Food in Denmark
Aside from the numerous kebab shops and pizza stalls, eating in Denmark may be pricey, but it’s a worthy investment. As a family with children, you may eat at almost any restaurant in Denmark as long as your children are well-behaved. Many restaurants provide a special children’s menu (brnemenu in Danish) at a reduced price.
Copenhagen has emerged on the world stage in the last two decades as a very happening place for food enthusiasts and gastronomic travellers, with the highlight being the world-renowned restaurant Noma serving and evolving the New Nordic Cuisine, but many restaurants serving an international gourmet cuisine have also been celebrated and are attracting international attention. Copenhagen is not the only city with high-end restaurants worth visiting, and in recent years, worldwide culinary guides have expanded their discriminating gaze to include many locations across Denmark. Since 2015, three restaurants in Aarhus have earned Michelin stars, and many more locations in the province have been included in culinary guides. If you’re searching for out-of-the-ordinary culinary experiences in Denmark, it may be a good idea to read The White Guide. It is not a comprehensive guide, but it claims to be the only official restaurant guide for the Nordic area, having begun in Sweden. There is an international version in English as well as a Danish one; the Danish version contains the most comprehensive information, but many high-quality locations are missing.
Restaurants and restaurants offering traditional Danish fare are also on the increase throughout the nation, and they are popular with both Danes and visitors.
Eateries serving foreign cuisine, as well as restaurants of various ethnic flavors, particularly Mediterranean and Asian, are widespread in most large cities. There are also specialty restaurants such as Japanese, Indian, and Ethiopian cuisine. Food quality is usually excellent, thanks to a national quality control system that is rigorously enforced. Every person who prepares food is required to have a hygiene certificate, and the competition is generally too fierce for most low-quality companies to survive.
Avoid tourist traps where there are no Danes; popularity among locals is usually always a good indication of quality.
Traditional Danish fare includes the ubiquitous smrrebrd and a variety of hearty hot meals such as frikadeller (meat balls served in various ways), stegt flsk (fried pork with potatoes and parsley white sauce), flskesteg (roast pork with cracklings served with red cabbage, potatoes, and brown sauce), ggekage (large omelette with fried pork, mustard and rye bread), Traditional Danish food pairs very well with beer. Shots of aquavit or schnapps are also popular, although only on special occasions or when visitors are present. Finer Danish food has historically been inspired by French cuisine and includes a variety of soups, roasts (duck, beef, veal, and pig), and mousses (called fromage in Denmark). Roasts are usually accompanied by potatoes, blanched vegetables, pickled berries, and a brown sauce or glace. Fine traditional Danish food should be accompanied with wine. Drinking during meals is recommended since the beverages improve the dishes and vice versa.
If you’re looking for a fast lunch on the move, consider a Danish hot dog, which comes in a bun with a choice of toppings such as pickles, fried or raw onions, ketchup, mustard, and Danish remoulade (a Danish take on the French remoulade sauce, consisting of mayonnaise with the addition of chopped pickles and turmeric for color).
Menus vary during the holidays of Christmas and Easter, and roast duck is the dish of choice on Mortensaften (St. Martins Day). Without getting into specifics regarding Christmas and Easter meals, bleskiver, glgg, “ris á la mande,” and brndte mandler are popular sweet sweets in December. bleskiver are fried dough balls (similar to American pancakes in texture) eaten with jam and powdered sugar. Glgg is a mulled wine made from different recipes that is served hot (to adults) on its own or with bleskiveror Christmas cookies. Ris-à-la-mande is a sweet rice pudding with whipped cream, vanilla, and chopped almonds that is served cold with cherry sauce, while brndte mandler (burnt almonds) are caramelized almonds that are usually cooked in huge open cauldrons and sold on the streets.
Smørrebrød (open sandwiches typically on rye bread) are a classic Danish meal with a wide range of toppings such as pickled herring, fried plaice, shrimp, cold meat cuts, patés, different salads, or cheeses. Seafood, with the exception of herring, plaice, and mackerel, is served on white bread, although many establishments provide a variety of breads. Smrrebrd eaten on special occasions, in lunch restaurants, or purchased from lunch takeout shops is stacked higher and more luxuriously than everyday food. Danish rye bread (rugbrd) is black, somewhat sour, and often wholegrain. It is a must-try for all tourists.
Denmark provides some of the world’s finest dairy products. The manufacturing is well-organized, and the hygienic, educational, and technological standards are excellent. For a nation the size of Denmark, the diversity is remarkable, with both large scale industrial producers (mainly Arla) and tiny local dairies, but also various cow breeds and conventional, organic, and biodynamic production; all of which are accessible in most major shops throughout the country. Danish specialities include ymer, a fermented dairy product comparable to yogurt, and koldskl, a sweetened dairy beverage (or dessert) available in spring and summer. Denmark makes several fantastic cheeses, which may be of particular interest to visitors. Several of them are traditional local specialties, such as rygeost, Danablue, pungent old semi-soft cheeses (Gammel Ole and others), and Vesterhavsost, a semi-hard cheese cured in caves in western Jutland. You may find them at stores, delicatessens, and numerous restaurants. Under the brandname Unika, the Arla business has lately introduced a range of high-quality dairy goods, most notably cheeses, which are now available in Unika stores in Copenhagen and Aarhus. Unika dairy products are also available at a few restaurants and shops.
Denmark’s climate is ideal for fruit and berry cultivation, and many businesses make outstanding jams and fruit juices. Den Gamle Fabrik (The Old Factory) is by far the biggest jam maker and exporter. Their jams have a high fruit content and are made without boiling, which preserves the flavor, nutritional value, and consistency better than other goods. This business alone offers a wide range of products, some of which are sugar-free. For example, try solbr (black currant), jordbr (strawberry), rabarber (rhubarb), or hyben (rosehip). The flavor is deep, nuanced, and simply excellent. When it comes to juices, try to avoid the cheaper juice from concentrates and instead go for the more costly cold-pressed unfiltered juices. Denmark offers numerous apple varieties; some older types were practically forgotten for many years, but are currently being brought back to the notice of general consumers. Ingrid Marie, Grsten, Filippa, and rble are only a handful of the more than 300 famous Danish apples. Dansk Landbrugsmuseum (Danish Agricultural Museum) grows 281 Danish apple types in their orchards at the manor of Gammel Estrup between Aarhus and Randers in Jutland. Every year on October 4th, apples are gathered here and sold and sampled on-site, as well as in Viborg and Hje-Taastrup outside of Copenhagen. Frilandsmuseet, an open-air museum in Lyngby, a northern neighborhood of Copenhagen, also produces and preserves numerous ancient Danish kinds of apples, fruits, and berries, nearly all of which are not commercially available. Denmark has also been known as a cherry liquor exporter for more than a century (the Heering brand is perhaps the most well-known abroad), but in the last one or two decades, the Frederiksdal estate on Lolland has developed high-end luxury cherry wines that have received several international appraisals and prizes. Frederiksdal wines are rich, complex, and come in a variety of flavors according on the cherry variety and production technique, but they aren’t as sweet (or inexpensive) as most liquors. Federiksdal cherry wines may be purchased at specialized stores throughout the nation, certain restaurants offer them alone or with sweets, or why not visit the estate yourself while in Denmark? There are frequent guided tours with tastings.
For such a small nation like Denmark, there are a plethora of regional and local specialties to sample. Special lamb from the Wadden Sea area in the south-west, mussels from the Limfjord, fresh catches from the North Sea in particular from north-west Jutland, heathland honey from central and west Jutland, langoustine from the island of Ls, smoked fish and various herring dishes from Bornholm, and others. Aside from locally grown food, the regions of Denmark also have their own culinary traditions.
The “Eat” part would be incomplete without mentioning the “Danish” in Denmark. No, we’re not talking about the people, but about the delectable Danish pastries, which are renowned all over the globe for their crunchy sweet pleasure. For historical reasons, Danish is really known in Denmark as Wienerbrd (Bread from Vienna), but if you ask for “a slice of Danish,” most people will understand what you want, so don’t be hesitant about asking. In Denmark, there are many different varieties of Wienerbrd; the well-known round pastry with icing is only one of several, and it is of exceptional quality. Every baker sells some kind of Danish pastry, although some bakers have a very wide selection. There are custard-filled Danish pastries, some with prune or raspberry jam, some a metre long, covered in slivered nuts, raisins, and filled with marzipan, and others the size of large dinner plates, flavored with cardamom or cinnamon, and meant to be shared with good friends and a cup of coffee or tea.
The world of Danish baking does not stop with Danish pastry, and many desserts here are unique to the nation, such as the marzipan and chocolate filled strawberry tarts sold throughout the summer months or the complex and sophisticated cream cakes served cold. Many bigger bakeries have their own café area where you may enjoy your cake while daydreaming about the next one, but Konditorier, Denmark’s take on French Patisserie, has a long history as well. These are obviously for the more seasoned cake enthusiast, and can be found in most major cities. La Glace in Copenhagen is probably the most well-known, having been providing beautiful pastries since 1870.
Sweets of various kinds are available across Denmark, and every major town has at least one slikbutik (candy store). Denmark is well-known for its high-quality marzipan and chocolate, with the Anton Berg business being the biggest and most well-known exporter.
A few select shops specialize only in chocolate and marzipan and provide a wide selection of handmade delicacies, some flavored with orange peel, some filled with brandy, and yet others combined with almonds or Danish nougat. Fldeboller are a chocolate-covered meringue speciality that originated in Denmark in the 1800s and is now widely accessible. They are currently enjoyed all over the globe, however certain candy shops in Denmark provide excellent quality handmade fldeboller of different types, which may be recommended.
Bolsjer (drops) are a popular traditional Danish candy that has been made and eaten for generations, and there is now a wide variety available. A few ancient drop-boilers (Danish: Bolsjekogeri) still remain and may be visited as living museums throughout the nation where you can observe or participate in the art of boiling drops. In Copenhagen, historical drop-boilers include Smods Bolcher in the city center, and Tivoli also features a drop-boiler. Drops of different sorts may be purchased at almost every shop.
Liquorice is another kind of candy that has a long history and is extremely popular in Danish culture. Liquorice candy, which was formerly used as medicine, is now available in various kinds, both light and extremely powerful, but liquorice with salt, or salmiakki, seems to be especially popular among locals. It may be an acquired taste, and many tourists are frequently surprised that anybody can like it. If you’re feeling brave, try a Super Piratos or some Salt-lakrids and make your own decision. Liquorice ice cream is also popular at ice cream shops and in factory-made popsicles. High-quality liquorice production has reappeared in Denmark in recent decades, particularly on the island of Bornholm, and has even made its way into contemporary experimental cuisine.
Candy and sweets of more recent origin may be purchased in packets at nearly every shop, but if you want to see the diversity and ingenuity of Danish chocolates, go to a candy store slikbutik. You may select and combine your own bag of candy, and some bigger shops have over a hundred different types, ranging from gummies, liquorice, chocolate, marshmallows, bolsjer to nougat, chewing gums, caramels, and other confectionery delights.
Drinks in Denmark
Many Danes are stereotyped as being closed and tight-lipped, verging on harsh. So, although it is not impossible, it is difficult to find a Dane willing to engage in informal discussions with strangers. Until you reach the country’s pubs and nightclubs, that is.
Alcohol is the fiber that binds Danish society together, as any foreigner who has spent time watching the Danes will tell you. And when they are off their faces in the middle of the night, many suddenly let down their guard, loosen up, and, although pathetic, somehow transform into one of the most charming group of individuals on the planet. Instead of the violence associated with binge drinking elsewhere, the locals become extremely open, sociable, and loving since it seems to fulfill a very vital societal function. It takes some getting used to, but if you want to connect with Danes, this is how you do it – and God help you if you’re not abstinent. This also implies that Danes have a relatively high tolerance for drunken behavior on weekends. If you have a glass or two of wine for dinner during the week, you may be mistaken for an alcoholic; but, drink 20 pints on a Saturday night and vomit all over the place, and everything will be OK.
There is no legal drinking age in Denmark, however there is a legal purchase age of 16 in shops and supermarkets when the alcohol content is less than 16.5%, and 18 in bars, discos, restaurants, and shops and supermarkets when the alcohol content is more than 16.5%. The enforcement of this restriction is relatively lenient in stores and supermarkets, but very severe in bars and discos, where penalties of up to DKK 10,000 and license revocation may be imposed on the seller. The purchaser is never penalized, but certain discos have a voluntary zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking, where you may be booted out if you’re found without ID and with an alcoholic beverage. Some argue that the renowned Danish tolerance for underage drinking is fading in light of recent health initiatives aimed at reducing alcoholic beverage consumption among Danes. Adult Danes do not approve of the government meddling with their drinking habits, thus the responsibility is transferred to teenagers. Proposals to raise the legal purchasing age to 18 generally have been developed, but have yet to pass Parliament, and are unlikely to do so in the near future.
In Denmark, drinking alcoholic drinks in public, including trains and buses, is considered socially acceptable. Having a beer in a public square is a popular warm-weather pastime, but municipal by-laws are progressively restricting this freedom, since lingering alcoholics are considered bad for commerce. Drinking prohibitions are typically posted, although they are not always followed and enforced. In any case, keep your public drinking to a minimum, particularly during the day. Extreme loudness may result in a few hours in prison for public rowdiness in the worst-case scenario (no record will be kept, though). However, most police officers will ask you to leave and return home.
Danish beer is a beer enthusiast’s dream. Carlsberg (which also owns the Tuborg brand) has a few options, including a wonderful spiced “Christmas beer” in the six weeks coming up to the holidays and powerful “Easter beers” in the early spring. Aquavit (Snaps) and Glgg – a hot wine drink popular in December – are two more delicious drinks. Danish beer is mainly lager (pilsner), which is excellent but not particularly varied. However, in the past decade or two, Danes have developed a taste for a broader variety of beers, and the superb products of Danish microbreweries are widely accessible.
Beer is the perfect accompaniment to Danish food, and there are many high-quality breweries to visit. Most beers are accessible throughout the nation, although a handful are exclusively available at microbreweries. Outside of Denmark, Carlsberg (and perhaps Tuborg) are well-known, but there are a multitude of lesser Danish brewers worth tasting while in Denmark.
Denmark’s gastronomical underground culture is alive and well, and it includes a diverse range of distilleries and brewers. Craft beers, whiskeys, aquavit, gin, wines, and liqueurs may be obtained at small quality microbreweries and distilleries throughout the nation. Almost all of them are very new, dating from the early 2000s, yet many have already garnered positive reviews from connoisseurs and won prizes for their one-of-a-kind offerings. They aren’t named microbreweries for nothing; their output is typically fairly restricted, with beer getting the lion’s share, and can usually only be obtained on-site, at certain pubs, restaurants, or in specialized stores in bigger towns. Historically, the wonderful fruits and berries grown in Denmark have been utilized to create a variety of fruit wines and liqueurs, particularly local types of cherries, apples, and black currants. Danish distillers and entrepreneurs have lately been inspired by these techniques and the use of local resources, improving and expanding manufacturing processes to create beautiful premium goods.
- For more than a century, Denmark has been a well-known supplier of cherry liqueur, particularly to Sweden, England, and Holland. The Heering brand, founded in 1818, is probably the most well-known globally, having became renowned in 1915 when bartender Ngiam Tong Boon of Singapore’s Raffles Hotel used it to create the first Singapore Sling drink. Cherry Heering is still available in Denmark and throughout the globe, although it has been surpassed in terms of quality by younger small Danish wineries. Nyholmgaard Vin on Funen, Cold Hand Brewery in Randers in East Jutland, and R.S cherry liqueur from Dyrehj Vingaard near Kalundborg on Zealand are among them.
- Another popular Danish sweet fruit liquor is Solbrrom (black currant rum). While not completely Danish due to the use of imported Jamaican rum, solbrrom is prepared using Danish black currants. It was considerably more popular in the past, but today only Oskar Davidsen distributes with an unaltered recipe since 1888. The black currants give this liqueur a rich, sweet, almost creamy fruit flavor, as well as tannins and a particular character that the rum accentuates.
- Other Danish liqueurs are based on apples, and new distilleries have released award-winning strawberry and elderberry liqueurs as part of the New Nordic culinary trend.
- In the past decade or so, the Frederiksdal estate in Lolland has produced high-end luxury cherry wines, earning many international accolades and awards. Frederiksdal wines are rich, nuanced, and vary according on the cherry variety and manufacturing techniques, although they are not as sweet (or inexpensive) as traditional liqueurs. Federiksdal cherry wines may be purchased at specialized stores throughout the nation, certain restaurants offer them alone or with sweets, or you can visit the estate personally while in Denmark.
- There is a long history of home manufacture of fruit wines based on apples and sometimes other local fruits and berries, but such wines are scarce on the market.
- Mead is a honey-based wine that was formerly quite popular in Danish and Nordic culture, and is especially connected with the Vikings. This alcoholic beverage has also seen a cultural resurgence in recent years, but since the primary component is honey, it is rather pricey and can only be purchased in specialized stores throughout the nation. Mead tastes unlike anything else and is well worth trying.
Wine made from grapes has been loved in Denmark for millennia, but the climate has prevented grape cultivation here since the Bronze Ages, thus wine has been an imported luxury. With the present global and local climatic changes, Denmark is becoming more suited for domestic wine production, and forward-thinking businesses and hobbyists have already begun small-scale operations. Perhaps it’s more of a local curiosity than a pleasure for wine connoisseurs? Test it out for yourself and be your own judge.
- Aquavit, also known as snaps or brndevin (burning-wine) in Danish, has been popular in Scandinavia for centuries and can still be purchased everywhere in Denmark. Pure distilled aquavit, made from potatoes and occasionally grains, is clear and flavorless, but an infinite variety of herbs are added as flavor and color additives. Caraway, dill, and sweetgale are popular herbal infusions, but there are numerous regional variants that are worth exploring. On celebratory occasions, one or two shots of aquavit are to be consumed with Det Kolde Bord (The Cold Table), which consists of smrrebrd and other cold foods. Aquavit is also used to create various local cocktails, such as adding it to a cup of coffee to make a kaffepunch or mixing it with lemon soda to make a flyver (airplane). Aquavit, which contains 45-50 percent alcohol, should be taken with care and is not a common beverage today.
- Fary Lochan distillery in Give, central Jutland, is one of the world’s smallest distilleries, although it produces a wide range of spirits. The name is Scottish and is intended to pay tribute to the Scottish whiskey-making tradition, since single malt whiskeys are the main emphasis here. Various aquavits flavored with local ingredients are also made, as well as a speciality gin and some wine experiments. Fary Lochan’s sweet and superb strawberry liqueur is a well-known speciality.
- Braunstein is a Danish whiskey distillery that has been operating in Kge, south of Copenhagen, since 2005. They also produce aquavit and vodka, as well as a sizable craft beer output that is available throughout the nation.