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Smørbrød: Traditional Open-Faced Sandwiches from Norway

Smørbrød: Traditional Open-Faced Sandwiches from Norway

Sandwiches enjoyed at the Bjelland family farm.

Smørbrød translates to "butter bread" in English and is one of the most delicious items we enjoyed while visiting family in Norway. Smørbrød are what we would call open-faced sandwiches. Our cousins served them during a casual afternoon family gathering, but their intricate appearance was anything but casual.

The sandwiches we had looked like they took hours to prepare, but it's customary to pass around the toppings for each person to make their own. The proper way to eat these sandwiches is with a knife and fork.

These open-faced sandwiches are traditional in Norway, Denmark (smør og brød), and Sweden (smörgås). They start with bread, a staple in the Nordic diet. While a heavy sourdough rye bread is most popular, a lighter French or wheat bread can also be used. The slice needs to be substantial enough to hold all the toppings.


Toppings can vary with the season, but there are endless possibilities. Different types of herring are traditional, along with sliced cheeses, pork liver paste, cured meats, boiled eggs, red onion, or smoked fish. Thick sauces such as remoulade or "Italian salad," which consists of mayonnaise, peas, asparagus, and carrot, often top the sandwiches.

Sometimes, a meal of smørbrød is divided into courses—fish toppings first, followed by cold cuts, salads, and cheeses for more festive occasions. Smørbrød can also be accompanied by hot dishes, especially in fall or winter, such as sausage or pork tenderloin.


There are literally hundreds of possible combinations for smørbrød, and there is no wrong way to make them. Choose from the categories below to try this at home:
- Fish: smoked salmon, gravlax, mackerel in tomato sauce, sardines, herring, shrimp
- Meat: cold cuts, roast beef or pork, liver pâtés, bacon, tartare
- Vegetables: red onion, lettuce/greens, cucumber, red pepper, new potatoes, radish, tomato, pickled vegetables
- Other: boiled egg, scrambled egg, cheeses
- Garnish: radish, cucumber, pickles, parsley, chives, lemon/orange slice, horseradish, dill, caviar, salt, pepper, sprouts


My favorites were the shrimp with boiled eggs and the roast beef. Use your imagination, give it your own spin and try it out on your family and friends!  Let us know your favorites in the comments!

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