common, reflecting the region’s agricultural traditions. You’ll also find unique ingredients like pickled red beets and tangy goat cheese, adding a burst of flavor to the traditional open-faced sandwich.


While these are just a few examples, the variations of Smørrebrød across Denmark are virtually endless. Each region celebrates its local ingredients and culinary heritage, resulting in a vibrant tapestry of flavors and textures that truly showcases the diversity of Danish cuisine.


No matter where you travel in Denmark, one thing remains constant – the undeniable love for Smørrebrød and the pride that the Danish people have for this iconic dish.


Smørrebrød Culture and Etiquette

In Denmark, Smørrebrød is more than just a meal; it’s a cultural ritual that is deeply ingrained in Danish society. Understanding the etiquette and customs surrounding Smørrebrød will allow you to fully immerse yourself in this unique dining experience.


First and foremost, Smørrebrød is often enjoyed as part of a leisurely lunch or as a special occasion dish. It’s common to find restaurants and cafés offering a “smørrebrød platter,” which features a selection of different toppings for you to sample and savor.


When eating Smørrebrød, proper assembly is crucial. You should hold the sandwich with your hands rather than using utensils. This enables you to fully appreciate the different flavors and textures while ensuring that the toppings don’t slide off the bread.


Another important aspect of Smørrebrød culture is the art of pairing. It is customary to enjoy Smørrebrød with a glass of ice-cold Danish beer or snaps, a traditional Danish spirit. These beverages complement the flavors of the sandwich and enhance the overall dining experience.


Furthermore, Smørrebrød is typically eaten in a relaxed and social setting. It’s not uncommon to share a platter of Smørrebrød with friends or family, passing it around the table and engaging in lively conversation. This communal style of dining adds to the enjoyment and conviviality of the meal.


Lastly, it is essential to savor each bite of Smørrebrød and appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into making this culinary masterpiece. Take your time to savor the flavors, textures, and combination of ingredients. This mindful approach allows you to truly experience the essence of Danish cuisine.


By embracing the culture and etiquette surrounding Smørrebrød, you’ll not only enjoy the food itself but also gain a deeper appreciation for the Danish way of life. So, immerse yourself in the traditions and customs, and savor every delicious moment of your Smørrebrød experience.


Popular Smørrebrød Recipes

While Smørrebrød can be endlessly customizable with a wide variety of toppings, there are a few classic recipes that have stood the test of time and remain beloved by Danes. Here are some popular Smørrebrød recipes that you can try at home or look for when dining in Denmark:

  1. Frikadeller: These Danish-style meatballs are made with a mixture of ground pork and beef, seasoned with onions, breadcrumbs, and traditional spices. They are typically served on a slice of rugbrød with a dollop of remoulade sauce and crispy fried onions.
  2. Stegt Flæsk: This dish features crispy slices of pork belly, similar to bacon, served on rugbrød. It’s typically accompanied by a generous dollop of homemade parsley sauce, which adds a fresh and herby flavor to the rich and savory pork.
  3. Roast Beef with Remoulade: Thinly sliced roast beef is a classic topping for Smørrebrød. Pair it with a creamy remoulade sauce, pickles, and crispy onions for a mouthwatering combination of flavors and textures.
  4. Æg og Rejer: This is a simple yet delicious combination of boiled eggs and shrimp. The eggs are sliced and arranged on the bread, topped with plump Danish shrimp and a creamy mayonnaise-based dressing. It’s often garnished with fresh dill for a vibrant burst of flavor.
  5. Leverpostej: Leverpostej, or liver pâté, is a traditional Danish spread often used as a topping for Smørrebrød. It’s typically made with pork liver, lard, onions, and aromatic spices. Pair it with pickles and crispy bacon for a satisfying and savory combination.

These recipes represent just a small sample of the countless Smørrebrød variations you can find. Feel free to experiment with different toppings and combinations, allowing your creativity to shine. Remember, the key is to honor the traditional flavors while adding your own personal touch.


Whether you prefer seafood, meats, vegetarian options, or a combination of them all, the versatility of Smørrebrød ensures that there’s a delightful recipe to suit every palate.


Recommendations for Trying Smørrebrød in Denmark

When visiting Denmark, trying Smørrebrød is an absolute must. To ensure you have the best culinary experience, here are some recommendations for enjoying this iconic Danish dish:

  1. Seek out local eateries: Look for small, family-owned cafés, delis, or traditional Danish restaurants that specialize in Smørrebrød. These establishments often have a deep understanding of the craft and will offer a wide selection of authentic and delicious options.
  2. Embrace the seasonality: Danish cuisine is deeply rooted in the availability of local ingredients, so be sure to try Smørrebrød that reflects the current season. Whether it’s fresh seafood in the summer or hearty root vegetables in the winter, you’ll experience the true essence of Danish flavors.
  3. Take the advice of locals: Don’t hesitate to ask locals for their recommendations on the best places to try Smørrebrød. They are typically more than happy to share their favorite spots and toppings to help you have an authentic and memorable dining experience.
  4. Try different variations: Don’t limit yourself to just one type of Smørrebrød. Explore different combinations and toppings to truly appreciate the versatility of this dish. From classic toppings like herring and roast beef to more adventurous options, each bite offers a unique and delightful experience.
  5. Pair it with snaps or beer: Enhance your Smørrebrød experience by pairing it with a glass of ice-cold Danish beer or snaps, a traditional Danish spirit. The refreshing and crisp flavors of these beverages complement the richness of the toppings, creating a harmonious combination.
  6. Experience Smørrebrød in different regions: If you have the opportunity, try Smørrebrød in different regions of Denmark. Each area has its own unique twist and local specialties, allowing you to discover and appreciate the diverse culinary traditions within the country.

Remember, trying Smørrebrød is not just about satisfying your hunger; it’s a journey to explore the rich food culture and traditions of Denmark. So, be adventurous, embrace the local flavors, and savor every bite of this iconic Danish dish.



Exploring the world of Smørrebrød in Denmark is a culinary adventure that goes beyond mere sustenance. It’s an opportunity to immerse yourself in the cultural heritage and traditions of the Danish people. From its humble origins as a peasant dish to its current status as a culinary masterpiece, Smørrebrød has evolved into a symbol of Danish gastronomy.


With its open-faced presentation, Smørrebrød offers a canvas for creativity and endless possibilities for toppings and combinations. Whether you prefer classic toppings like herring and roast beef or more contemporary flavors, there is a Smørrebrød variation to suit every taste.


As you indulge in the rich and diverse flavors of Smørrebrød, take the time to appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into each creation. Whether you venture to traditional cafes or seek out local recommendations, the experience of trying Smørrebrød in Denmark is one that is sure to leave a lasting impression.


So, whether you’re a food connoisseur, a travel enthusiast, or simply a curious soul seeking new culinary experiences, make sure to include Smørrebrød in your food travel itinerary. It’s an extraordinary dish that encapsulates the essence of Danish cuisine and culture, and it’s sure to leave you craving for more.


Embrace the tradition and customs surrounding Smørrebrød, pair it with a cool Danish beer or snaps, and enjoy the communal and social aspect of sharing this culinary delight. Your taste buds will be treated to a symphony of flavors, and you’ll gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the incredible food culture of Denmark.


So, go forth and embark on your Smørrebrød adventure – a flavorful journey that showcases the rich food traditions and the warm hospitality of the Danish people.