Pickled herring smorrebrod topped with red onions

Pickled herring smorrebrod recipe: Denmark's favourite sandwich

Nick Rosen

Contributing writer

When I first learned about this tasty sandwich, I really didn’t expect to be amazed.  Smørrebrød is a staple of Danish cuisine. For first timers to Denmark, you will see these everywhere once you arrive. In quaint cafes, upscale restaurants, and grocery stores.  What will probably overwhelm you is the number of varieties you will find. It has become almost an art form with different combinations of fish, meat, toppings, and sauces. You will need to have multiple tastings to really appreciate and notice the subtle differences.

This was the go-to meal for the working class in the 19th century, as blue-collar factory workers would need a quick and sustainable meal to get them through the rest of the workday. But despite what you may think, this delicacy has simple ingredients and are simple to make, even in your own home.

Smørrebrød is basically an open-faced sandwich, piled with toppings. Start with rye bread (called rugbrod) and top it off with whatever ingredients you have, even leftovers. Fish, egg, pickled herring, anything is possible. If you prefer meat to fish, you can add roast beef or turkey and ham. For vegetables you can add little sliced tomatoes, cucumber, or lettuce. The possibilities are endless. Below you'll find a simple recipe for pickled herring smørrebrød - a traditional topping.


  • The etiquette for proper Danish eating requires you to use a knife and fork when eating smørrebrød, not your hands.

  • If you order multiple dishes, start with fish, then meat, then cheese.


  • 2 slices rye bread
  • 5-15g butter (depending on preference)
  • 3-6 pieces pickled herring
  • ½ cup sliced red onion
  • ½ tsp thyme or fresh dill


  1. 1
    Spread a thin layer of butter on a single side of rye bread.
  2. 2
    Add a layer of pickled herring on top.
  3. 3
    Top with sliced red onion.
  4. 4
    Sprinkle with thyme or fresh dill.
  5. 5
    Eat and enjoy!

Share this article

Nick Rosen

Author - Nick Rosen

Nick has visited 25 countries and continues to travel internationally every year. During COVID, he started his own travel blog to share his experiences and collaborate with other travelers who were stuck at home like he was. Nick is a reader of medieval history and enjoys Asian food and culture. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

Last Updated 18 October 2022