Smørrebrød (smorrebrod), often known as Danish open sandwiches, are a staple of Scandinavian cuisine. Here are some classic toppings including beef and smoked salmon with remoulade sauce. Easy and delicious!
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I am very lucky to have travelled a lot throughout my life and love going to new places both to see and experience the sights but also the food. Of course it helps growing up in Europe where other countries are not that far away, but even now I based in the US (at least on the whole), we manage a few trips here and there.
I first went to Denmark many years ago and have been a few times since, most recently to visit friends who used to live here. As on other trips, we made a point of getting local food and that naturally included the classic smørrebrød, or Danish open [faced] sandwiches as you might know them.
What are Danish smørrebrød (open sandwiches)?
Smørrebrød are core to Danish cuisine, being a traditional lunch option. The name translates as "butter bread" as these are the two core components. However realistically, for most people it is all about the toppings.
You'll find a whole range available in Denmark in street stalls, food markets as well as in cafes and restaurants. On the whole, most places offer a few classic toppings, usually incorporating locally available products like smoked salmon, herring and egg.
These open sandwiches are being picked up in what is dubbed 'new Nordic' or 'new Danish' cooking with some twists on the classic toppings. We had some great meals in Denmark on our few days there, both a few smørrebrød lunches and some other tasty dishes both in restaurants and made by the friends we were visiting.
Making or sourcing rye bread
Rye bread is a core component of many meals, as you can see in these smørrebrød, but it's sadly not that easy to get hold of here, or even in the UK when I was there. Yes you can get rye bread, but not Danish-style as easily.
Sometimes I use a seeded rye which is close, or I have made my own Danish-style if I have time. I used this recipe that I found, which worked well. My only change was using loaf pans as I didn't have the proper bread tin - I got two loaves rather than one large, and reduced the cooking time by about 15min to compensate.
I would highly recommend making or getting some Danish-style rye bread if you can for these. If you can't make/get Danish then as I say a seeded German-style rye is probably the closest. Failing that, a relatively hearty bread of another kind would work.
Remoulade: part of a love of pickles
Danish love their pickles almost as much as rye bread and most smørrebrød will see a pickle of some kind in there somewhere. Pickles are also a key component to Danish remoulade which is a classic sauce served with many smørrebrød and other dishes, especially fish.
Remoulade is kind of like a Danish tartare sauce. Recipes vary greatly, but pretty much all start with mayonnaise as a base then have some form of pickle or sweet relish in there.
Often some other vegetables and/or herbs are added and something to make it slightly yellow - usually either a little curry powder or hard boiled egg yolk. I have made my own variation on the theme as I have described below which is nice and easy to make.
How to make Danish smørrebrød (open sandwiches)
Putting together smørrebrød is really easy. As mentioned above, the name means buttered bread and that's the base for all versions. Beyond that, you can be as traditional or as creative as you like. Here I have gone with three classic, traditional toppings:
- Roast beef with pickles and remoulade
- Smoked salmon with lemon
- Hard boiled egg.
When I say traditional, there are variations within these. The roast beef version is often also topped with some crispy fried onions - these do taste great if you feel like making them but it also works well without (and is quicker), as I have here. To give a slight crispness I added some pea shoots.
For the smoked salmon version, as well as smoked salmon you can use gravlax, a popular Scandinavian cured salmon. Both work well simply with lemon and dill on top, as well as with some remoulade. Some radish slices add some color and crispness, if you like.
The hard boiled egg topping is one where you'll find a bit of variation with different salad vegetables in the mix. Both radish and cucumber pair well, as do some pea shoots, as I have here. But you can vary these to taste and what you have.
While these are most typically eaten for lunch, they also make great appetizers. You can make them even more fitting for a party plate by cutting the bread up a bit to make smaller bites, though this is less traditional.
As well as having a nice mix of toppings to enjoy different flavors, these ones have lovely contrasting colors if you are thinking about the aesthetics. Radishes, dill and pea shoots all work well as garnishes (and are tasty, too!)
Whatever your reason to make them, smørrebrød are delicious, easy to prepare and fun to play around with different toppings. Whether that's classic ones like these or whatever you come up with. Either way, give them a try and enjoy.
Try these other Scandinavian dishes:
- Swedish cheesecake
- Salmon gravlax
- Langoustines with herbed cream
- Plus get more Scandinavian/Nordic recipes in the archives.
Danish smørrebrød (open sandwiches)
For the remoulade (can be made ahead, likely won't need all)
- ¼ cup mayonnaise (¼ cup is 4tbsp)
- 1 tablespoon cornichons finely chopped (or other pickled cucumber)
- 1 teaspoon capers roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon mustard Dijon
- ⅛ teaspoon curry powder
- 6 slices Danish rye bread if available, or closest equivalent (eg pumpernickel)
- 1 tablespoon butter approx
- 6 slices roast beef approx, depending on size
- 6 slices smoked salmon approx, depending on size
- 1 hard boiled egg or possibly more
- 1 radish
- 6 slices cucumber
To garnish (optional)
- a few cornichons or pickle slices
- pea shoots
- a few slices of lemon
- fresh dill
- radish slices
To prepare remoulade (can be made ahead)
- Mix together all the ingredients for the remoulade (mayonnaise, pickled cucumbers/cornichons, capers, parsley, lemon juice, mustard and curry powder). Spoon a little on top of each slice then top with some slices of cornichon and/or lemon and parsley as you wish.
To make smorrebrod
- Lightly butter all of the slices of rye bread.
- For roast beef - lay slices of beef in slightly overlapping layers on two of the slices of bread. Drizzle some of the remoulade on top. Garnish with pickle slices/cornichons and some pea shoots.
- For smoked salmon/gravlax - layer slices of smoked salmon over two more slices of bread, either slightly overlapping or in small folds. Top with a slice of lemon and a piece of dill as garnish (you can also add some remoulade, if you like).
- For egg - slice the hard boiled egg and place a few slices on each of the remaining two slices of bread. Add slices of cucumber and radish around or on top of the egg in a pattern, as works with the egg slices. Garnish with some remoulade and pea shoots or dill.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
This recipe was originally shared in November 2015 and has been updated with additional information and new pictures.
Like pickles? Try these other ideas for pickling or things with pickles:
- Cuban Sliders by Making Miracles
- Easy Pickled Sweet Peppers by Cherishing a Sweet Life
- Pickled Brussels Sprouts by Our Good Life
- Pickled Peppers by Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Quick Pickled Beet Salad by Food Lust People Love
- Southern Fried Pickles by The Freshman Cook
- Zupa Orgokowa (Dill Pickle Soup) by A Day in the Life on the Farm