Danish Christmas Dinner: Main Course, Side Dishes, Dessert & Drinks

by Ella

Christmas is a time of celebration, tradition, and togetherness, and nowhere is this more evident than in Denmark. The Danish Christmas dinner, or “julemiddag,” is a festive feast steeped in rich culinary traditions and cultural significance. From savory meats to sweet desserts, this meal is a highlight of the holiday season, bringing families together to celebrate with food that has been cherished for generations. This article will explore the various components of a traditional Danish Christmas dinner, delving into its history, preparation, and the unique customs that make this meal so special.

The Historical Roots of Danish Christmas Dinner

Origins and Evolution

The Danish Christmas dinner has evolved over centuries, influenced by the country’s agrarian past and its proximity to the sea. Historically, the Christmas feast was an opportunity for families to indulge in the best of their preserved and fresh produce after a season of hard work. The meal was designed to be hearty and rich, providing warmth and sustenance during the cold winter months.


Influences from Abroad

While the core of the Danish Christmas dinner is deeply rooted in local traditions, it has also been influenced by culinary practices from neighboring countries. German, Swedish, and French culinary influences can be seen in some of the dishes, adding layers of complexity and variety to the traditional meal.


SEE ALSO: Christmas Roast: Origins, Roast, Side Dishes, Desserts


The Main Components of a Danish Christmas Dinner

1. Flæskesteg (Roast Pork)

At the heart of the Danish Christmas dinner is flæskesteg, a succulent roast pork typically prepared with crispy crackling. The pork is seasoned with salt, pepper, and sometimes cloves, then roasted to perfection. The crispy crackling is a beloved part of the dish, providing a delightful contrast to the tender meat.


Preparation Tips:

The key to perfect crackling is to ensure the pork skin is dry before roasting. Scoring the skin and rubbing it with salt helps achieve the desired crispiness.

The pork is often roasted on a bed of root vegetables, which not only infuses the meat with additional flavors but also provides a delicious accompaniment.

2. Andesteg (Roast Duck)

In addition to pork, many Danish families serve andesteg, or roast duck, as part of their Christmas feast. The duck is typically stuffed with apples and prunes, which add a sweet and tangy flavor to the rich, fatty meat.

Preparation Tips:

The duck should be basted regularly with its own juices to ensure it remains moist and flavorful.

Stuffing the duck with apples and prunes not only enhances the flavor but also helps keep the meat tender during roasting.

3. Brunede Kartofler (Caramelized Potatoes)

No Danish Christmas dinner is complete without brunede kartofler, or caramelized potatoes. These small, round potatoes are cooked in a mixture of sugar and butter until they are coated in a golden, caramelized glaze.

Preparation Tips:

It’s important to use small, firm potatoes for this dish. Pre-boiling the potatoes before caramelizing them ensures they are tender yet hold their shape.

The caramelization process requires careful attention to prevent the sugar from burning, resulting in perfectly glazed potatoes.

4. Rødkål (Red Cabbage)

Rødkål, or red cabbage, is a traditional side dish that adds a vibrant color and tangy flavor to the Christmas table. The cabbage is slow-cooked with vinegar, sugar, apples, and spices such as cloves and cinnamon, resulting in a sweet and sour accompaniment that complements the richness of the meats.

Preparation Tips:

Cooking the cabbage slowly over low heat allows the flavors to meld together and the cabbage to become tender.

Adding a bit of red currant jelly or cranberry sauce can enhance the sweet and tangy flavor profile.

Traditional Accompaniments and Condiments

1. Gravy

A rich, flavorful gravy is essential to any Danish Christmas dinner. Made from the pan drippings of the roast pork or duck, the gravy ties the meal together, adding moisture and depth to the various components.

Preparation Tips:

Deglaze the roasting pan with a bit of wine or stock to capture all the flavorful bits stuck to the bottom.

Thicken the gravy with a roux (a mixture of flour and fat) or by reducing it over heat until it reaches the desired consistency.

 2. Pickled Vegetables

Pickled vegetables, such as pickled cucumbers or beets, provide a sharp, acidic contrast to the rich, fatty meats and sweet sides. These tangy condiments help cleanse the palate and add a refreshing element to the meal.

Preparation Tips:

Homemade pickles are often preferred, using a simple brine of vinegar, sugar, and spices.

Allowing the vegetables to pickle for at least a few days ensures they absorb the flavors fully.

Sweet Endings: Danish Christmas Desserts

1. Risalamande

Risalamande, a creamy rice pudding with chopped almonds, is the quintessential Danish Christmas dessert. Traditionally served with a warm cherry sauce, this dessert is both comforting and indulgent.

Preparation Tips:

Cook the rice pudding slowly to ensure a creamy texture, and fold in whipped cream just before serving for added lightness.

A whole almond is often hidden in the pudding, with a prize given to the person who finds it, adding a fun and festive element to the meal.

2. Kransekage

Kransekage, a towering cake made of concentric rings of almond paste, is a celebratory dessert often enjoyed during the Christmas season. Decorated with icing and sometimes small Danish flags, this cake is as beautiful as it is delicious.

Preparation Tips:

The almond paste should be finely ground and well-mixed to create a smooth dough that can be easily shaped into rings.

Baking the rings until they are just golden ensures a tender yet slightly chewy texture.

Traditional Beverages

1. Gløgg

Gløgg, a spiced mulled wine, is a beloved Danish Christmas beverage. Made with red wine, spices, raisins, and almonds, gløgg is typically served warm, providing a cozy accompaniment to the festive meal.

Preparation Tips:

Simmer the wine gently with spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom to infuse it with a rich, aromatic flavor.
Adding a splash of aquavit or rum can give the gløgg an extra kick and depth of flavor.

2. Christmas Beer (Juleøl)

Christmas beer, or juleøl, is a special brew available during the holiday season. These beers are often darker, richer, and spiced, complementing the hearty Christmas fare perfectly.

Selection Tips:

Look for local Danish breweries that produce juleøl to experience the authentic flavors of a Danish Christmas.
Pairing different types of juleøl with various parts of the meal can enhance the dining experience.

Customs and Traditions Surrounding the Meal

1. The Advent Wreath and Candles

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, Danish families often light candles on an advent wreath, marking the countdown to Christmas Eve. This tradition adds a sense of anticipation and warmth to the festive season.

2. Singing and Dancing Around the Christmas Tree

After the Christmas dinner, it is customary for families to gather around the Christmas tree, holding hands and singing carols. This joyous activity often culminates in the distribution of Christmas presents.

3. The “Mandelnød” Tradition

As mentioned earlier, the risalamande dessert includes a whole almond hidden within. The person who finds the almond in their serving wins a small prize, often a marzipan pig, adding an element of fun and excitement to the meal.

Modern Variations and Adaptations

While the traditional Danish Christmas dinner remains largely unchanged, modern adaptations have emerged, reflecting contemporary tastes and dietary considerations. Some families might opt for a vegetarian version of the feast, incorporating plant-based dishes that honor the traditional flavors. Others might experiment with new recipes or fusion dishes, blending Danish traditions with culinary influences from around the world.

1. Vegetarian and Vegan Options

For those who prefer plant-based diets, traditional dishes can be adapted. For instance, a nut roast can replace the meat, and mushrooms or root vegetables can be caramelized instead of potatoes. The red cabbage and pickled vegetables naturally fit into a vegetarian Christmas dinner.

2. International Influences

As Denmark becomes increasingly multicultural, the Christmas dinner table may feature dishes from other cultures, adding a rich diversity to the traditional meal. This can include incorporating spices from Asia, ingredients from the Mediterranean, or techniques from modern European cuisine.

SEE ALSO: 8 Essential Dishes of a Mexican Christmas Dinner


The traditional Danish Christmas dinner is a feast that encapsulates the essence of Danish culture and holiday spirit. From the savory roast pork and duck to the sweet risalamande, each dish is prepared with care and enjoyed with loved ones. The customs and traditions that accompany the meal, such as singing around the Christmas tree and the playful “mandelnød” tradition, enhance the sense of togetherness and celebration. While modern variations and international influences continue to shape the way this meal is enjoyed, the heart of the Danish Christmas dinner remains a cherished and timeless tradition.



Wellfoodrecipes is a professional gourmet portal, the main columns include gourmet recipes, healthy diet, desserts, festival recipes, meat and seafood recipes, etc.

【Contact us: [email protected]

Copyright © 2023