Danish cuisine

I love exploring new countries, learning about their traditions, cuisine, and habits. In Copenhagen, I will be able to sample the customary fare as well as gourmet dishes based on local produce.The Danes eat three meals a day: a cold breakfast with coffee, a cold lunch, and a hot dinner typically consisting of meat (usually pork), potatoes, and carrots or lettuce.


A basic Danish breakfast is a slice of rye or white bread or roll with a slice of cheese or jam, nothing like the American style “Danish”. Cereals such as corn flakes, muesli, and oatmeal is becoming more popular. Hotels often include hard-boiled eggs and cold meats for breakfast.

A typical local breakfast dish consists of the soured milk product ymer topped with ymerdrys, a mixture of grated rye bread and brown sugar. This reminds me of Mrs. Plourde, a sitter I had when I was in first grade, who used to give my sister and me sour cream sandwiches topped with brown sugar, something which I have not thought of in years.


The smørrebrød (literally “bread and butter”) is an open rye bread sandwich consisting of cold cuts, meat, fish, cheese, or spreads, and then topped with decorative accompaniments. There are many varieties of smørrebrød. Wikipedia lists the following as the more traditional:

  • Dyrlægens natmad (Danish: Veterinarian’s midnight snack) — On a piece of dark rye bread, a layer of liver pâté (leverpostej), topped with a slice of salt beef (salt kød) and a slice of meat aspic (sky). This is all decorated with raw onion rings and garden cress.
  • Eel — Smoked eel on dark rye bread, topped with scrambled eggs and sliced radishes or chopped chives.
  • Leverpostej — Warm rough-chopped liver paste (made from pigs liver and lard) served on dark rye bread, topped with bacon, and sauteed mushrooms.
  • Roast beef — thin sliced and served on dark rye bread, topped with a portion of remoulade, and decorated with a sprinkling of shredded horseradish and toasted (ristet) onion.
  • Roast pork (Ribbensteg) — thin sliced and served on dark rye bread, topped with red sweet and sour cabbage, and decorated with a slice of orange.
  • Spiced meat roll (Rullepølse).
  • Tartar — raw beef mince with salt and pepper, served on dark rye bread, topped with raw onion rings, grated horseradish and a raw egg yolk.
  • Smoked salmon (laks) — Slices of cold smoked or cured salmon (gravad laks) on white bread, topped with shrimp and decorated with a slice of lemon and fresh dill.
  • Stjerneskud (Danish: Shooting Star) — On a base of buttered white bread, two pieces of fish: a piece of steamed white fish on one half, a piece of fried, battered plaice (rødspætte) on the other half. On top is piled a mound of shrimp, which is then decorated with a dollop of mayonnaise, red caviar, and a lemon slice.


In most Danish homes, dinner,  called middag (midday) because hot meals were traditionally served in the middle of the day, is a one-course meal. Fish, seafood, and meat are common ingredients in Danish meals. On weekends or special occasions, the Danes prepare a more elaborate spread. With globalization and the increased availability of supermarket food, the Danes now have  the barbecue, salad buffets, pizza and pasta.

Restaurants usually have a three-course dinner: appetizer, soup, and entrée.

Soup is often a meal on its own. There are two Danish specialties:

Gule ærter (pea soup), served with salted pork, carrots and other vegetables
Hønsekødssuppe (chicken soup) served with melboller (small flour dumplings), meatballs and cubed vegetables.

Traditional entrées:

  • Boller i karry, meat balls in curry served with rice and cucumber salad.
  • Gammeldags kylling, old fashioned pan-cooked chicken, served with cucumber salad, rhubarb compote, potatoes and brown sauce.
  • Frikadeller, meat balls made of pork and veal with spices.
  • Hakkebøf, ground beef steak with soft caramelized onions and brown sauce.
  • Æbleflæsk (literally apple pork), fried pork slices served with a compote of apple, onion and bacon.
  • Stegt flæsk med persillesovs, slices of fried pork served with potatoes and parsley sauce.
  • Medisterpølse, thick, spicy sausage made of minced pork.
  • Æggekage (egg cake) — similar to an omelette.
  • Påskelam (Easter lamb) grilled lamb with dry herbs and garlic.
  • Culottesteg, top sirloin steak with dry herbs served with potatoes and green salad.
  • Stegt and, roast duck prepared like roast goose, stuffed with baked apples, prunes and thyme.
  • Stegt gås, roast goose is a traditional Danish Christmas dish and also served for Morten’s aften (St. Martin’s Day, November 11).
  • Flæskesteg, roast pork with crackling, often served at Christmas.
  • Rødkål, red cabbage with duck grease, sugar, vinegar, apple, onion, red wine and spices such as cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom and allspice. Served for Christmas.
  • Brunede kartofler, caramelized potatoes made with sugar and butter. Served for Christmas.
  • Øllebrød (beer bread), a pudding made of rye bread, sugar and beer
  • Millionbøf, (translated: million steak), gravy filled with tiny pieces of beef (a million tiny steaks) poured over pasta or mashed potatoes.
  • Brændende kærlighed (literally “burning love”), mashed potatoes made with butter and milk or cream. A well is made in the top of the mashed potatoes into which fried diced bacon and onions are filled.
  • Risengrød, (rice porridge), a dish that has a special relationship to Christmas. It is traditionally the favorite dish of the Nisse. Usually served with butter, cinnamon sugar and nisseøl. It is also the basis of the Danish Christmas dessert Risalamande.


GÅSEBRYST / GOOSE BREASTAt home, the Danes usually have ice cream or fruit for dessert. Apple and strawberry pies are popular. Other Danish desserts are

  • Æblekage, (apple charlotte). Stewed apple topped with bread crumbs and crushed almond-flavoured meringue or whipped cream, served cold.
  • Fruit salad topped with vanilla cream or whipped cream and grated chocolate
  • Rødgrød med fløde, stewed, thickened red fruit (usually strawberries or rhubarb) with cream or as topping on ice cream.
  • Pandekager, a thin, crepe-like pancake, rolled up, often sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar, and served with strawberry jam or vanilla ice cream.
  • Koldskål. A sweet cold buttermilk dish with vanilla and lemon, often served in the summer.
  • Danish strawberries with cream, served in the summer.
  • Æbleskiver, (literally “apple slices”), similar to a round American pancake though not the same, Danes eat them through December as a Christmas tradition.
  • Risalamande (or ris à l’amande), a rice pudding with whipped cream, vanilla flavouring and chopped almonds. Commonly eaten on Christmas Eve, served cold with hot cherry-sauce.
  • Wienerbrød (Danish pastry), a sweet bread, often topped with icing and filled with jam, remonce or custard.


Denmark is known for its Carlsberg and Tuborg beers. It is also known for Akvavit or Aquavit a caraway- or dill- flavored liquor typically containing 40% alcohol by volume. In Denmark it is distilled from potatoes.

About The Author

Jane V. Blanchard

I am an award-winning author of the "Woman On Her Way" book series, writing about my travel adventures. For more information on the books, please visit janevblanchard.com. I started the "Woman On Her Way" travel blog in 2013 to share my experiences as I explored 13 countries with my husband, traveling by ship, foot, bike, bus, train, and plane. Dennis and I continue to make memories and hope you will enjoy following along.

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