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Swedish Culture

What is Smörgås?

August 21, 2022 By Evelyn Ramgren

A smörgås or sandwich is a typical breakfast or lunch meal for a Swede. Often with one piece of bread or cracker, butter and toppings, the open-face sandwich is delicious. But why the name smörgås and what are common items Swedes like to add to sandwiches?

Smörgås is a compound word with smör meaning butter and gås meaning goose. How come these two words were combined? There is no one answer, but people have a few theories. One is that while the butter was being churned it looked like a goose. Geese are used in other situations to describe things. For example, white foam on water is known as vita gåss, so perhaps people used goose as a descriptor of butter as well. Another is that goose was perhaps a popular topping for Swedes a long time ago. Whatever the case, smörgås is now the most common way to describe a sandwich in Sweden.

Check out some popular Swedish smörgås:

Breakfast — Ost med skinka och grönsaker: A cheese, ham, and vegetable sandwich are quite common for a breakfast dish. Sometimes one can add egg with kaviar paste. The veggies traditionally used are cucumbers, peppers or tomatoes.

Lunch — Räksmörgås: The classic shrimp sandwich is a specialty of Sweden. It has small, peeled shrimp with mayonnaise and egg, often topped with dill and lemon to add more flavor to this delicious meal.

At ASI’s restaurant FIKA Café, they always have unique flavorful options of smögåsar that change all the time. Here are some they’ve done before:

Salmon (top right) — Watercress, Beet and Mustad Sause on Danish Rye. Simple and delicious, Swedes enjoy salmon regularly which inspired FIKA Café to create their own spin on it.

Mushroom Toast (bottom right) — Braised Wild Mushroom, Chive White Bean Purée on Brioche. Vegan and Dairy friendly, plus mushroom foraging is a popular summer activity both in Minnesota and Sweden. ASI offers foraging classes regularly as a Nordic Table program.

Lobster (left) — With fennel, ricotta, cucumber, on Sourdough another seafood delight for all people to explore.

Making a smörgås or even ordering one from FIKA Café, it is a delicious meal enjoyed by many and is a time honored tradition by Swedes and many people. (Click here for an updated menu).