Take whatever you think you know about sandwiches and step it up a notch: in Denmark, the sandwich is outshone (quite nicely) by the smørrebrød – an open-faced sandwich whose limits are imposed only by your culinary imagination.
Smorrebrod starts very simply: all you really need to make it is Danish rye bread and butter.
“It becomes smørrebrød the second you have the bread and butter on it,” Scott Peabody, head chef at The Copenhagen in New York, told Serious Eats. “Anything else you put on after that is extra.”
For this reason, make sure that you start your smørrebrød right, with real Danish rugbrod or rye bread. Danish rye is a dense, grainy bread that will add tons of flavor to your sandwich and provide a sturdy base for toppings. You can find it in some bakeries, or you can make it yourself. There are several recipes out there, but we like this one, which doesn’t require quite as long a fermentation as some others.
Once you have your bread and a smear of good-quality butter (said to keep the bread from soaking up too much moisture and getting soggy before you finish eating), you can top it with pretty much anything you like. To give you a few ideas, here are some of our favorite smørrebrød recipes.
Herring is a fairly common smørrebrød ingredient, and it’s an excellent seafood choice. Net-caught Pacific herring is one of the most sustainable fish options out there, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and this fish is also rich in omega 3 fatty acids.
In this recipe, pickled herring is paired with sweet beets and just a hint of creaminess afforded by sour cream. Garnishes like green onions, dill, and capers round out this dish nicely.
2. Baby Shrimp
Baby shrimp are yet another classic smørrebrød ingredient. This Danish recipe traditionally features tiny North Sea shrimp, though North Atlantic shrimp will work nicely as well. If your seafood is of good quality, all you need is a smear of butter and a squeeze of lemon for this smørrebrød to be perfect.
3. Potato and Horseradish Smørrebrød
The description of this smørrebrød as a “baked potato sandwich” is apt: thinly sliced Yukon Gold potatoes are topped with crispy fried shallots, chives, and fresh red onion. A creamy horseradish sauce base adds some tang and spice.
4. Eggs in Purgatory Smørrebrød
No one’s claiming this one is a traditional smørrebrød, but with all the innovation happening on the Danish dining scene these days, there’s no reason you can’t experiment with atypical toppings. This recipe pairs traditional Danish rye bread with a spiced tomato sauce and a baked egg. It’s delicious any time of day, but we think it’s the perfect breakfast smørrebrød option.
5. Roast Beef Smørrebrød with Remoulade
Remoulade is a very common Danish condiment. It’s essentially a combination of mayonnaise, pickles, capers, herbs, and a touch of curry. It pairs really nicely with rare roast beef in this sandwich, and a little cornichon pickle on top is the perfect garnish.
6. Fried Fish Smørrebrød with Remoulade
A slightly more involved version of remoulade sauce is the base for a gluten-free fried fish fillet in this recipe. Top the sandwich with a poached egg for a touch more richness.
7. Smashed Chickpea and Avocado
This vegan smørrebrød features a chunky smashed avocado and chickpea spread flavored simply with scallion, lemon, and olive oil. Feel free to garnish with sprouts, spinach, or roasted chickpeas for a bit of crunch.