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Smørbrød or Smørrebrød

Updated on January 1, 2011

Norwegian Open Face Sandwich or Smørbrød (Danish: smørrebrød, Swedish: smörgås)

Smørbrød is pronounced Smurd-a-bra. The word smørbrød in Norwegian means "buttered bread" othewrise known as the Scandinavian open face sandwich. This is the traditional sandwich type in the Nordic countries, Estonia, the Netherlands, Lithuania and Latvia, where it is typically eaten at breakfast, as lunch or other meal.

The Scandinavian open sandwich consists of one piece of buttered bread, often whole-grain rye bread (Danish: rugbrød, Swedish: rågbröd), topped with, for instance, cold steak, shrimps, smoked salmon, caviar, hard boiled eggs, bacon, herring, fish fillets, liver pâté (Danish: leverpostej, Norwegian: leverpostei Swedish: leverpastej), and/or small meatballs. This is typically complemented by some herbs and vegetables such as parsley, cold salad, thinly sliced cucumber, tomato wedges and/or pickled beets etc on the same slice of bread.

A condiment, such as mayonnaise, or mayonnaise-based dressing is also often included in some form. An old traditional replacement for butter on a piece of bread with herring is pig fat. There are many variations associated with the smørrebrød / smørbrød / smörgås and there are even special stores, cafés and restaurants (especially in Denmark) that specialize in them.

History of Smørbrød

During the Middle Ages, thick slabs of coarse and usually stale bread, called "trenchers", were used as plates. After a meal, the food-soaked trencher was fed to a dog, less fortunate beggars, or eaten by the diner. As such, open-face sandwiches have a unique origin and history, differing from that of the true (multi-slice) sandwich.

During the 1840s - workers - framers - labourers and others employees had a sort of luncheon packet with different types of flat "Smørrbrød" for their lunch. Each slice consists of a piece of buttered rye bread (rugbrød) - and a thin piece of homemade cold cuts - pieces of meat or fish - cheese - spreads and liver paste as toppings. Sometimes the toppings were placed between to pieces of the rye bread - just like in a sandwich.

Later during the 1880s – the Danish “Smørrebrød” turned in to be a more sophisticated type of luncheon specialty and the really high topped “Smørrebrød” was invented with a variety of delicious topping stacked on top of each other. The very first restaurant offering high topped “Smørrebrød” on their menu was Restaurant Nimb at Tivoli in 1883. Restaurant Nimb still exists and serves tasty and mouth-watering “Smørrebrød”.

Dilled Shrimp Smørbrød - Rejer i Traengsel

2 thin lemon slices

3 tablespoons butter, softened

8 slices of French Bread (or bread of choice)

1 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon dried dill weed

8 small butter or leaf lettuce leaves

1/2 pound cooked salad or bay shrimp, thawed if frozen

8 tiny tomato wedges

8 tiny parsley sprigs

Cut lemon slices in quarters; set aside. Spread about 1 teaspoon butter on each slice of bread, covering completely. Spread each with 2 tablespoons mayonnaise; sprinkle each with dill weed. Place 1 lettuce leaf on end of each slice of bread. Divide shrimp among sandwiches, mounding on top of mayonnaise and lettuce. Garnish each with a tomato wedge, a piece of lemon, and a parsley sprig. Makes 8 sandwiches.

Smørbrød is a perfect entree for brunch or tea time

Rokt-Laks Smørbrød

Top 1 slice of bread with 1/2 tablespoon butter and top with sliced avocado and smoked salmon. Garnish with dill dressing.

Berried Turkey Smørbrød

Top 1 slice of bread with 1/2 tablespoon butter mixed with lingonberry, raspberry or red currant fruit spread and top with one slice of turkey and fontina.

Scandinavian Cooking

Scandinavian Cooking
Scandinavian Cooking

A wonderful book that combines a little trivia, a little history, and a little understanding into a culture that offers some amazing flavors in the culinary experience. If you are going to purchase this book, buy it with the Scandinavian Baking companion, as the two go well together and will assist amazingly in the creation of your own smorgasbord! I have used the recipes as additions to traditional American favorites for the Christmas holiday season and have gotten rave reviews from children AND adults! You won't be disappointed!


Onion & Herring Smørbrød

4 teaspoons butter, softened

4 slices danish pumpernickel bread or rye bread, crusts removed

1 (8 ounce) jar herring fillets, in wine sauce drained and fillets cut into 1-inch strips

1 medium sweet onions, cut into thin rings

1 tomatoes (8 thin slices)

1 to taste watercress or parsley sprigs, for garnish

Spread 1 teaspoon butter on each slice of bread, being sure to cover each completely. Cut each buttered slice in half crosswise or into 2 (4-by-2-inch) pieces. Top each piece of bread with one-eighth of the herring, placing the fish smooth-side up. Top each with several onion rings and 1 tomato wedge. Garnish with watercress or parsley.

Smoked Salmon & Green Apple Smørbrød

Veggie Smørbrød

Spread cream cheese or goat cheese on one slice of bread and top with dill, radish and cucumber.

Salmon & Scrambled Egg Smørbrød

For scrambled eggs:

* 10 large eggs

* 1/4 cup cream cheese, cut into pieces and softened

* Freshly ground white pepper to taste

* 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

For sandwiches:

* 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened

* 8 slices rye bread

* 2 cups thinly sliced English cucumber

* 3/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper

* 1pound thinly sliced smoked salmon

Make scrambled eggs:

Whisk together eggs, cream cheese, white pepper, and salt to taste until cream cheese breaks up into very small pieces. Heat butter in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides, then cook eggs, stirring constantly, until just cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cool.

Make sandwiches:

Spread butter evenly on 1 side of each bread slice and arrange cucumber slices, overlapping slightly, on top. Spoon eggs over cucumber and top with bell pepper, salmon, and lemon slices.

Squeeze lemon over salmon before eating.

Goat Cheese & Apple Smørbrød

More Delicious Ideas

  • Cream Cheese and Salmon Smørbrød - Flødeost med Laks (Denmark)
  • Chicken and Cucumber Smørbrød - Kylling med Agurke (Denmark)
  • Beef and Onion Smørbrød - Oksesteg med Log (Denmark)
  • Roast Pork Smørbrød - Flaeskesteg (Denmark)
  • Egg and Caviar Smørbrød - AEg med Kaviar (Denmark)

Have Some Fun - Cut Veggies and Sliced Meats in Fun Shapes

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    • RhondaAlbom profile image

      Rhonda Albom 

      8 years ago from New Zealand

      These little openface sandwiches look great.

    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 

      8 years ago

      I was hoping you were going to let us know how to pronounce this Norwegian word for open face sandwich...I probably don't say it right though. Beautiful and simple these sandwiches sound delicious!

    • BuckHawkcenter profile image


      8 years ago

      OK, I'm definitely hungry! These look great and open up all sorts of ideas for fun meal times!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      8 years ago from United States

      I loved the way you combined the history lesson with the recipes! I think I would have to choose the cream cheese and salmon.

    • hlkljgk profile image


      8 years ago from Western Mass

      some of these sound terrific :)


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