Smørrebrød – the most popular dish in Denmark

Smörrebröd (Danish sandwich) is the unofficial national dish of Denmark. A buttered slice of bread is laid with so many fillings that it is almost impossible to discern the bread from underneath. Even though the fillings are abundant, smörrebröd is also a feast for the eyes. The open sandwich is a popular lunchtime meal.

In the 1200s, winters were particularly cold in Denmark and people had to find ways to store different kinds of foods for them to last until spring. Herring was relatively rare outside Denmark and Sweden, and could only be fished during certain times of the year. Both fish and meat were smoked and dried to enhance stability. Bread was often sourdough bread that kept stable longer than white bread. These are also the ingredients that were used in the first smörrebröds. The story has it that smörrebröds were born from lunch sandwiches. Farmers who were doing manual labour used to compile their sandwiches to maximise their energy content. They often introduced the previous day’s leftovers in the sandwich they had for lunch.

Soon the sandwich ended up in Denmark’s capital, Copenhagen, where it became a staple food from gastropubs to fast food restaurants. Oskar Davidsen is called the father of smörrebröd. He was a wine merchant from Copenhagen who started to serve sandwiches to his customers at the late 1800s – and a hit was born. Smörrebröds ended up being more popular than the wine he sold. In 1888, he opened a smörrebröd shop in Nørrebro. There were 177 different sandwiches on the menu.

One person can eat 2 to 3 smörrebröds during a basic meal but sky is the limit on festive occasions. Smörrebröd etiquette dictates that sandwiches containing herring or fish are served first. After them, vegetable and meat sandwiches follow from the lightest to the heaviest. Cheese sandwiches and dessert, if applicable, are enjoyed at the end of the meal.

Some of the fillings used for Danish sandwiches are so established they have been given their own names:

Sol over Gudhjem, i.e., Sun over Gudhjem (rye bread, smoked herring, chives or yellow onions, raw egg yolk)
Dyrlægens natmad, i.e., Vet’s night snack (rye bread, liver pâté, salted corn beef, meat jelly and onion rings)
Stjerneskud, i.e., Shooting star (wheat bread, lettuce, tomato slices, breaded plaice, steamed plaice, served with shrimp and mayonnaise, caviar and a slice of lemon)
Pariserbøf, i.e., Paris steak (rye bread, minced meat steak, onions, a fried egg and canned beetroots)
HC Andersen, i.e., liver pâté sandwich (rye bread, warm liver pâté, bacon, meat jelly, tomato slices, horseradish, parsley)
Rostbiff, i.e., roast beef sandwich (rye bread, roast beef slices, rémoulade, some horseradish and roasted onions)
Ribbensteg, i.e., roast pork sandwich (rye bread, roast pork, sour red cabbage, a slice of orange)
Tartarmad, i.e., tartar sandwich (rye bread, tartar steak, raw onions, grated horseradish, raw egg yolk)
Laks, i.e., salmon sandwich (white bread, gravlax, shrimp, slice of lemon, dill).

Roast beef sandwich
1 slice of dark toast or rye bread
mayonnaise as a bread spreading
1 leaf of lettuce
30 g cooked roast beef, thin slices
2 tbsp curry rémoulade
10 g Le Gruyére AOP cheese, grated
For decorating
  1. Spread mayonnaise on the bread.
  2. Layer the bread with a leaf of lettuce, roast beef, rémoulade and grated Le Gruyére AOP cheese.
  3. Decorate the bread with parsley and shoots.
Curry rémoulade
2 carrots
2 shallots
100 g cauliflower
Seasoning stock
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 dl white wine vinegar
1/2 dl water
In addition
1 dl mayonnaise
1 tsp coarse Dijon mustard
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 dl Le Gruyére AOP cheese, grated
  1. Chop the vegetables into very small dices.
  2. Cook the vegetables in boiling vinegar solution for a couple of minutes.
  3. Allow to cool in their own juices. The liquid is left on the vegetables.
  4. Finally, add mayonnaise, grated cheese, mustard and curry to the vegetables.
Herring sandwich
1 slice of multigrain toast or rye bread
1/2 dl boiled beetroot, grated
1/2 dl Le Gruyére AOP cheese, grated
10 g matjes herring
red onion rings
sunflower shoots
  1. Cut the bread into a round slice with a cutting die.
  2. Finely grate the boiled beetroot.
  3. Layer the bread. Using a cutting die, press the grated beetroot onto the bread and do the same with grated cheese in order to layer the fillings. Place a slice of herring and a few red onion rings on top of the cheese.
  4. Decorate the bread with a sunflower shoot.
Cheese bread
1 slice of rye bread
1 tsp coarse Dijon mustard for spreading
1 leaf of lettuce
2 slices of Le Gruyére AOP cheese
1 to 2 walnuts
1 to 2 pecans
1 cornichon, i.e., small pickled gherkin, halved
liquid honey
  1. Spread coarse mustard on the bread.
  2. Layer the bread by placing the leaf of lettuce, cheese slices, halved pickled gherkin and the nuts on the bread.
  3. Finally, pour liquid honey on top.
Swiss Flag

Recipes from Switzerland

Blue Paint Stroke Graphic
Danish Flag

Recipes from Denmark

Blue Paint Stroke Graphic
Finnish Flag

Recipes from Finland

Blue Paint Stroke Graphic
Norwegian Flag

Recipes from Norway

Blue Paint Stroke Graphic
Swedish Flag

Recipes from Sweden

Blue Paint Stroke Graphic

The Stories of Le Gruyère AOP

Blue Paint Stroke Graphic