Danish food

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Traditional Danish foods you really shouldn’t miss!

Do you want to experience traditional Danish food culture face-first? Then let us introduce you to eight traditional Danish dishes – most of which have names that are difficult to pronounce – such as smørrebrød, frikadeller, pastries and hot dogs.

A traditional Danish food classic: Smørrebrød

The Danish ‘open faced’ sandwiches, smørrebrød, are perhaps the most famous of the Danish food classics. Smørrebrød is simply a slice of rye bread with various combinations of toppings such as pickled herring, roast beef and eggs topped with mayo and shrimps. These heaped rye bread treats date back to the 19th century, but the handy lunch item has had a face lift in recent years and is now hipper than ever.

Columbus Leth / Copenhagen Media Center

Fun Danish food: the Stjerneskud

Stjerneskud or ‘shooting stars’ is the lesser-known but more extravagant smørrebrød, and one of the Danes’ absolute favourites. Stjerneskud is a slice of rye bread with fried plaice fillet, topped with shrimp, lettuce and caviar from the Limfjord. Enjoy it in an authentically Danish way, with a cold beer and finished with a shot of snaps. Yum. 

The quick Danish food: the hot dog

Danish hot dog stands are a cultural institution and have been feeding hungry Danes for over a century. You’ll see them dotted all over the place, so be sure to stop by one and grab a bite to eat while on the go. Most stands offer both the traditional red sausages as well as more modern versions. If you want a truly Danish sight, keep an eye out for hot dog vendors walking down the middle of a main road, pulling their massive hot dog stands home from their selling spot. 

Denmark’s national food dish: Stegt flæsk

A few years ago, Danes were asked to vote for their national dish. And the winning dish, a classic pork recipe ‘stegt flæsk med persillesovs’, was no surprise. The crispy pork with parsley sauce and potatoes is a very old dish that has won the hearts, and tummies, of Danes for centuries. You can try the Danes’ national dish in many restaurants around Denmark. Luckily, it is actually among the cheaper eats and if you become a fan, some restaurants even offer all-you-can-eat pork at affordable prices.

Traditional Danish pastries

Can you keep a secret? Danish pastries are not really Danish! In Denmark, these world-famous sticky delights are called Vienna Bread (wienerbrød), as they were first made in Denmark in the 1840s by Austrian bakers. Still, Danish pastries rose in popularity over the centuries and are now a firm favourite of ordinary Danes. You can try many different types at bakeries throughout the country. Ask for the fantastically named Cinnamon Snail (kanelsnegl) or Seed Snappers (frøsnapper) pastries when out and about and prepare yourself for sticky fingers!

Oysters

You also ought to try Denmark’s world-class delicacy, oysters from the Limfjord and the North Sea. For an experience a little bit out of the ordinary you can join an oyster safari. Wearing wading boots, you’ll hunt for oysters in the shallow water. The tours often end with a glass of champagne at the water’s edge while you taste the catch of the day. 

Danish meatballs

Danish meatballs (frikadeller) are very popular in Denmark and are served both for lunch and dinner. Traditionally, the meatballs consist of equal calf and pork, flour, milk, eggs, onions and spices, but today there are countless versions of the Danish classic, which is also a popular smørrebrød topping.

Stegt Flæsk Med Persillesovs – Fried Pork Belly With Potatoes and Parsley Sauce (National Dish)

It would be strange to talk about Danish cuisine without starting with the national dish. Stegt flæsk med persillesovs began in the rural kitchens in the 1700s. Although, people began adding boiled potatoes and parsley in the early 1800s.

Originally a winter dish, it has grown in popularity as a BBQ meal in recent years. Be warned though because if you follow a traditional Danish food recipe, it is over 700 calories. That is well above the recommended dinner allowance of 500 calories.

Stegt flæsk med Persillesovs has been the national dish since 2014. However, “Burning Love” looks like it might soon snatch the honor. 

Brændende Kærlighed – Burning Love

The dish’s name sounds more like a 1980s musical hit than a delicious recipe. But, it is over 200 years old. We adore it because you only need a few ingredients; mashed potatoes, diced onions, and fried bacon.

Brændende kærlighed tastes good and is super easy to make. Nowadays, people garnish it with dill, parsley, or even chopped beetroot. This recipe is perfect if you are looking for a traditional take on it.

However, if you’re short on time, you can also grab a ready-made burning love from your local Danish supermarket. Someone told us that the unique name is because you have to serve it piping hot, and the Danes love it.

Hønsekødssuppe – Chicken Broth Soup

The name Hønsekødssuppe is misleading because a literal translation is “hens soup.” But, there are no poultry chunks included in the recipe.

Instead, Danes boil a whole chicken carcass to create a delicious broth. Then they add in frikadeller (meatballs) and dumplings. Interestingly, their meat diet consists of 28% poultry. So, there aren’t many chicken-based traditional Danish dishes.

Wienerbrød – Danish Pastries

We love to order a Danish pastry with our coffee. But did you know that Danish pastries are not actually Danish food?

They were created in Vienna and came to Denmark in 1840. However, the Danes loved them so much that they became an immediate part of their culture. If you’re in Denmark, craving a Danish pastry, ask for “wienerbrød” (Vienna pastries) with your coffee. 

Danish Dishes for Post-work Cocktails

The Danes enjoy a social drink and will happily join you for a beverage on average 2.5 times a week. So, after a few cocktails or danish beer, these traditional Danish dishes are the perfect companion. 

Flæskestegssandwich – Pork Burger

If you’ve been to Denmark, you may have seen drunk people digging into a flæskestegssandwich. It is a pork bun, and the Danes serve it with cabbage, gherkins, and pork crackling.

Some Danes also love to pour a thick gravy into the bun. By Danish food tradition, you would eat this meal on the 24th of December, but nowadays you can enjoy it any time. 

Forlorn Hare – Meatloaf

Danish meatloaf is known as forlorn hare or mock hare. For the meat, Danes will choose ½ veal and ½ pork mixed. Forlorn hare is a popular dish for families, so you can buy pre-mixed meat in the supermarket.

The trick to making a perfect forlorn hare is to wrap the meat in bacon and smother it in gravy. Although the original Danish food recipes don’t mention seasoning, many chefs add salt and pepper.

Some people also like to add a dollop of redcurrant jelly to the gravy for sweetness. The other essential ingredients are whipping cream and meat drippings from the pan. YOu have to make this at home with this recipe. It is simply delicious,

Mørbradgryde – Pork Tenderloin in a Cream Stew

The creamy, rich sauce on mørbradgryde will satisfy even the hungriest traveler. It is ideal if you want something that you can leave to cook itself.

The preparation will only take about ten minutes, and then you should leave it to stew for 40 minutes. After that, you would usually serve it with rice or boiled potatoes. Also, some versions of this dish will include Weiner sausages. 

Several traditional danish dishes include weiners because they were cheaper than the main meat. So, mothers and grandmothers put them in as a meat filler. 

Rødkål – Danish Red Cabbage

It is a staple for many peoples’ Christmas dinner, so most of us have made red cabbage at some point. However, the traditional Danish food at home has much fewer ingredients.

You’ll only need red cabbage, vinegar, currant juice, sugar, and salt. It tastes like a sweeter version of sauerkraut. Rødkål is perfect with pork meals, frikadeller (meatballs), and flæskesteg (pork burger).

Brunede Kartofler – Caramelized Browned Potatoes

Caramelized food not only looks appealing but tastes fantastic, and it’s all because of science. A unique chemical process called Maillard Reaction happens when making caramelized dishes.

That’s one of the reasons that Brunede Kartofler (caramelized potatoes) has made it from a traditional Danish Christmas food onto the everyday menu. It pairs best with mørbradgryde (pork tenderloin in a cream stew).

Although you should use small peeled potatoes for an authentic taste, it takes time. So as a danish food at home quick hack, use new potatoes instead.

Try not to fiddle with them while caramelizing because the sugar coating will crumble. If you cook Brunede Kartofler for your Danish food friends, it will probably remind them of their childhood at Christmas.

Risalamande – Rice Pudding With Cherries and Almonds

The closest thing we can compare this to is rice pudding but cold. Now cold rice pudding may not sound too appetizing, but slather it with warm cherry sauce, and it’s tantalizing.

Interestingly, in Denmark, rice pudding (risengrød) was considered a sign of poverty in the 1800s. So, affluent families added extra ingredients, such as cherries, almonds, and whipped cream. Then, they renamed it after a French dish called “riz à l’amande” meaning rice and almonds.

Koldskål Med Kammerjunker – Cold Buttermilk Soup With Biscuits

Especially popular during the 1970s, this delicious condensed milk dessert includes eggnog and vanilla. A kammerjunker is a small butter cookie that you put into the middle of the serving.

It’s a simple and refreshing dessert that is great in the sun. If you are in Denmark, you’ll find ready-made koldskål and packets of Kammerjunker in the supermarket during summer.

Tarteletter – Savory Pastry Cups

If you have ever been to an event with canapes, you would probably have tried the Western version of this traditional Danish food. Fill bite-sized pastry cups with chicken and asparagus or similar mixtures.

They are quick to make at home with pre-rolled puff pastry. These little cups have been popular since the 19th century because they’re easy and look tasty.

Waldorf Salad

Chefs made the first Waldorf Salad at the Waldorf Hotel in New York. That’s how it got its name. But since the 1890s, the Danes have welcomed it with open arms.

People regularly serve it at dining tables in Denmark during the fall. Most add a small amount of whipped cream to the dressing to make it an authentic Danish food. 

Pickled Herring

Even though I wouldn’t say that pickled herring is unique in danish cuisine it is a huge part of the Nordic diet. That is why we have included it here and it is a dish that will find in almost every danish restaurant. The Danes eat it in many different ways; smoked, breaded, fried, you name it and they have created it.

Most of the time it is served as Smørrebrød on rich dark buttered rye bread with some red onions and dill as a garnish.

Frikadeller

This savory pork meatball is a favorite in Denmark. It is often served with brown sauce, potatoes, and cabbage.

Flæskesteg

Try this recipe for roast pork.In Denmark, the dish is always made with the crispy pork rind intact.

Karbonader

These breaded pork patties are a popular dinner item in Danish cuisine. 

Rødgrød med fløde

This traditional Danish food is a red berry pudding served for dessert with whipped cream. Soak the berries in sugar and water. Then heat the mixture up. Easy as pie!

Æblekage

Apple cake isn’t your average cake. Rather, this Danish food is similar to a trifle with layers of stewed apples, caramelized oats, and whipped cream. Some variations are more closely related to a typical cake and are made with a cake base, sliced apples, and spices.

Rugbrød

Rye bread, or Rugbrød in Danish, is a nutrient-rich bread filled with seeds, grains, and rye. In Denmark, it is the bread most often used for the country’s famous open-faced sandwiches.

Forloren hare

Danish meatloaf is known as “mock hare,” most likely because it is cooked similarly to game—wrapped in bacon and served with a jelly sauce.

Pølser

Pølser is the ultimate street food and is known as a kind of gourmet hot dog. It is made with a red sausage, bun, and various toppings. If you can’t go to Denmark to get one, try making one in your own home.

Juleand

Christmas duck

If you happen to be in Denmark during Christmas, you’re bound to taste the Christmas duck (juleand). On Christmas Eve, we eat roast duck with potatoes, caramelised potatoes and the best gravy ever. 

Fresh seafood

Denmark is surrounded by the sea, so it’s only natural that we have a lot of seafood. Herring and fiskefrikadeller are among the most popular everyday food in Denmark, but the best – in my opinion – is the plaice fillet, cod and the shellfish (crab claws and Norway lobster tails).

Shellfish is quite expensive, but on the flip side: you will get premium quality. And if you buy it directly on the harbour and cook it yourself, it’s much cheaper. You can get super cheap fish in Bønnerup. We always go there for fresh fish.

Leverpostej

Danish liver pate

Danish liver pate is probably one of the most traditional toppings on rye bread or white bread. Normally, you’d eat it on its own, but many like to top it with either pickled beetroot or fried bacon and mushrooms. You can get liver pate anywhere in Denmark, but the king of leverpostej is the homemade version (like the one below).

Klarsuppe

Clear soup with meatballs and dumplings

Imagine a soup plate filled with a pure, clear chicken broth with buttery dumplings and small meatballs, flavoured by bits of carrots, celery and onion. That’s traditional Danish clear soup.

Boller i karry

Danish meatballs in curry

Although curry isn’t a typical Danish ingredient, Boller i karry is one of the most traditional Danish dishes. Basically, it’s just meatballs cooked in a sauce and served with rice. Kids love it, and it’s easy to make.

Stegt medister med rødkål og kartofler

Stegt medister is a thick, metre-long, spiced, minced pork sausage served with potatoes, sauce and red cabbage (similar to sauerkraut but a little sweeter).

Hamburgerryg med flødekartofler

Baked ham with mustard glaze

One of the classic Sundays meals is mustard glazed ham served with scalloped potatoes. Traditionally, hamburgerryg is baked, but you can also boil it and then use the leftovers as smørrebrød toppings (like on the photo below)

Fiskefrikadeller

Cod fish cakes

Fiskefrikadeller or cod fish cakes are frikadeller, but with fish. And if you ask me, they’re the best! Remember I mentioned that curry isn’t a typical Danish ingredient? Well, we eat fiskefrikadeller with curry sauce, which, granted, might sound like an odd mix, but I promise – fiskefrikadeller + curry sauce = the perfect combination.

Traditional Danish beer and alcohol

Denmark is a major player in the history of beer, and as of 2014, there are 120 Danish breweries, which makes Denmark the country with the highest number of breweries per capita. This is the most popular Danish beer and alcohol:

  • Carlsberg
  • Tuborg
  • Royal Unibrew
  • Harboe
  • Vestfyn
  • Juleøl / Christmas beer (limited edition, only available during Christmas)
  • Hvidtøl / a sweet white malt beer
  • Schnapps (Akvavit)
  • Mokai and Sommersby

Danish Breakfast

A traditional Danish breakfast is typically eaten at home. A typical Danish dish is skyr with granola or fruit, cereals or oats or rundstykker, which is morning bunds sprinkled with seeds or grains.

On weekends (but definitely not limited to), many Danes have a breakfast dessert, known as wienerbrød. Among the most important type of wienerbrød are the snail pastries with cinnamon, butter, and iced sugar. You can get them at any bakery or at the modern chain; Lagkagehuset.

Dansk Hakkebøf med Bløde Løg (Minced Beef with Fried Onions)

This dish dates back to 1888. At that time, meat was chopped by hand on the many Danish cattle farms. Today, Dansk hakkebøf med bløde løg, or minced beef steak with fried onions, is very popular wıth Danes of all generations.

Minced beef is seasoned with salt and pepper, then fried until medium rare or well done. A sauce is made from the pan juices and poured over the steaks, which are topped with thinly sliced caramelized onion. The dish is served with boiled potatoes and pickled beets and gherkins. 

Variations on this dish can be found in Danish grill joints. Here, the fried steaks of mince are sandwiched in a toasted burger bun along with pickled beets, ketchup, and remoulade, and, over the top, the hot brown sauce.

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