A Summer Smörgåsbord

Easy and Refreshing Recipes for a Scandinavian Cold Table

In Norway and Denmark, the generous buffet table commonly known as a “smörgåsbord” (a Swedish term) is called a koldtbord, a “cold table.” While traditional smorgasbords, typically reserved for Christmas and other holidays, contain a course of hot dishes such as meatballs or casseroles, in summer it makes sense (and is far less work!) to offer a wide selection of easily prepared cold dishes. Variety, complementary flavors, textures, and a colorful presentation are key to the pleasure of a well-laden koldtbord. Here are both traditional and original recipe ideas for your next summer smorgasbord:

  • 01 of 12

    Icelandic Lumpfish Caviar

    Caviar on hardboiled eggs

    Bin im Garten / Wikimedia / CC 3.0

    Icelandic lumpfish caviar, while far less expensive than Russian sturgeon caviar, nonetheless lends a touch of elegance to time-tested appetizers, such as new potatoes or stuffed hard-boiled eggs. A little goes a long way in optimizing both the presentation and the flavors of simple foods, demonstrating the native Scandinavian genius for turning a few available local ingredients into magnificently uncomplicated delights for the eye and the tastebuds.

  • 02 of 12

    Cold-Cured Gravlax on Rye Crispbread

    Cold-cured gravlax with sweet dill mustard sauce

    The Spruce / Kari Diehl

    Perhaps Scandinavia's most famous food, cold-cured gravlax is a breeze to make, requiring only a few simple steps and next-to-no labor. Sliced paper-thin and served on rye crispbread with sweet dill mustard, it is a necessary and delicious part of a smörgåsbord buffet.

  • 03 of 12

    Pickled Herring

    Pickled herring with rosemary and a lemon wedge

    Hiroshi Higuchi / Getty Images

    A smörgåsbord wouldn't be Scandinavian if it didn't include a few different types of pickled herring. Although most commonly available marinated in wine or sour cream in the fish sections of most American grocery stores, pickled herring is also fabulous (and very healthy) when prepared with tomato, mustard, curry, and a wide variety of other sauces.

  • 04 of 12

    Scandinavian Cheeses

    a wedge of cheese


    Scandinavian cheeses, made from the milk of goats, cows, and even reindeer, are extraordinary whether enhancing a cheese platter or making unique baked goods, omelets, casseroles, or sauces. A few hallmark varieties to include on a smörgåsbord cheese board include brown Norwegian Gjetost, Nøkkel ost with caraway, Danablu, Adelost, Jarlsberg, and the many types of Danish Havarti (dill, cranberry, mustard, garlic). Plain Havarti lends itself particularly well to baked appetizers.

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  • 05 of 12

    Marinated Cucumber Salad

    Cucumber salad

    Penina Meisels / Getty Images

    Open any refrigerator in a Scandinavian or Scandinavian-American kitchen, and you’ll most likely discover a jar of freshly prepared crisp marinated cucumbers sitting between the butter and the pickled herring. Using centuries-old methods of pickling and preserving, Scandinavian cooks excel at creating vinegar-based recipes that intensify and exploit the flavors of seasonal foods. These cucumbers are excellent both as a stand-alone salad and as a relish accompanying meats, sausages, or open-faced sandwiches.

  • 06 of 12

    Herring Salad

    herring salad

    Riou, Jean-Christophe / Getty Images

    Either smoked or pickled herring can be used to make Scandinavian herring salad. Pickled beets, fresh cucumbers, green apples, new potatoes, and fresh dill combine with the herring and a light lemon-caraway vinaigrette to make this salad as crisp and colorful as it is healthy.

  • 07 of 12

    Pickled Beets

    pickled beets

    berkant_sezer / Getty Images

    Pickled beets are as ubiquitous across Scandinavia as marinated cucumbers and for good reason. As “winter” vegetables, beets keep well for long periods of time in cool conditions, providing a valuable source of healthy antioxidants when summer vegetables are unavailable. And when pickled, both their vibrant red color and their natural sweetness is enhanced; superior as pickles when served alone, they also contribute color, flavor, and a refreshing crispness to herring salads, Swedish hamburgers, and open-faced sandwiches (in Danish, smørrebrød).

  • 08 of 12

    Smoked Gravlax

    smoked gravlax

    Sieng Guan Kong / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Cold-cured gravlax takes on a new dimension of flavor when lightly smoked for an hour or two before serving. It's an excellent alternative to offer to less adventurous guests who prefer their salmon cooked.

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  • 09 of 12


    Smörgåstårta "sandwich cake"

    Elisa Koor / Getty Images

    Smörgåstårta, a creamy and savory "sandwich cake," is the centerpiece of most Swedish celebratory buffets. Prepared with two or three layers of delicious sandwich fillings and then decorated with vibrant and fresh vegetables, seafood, and / or cold cuts, it is as glorious to look at as to eat.

  • 10 of 12

    Strawberry Snow

    Strawberry snow on ice cream

    Laurence Mouton / Getty Images

    Scandinavia is a serenely beautiful land of the midnight sun in the summer, of the northern lights in the winter. And even in the balmy days of July, snow can be found not only on the glaciers of the fjords but also in the form of Mansikkalumi – Finnish Strawberry Snow. Equally refreshing whether prepared and served immediately in dessert glasses or frozen into a superlative molded dessert, strawberry snow is a sure cure for the steamy dog days of July.

  • 11 of 12

    Almond Valkyries

    Almond valkyries with cream

    Westend61 / Getty Images

    Norse legend has it that the valkyries, shieldbearers to Odin and cupbearers to the heroes of Valhalla, would occasionally take a day off from battle and bloodshed, don their elegant swan skins, and float peacefully across silent waters … tempting both men and gods to further mayhem with their regal beauty. Here they have shape-shifted into choux pastry, filled with lingonberry sorbet and gliding on a pool of almond dessert sauce.

  • 12 of 12

    Danish Raspberry Bars (Hindbaer Snitter)

    Danish raspberry bars

    Krista / Flickr / CC 2.0

    One of Denmark's most popular pastries, hindbaer snitter layer raspberry jam between two delicate shortbread cookies. One bite of these, and you'll never go back to stale processed toaster pastries from cardboard boxes.