11 Classic Danish Dishes to Eat When You Are in Copenhagen

Danish hot dog
Danish hot dog | © City Foodsters / Flickr
Photo of Aliki Seferou
13 October 2020

Denmark is renowned for its new Nordic cuisine, as seen in Copenhagen‘s growing number of high-end and Michelin-star restaurants. But the city’s food scene has another side that’s all about hot dog stands, burger joints and Middle Eastern delicacies. These dishes are some of Copenhageners’ favourites.

Rød pølse

With so many hot dog stands all over Copenhagen, it’s not hard to notice locals’ love of sausages. Not only they are super tasty but also a cheap solution to stave off hunger while roaming around the city. The most renowned sausage in Denmark is the rød pølse (red sausage), usually served inside a fresh bun with ketchup and mustard on top. Aside from the classic hot dog recipe, stands around Copenhagen now serve many types of sausages, buns and plenty of ingredients that customers can combine in order to create their own hot dog.


Smørrebrød is a classic Danish dish | © richard sowersby / Alamy Stock Photo

What initially was a Danish farmer’s lunch is now Denmark’s traditional dish, a local delicacy that’s even served in high-end restaurants. The open-face sandwich consists of a slice of rye bread, with fish or meat, vegetables and sauce on top. Almost every restaurant in Copenhagen serves a version. Check out Selma in Vesterbro and Frederik VI in Frederiksberg.

Durum shawarma

A few decades ago, Denmark’s immigration policy was pretty lax, and many refugees were able to make a fresh start here. Particularly during the 1960s and early 1970s, the country accepted a lot of asylum seekers from Turkey and Pakistan, many of whom opened their own restaurants and brought a taste of their homelands to Copenhagen. Durum shawarma (chicken, beef or lamb), one of the most popular dishes, is made according to the original recipe with fresh ingredients. Nørrebrogade, Nørrebro‘s main street, brims with durum restaurants, with Beyti and Konyali being among the best.


Probably for the same reasons as durum shawarma, this traditional Middle Eastern dish can be found everywhere around Copenhagen. It’s usually served with lettuce, tomato and garlic sauce, but many restaurants combine Middle Eastern with Scandinavian cuisine to create numerous combinations. Falafel Factory in Nørrebro is one of the most popular falafel restaurants in town.


Flæskesteg is typically served at Christmas | © Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Flæskesteg is a dish strongly connected with Christmas in Denmark, a mainstay of holiday dinner tables and Christmas markets’ stands. It’s actually roast pork baked with spices, bay leaves and cloves, usually served with boiled or caramelised potatoes. If you’re visiting Copenhagen during Christmas you’ll most likely see a great number of Copenhageners munching on a flæskesteg sandwich while rummaging through the city’s Christmas markets.


Danish meatballs, known as frikadeller, are traditional here, and while there isn’t any special recipe or secret ingredient, they somehow have their own unique taste. Maybe it’s because they’re usually fried with butter. Eat them with boiled potatoes or on top of a smørrebrød like a proper local.


If there’s one food Danes like even more than meatballs, it’s fish cakes, or fiskefrikadeller. A mix of white fish, onion, parsley, lemon, salt and pepper, they are usually served with cucumber and a Danish remoulade. Even if fish isn’t a personal favourite, at least give fiskefrikadeller a try while you’re here.

Marinated or pickled herring

Cured and pickled herring is a mainstay of Danish cuisine | © Rosalyn Newton / Alamy Stock Photo

Marinated and pickled herring has held a place on the Danish food menu since the Viking era. Surrounded by sea, Denmark has a long list of fish dishes, but herring is the most popular – most often served on rye bread or accompanied with bay leaves, onion salad and eggs. Find out why this dish has survived throughout the years and is still served all over Copenhagen.


Another fish that is frequently found on Copenhagen’s restaurant menus is salmon. Though cooked in various ways, Danes usually prefer to add a slice of cold-smoked salmon atop a slice of rye bread. Check out Restaurant Kronborg and indulge in a dish of salmon fish balls or salmon smørrebrød.


Wondering why pizza is included in an article that features Copenhagen’s best dishes? Walk around the city and you’ll see many pizza places often owned by Italians who use the best ingredients from home to create an authentic pie. NonSolo in Nørrebro, mother restaurant in the Meatpacking District, and gorm’s and La Fiorita in the city centre are among the top choices to take a break from Scandinavian cuisine and savour a warm slice of original Italian pizza.


If you’re visiting Copenhagen and need a break from experimenting with new flavours, you can rely on the city’s burger scene. With options ranging from original American-style to vegetarian with gluten-free bread and organic vegetables, the city’s burger scene has it all. Halifax, Gasoline Grill and Sporvejen are the places to look for to indulge your burger cravings.

These recommendations were updated on October 13, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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