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Cuisine of Denmark

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Cuisine of Denmark

Danish cuisine (Danish: det danske køkken), originating from the peasant population's own local produce, was enhanced by cooking techniques developed in the late 19th century and the wider availability of goods after the Industrial Revolution. The open sandwiches, known as smørrebrød, which in their basic form are the usual fare for lunch, can be considered a national speciality when prepared and decorated with a variety of fine ingredients. Hot meals traditionally consist of ground meats, such as frikadeller (meat balls), or of more substantial meat and fish dishes such as flæskesteg (roast pork with crackling) or kogt torsk (poached cod) with mustard sauce and trimmings. Denmark is known for its Carlsberg and Tuborg beers and for its akvavit and bitters although imported wine is now gaining popularity.

Danish chefs, inspired by continental practices, have in recent years developed an innovative series of gourmet dishes based on high-quality local produce. As a result, Copenhagen and the provinces now have a considerable number of highly acclaimed restaurants, of which several have been awarded Michelin stars.


Danish cooking is rooted in the peasant dishes served across the country before the Industrial Revolution in 1860. It was based on the need to make use of natural products available on the family farm or in the neighborhood. As a result, potatoes, bread and salted pork were eaten everywhere. Families had their own store of long-lasting dry products, rye for making bread, barley for beer, dried peas for soup and smoked or salted pork.[1] While industrialization brought increases in the consumption of fresh meat and green vegetables, rye bread and potatoes continued to be staples.[2] With the arrival of cooperatives in the second half of the 19th century, milk also gained favor. Wood-fired ovens and meat grinders contributed to a range of new dishes including frikadeller (meat balls), roast pork, poached cod and steaks of ground beef. Desserts of stewed fruits or berries such as rødgrød date from the same period.[1]

Over the centuries, sausage, which was not only economical but could be kept for long periods, was together with rye bread behind the development of smørrebrød. By the end of the 18th century, there were several different kinds of sausage but the preparation of cold meat products developed rapidly in the 1840s when the French butcher Francois Louis Beauvais opened a business in Copenhagen. In the 1880s, Oskar Davidsen opened a restaurant specializing in smorrebrød with a long list of open sandwiches. Leverpostej (liver paste) became available in grocery shops at the end of the 19th century but it was some time before its price was comparable with that of cold cuts. Around the same time, the one-hour lunch break which had allowed people to enjoy a hot midday meal was shortened to 30 minutes, encouraging them to take a few pieces of smørrebrød to work in a lunch box. In the 1920s and 1930s, tomatoes and cucumbers were added as a topping to the cold cuts. In the 1940s, Henry Stryhn popularized leverpostej by making deliveries around Copenhagen on his bicycle.[3]

In the 1960s and 1970s, with the availability of deep frozen goods, the concept of fast food arrived together with an interest in Mediterranean dishes as Danes travelled more widely. By the 1990s, ingredients were being imported from the south while new products were farmed at home, providing a basis for a developing interest in gourmet dishes. Much of the inspiration came from France, as Danish chefs went on television explaining how to prepare dishes such as canard à l'orange or authentic sauce Béarnaise. A younger generation of chefs soon started to travel abroad themselves, learning how to adapt the expertise of French and Spanish chefs to the use of local ingredients as a basis for creating beautifully presented, finely flavoured Nordic dishes. As a result, in recent years Danish chefs have helped to put Denmark on the world gastronomic map, with several Michelin-starred restaurants in Copenhagen and the provinces.[2]

New Danish Kitchen

Main article: New Danish cuisine

Danish cuisine has also taken advantage of the possibilities inherent in traditional recipes, building on the use of local products and techniques that have not been fully exploited. Products such as rapeseed, oats, cheeses and older varieties of fruits are being rediscovered and prepared in new ways both by restaurants and at home as interest in organic foods continues to grow. The Nordic Council's agricultural and food ministers have supported these developments in the form of a manifesto designed to encourage the use of natural produce from the Nordic countries in the food production industry while promoting the "purity, freshness, simplicity and ethics" associated with the region's cuisine.[4]

In both 2010, 2011 and 2012 the Copenhagen restaurant Noma (short for nordisk mad - Nordic food) was named the world's best restaurant by the Restaurant magazine.[5]

The Danish chef Claus Meyer has his own show about Nordic cuisine on BBC Lifestyle.[6] His recent book Almanak contains 365 new cuisine recipes, one for each day of the year.[7]

Main meals

Most Danes have three regular meals a day, usually consisting of a cold breakfast with coffee, a cold lunch at work and a hot dinner at home with the family. Some also have a snack in the middle of the afternoon or in the late evening. Meat, especially pork, is by far the most common ingredient of hot meals. It is usually accompanied by potatoes and sometimes by another vegetable such as carrots or lettuce. Most hot meals consist of only one course: starters are fairly rare but desserts such as ice cream or fruit are a little more frequent. Beer and wine are fairly common drinks at mealtimes but so are soft drinks, plain water and, to a lesser extent, milk and coffee.[8] Many families follow the old traditions. Mothers and fathers cook together and teach their children how to cook. Meals form an important part of family life, contributing to the sense of the well-being known as hygge.[9]


The basic Danish breakfast consists of coffee or tea and rye bread, white bread, or rolls with cheese or jam. Cereals such as corn flakes, muesli and oatmeal are also popular, particularly with children. A typical local breakfast dish consists of the soured milk product ymer topped with ymerdrys, a mixture of grated rye bread and brown sugar. When time permits, for example on Sundays, a variety of bread rolls can be included as well as wienerbrød (literally Viennese bread) as Danish pastry is known in Denmark. Orange juice may also be served or even a bitter such as Gammel Dansk, especially when breakfast is served to guests on the occasion of a birthday, anniversary or similar celebration.[10] In Danish hotels, boiled eggs and cold meats are usually served for breakfast too.[11]

Bread at breakfast time most often comes in the form of a white loaf known as franskbrød (French bread), a baguette, or a variety of white or brown rolls (boller, birkes, rundstykker, håndværkere) or croissants.[12]


In Denmark, lunch is usually a cold meal consisting of a few simply prepared pieces of smørrebrød (open rye-bread sandwiches) with slices of cold meat, sausage or hard boiled egg. Leverpostej, a liver paste prepared from pig's liver and lard, is also frequently used as a spread.[13] Rather than eating at home, most Danes have a quick lunch at work or school either in the cafeteria, if there is one, or more often in the form of a packed lunch or madpakke prepared before they leave home. This typically consists of a few pieces of smørrebrød (see Open sandwiches below).[1]


For the average family, dinner is the one meal of the day where everyone can be gathered, due to the pressures of the modern life where both parents are likely to work, and the children are in school or pre-school institutions. Dinner usually consists of just one main course, often a meat dish with potatoes and a vegetable or salad. Starters are seldom served at home. If there is a dessert, it is likely to be ice cream or a fruit dish. Much more elaborate dinners are served on special occasions or when guests have been invited.[14]

Confusingly, the evening meal is sometimes called middag (midday) because hot meals were traditionally served in the middle of the day. Over the past few decades, the meal has developed as a result of the increasing availability of foods from supermarkets as well as the growth of the local food industry. As a result of American influence, there is now considerable interest in barbecues, salad buffets and ready-to-serve dishes. Italian preparations including pizza and pasta have also become common options. Meat is increasingly popular, pork still remaining the most frequently served. Cuts are often prepared in the frying pan and accompanied by brown gravy and potatoes.[14]

Open sandwiches

Main article: Smørrebrød

Smørrebrød (originally smør og brød, meaning "butter and bread") usually consists of a piece of buttered rye bread (rugbrød), a dense, dark brown bread. Pålæg (meaning put-on, actually "that which is laid on [the bread]"), the topping, then among others can refer to commercial or homemade cold cuts, pieces of meat or fish, cheese or spreads. More elaborate, finely decorated varieties have contributed to the international reputation of the Danish open sandwich or smørrebrød. A slice or two of pålæg is placed on the buttered bread and decorated with the right accompaniments to create a tasty and visually appealing food item.[15]

Some traditional examples include:[16]

  • Dyrlægens natmad (Veterinarian's late night snack). On a piece of dark rye bread, a layer of liver pâté (leverpostej), topped with a slice of saltkød (salted beef) and a slice of sky (meat jelly). This is all decorated with raw onion rings and garden cress.[17]
  • Røget ål med røræg Smoked eel on dark rye bread, topped with scrambled eggs, herbs and a slice of lemon.
  • Leverpostej Warm rough-chopped liverpaste served on dark rye bread, topped with bacon, and sauteed mushrooms. Additions can include lettuce and sliced pickled cucumber.
  • Roast beef, thinly sliced and served on dark rye bread, topped with a portion of remoulade, and decorated with a sprinkling of shredded horseradish and crispy fried onions.
  • Roast pork (ribbensteg), thinly sliced and served on dark rye bread, topped with red cabbage, and decorated with a slice of orange.
  • Rullepølse, (rolled stuffed pork) with a slice of meat jelly, onions, tomatoes and parsley.
  • Tartar, with salt and pepper, served on dark rye bread, topped with raw onion rings, grated horseradish and a raw egg yolk.
  • Røget laks. Slices of cold-smoked salmon on white bread, topped with shrimp and decorated with a slice of lemon and fresh dill.
  • Stjerneskud (lit. shooting star). On a base of buttered toast, two pieces of fish: a piece of steamed white fish on one half, a piece of fried, breaded plaice or rødspætte on the other half. On top is piled a mound of shrimp, which is then decorated with a dollop of mayonnaise, sliced cucumber, caviar or blackened lumpfish roe, and a lemon slice.[18]

Cold table

The Danish koldt bord or cold buffet corresponds to its Swedish counterpart, the smörgåsbord. It is usually served at lunch time. The cold table may be a buffet arrangement or the many and varied items may be brought to the dining table and passed around family-style.[19]

The meal begins with fish, usually pickled herring (marinerede sild), or another herring dish. The herring is normally marinated either in a clear sweet, peppery vinegar sauce (white herring), or in a red seasoned vinegar (red herring).[20] It may also come in a variety of sour cream-based sauces, including a curry sauce which is very popular. The white herring is typically served on buttered, black rye bread, topped with white onion rings and curry salad (a sour-cream based sauce, flavored with curry and chopped pickles), and served with hard boiled eggs and tomato slices. Herring can also be found which is first fried, and then marinated this is called "stegte sild i eddike" (lit.: Fried herring in vinegar). On extra festive occasions a prepared silderet (herring dish) might be served in which the herring pieces are placed in a serving dish along with other ingredients. Examples might be herring, sliced potato, onions and capers topped with a dill sour cream/mayonnaise sauce, or herring, apple pieces, and horseradish topped with a curry sour-cream/mayonnaise sauce.[19] Other fish dishes may include:[21]

  • Rejer (shrimps), usually served on white bread with mayonnaise and lemon
  • Røget ål (smoked eel) with scrambled egg
  • Gravad laks (salt-cured salmon) with a dill and mustard sauce
  • Rødspættefilet (breaded filets of plaice), served hot with lemon and remoulade
  • Røget laks (smoked salmon)
  • Røget hellefisk (smoked halibut)

The cold table also consists of a wide variety of meat dishes and, despite its name, nearly always includes a few items which are served hot. Some of the more common components are:[21]

  • Frikadeller (meat balls), sometimes hot,
  • Leverpostej (liver paste), sometimes hot, with pickled beetroot, mushrooms or fried bacon
  • Mørbradbøf (pork tenderloin), sometimes hot, with fried onions
  • Flæskesteg (roast pork) with crackling, usually with red cabbage
  • Medisterpølse (coarsely ground pork and bacon sausage)
  • Pariserbøf (ground beef steak), usually served hot on toast with pickles

There will also be cold cuts such as hams, roast beef, salami, brisket of beef and spiced roulade. Buffets usually include accompaniments such as potato salad, scrambled egg and a variety of salads. Desserts such as fruit salad and fruit pies as well as various cheeses may also be included.[21]

Options for dinner

The everyday evening meal for most Danes consists of a main course and perhaps a dessert. At weekends and on special occasions, a more elaborate meal is served. Good restaurants usually serve a three course dinner. While an ever wider range of foreign foods are available in Denmark, traditional dishes are still popular. A selection of the more common options is given below.[16]


The first course is typically fish, although a wide variety of other appetizers are becoming more common. Common traditional appetizers include:


Soup is often a meal on its own, or served with bread. It can also be served before the main dish. In addition to soups common outside of Denmark, specialities include:

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

Main dishes

Fish, seafood and meat are prominent parts of any traditional Danish dish.

Denmark has a long tradition of fishing, since it is surrounded by the sea, consisting of many islands and a 7000 kilometer coastline. Fish consumption is a natural part of the Danish food tradition.

The most commonly eaten fish and seafood are:

  • Cod (torsk), a common white fish in general food preparation (baked, steamed, fried). It is also dried (klipfisk). Prices have risen in recent years, making this once-favorite fish drop down the list. It has mainly been replaced by other white fish, such as haddock and ling.
  • Norway lobster (jomfruhummer)
  • Eel (ål), smoked or fried. Smoked eel is almost exalted in some homes.
  • Herring (sild), a whole section should be written about Danish herring dishes. Most involve the herring served cold after being pickled, but also smoked, fried, breaded, or charred herring is popular.
  • Plaice (rødspætte), in the form of fried, battered fish filets or as a common white fish in general food preparation (baked, steamed, fried)
  • Salmon (laks) -- smoked or gravad lox style. Cooked salmon has become much more common in recent times, and is now fairly widespread.
  • Shrimp (rejer) -- Small shrimp from the north Atlantic are most common. Fjord shrimp are a rare delicacy: very small and flavorful, about the size of the smallest fingernail.
  • Roe (rogn) -- Fish eggs from cod, lumpfish (stenbider) and salmon.

Fish from Bornholm, Iceland and Greenland also has a special place in the Danish cuisine. The island of Bornholm, a part of Denmark located in the Baltic Sea, to the east of Zealand and south of Sweden, is noted for its smoked fish items. Iceland and Greenland have long shared histories with Denmark, and the fish from these North Atlantic lands is a sign of quality.

As regards meat-eating, the Danes primarily eat pork: salted and smoked pork, hams, pork roasts, pork tenderloin, pork cutlets and chops are all popular. Ground pork meat is used in many traditional recipes requiring ground meat. Danish bacon is generally of good quality (in Denmark; exported Danish bacon is of exceptional quality), and available in both the striped and back varieties. While still the most popular, pork has lost ground to turkey, beef and veal in recent years.

Beef is also very popular in the modern Danish kitchen. Danish cattle are primarily used for dairy and Denmark has a centuries-old tradition of dairy products. Hence, cattle bred for their meat were rare and thus expensive. Dairy cattle rarely make good meat cattle - especially after several years as dairy cows. For that reason beef has usually been ground and cooked as patties or cooked as boiled roast or soup. Today steaks are nevertheless popular. Especially culotte steak is a classic dish to serve for guests.

Chicken is also popular, both served in the old traditional way, but also as a tray of frozen chicken pieces ready to put into the oven, lørdagskylling (lit. Saturday chicken) which is a quick and cheap way to feed a family.[22]

Traditional main course dishes

  • 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.


  • Strawberry pie, very popular in the summer.
  • Apple pie, oven baked.
  • 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.
  • Danish pastry, a sweet bread, often topped with icing and filled with cheese or fruit.

Christmas festivities

Christmas lunch

A special variation on det kolde bord is the Christmas lunch, a festive holiday smorgasbord, served during the holiday season. A traditional julefrokost is a family event on Christmas Day or shortly after. However, during the whole of December all groups of people (coworkers, members of clubs and organizations) generally hold their own annual julefrokost on a Friday or Saturday. The "lunch" often include music and dancing, and usually continues into the very early hours of the morning with plentiful drinking. All over Denmark trains and buses run all night during the julefrokost season and the police are on a special lookout for drunk drivers.[23]

A favorite at Christmas lunches is Risalamande, a rice pudding for Christmas, traditionally served with hot or cold cherry sauce; it consists of mainly cold rice pudding with vanilla flavouring and chopped almonds. A Danish tradition is to put a whole almond in the bowl of pudding. The one that finds it wins a present.[23]

A very special part of not only the julefrokost but of most festive, celebratory meals is the selskabssang (party song). These songs are very special to Denmark. They are sung to traditional tunes, and have specially written lyrics that fit the occasion.[24]

Christmas dinner at home

In Denmark, the Christmas (or Jul) dinner is served on the evening of 24 December (Christmas Eve). It takes the form of a main dish (usually pork, goose or duck) and the Risalamande desert. The traditional recipes from Frk. Jensen's 1901 cook book (see below) still form the basis of Christmas cooking today.[25]

The roast pork or flæskesteg, a cut from the breast or neck, is roasted in the oven with the skin cut through to the meat in strips, providing more crispy crackling. It is accompanied by both boiled potatoes and caramelized potatoes (brunede kartofler) specially prepared in a frying pan with melted sugar and a clump of butter. Red cabbage, which can be bought in a jar or a can, is always included too.[26]

Goose and duck are filled with a stuffing of apple boats and prunes before they are roasted in a hot oven. The bird is served with a brown sauce based on the broth obtained by boiling the heart, neck, liver and gizzard, thickened with a little fat from the bird, flour and sour cream. Gravy browning may be added.[26] Just like the pork, the bird is served with two kinds of potatoes and red cabbage.[26]

Eating out

Eating out in restaurants can be a costly affair, with the average price running higher than that of the European average.[27] As a result of the New Nordic Cuisine trend, Danish restaurants are now firmly on the international gourmet map.

In the big cities, and in shopping districts, there are many more reasonably priced eating places, including such chain fast food possibilities as McDonald's and Burger King. The most common quick food restaurant is the "burger bar" or "grill bar" which typically features hamburgers, pizza, hot dogs and a wide variety of other fast food staples. These can be found in every town in the country, large or small. Other commonly found fast foods include Turkish and Middle East food specialties such as falafel, shish-kebab and spit-roasted meat (most often shawarma) with salad in pita bread, or wrapped in durum wheat based flatbread.[28]


Denmark has many fine restaurants, not only in the larger cities, but also in the countryside. The kro (roughly equivalent to an inn, but held in higher social regard) provides lodging as well as meals and drinks. Especially the royally privileged lodges have a long and interesting history.[29] Danish cuisine continues to evolve and keep up with the times. It has become more health-conscious, and has drawn inspiration not only from the traditional French and Italian kitchens, but also from many other more exotic gastronomical sources. Increasingly, restaurants are turning to trends based on a combination of continental cooking and the growing interest in products from the local environment served in accordance with seasonal availability.[4]

Hot dog vans

Another common quick food alternative, the "original" fast food outlet in Denmark, is the pølsevogn (sausage wagon), where one can eat a variety of different sausages, including Denmark's very famous red sausages, røde pølser. These hot dog-like sausages are long (ca. 20 cm long), thin (about the diameter of an index finger) and bright red. They are traditionally served on a small, rectangular paper plate along with a side order of bread (similar to a hot dog bun, but without a slice in it), and a serving of both ketchup, Danish remoulade sauce, which is somewhat similar to American relish, and mustard. The sausage is hand held, dipped into the sauce and eaten. The bread is eaten alternately, also dipped into the sauce.[30]

When the sausage is served in a traditional hot dog bun, it is called a "hot dog". It is commonly served with remoulade, ketchup, mustard, onion (either raw or toasted, i.e. ristede) and thin sliced pickles on top. Ristede onions are similar in taste to French-fried onion rings. Another variety is the French hot dog (Fransk hotdog) which is a sausage stuffed into a special long roll. The roll has a hole in the end, in which the hot dog is slipped into, after the requested condiment has been squirted in (ketchup, mustard, different kinds of dressing). The simplest sausage wagons are portable and very temporary, but most are more permanent. They are typically a metal wagon with an open window to the street, and a counter where one can stand and eat the sausage. More advanced wagons may be built in and include limited seating, usually both inside and outside. Through the years the number of sausage wagons has dropped as competition from convenience stores, gas stations and kebab and pizza-places has increased.[30]


Another reasonable place to eat is at a café. These are plentiful, especially in the bigger cities, and usually offer soups, sandwiches, salads, cakes, pastries, and other light foods, in addition to the expected coffee, tea, beer and other beverages. Increasingly international café chains have become dominant in the capital Copenhagen these include currently two Starbucks at the International Airport and several of UK Caffè Ritazza, which can be found at Copenhagen Airport, Magasin Torv by the Magasin Du Nord department store, and at Copenhagen Central Station. The Danish coffee bar Baresso Coffee, which serves mainly coffee and tea related products like Starbucks, is present Copenhagen, Odense, Svendborg, Aarhus, Aalborg, Hellerup, Randers, and the Faroe Islands as well as Copenhagen Airport and MS Crown of Scandinavia.

Other popular foods


Potato recipes are ubiquitous in Danish cooking. The potato was first introduced into Denmark by French immigrant Huguenots in Fredericia in 1720.[31] The potato is considered an essential side dish to every hot meal.[32]

Especially prized are the season's early potatoes, such as those from Samsø.

Some favorites:

  • Au gratin potatoes
  • Baked potatoes with crème fraiche
  • Boiled new potatoes with herbs
  • Potato wedges au natural or baked with beetroots and carrots marinated in olive oil, garlic and dry herbs.
  • Boiled potatoes smothered in butter with fresh dill or chives
  • Caramelized browned potatoes (brunede kartofler). Usually an accessory to the Christmas meal, roast goose, duck or pork.
  • Cold sliced potatoes arranged on buttered rye bread and decorated with mayonnaise and chives
  • Mashed potatoes covered with a meat stew
  • Pommes frites (French fries)
  • Potato salad (kartoffelsalat)

Vegetables and salads

Although the potato is the central vegetable in traditional Danish cooking, it is by no means the only vegetable associated with Danish cuisine. Those other vegetables that play an important role often had to be preserved for long periods of time in cold rooms, or were pickled or marinated for storage. Cauliflower, carrots and a variety of cabbages were often a part of the daily meal, especially when in season, in the days prior to widespread refrigeration.

  • Beans (bønner)
  • Peas (ærter) Especially popular when freshly picked.
  • Brussels sprouts (rosenkål)
  • Cabbage (kål)
  • Carrots (gulerødder)
  • Creamed kale (grønlangkål), spinach or white cabbage
  • Cauliflower (blomkål)
  • Cucumber salad (agurkesalat)
  • Italian salad (italiensk salat), a mixture of vegetables in a mayonnaise dressing, served on ham and other cold cuts. The name comes from the red-white-green coloring, the colors of the Italian flag. The salad's colouring originates from carrots, mayonnaise and asparagus, and green peas.
  • Onion (løg)
  • Pickled red beet slices (rødbeder)
  • Pickles, a mixture of pickled vegetables in a yellow gelatinous sauce, served with corned beef
  • Russian salad (russisk salat), a red beet salad (not to be confused with Olivier salad, which is also known as Russian salad).
  • Sweet and sour red cabbage (rødkål). Sautéed red cabbage, boiled with red currant juice, apples, vinegar. Additional sugar may be needed, and cinnamon is an optional extra.

Sauces and condiments

Sauces and condiments are an important part of the Danish meal:

  • Béarnaise sauce, served with steaks
  • Brown sauce (Danish: brun sovs), served with just about anything and everything. Variations include mushroom sauce, onion sauce and herbed brown sauce.
  • Horseradish sauce (peberrodssovs), a cream sauce served with roast beef or prime rib. Sometimes frozen into individual servings for placement on hot roast beef.
  • Ketchup, a must with red sausages, along with mustard.
  • Mayonnaise, used in food preparation, and as a condiment with pommes frites (French fries). A generous dollop of mayonnaise is generally placed on top of shrimp.
  • Mustard (sennep). A wide variety of mustards are available. Traditional mustard is a sharp flavored, dark golden brown, but many other types are widely available and used, including dijon, honey-mustard and other specialty flavored variants. Prepared salad mustard (yellow mustard) is generally eaten with red sausage or hot dogs. A special sweet, dilled mustard is eaten with smoked salmon (laks).
  • Parsley sauce (persillesovs), a white sauce which is generously flavored with parsley.
  • Pepper sauce, served with steaks.
  • Remoulade, a very commonly used condiment. A popular dipping sauce for pommes frites (French fries).
  • Whiskey sauce, served with steaks
  • White sauce, often used with vegetables as a binding sauce (peas, peas and carrots, spinach, shredded cabbage).


Denmark is known for good cheeses. It can be part of the breakfast, lunch, salads and it can also be served as a dessert after dinner as a so-called ostebord or ostetallerken (translated: cheese table or cheese plate) with wine grapes, crackers and wine.

While the traditional, commonly eaten cheese (skæreost) in Denmark is mild, there are also stronger cheeses associated with Danish cuisine. Some of these are very pungent. Blue cheese can be quite strong, and Danish cheese manufacturers produce molded cheeses that span the range from the mildest and creamiest to the intense blue-veined cheese internationally associated with Denmark. Another strong cheese is Gamle Ole ("Old Ole"- Ole is a man's name), a brand of pungent aged cheese that has matured for a longer period of time. It can be bitingly strong. It is often served in combination with sliced onion and aspic (sky) on Danish rugbrød spread with lard. Rum may be dripped on this pungent cheese prior to serving.

Strong cheeses are an acquired taste for Danes too. Elderly Danes who find the smell offensive might joke about Gamle Ole's smelling up a whole house, just by being in a sealed plastic container in the refrigerator. One might also refer to Gamle Ole's pungency when talking about things that are not quite right, i.e. "they stink". Here one might say that something stinks or smells of Gamle Ole.[33]

Denmark lost a long legal battle with Greece,[34] to use the term "feta" for a Danish cheese produced using artificially blanched cow's milk. Since July 2002, feta has been a protected designation of origin (PDO), which limits the term within the European Union to feta made exclusively of sheep's/goat's milk in Greece.[35][36] Because of the decision by the European Union, Danish dairy company Arla Foods (who also manufacture Danbo) changed the name of their Feta product to Apetina.[37]

Some Danish cheeses include:

  • Danablu (strong blue cheese)
  • Blue Castello
  • Esrom
  • Danbo (with the designation Gamle Ole denoting a particularly matured variety)
  • Mycella
  • Havarti (a semi-soft Danish cow's milk cheese named after the experimental farm on which it was first made in the mid-19th century)
  • Danish Feta
  • Smoked cheese(a fresh speciality from the island of Funen spiced with cumin and served with radish and rye bread)

Seasonings and herbs

Fresh herbs are very popular, and a wide variety are readily available at supermarkets or local produce stands. Many people grow fresh herbs either in the kitchen window, in window boxes or outside, weather permitting. Most commonly used herbs and other seasonings in Danish cooking:


Similarly to vegetables, fruit had to withstand long storage during the winter to become a part of the traditional cuisine. Fruit is generally eaten in smaller portions, often as an accompaniment to cheese, or as decoration with desserts.

Fruit that is traditionally associated with Danish cuisine:

  • Apples (Æbler) Popular in traditional dishes as 'winter apples' store well. Can be fried and served with Flæsk (thick bacon)
  • Blackcurrant (Solbær), literally 'sun berries'
  • Cherries (Kirsebær) When in season eaten fresh. But famously cooked into cherry sauce, traditionally served over rice pudding (risalamande) at Christmas. Also used in making Heering, a famous cherry liqueur, produced in Denmark.
  • Gooseberry (Stikkelsbær) literally 'thorny berries'. Used for stewed gooseberries (stikkelsbærgrød).
  • Pears (Pærer)
  • Plums (Blommer)
  • Raspberries (Hindbær)
  • Redcurrants (Ribs) Made to jelly or simply mixed raw with sugar as (Rysteribs), served to roast.
  • Strawberries (Jordbær), literally 'earth berries'

A combination of strawberries, red currants, black currants, blueberries and mulberries is known as "forest fruits" (skovbær) and is a common component in tarts and marmalades. A popular dessert is made from boiling down one or more berries (and/or rhubarbs) into 'rødgrød (red porridge) med fløde (with cream)'. Cream is poured on top, but may be substituted by milk.

Rødgrød med fløde is often jokingly used by Danes as a shibboleth, as it contains the soft "d" several times, which most foreigners find difficult to pronounce.

Baked goods

Bread is a very important part of the Danish table. It is enjoyed at home, in the workplace or in restaurants and is usually based primarily on rugbrød, which is sour-dough rye bread. It is a dark, heavy bread which is sometimes bought pre-sliced, in varieties from light-colored rye, to very dark, and refined to whole grain. Rugbrød forms the basis of smørrebrød (see above).[38] Many people still bake at home, particularly boller, which are small bread rolls, and often the traditional kringle, which is a long cooked dough with currants and a brown sugar and butter paste. The Danish franskbrød is roughly equivalent to white bread but loaves are available is many varieties ranging from whole wheat to pumpkin chestnet, poppy-seed sprinked loaves and loaves containing maize, müsli or honey. Brown loaves are also referred to as franskbrød.[39]

White bread is known in Denmark as franskbrød, literally "French bread", and is not as common as it is in many other western countries. People often eat jam with cheese on crusty white bread for breakfast, and also very thin slices of chocolate, called pålægschokolade.

  • Cookies — Danish butter cookies, also popular in the United States, are sold in round, decorated tins.
  • Danish pastries— known in Denmark (and Sweden) as wienerbrød (Vienna bread)
  • Kransekage (translated, ringcake) — an almond cake consisting of increasingly smaller and smaller rings stacked one on top of each other, creating an upside down cone form. The cake rings are decorated with white icing, and the cake is decorated with red-and-white Danish flags made of paper. On extra special occasions they will cover a bottle of champagne. Kransekage is typically served with champagne on New Year's and to celebrate such extra special occasions such as weddings, "round" birthdays and wedding anniversaries.
  • Kringle— a pretzel-shaped cake, especially associated with Denmark in the United States
  • Layer cakes—thin sponge cake layers, often with mashed berries and whipped cream or custard between the layers and decorated with fruit on top. Often used to celebrate birthdays.
  • Pebernødder— pepper nuts, a small, spice cookie associated with Christmas
  • Æbleskiver— made in a special pan, these round, pancake-like dough balls are traditionally eaten with jam and powdered sugar at Christmas.


  • Chocolate — Denmark has a long tradition of producing delicious chocolate known worldwide, most famous brand is Anton Berg.
  • Liquorice — Sometimes salty licorice, made with salmiak. Denmark produces some of the strongest liquorice in the world.
  • Marzipan
  • Wine gums — While similar looking and often similar branded as in other European countries, Danish wine gums are much less sweet and have more texture.

There also exists a vast amount of other types of sweets and candy, ranging from gumdrops and dragée to mints and caramel sweets. Bland selv slik (lit: mix yourself candy) is common in Danish supermarkets and kiosks, and consists of an amount of plastic boxes, usually between 20 and 50, each containing a different type of candy, which is then put into a paper bag with a small shovel-like object. The paper bag is then weighed, and paid for.

Both Danish and imported candy are found in these box assortments, and the shape, texture and flavor differences are often extremely creative. Candy have been manufactured resembling a vast amount of objects, such as flying saucers, tennis raquets, soccer balls, butterflies, and even more strange, also teeth and toothbrushes.[22]


  • Akvavit, usually called snaps. A clear, high proof spirit made from potatoes but, unlike vodka, always herbed (dilled, etc.)[40]
  • Beer, in Danish øl. Carlsberg, Tuborg, local. Drinking a "pilsner" is a favored activity of many Danish people after work or when relaxing. The pilsner type is the dominant beer type in Denmark but many other types are available. Recently, small breweries have been budding up all over the country with new local brews.[41]
  • Bitters. The most popular bitter is Gammel Dansk (translated, Old Danish).[40]
  • Kaffe. Black home brewed coffee with the local Bodum coffee maker or filter coffee, often taken throughout the day and evening, and always in the morning.
  • Hyldeblomstsaft. Sweetened elderflower drink, often made at home, served with added water. Sometimes hot in the winter but usually cold.[42]
  • Fruit wines. Cherry wine, black currant wine, elderberry wine.
  • Gløgg, hot punch made with red wine, brandy and sherry with raisins and almonds. Spiced with cloves and cinnamon, part of the Christmas tradition.[43]
  • Varm kakao, hot chocolate often served to children and an essential part of family hygge.
  • Mjød, mead made legendary by the Vikings.[44]
  • Carbonated water, Danskvand, translated Danish Water, often flavoured with citrus.
  • Saftevand, a juice drink made from fruit syrup and water, often served to children.
  • Danish wine, produced in small quantities, but still very expensive. Imported wines are ever more popular.[45]


The Danish food culture is sometimes criticized by gastronomes and nutritionists. The author and historian Søren Mørch has characterized Danish cuisine as a "garbage kitchen" of insipid, sweet and unspiced "baby food" where the tastes of milk and sweetness are the key elements. He believes that this style arose because the export policy of the Danish food sector was to use the Danes as a "gutter" for the products that were left over when the bacon and butter were sold abroad. Skim milk, meat scraps only suitable for chopping up, and the replacement product margarine are products which Søren Mørch describes as residues.[46]

Regardless of this, substantial criticism has been directed at the nutritional content of Danish food; for example, at the ratio of meat, side dishes, and salad on the plate. Nutrition information campaigns have been trying to get the Danes to become healthier by eating less meat, fat, and sugar, and more raw vegetables. Instead of a healthier diet, however, the results too often have been feelings of guilt and a view of food as something which is just the correct fuel for the body's machinery.[47]

Frøken Jensens Kogebog

The cookery book published by Kristine Marie Jensen (1858–1923) in 1901 and titled Frk. Jensens Kogebog (Miss Jensen's Cookbook) is considered by many Danes to contain all the authentic recipes for traditional dishes as well as for baking bread, cakes and biscuits. It has been reprinted dozens of times and new editions can be found in most Danish bookshops today. When Danes prepare meals for special occasions, for example at Christmas time, they frequency follow Frøken Jensen's detailed descriptions.[48][49] The book has not been translated into English but many of the traditional Danish recipes on English-language websites are those of Frøken Jensen. The original edition (only in Danish) is available online.[50]

See also

Food portal



  • Jensen, Kristine Marie (edited and updated by Lundsgaard, Bente Nissen and Bloch, Hanne): Frøken Jensens kogebog, Copenhagen, Gyldendal, 2003, 366 p. (Danish) ISBN 87-00-21271-7
  • Meyer, Claus: Almanak, Copenhagen, Lindhardt og Ringhof, 2010, 694 p. (Danish) ISBN 978-87-11-43070-5
  • Redzepi, René: Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine, London, Phaidon Press, 2010, 368 p. ISBN 978-0-7148-5903-3.
  • Færch, Tove; Møller, Maja; Hougaard, Anne Kirstine, eds. (2008), Det gode madliv - Karoline, maden og måltidet i kulturen, Arla Foods. (Danish) ISBN 978-87-992509-1-2
  • (Danish)

External links

  • Danish Food Culture -
  • Christian's Danish Recipes— over 600 Danish recipes in English
  • Danish Tourist Board: Tipping whilst eating out
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