When going out for dinner in Denmark, you will soon realize that the Danes love to eat food from many different countries. Especially in the bigger cities, you can find restaurants that serve food from many different parts of the world. But even though the Danes are curious and eager to broaden their culinary horizon, they also enjoy the traditional Danish cuisine.
One of the first things that a foreigner might wonder about when it comes to the Danes and their eating habits, is their love for rye bread, in Danish called rugbrød. Especially for lunch, thin slices of the dark rye bread is a hit, and is usually eaten as an open sandwich topped with for instance meat, fish or cream cheese as well as vegetables and fresh herbs. When going to a restaurant for lunch, it will often also have rye bread on its menu, but in a more advanced arrangement and with more toppings than for a usual lunch, and the Danes refer to these kinds of open sandwiches as smørrebrød.
The traditional Danish meals usually contain a lot of meat. Meat balls, in Danish frikadeller, and liver paste, in Danish ‘leverpostej’, are two of the most popular foods – also as topping for the popular rye bread. Also for the traditional Christmas and Easter feast, the typical meals are often based on meat. For Christmas most Danes eat goose, duck or roast pork with potatoes and gravy and an array of side dishes such as pickled cabbage and apples with red currant jelly.
If you reach Denmark by plane, one thing you might notice when exiting the security area at Copenhagen Airport, is a big hot dog stand, usually with many people waiting in the line. But hot dogs stands (in Danish “pølsevogn”) are not only to be found at the airport but in every corner of every city in Denmark, though there a less today than a few decades ago. Here is a list of the most popular varieties of the classic hotdog.
Fransk hotdog (“French hot dog”): white bread with a grilled sausage inside, and with a dressing of your own choice. Ristet hotdog (“Grilled hot dog”): a grilled sausage in an open hot dog bun, served with dressing and topped with raw and roasted onions and pickles. Rød pølse med brød (“Red sausage with bread”): a boiled red sausage with dressing and a piece of white bread on the side. Kradser (no direct translation): white bread with dressing and pickles but without the sausage.
When asking people outside of Denmark what characterizes Danish food, many will probably mention Danish pastry and the Royal Danish Butter Cookies in the blue box, which you can buy in many supermarkets all over the world. At Christmas, the Danes love to bake butter cookies, but for the rest of the year, they are actually not that typical to bake and eat. When it comes to pastry, Danes do eat a lot. Often it is baked with cardamom and cinnamon, and it is especially eaten in the afternoon or on Sunday mornings when many people go to the bakery to get bread rolls, in Danish rundstykker, and pastry.
Even though some of the dishes mentioned here are still very popular amongst the Danes, many people rarely cook traditional Danish food. Especially for vegetarians and vegans, the typical Danish dishes are not the perfect fit and because of the numerous other options, a lot of Danes turn to new culinary experiences. Nevertheless, over the last decade, many of the traditional Danish dishes have resurfaced in new interpretations in the New Nordic Kitchen. Some Danish restaurants try to redesign the Danish traditional food, but still focus a lot on using local ingredients. The concept of the New Nordic Kitchen has expanded internationally and some of the most famous restaurants serving the New Nordic dishes have been awarded with a Michelin Star (See for example Restaurant Noma).
Find more Danish recipes in International Community’s Danish cookbook here.