Danish Open-Face Sandwiches (Smørrebrød)

The famous open face sandwich gets its name from the Danish “smør og brød” (butter and bread). It is a traditional Danish tartine made of a dark rye bread buttered and topped with anything you have on hand. Pickled herring and seafood are the most common and famous of the Danish smørrebrød. You can also add cheese, pickles, avocado, fresh onion, or apples. Just one mouthful of an authentic Danish sandwich and you will understand why you should try it at least once.

 Although the dense rye bread serves as a palate for creativity of colors, foods, pickles and spreads, Smørrebrød does have its own set of rules and etiquette:

The Rye Bread – small squares of the fermented Danish rye bread is essential to begin the creation.

The Fats – In order to keep the topping from making the bread soggy, a thin layer of fat like butter, mayonnaise, avocado, or cheese is applied.

Scandinavian Ingredients – Herring, small shrimp, gravlax, roast meats, hard boiled eggs, dill, and pickles are traditionally used and then enhanced with fresh herbs, onion slices, cheese, fruit, and lemon.

Cutlery – Smørrebrød is always eaten with a knife and fork as they will fall apart if eaten by hand.

Order – Traditionally, herring is always eaten first, followed by another seafood, meat third, and cheese last.

Danish smorrebrod

Smørrebrød – Danish Open-Face Sandwiches

Below are several recipes for a Danish smørrebrød in the tradition order of herring, another seafood, a meat, and cheese with fruit. They can be made quickly, especially if using high-quality, store-bought ingredients like pickled herring, gherkins, cured salmon, and roast beef. The key to everything, however, is finding or making the best small loaf of Danish rugbrod (rye bread) or pumpernickel. Don't worry about exact measurements of toppings, build smørrebrøds to what looks good to you.
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Course: Appetizer, Brunch, Lunch, Snack
Cuisine: Denmark, North Western European, Scandanavian
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4
Author: My Hungry Traveler


  • 1 loaf Small Danish rye bread or pumpernickel or dark whole grain rye (⅓-inch thick)
  • Butter, softened
  • ½ Red onion, cut into thin slices and put into a colander with 1 tsp salt for 30 minutes.
  • 6 tbsp Fresh dill, chopped + some for garnish

Herring Smørrebrød

  • 1 jar Creamed pickled herring
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 stalk Scallion, finely chopped
  • ½ medium Apple, peeled, cored, and diced small
  • 1 tsp Cracked black pepper

Gravlax Smørrebrød

Roast Beef Smørrebrød

Blue Cheese and Apple Smørrebrød

  • 8 tbsp Danish blue cheese, crumbled
  • 1 sweet Apple, peeled, cored, and cut into thin slices
  • 8 tbsp Walnuts, toasted and chopped


1. Herring Smørrebrød

  • Place creamed herring and all the other ingredients, except the bread, in a bowl. Add 1 tbsp chopped dill, mix thoroughly, and refrigerate for a few hours or more. To serve, lightly butter bread and top with the creamed herring, and top with a few thinly sliced red onions. Serve.

2. Gravlax Smørrebrød

  • Spread cream cheese over the bread. Top with 2-3 slices cucumber, then 2 slices of Gravlax, pinch of sliced red onion, and a dill sprig. Drizzle a little Honey Mustard Sauce . Serve.

3. Roast Beef Smørrebrød

  • Spread butter evenly over bread slices. Top with roast beef slices and a dollop of Remoulade Sauce. Layer sliced cornichons and a pinch of sliced red onion on top. Serve.

4. Danish Blue Cheese Smørrebrød

  • Spread butter evenly over bread slices. Add a few overlapping slices of apple. Top with crumbled blue cheese and sprinkle toasted chopped walnuts over cheese. Serve.


  • Toppings can be made in advance, refrigerated, assembled to served.


Calories: 627kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 29g | Fat: 49g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 16g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 98mg | Sodium: 1657mg | Potassium: 380mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 553IU | Vitamin C: 28mg | Calcium: 289mg | Iron: 2mg

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