Danish foods go way beyond our beloved cream-filled, buttery, artery-unfriendly pastries. Although the cuisine is very hearty, you can still find some healthy options or at least savoury ones that just as authentic as the cinnamon rolls and the wienerbrød.
Here are some delicious Danish foods to try before dessert – or whenever you like. I’d call the best traditional Danish foods.
Non-Pastry Danish Foods
Stegt flæsk: The Danish National Dish
The stegt flæsk aka Stegt Flaesk was voted the national dish back in 2014 so it doesn’t really get more authentic Danish food than that. This dish is definitely a crowd pleaser but it is far from healthy or diet-friendly.
The thick pork slices are deep fried to a crisp and served with boiled potatoes with creamy parsley sauce poured over them. The main ingredient in the sauce? Butter, of course. Look for Stegt flæsk med persillesovs og kartofler on the menu for the traditional side of buttery parsley potatoes or ask for the apple compote side.
It goes surprisingly well with the savoury crispiness of the pork.
What makes the stegt flæsk different than bacon, you might ask? Well, although flæsk is sometimes translated as bacon the flæsk you find at supermarkets is lightly salted at most.
Usually, it comes as any other meat would – unsalted and certainly not smoked, unlike bacon. The fried pork taste of the final dish does resemble fried bacon but it tastes much fresher since it started out as crude meat.
Tarteletter: Puff Pastry With A Savoury Twist
Although this dish could almost qualify as a pastry, tarteletter is also a fancy and slightly old-school dinner option so it made it to our list. These puff-pastry tart shells are usually filled with chicken and asparagus and served with rich warm sauce.
There are all sorts of variations, though, including seafood or even tofu for a vegan option. The traditional ‘tarteletter med hons I asparagus‘ is still the best, though, at least in my opinion.
Go try it at the Told Og Snaps restaurant in Copenhagen where they prepare the tarts with fried chicken skin draping. If you are in for a challenge (or you want to impress your date), there are ready-made shells and a variety of fillings available in Danish supermarkets.
You would just have to prepare the simple butter, flour and milk sauce to serve them with.
Flæskesteg: Soft Pork With Crispy Rind
This thinly sliced roasted pork served with tart red cabbage is the quintessential traditional Danish food. You can find it all typical restaurants and it’s good everywhere, to be honest.
Along with cabbage, you can get either toasted rye bread and pickles or potatoes and rich, hearty gravy. The second option is more popular at dinner time, although both would be available on the menu.
Apart from the roast slice, flæskesteg should always include fried pork rind. Although fried pig skin might seem a bit disgusting at first, this is definitely not the time to be picky. I bet it will soon become your favourite part of the dish.
Pølse: Your Ultimate Drunk Danish Food
Pølse is simply a hot dog, Danish style. Copenhagen is full of pølsevogn or hot dog stands that range from small and unpretentious to funky graffiti-covered hipster heavens.
They are not all open throughout the night but you can count on a queue for the ones that are. The most popular choice is the skinny red pork rødpølser hotdogs or the more familiar, American-style ristet-s.
The traditional topping consists of mustard, apple ketchup, remoulade sauce (an aioli- or mayonnaise-based sauce similar to tartar except slightly reddish), sweet pickles, and crispy fried onions.
You can also try the ‘French’ version that includes a crispy, French-style baguette and herb mayonnaise sauce.
You can’t go wrong with your choice of hot dog toppings but if you are only going to cheat on your diet once, go for the traditional Danish version with a spicy smoked rødpølser. If you are up for a junk food fest, though, why not do a little hot dog tour of your own.
Hot dog stands have been getting increasingly creative with their toppings. Artisanal gourmet sauces are fun, although the debate between the classics and the funky creations is ever so fierce.
Check out DØP and Andersen’s Bakery for some weirder (but just as mouth-watering) topping options.
Finally, weird as it sounds, the drink of choice for a hot dog feast is chocolate milk. I would be the first one to admit that this is beyond unusual. It is also exactly what you would crave after a night of drinking. Binge on!
Smørrebrød: Lunch, Danish Style
Smørrebrød is just the general term for open sandwiches, the kind that you would get at conferences and cocktail events. The Danish version takes them to whole different level. Starting with the bread, it is the dense rye rugbrød toasted for just a little bit of crisp and generously buttered.
The toppings come in hundreds, if not thousands of variations. They always include some form of protein – be it meat, egg, cheese, or seitan, and a vegetable. The garnishes are also unimaginably varied.
For Danish people, smørrebrød is the epitome of quick but yummy and nutritious lunch. Virtually all restaurants have them and they are usually one of the cheaper items on the menu.
You order by piece but try not to go overboard. The sandwiches might seem tiny but they are surprisingly filling. I would start by ordering 4-5 per person and get more if needed.
The great thing about smørrebrød sandwiches is they are not really one single dish. Unlike most Danish foods, these can be very healthy or very unhealthy, it all depends on your choice of toppings. If you don’t mind some extra calories, though, I would not miss the leverpostej with bacon and pork liver plus some mushrooms and a generous parsley garnish.
The more classic way to go would be pickled herring and crispy fried onion. For a vegetarian option, how about some blue cheese with pear? It is both simple and incredibly sophisticated.
Millionbøf: A Million-Dolar Taste
Millionbøf literally translates to ‘a million steaks’ but really it’s one beef steak cut into tiny pieces. This traditional Danish food is easy to make, tastes familiar, and it is available almost everywhere.
It is a good way to ease into your adventure in the country’s (sometimes funky) cuisine. Most families have millionbof at least once a week so you get a lot of arguments about what the best version is.
Naturally, everyone says ‘my mother’s’ but the restaurant versions are definitely not too bad either.
Apart from the chopped up beef, this dish is served over mashed potatoes (obviously, very buttery mashed potatoes) with a side of vegetables.
My personal favorite combination is mashed potatoes, spinach, and roasted red beet but some prefer rice instead of the potatoes, or even pasta.
Fiskefilet: Fish Fillet With A Danish Twist
This is probably the simplest of Danish foods – just a fish fillet, yet there is something about the fish you have in Denmark.
Whether it’s because it is fresher or it has to do with the way they prepare it (or the fact that nothing tastes better after a walk by the ocean in the somewhat chilly ‘summer’ weather), I have no idea, but I guarantee you won’t regret ordering the fiskefilet.
The fish fillets are simply covered in egg and breadcrumbs and then fried over medium heat. The result is soft on the inside, crispy on the outside dish.
Get the fillet with a side of fries or buttery boiled potatoes for the ultimate after beach meal (although to be honest, there are not many actual beach-appropriate weather days in Denmark).
Obviously, all seafood and fish dishes would be a hundred times better by the sea where the fish is fresh and restaurants often buy directly from the fisherman every morning.
Asparagus: A Three-Week Frenzy
The Danes love their asparagus but the season only lasts for three weeks in spring and early summer.
A typically Danish take on the ‘king of vegetables’ would be boiled for just a few minutes and topped with egg, parsley, and butter. Another beloved asparagus speciality among Danish foods is the white sauce and shrimp combo, as well as wrapping them in bacon and grilling them.
An extra authentic way to prepare the asparagus would be to swap bacon for the typical Danish curred ham and roast as usual.
Plenty of restaurants and even simple eateries come up with an asparagus menu during the season. Copenhagen’s Tivoli amusement park also offers asparagus specialities. Even outside the season, try their grilled mustard salmon with a side of potatoes and asparagus.
The restaurant is right in the middle of the park with a beautiful view of the lake and surprisingly sophisticated food.
And there you have it – eight mouth-watering Danish foods that are decidedly not pastries. Of course, it would be a shame for you to visit Denmark and not enjoy the cinnamon rolls but that is a topic for another article…
For now, I hope to hear your favourite Danish foods and whether you can make them or you’ve just had them in restaurants. Share them in the comments down below! Who knows, maybe there is even more to Danish foods than even this article makes it out to be.
And if you want even more traditional Scandinavian cuisine to drool over, check out these amazing Finnish foods.