traditional danish dish stjerneskud smørrebrød

8 traditional Danish foods you really shouldn't miss!

Photo: Richard Clark

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.

Smørrebrød, Aamanns

Photo: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. 

Hot dog stand (pølsevogn) Jeanettes Pølser in the city center of Copenhagen

Photo:LABAN Stories

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!

Traditional Danish pastries "Wienerbrød"

Photo:© Maria Nielsen


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.

Pair your smørrebrød with craft beer and snaps at Øl & Brød in Copenhagen

Photo:Thomas Høyrup Christensen - Copenhagen Media Center

Danish beer and snaps

Okay, so technically beer and snaps are not dishes, but they go well together with everything else on this list. Well, maybe not the pastries, but whatever floats your boat.

Many associate Denmark with beer, and it may not be so strange when you consider that no other country in the world produces as much beer in relation to its size and number of inhabitants. In addition to world-renowned Carlsberg, be sure to try locally-brewed beers at one of the many microbreweries scattered all over the country.

You should also try to pair your smørrebrød with a shot of snaps which is a traditional Scandinavian spirit. It is a rather strong alcoholic spirit based on aquavit, but it can be infused with many different flavours, newbies might want to try dill or honey. Tip: snaps pairs particularly well with the pickled herring.

And of course, the most important word to learn for your next trip to Denmark - Skål! 

Still hungry?

There's plenty more food waiting to be discovered in Denmark!