Swedish shrimp salad “skagenröra” is a classic in Scandinavian cuisine. Best known for topping toast skagen, an open-faced sandwich gloriously featuring this shrimp, mayo and dill concoction. The Swedes have many more uses for this Scandinavian shrimp salad. Read on to learn how to make skagenröra.
What is skagenröra?
Skagenröra is a mixture of shrimps, mayonnaise and dill. Other ingredients are commonly added, but in order to qualify as skagenröra these three must be featured. It is generally served together with other foods, for example topping a baked potato, but traditionally skagenröra is served on toasted bread to make toast skagen.
Despite taking its name from Skagen, the northernmost city in Denmark, toast Skagen was invented in Stockholm, Sweden in the 1950’s by Tore Wretman. One of the most well-known Swedish dishes, toast skagen ranks among the most popular starters in Swedish cuisine. In this post I’m going to offer you a skagenröra recipe that will be used to make small toast skagen tapas. A great finger food option to enjoy as appetizer before a meal.
To make Swedish shrimp salad skagenröra you will need:
- Shrimps – better if hand-peeled and medium sized
- Mayonnaise and creme fraiche – we are making a mixture of these 2 rather than just using mayo alone
- Dill – the third ingredient that is of utmost importance here
- Fish roe – I went for cheaper lumpfish roe, but choose according to your budget
- Lemon juice – to give the sauce a little zing
- Sriracha – to give even more zing!
- A pinch of salt.
Sriracha is obviously not a traditional ingredient and it’s not commonly found in skagenröra recipes. The fishy and creamy mixture calls for something strong to give it a light punch that balances out the other strong flavours. Traditional skagenröra recipes may call for a little horseradish or a teaspoon of cognac to do this job. I decided to add something more exotic, and I think sriracha does the job really well!
How to make Swedish shrimp salad
The first thing you have to do is take care of your shrimps. If raw, they need to be cooked. If frozen, thawed. Remove all the shells and tails, too. If you happen to live in a country that worships shrimp like Sweden does, you’ll be lucky to find hand-peeled shrimps in brine at the supermarket. That is what I have used here. They are a pricier alternative to whole shrimps but spare you the pain of peeling the shrimps by hand. Plus, the brine ligthly flavours them, which is great. Using preserved shrimps, all I had to do was drain them.
Once the shrimps are taken care of, you can proceed with the sauce. Combine the creme fraiche (sour cream) and mayo and stir in 1 tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp sriracha and a pinch of salt. Chop the dill and add 2 tbsp of fresly chopped dill to the mixture. Save some to use as garnish later. Lastly, stir in the fish roe. Add this mixture to the shrimps and mix to combine. Now you’ve made yourself a nice Swedish shrimp salad. Time to use that skagenröra!
The perfect topping to anything!
Skagenröra is sold commercially all over Sweden in packages of various size in all supermarkets. Homemade is best, but if you’re travelling in Sweden and do not really have the possibility to whip up some, you can always rely on supermarket ones. Why would you need shrimp salad while travelling? Well, because in Sweden shrimp salad goes with virtually anything. Toast skagen may take the cake for being the first food to feature skagenröra, but the Swedes love their shrimp salad topping on anything, really.
Baked potato is a popular dish in Sweden, and shrimp salad is a topping you can pretty much find anywhere. The Ikea restaurants in Sweden have small bowls of skagenröra they serve with a piece of toasted bread as appetizer. Some more contemporary recipes that ditch the carbs have started topping avocado halves with skagenröra. But my absolute favourite has to be on skagenröra topping a gas station hot dog. I am kidding you not. Everybody got the craze for Icelandic hot dogs in recent years, but you haven’t tasted it all until you’ve had a gas station hot dog with shrimp salad in Sweden!
Toast skagen tapas
We will not go too wild and stick to classic toast skagen to put my Swedish shrimp salad (with sriracha!) to good use. I really like tapas version of toast skagen, so I we will go small. My favourite bread to use for toast skagen is dark, rye bread. Here in Sweden you can find rye bread whose dough has been enriched with syrup to give it a mellow flavour that is not completely sweet but not salty either. You can choose whatever bread you prefer but I recommend rye.
Slice the bread and cut the slices diagonally so to have triangular bread bits. Heat up a skillet and melt some butter in it. Place the bread slices and toast them in butter for 2-3 minutes per side. 8 slices of bread don’t fit a regular skillet, so keep the toasts on a cooling rack while you work in batches. And don’t forget to add butter to the pan before you add more bread, as the previous batch might have soaked it all up.
If you are making toast skagen tapas in advance, I would recommend to take care of the skagenröra and the bread, but assemble the sandwiches just before serving. The saucy topping will make the bread go soggy. It is not a big deal if you are making many, just go ahead and top them. When you order them at cafés in Sweden they’re often made in advance and the bread is not crispy but they taste amazing anyway.
Garnish each shrimp salad sandwich with more dill and a small lemon slice. This is absolutely not obligatory, but you should still have quite a lot of lemon left since you’ve only used a little juice. Same goes for the dill, just save a little for decoration before you mince the rest.
Toast skagen tapas are a fantastic appetizer to enjoy with a light cocktail or some white wine. In this photo shoot shrimp salad sandwiches got to share the table with ice-cold prosecco. If you’re not a sparkling wine aficionado, I would recommend riesling. A friend who recently made me toast skagen paired it with German riesling and it was fantastic.
Swedish shrimp salad can make for some great finger food also on croutons or cracker cups. At our wedding reception we had chunks of Grana Padano and skagenröra cracker cups served with prosecco as appetizer. We wanted to have a combination of a very classic Italian and a very classic Swedish finger food.
The skagenröra recipe in this post is quite traditional, except for the sriracha bit. As I was saying before, as long as it features shrimps, mayo and dill you can call it skagenröra. Here are some other ingredients that you may find/add:
- Red onion – whether it’s fresh and thinly minced, or it’s pickled and used as garnish, onion is a popular addition to shrimp salad.
- Chives – used to complement the dill and give a more pungent flavour without resorting to onions.
- Horseradish – the stronger ingredient often used to give skagenröra a kick. Skip the sriracha if you wish to use horseradish.
- No fish eggs – not everybody is a fan of fish roe, plus they’re an expensive ingredient and you may not know what to do with leftovers. It’s not uncommon to find skagenröra without roe, so skip if it it’s not your thing.
- Surimi/crabsticks – a popular addition in certain regions of Sweden, it makes your shrimp salad similar to ishavsröra (another creamy seafood salad made with surimi and fish roe).
More Swedish delicacies?
Having a Sweden-themed dinner party? Here is some inspiration for you!
- Start off with these toast skagen tapas, obviously.
- Another great appetizer is shrimps dipped in nordic pesto.
- Still want shrimps but on a warm dish? Shrimp waffles!
- Can’t go wrong with some authentic Swedish meatballs in cream sauce as your main course.
- Ditch the cinnamon buns and have saffron buns for a change.
- If it’s summer, why not end the meal with Swedish blueberry pie?
What is your favourite Swedish food?
Swedish shrimp salad on rye toast
Classic Swedish shrimp salad skagenröra served on rye toast as small toast skagen tapas.
- 500 g shrimps peeled
- 100 g mayonnaise
- 100 g creme fraiche
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp sriracha
- 3 tsp fish roe
- 1 bunch fresh dill
- pinch of salt
- 8 slices rye bread
- 20 g butter
If your shrimps are uncooked and unpeeled,proceed to cook them and peel them. I have used cooked han-peeled shrimps in brine, so mine came lightly salted and ready to use.
Combine the mayonnaise, creme fraiche, lemon juice, sriracha, 3 tbsp chopped dill and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Stir in the fish roe. Add this mixture to your shrimps and mix to combine.
Set a skillet on medium heat and melt half of the butter. Place the bread slices in the skillet and toast them on both sides for 2-3 minutes. Increase heat if necessary. Use remaining butter before adding the rest of the slices.
Let the toasted bread cool for a couple of minutes, then top with shrimp salad. Decorate with extra dill and a small lemon slice.
If making this in advance, let the bread rest on a cooling rack and top the sandwiches just before serving to prevent the bread from going soggy.
Adapted from this recipe (in Swedish).