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National Food of Denmark: Top 15 Dishes

Welcome to our exploration of Danish cuisine, a culinary trip that promises to delight your taste buds and expand your gastronomic horizons. Have you ever wondered what defines the national food of Denmark or which dishes are cherished by the Danish people? Perhaps you’re curious about the unique flavors and ingredients that characterize Danish cooking, or how these traditional dishes have found their place in the modern culinary world. These questions and more will be answered as we explore the top 15 dishes that represent the heart and soul of Denmark’s rich food culture.

In this article, we will provide a comprehensive overview of the most beloved Danish dishes, from the iconic smørrebrød to the festive æbleskiver. You’ll discover the historical and cultural significance behind each dish, the ingredients that make them special, and the ways in which they are prepared and enjoyed.

By the end of this read, you’ll not only gain a deeper appreciation for Danish cuisine but also feel inspired to explore more articles within our publication, further enriching your knowledge of European and global food cultures.

Top 7 National Foods of Denmark

1. Herring

photo by Jpatokal

Herring is a beloved staple in Danish cuisine, enjoyed in various forms such as smoked, curried, or marinated. A particularly cherished dish is Sol Over Gudhjem, which translates to ‘sun over Gudhjem.’ This specialty from the island of Bornholm consists of a buttered piece of rye bread topped with herring, red onions, and an egg yolk. Other fish, including salmon, plaice, and cod, are also popular and often served with traditional accompaniments like parsley sauce and potatoes.

2. Smørrebrød

Smørrebrød, translating to “butter bread,” is Denmark’s artistic contribution to the world of open-faced sandwiches. This national dish features an endless variety of toppings on buttered rye bread, such as smoked fish, cold meats, and leftovers. Originating in the 19th century during industrialization, smørrebrød provided factory workers with a practical and tasty lunch option. Today, it remains a beloved part of Danish cuisine, frequently appearing on holiday tables and restaurant menus.

3. Frikadeller

photo by cyclonebill

Frikadeller are Danish fried meatballs made from fish, pork, or a blend of pork and beef. This hearty dish is typically served with potatoes and parsley sauce. Fish frikadeller are often enjoyed cold, accompanied by remoulade and fried onions, offering a delightful contrast in textures and flavors.

4. Flæskesteg

photo by cyclonebill

Flæskesteg, a national Danish roast pork dish with crispy skin, is a festive favorite, especially on Christmas Eve. Prepared by scoring the pork rind and seasoning it with salt, pepper, bay leaves, and cloves before roasting, flæskesteg boasts a deliciously crispy exterior. This dish, alongside roast duck and goose, has been a cherished part of Danish Christmas celebrations for over a century.

5. Wienerbrød

photo by RhinoMind

Wienerbrød, known outside Denmark as “Danish pastries,” consists of laminated dough filled with ingredients like cream, jam, nuts, cheese, and fruit preserves. The name, meaning “Viennese bread,” reflects the Austrian bakers who introduced the technique to Copenhagen in the mid-19th century. These pastries have become integral to Danish gastronomy, with the average Dane consuming around 10 kilos of pastries and cakes each year.

6. Koldskål

photo by Nillerdk

Koldskål is a popular Danish buttermilk dessert, occasionally enjoyed as a creamy drink. Typically combining buttermilk with yogurt, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla core, and eggs, this dish is served cold and is a refreshing summer treat. Traditionally, koldskål is accompanied by crispy kammerjunkere cookies, enhancing its texture and flavor.

7. Stjerneskud

photo by Hchristophersen

Stjerneskud is a renowned type of smørrebrød, the open-faced sandwich that is a cornerstone of Danish cuisine. This dish features a buttered piece of rye bread topped with an assortment of seafood, including steamed and breaded plaice fillets, salmon, and shrimp. It is garnished with ingredients such as asparagus, caviar, lemon slices, and mayonnaise or remoulade sauce, creating a visually appealing and delicious meal.

Traditional 6 Dishes to Eat

8. Rødkål

photo by cyclonebill

Rødkål is a popular Danish dish made from shredded red cabbage soaked with red currant juice, vinegar, sugar, and spices. Often enriched with duck butter and shredded apples, this quick and easy-to-prepare dish is a staple throughout the year. It holds a special place in traditional Christmas feasts, where it is typically served as a tangy accompaniment to roasted meat dishes.

9. Æbleskiver

photo by cyclonebill

Æbleskiver are small, light Danish pancakes made from a leavened egg batter and cooked in specially designed pans. Though originally prepared with apples, modern versions often include vanilla, citrus zest, or cardamom. These sweet treats are a Christmastime favorite, usually dusted with powdered sugar or served with fruit preserves, making them a festive delight.

10. Risengrød

photo by cyclonebill

Risengrød is a rich and creamy Danish rice pudding traditionally enjoyed at Christmas. Made by cooking short-grained rice in milk and water, and sometimes vanilla core, it is stirred until thick and smooth. Topped with cinnamon sugar and a dollop of butter, this aromatic dessert transforms into a luxurious treat. Leftovers are often used to make another holiday favorite, risalamande.

11. Rødspættefilet

photo by duncan cumming

Fried plaice fillets are a staple in Danish cuisine, found both in restaurants and home kitchens. Typically breaded or lightly coated with rye flour, the fillets are pan-fried until golden and crispy. They are frequently used in stjerneskud, a type of smørrebrød, or served as a main course with potatoes, Danish rémoulade, parsley sauce, salads, sautéed vegetables, or lemon wedges.

12. Fiskefrikadeller

photo by cyclonebill

Fiskefrikadeller are traditional Danish fish cakes made from a creamy mixture of ground white fish fillets, eggs, milk, onions, and spices. Sometimes enriched with cream, breadcrumbs, or additional seafood like salmon and shrimp, these nutritious patties are pan-fried and served as a main course. Common types include buttered boiled potatoes, Danish rémoulade, and lemon wedges.

13. Mørbradbøffer i Flødesovs

photo by Eric E Castro

Mørbradbøffer i flødesovs is a Danish classic featuring pork tenderloin smothered in a creamy sauce with generous amounts of onions. Often baked as a casserole and enhanced with mushrooms or crispy bacon bits, this hearty dish is a favorite home-cooked meal. It is typically served with potatoes, rice, and pickles, providing a comforting and satisfying dining experience.

Spices: The Heart of Danish Cooking

photo by Mareefe

Danish cooking has long been influenced by foreign and continental practices, incorporating imported tropical spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and black pepper since the Middle Ages, with some roots tracing back to the Viking era. These exotic spices have become integral to Danish cuisine, enriching its flavor palette and contributing to both sweet and savory dishes.

The use of these spices reflects Denmark’s historical connections and trading routes, which brought diverse culinary influences into the local food culture. In traditional Danish cuisine, several spices are staples in everyday cooking. Salt and black pepper are fundamental, enhancing flavors in nearly all dishes.

Herbs like dill and parsley are also widely used, with dill often flavoring pickled herring and fish dishes, and parsley adding a fresh touch to soups, stews, and salads. Nutmeg and cinnamon are popular in both sweet and savory recipes, the former adding warmth to creamy sauces and baked goods, while cinnamon is a key ingredient in pastries like kanelsnegle (cinnamon rolls).

Cardamom, particularly prominent in Christmas desserts like æbleskiver, and allspice, used for meat dishes and pickled vegetables, further shows the Danish penchant for spices that enhance rather than overpower the natural flavors of food.

Danish Family Dining

photo by Tima Miroshnichenko

In Denmark, family dining is a cherished tradition, often extending beyond blood relations to include friends and visitors, creating a warm and inclusive atmosphere. In Denmark Meals are more than just eating; they are opportunities for connection, conversation, and building lasting relationships, whether it is enjoying a casual coffee on a rooftop with their family or a dinner party that turned into a memorable culinary collaboration.

Danish family dining also emphasizes the joy of cooking and sharing food together. Their hospitality extended to a special dinner party where they had the pleasure of cooking a four-course meal with their family members. This represents how food acts as a bridge, deepening bonds and creating lifelong memories.

These moments highlighted the Danish values of togetherness, generosity, and a love for good food, leaving guests with cherished memories of a family that welcomed them as one of their own.

See Also Famous Danish Painters

Street Food

14. Bøfsandwich

photo by Görlitz

The bøfsandwich is Denmark’s traditional take on the American hamburger, featuring a thick beef patty served on a bun or bread roll and typically garnished with pickles, onions, ketchup, and mustard. A notable variation from the Jutland region includes the whole hamburger doused in brown gravy, creating a rich and tasty experience.

15. Pølser

photo by cyclonebill

Pølser, or rød pølser, is the perfect Danish street food, often enjoyed with a refreshing bottle of beer. This traditional Danish sausage served in a bun, is considered a gourmet version of the hot dog. Distinguished by its striking red color, the original pølser is made from pure pork and has been a beloved fast food staple since its creation around 1921. It represents a significant part of Danish culinary tradition and street food culture.

Farm-to-Table Movement

photo by commart

Denmark has become a global leader in the farm-to-table movement through its comprehensive organic food and farming policy. This policy is characterized by innovative approaches that address both supply and demand within the organic market. The Danish government has implemented various policy instruments that encourage farmers to convert to and maintain organic farming practices while simultaneously developing consumer demand for organic products.

This dual approach, known as active market development policy, has led to Denmark having one of the highest levels of organic food consumption globally. Additionally, the integration of both mainstream and organic interest groups into the policymaking process has facilitated a broad consensus that organic farming is a fundamental part of the Danish food industry, supported by a strong political coalition.

The Danish organic policy’s success is attributed to several factors, including effective implementation of policy measures, extensive stakeholder involvement, and robust political and social support. Denmark’s approach includes regular action plans that introduce new initiatives and revise existing measures to ensure policy endurance.

This collaborative and market-oriented approach has not only increased organic food consumption but also enhanced the sustainability of the farming sector, contributing positively to biodiversity and reducing environmental pollution.

Dining Etiquette

photo by Julia Kuzenkov


1. Lift Their Glass: Whether making a toast or taking their first sip, they always lift their glass.

2. Include Everyone: If not making a specific toast, they lift their glass, look around the table, drink, lift their glass again, and then set it down.

3. Wait for the Host: They allow the host or hostess to initiate the first toast with “Skål!”

4. Propose a Toast: The male guest of honor should toast the hostess at the end of the meal.

5. Clink Properly: They lightly clink their spoon on the glass to get attention if proposing a toast.

6. Utensil Placement: They place their fork and knife parallel on the right side of the plate, pointing north, when finished eating.

7. Request Seconds Properly: They turn the tines of the fork downward to signal that they want seconds.

8. Finish Their Plate: They eat everything on their plate to show appreciation.


1. Avoid Breaking Eye Contact: They do not break eye contact during a toast.

2. Skip the First Sip Ritual: They never drink their wine or beer without the initial lift, look, drink, and lift sequence.

3. Skip Food: They do not skip any courses; they try everything from appetizers to desserts.

See Also Traditional Danish Clothing

Global Influence and Popularity

photo by solod_sha

Danish cuisine, though not as globally renowned as French, Italian, or Chinese cuisines, boasts a variety of unique and enchanting dishes that are gaining international acclaim. Traditional dishes such as smørrebrød, the iconic open-faced sandwiches, frikadeller, delicious Danish meatballs, stegt flæsk, crispy pork served with parsley sauce, and æbleskiver, delightful apple fritters, are increasingly capturing the interest of food lovers around the world. These dishes highlight the distinctive flavors and culinary traditions of Denmark, offering a taste of the country’s rich gastronomic heritage.

The rise of the New Nordic Cuisine movement has significantly bolstered the reputation of Danish food. This culinary trend focuses on fresh, seasonal, and locally sourced ingredients, promoting sustainability and simplicity in cooking. As a result, Danish chefs and restaurants have gained more attention and praise on the global stage. Despite its previously understated presence, Danish cuisine is steadily carving out a niche in the international culinary scene, with its chefs and cafes being celebrated for their innovation and commitment to quality.

Key Takings about National Food of Denmark

1. Top 7 National Food of Denmark: Highlight the most iconic Danish dishes including herring, smørrebrød, and flæskesteg.

2. 6 Traditional Dishes to Eat: Feature traditional favorites like rødkål, æbleskiver, and risengrød.

3. Spices: The Heart of Danish Cooking: Discuss the importance of spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg in Danish cuisine.

4. Danish Family Dining: Emphasize the tradition of family meals and the social aspects of dining together.

5. Street Food: Show popular Danish street foods like bøfsandwich and pølser.

6. Farm to Table Movement: Explore Denmark’s commitment to organic farming and sustainable food practices.

7. Dining Etiquette: Provide insights into the dos and don’ts of Danish dining etiquette.

8. Global Influence and Popularity: Highlight the growing international recognition of Danish cuisine and its culinary innovations.