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NUTRITION

A vegetarian’s guide to surviving in Denmark

It's not always easy to be a vegetarian in a country with a hot dog stand seemingly on every corner, but The Local's contributor Sparsh Sharma spoke with a few fellow vegetarians in the Aarhus area to come up with this mini guide.

It’s a hard life for vegetarians in Denmark, a country known for its huge consumption of meat, especially pork and beef. Just ask the 80 members of Raw Vegans Community in Aarhus, a Facebook group started to help fellow vegans and vegetarians make up for the lack of information on the right type of nutrition and where to find it. 
 
Being a vegetarian myself, I had to adjust to limited food items available in the supermarkets upon arrival in Denmark. So I was interested in finding out how some others were adjusting to these conditions.
 
Kirsten Vernon from Aars was about 19 when she decided to go vegan and later turned vegetarian. 
 
“I had many vegans in my network and had seen ‘riots’ against cruel treatment of animals by the meat industry that views them only as food and not living beings. I lived in Austria at that time and to be a vegan was quite exotic. But I had made my decision. It’s also a good way to detox your body,” she says.
 
Vernon got funny reactions from her family and friends and it took her time to adjust to her new lifestyle. 
 
“I lived in a small mountain town where it was normal to eat meat every day, like it is in Denmark. National dishes are only with meat in Austria. And it was quite difficult to find vegan and vegetarian food in the local supermarkets,” she says.
 
However, according to her, it was not an uphill task to learn new recipes. 
 
“As a teenager, I had many fasting periods and it was a natural thing for me to control my food patterns in order to enjoy food and beverages in a qualitative, instead of a quantitative, way,” she says. 
 
“Moreover, I have lived in cities like Berlin and Hamburg, where it is easy to try a lot of different dishes from around the world. That always gave me inspiration to be creative in the kitchen with recipes with no meat.”
 
Vernon has since added eggs and fish to her diet.
 
“I think it is better to be a vegetarian than a vegan. You learn how to control your food patterns and listen to your body. Fasting is also a very good way to do this.”
 
Kirsten Vernon takes a selfie with her favourite tofu
Kirsten Vernon takes a selfie with her favourite tofu.
 
Vernon rues the fact that Danish supermarkets do not sell a lot of vegetarian food.
 
“Germany is a dream destination for shopping vegetarian food. The supermarkets, especially the bio-markets, in Germany have a fantastic variety of healthy vegetarian food as well as fast food. In Denmark, this might happen someday but it will be a long way for this pig-rearing country to consume lesser meat.”
 
Another long-time vegetarian in Denmark, Janna Kelley says that although it’s not easy being a vegetarian in Denmark, it is becoming easier. 
 
“For example, if you go to just about any restaurant and request a vegetarian dish to be made specially for you, most of them are more than happy to do it. I have also often called restaurants ahead of time to request for a vegetarian dish and they appreciated it,” she says. 
 
Kelley shared with me some alternative protein food items and where to find them in Aarhus:
 
Quinoa – Ren Kost organic store on Jægergårdsgade 45, Aarhus C. Also, increasingly common in stores like Føtex. (You can read more about Quinoa here)
 
Soya – Salling food market. The brand is called Garden Gourmet, found in the frozen food section.
 
Pinto Beans – Føtex or any organic shop
 
Tofu – Føtex or any organic shop
 
Janna also recommended these restaurants with vegetarian options in Aarhus: Drudenfuss, Råbar, Den Grønne Papaya, and Pita Bar. More vegetarian-friendly Aarhus restaurants can be found here.
 
For those of you struggling with vegetarian recipes, Kelley suggests checking out some of these: here are some links suggested by her:
 
 
Zesty Quinoa Cakes (her personal favourite) 
 
 
She also suggested making veggie stir fry, spaghetti, casserole dishes, or just about any recipe that calls for meat, and then substituting it with soya.
 
Sparsh SharmaSparsh Sharma holds a Master's in business administration and a Bachelor's in electrical engineering. After having worked in the top Indian media companies, he decided to come to Denmark in the fall of 2012 to study at Aarhus University and later worked at Lego. A Danish green card holder, he is currently looking for marketing or consulting opportunities globally, while working as a freelance journalist for The Local Denmark and blogging about his experiences in Denmark at Denmark.dk, where this piece originally appeared. You can follow him on Twitter at @sparsh_s
 

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FOOD & DRINK

Why does Denmark produce so much cheese?

From Danbo to Danablu and the Danish feta that can't be called feta - Denmark produces over four hundred thousand tonnes of cheese each year and exports it across the world. So why is Danish cheese so popular, and what are the country's best-loved cheeses?

Why does Denmark produce so much cheese?

Cheese-making is a serious business in Denmark. In 2021, the country produced a total of 454,500 tonnes of cheese and Danish cheese has won awards at the World Championship Cheese Contest.

The tradition goes back to the Viking era and today, the country’s climate and pastoral land make it ideal for producing cheese (ost). About three quarters of the country’s milk production is turned into cheese, butter and milk powder.

Not only is cheese popular in Denmark, where it’s eaten with pretty much any meal and snack (can you even have a bolle [bread roll] without ost?), it is also eaten around the world in countries including South Korea, New Zealand, Canada, Nigeria and even France.

In 2021, Denmark exported a total of 401,845 tonnes of cheese, making it one of the top cheese exporters in the world. The biggest importer of Danish cheese was Germany (94,419 tonnes), followed by Sweden (52.924 tonnes) and the UK (42,905 tonnes). 18,097 tonnes of cheese was exported to Japan and 5,657 to the United States.

What types of cheese does Denmark make?

The different types of cheese in Denmark can be hard to distinguish and there are a lot of them. You can quite easily end up with a fridge full of strong smells that you weren’t expecting. 

Danbo, often called ‘Denmark’s national cheese’, is the most produced and consumed cheese in Denmark. It has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status, meaning it can only be made in Denmark to specific Danish standards.

Danbo is sold under various trade and brand names, including LillebrorGamle Ole, and Riberhus. Lillebror (meaning Little brother) is very mild and often sold in childrens’ packs, whereas Gamle Ole (meaning Old Ole) is matured for a long time, which means it’s strong and smelly. Caraway seeds are sometimes added to this cheese.

Esrom also has Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status and is made from pasteurised cow’s milk. It is semi-soft with small holes and is pretty pungent.

Havarti is one of the most famous Danish cheeses. It’s a bit like a cheddar in that the taste can be mild, but the longer the cheese is stored, the stronger it gets. 

Danablu is a Danish Blue soft blue cheese, similar to Roquefort. It has a strong aroma and a sharp and a little salty taste. Danablu is often used in America to make blue cheese dressing for salads and blue cheese dip for chicken wings. 

A dairy farm in Klemensker, Bornholm has twice been named world champion in cheese making. Photo: Morten Juhl/Ritzau Scanpix

Mycella is a veined blue cheese made from pasteurised cow’s milk on the island of Bornholm and is similar to Gorgonzola. It goes well in a salad or cheese platter or even crumbled on top of an open sandwich.

Blå kornblomst, meaning ‘blue cornflower’, is a creamy blue cheese with a mild, slightly salty taste. The cheese is white to yellowish with blue tinges and is made from pasteurised cow’s milk on North Jutland.

Danish rygeost, meaning ‘smoked cheese’ is mild, light and smokey. It originates from 19th century Funen, with some believing it dates back to the Viking Age. 

A dish of potato, monkfish and smoked cheese.

A dish of potato, monkfish and smoked cheese. Photo: Thomas Lekfeldt/Ritzau Scanpix

Vesterhavsost, meaning ‘North Sea Cheese’, is a semi-hard cheese with a slightly salty taste as it is ripened in the sea air of North Jutland. It’s referred to as the Danish version of Gouda. 

Fyrmester or Fyrtårnsost, meaning ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’ or ‘Lighthouse Cheese’, is an extra-mature version of the vesterhavsost, aged for at least 52 weeks.

Samsø cheese is similar to Emmentale and made on the island of Samsø in Kattegat.

Hvid ost, meaning ‘white cheese’, is Denmark’s equivalent to feta cheese but uses cow’s milk rather than the goat or sheep’s milk used in Greek feta cheese. It’s milder and doesn’t crumble like Greek feta cheese because it’s made differently, using something called ultrafiltration.

There have been debates as to whether this actually makes it feta cheese. Earlier this year, Denmark lost a case at the European Court of Justice over its farmers exporting cheese outside the EU labelled feta, something only Greece can do. The cheese is sometimes labelled in supermarkets as ‘salad cubes’ (salat-tern).

There is, perhaps, one thing that unites almost all Danish cheeses: they are sliced using the characteristic ostehøvl (cheese slicer), the quintessential Danish kitchen utensil.

There are two types of ostehøvl: a wire-based type and a version that looks a bit like a trowel, with a raised edge and a gap in the middle for the sliced cheese to pass through.

Cheese vocab:

Blød ost: Soft cheese

Halvfast ost: Semi-soft cheese 

Fast ost: Semi-hard cheese 

Hård ost: Hard cheese

Ekstra hård ost: Extra hard cheese

Frisk ost: Fresh cheese

Ostehøvl: cheese slicer

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