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Ever wondered what a typical smörgåsbord includes? Matador Goods editor Lola Akinmade goes hunting for the usual suspects.

You’ve probably heard the word thrown around to represent a large mix of various elements - a smörgåsbord of features, a smörgåsbord of activities, etc.

Well, this Swedish word traditionally refers to a buffet-style spread of small dishes – mostly cold with a few hot plates.

From mounds of herring and salmon to various cold salads and meats, some of the usual suspects have been identified below.

Mustard herring, tomato herring, pickled herring…you name it. As long as condiments exist, you’ll find some form of herring doused or drenched in them.

If the taste of herring overpowers you, dig into alternative plates of smoked, poached, baked, or pinwheeled salmon that’s always available.

Move over leafy greens, cold salads such as red beet salad, pea salad, and mushroom salad regularly make appearances.

Various pâtés, terrines, and cold meats such as dried ham and smoked lamb provide a welcome change from seafood.

For the die-hard carnivores amongst us, roast beef, pork, and sometimes reindeer meat are offered to appease meat eaters.

A smörgåsbord without shellfish? Heresy!

Ketchup? Fries? Not here. Side dishes include yellow almond potatoes, roe, and black caviar…the cheap kind.

And of course, if it’s got a crust and is filled with either almond paste, marzipan, or vanilla sauce, you’ll find it at the dessert table.

Photos by Lola Akinmade.



About The Author

Lola (Akinmade) Åkerström

Lola (Akinmade) Åkerström is a MatadorU faculty member and Network contributor. Her work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Vogue, BBC,, and many more. Follow her photoblog at

  • tom gates

    I really am the only person I know who likes beets. I can sit down and eat a whole jar of them. I thought that this was a gross thing until I saw that I could eat a whole POUND of them in this article. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Get me to a smörgåsbord.

  • Lola

    Red beet salad is good stuff. Kinda of like a marinara meatball sandwich, it is actually eaten with meatballs in a sandwich.

  • Eva

    Tom – I love the beets, too. In borscht, in salad, and (of course!) pickled, too. Good times with assorted pickles and cheeses at Grandma’s house.

    In Australia, I ate shredded beet on sandwiches and burgers.

  • Eva

    ps: Fab pics, Lola!!

  • Lola

    Thanks Eva – Shot them with a small Panasonic Lumix. Didn’t want to look like a doofus with a SLR at the crowded buffet table :)

  • Hal

    Count me in…Matador loves its beets!

    Lola, that tart pic is gorgeous.

  • Cee

    ….. and in Scania (southernmost region of Sweden), the other important dishes are meatballs, spare ribs and “brunkål” and “rödkål, or brown and red cabbage.


  • Elle

    Good stuff, Lola! :-)


  • Tim Patterson

    I like beets, too. Eat enough of ‘em and there’s always a shock the next morning.

    On another note, that salmon looks delicious.

  • Shreya


  • Herr Danielson

    Well, well are you guys Chinese copycats or what? As a Swede that has been eating smorgasboard since i was in diapers i can say this article does not portray the real thing. The real thing has kottbullar, gravad salmon with gravlaxsas, boiled potatoes, stuffed egg halfs, herring in different styles and flavors and Janssons frestelse. This looks more like a resturant “julbord” then a real smorgasbord. Oh, i forgot, plenty of snaps and julmust on the table.

    • Lola

      Thanks for chiming in Herr Danielson.

      If you look closely, you will notice photo #2 shows “herring in different styles”, photo #3 shows gravad lax, and photo #8 shows potatoes.

      As you also know, pepparkakor (ginger snaps), glögg, and julmust are usually consumed during Christmas (jul).

      As for stuffed egg halves, check out photo #4 of a julbord –

      Most smörgåsbords have all these base items including kottbullar (meatballs) which were also available, but I didn’t take photos of.

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