12 must-try foods in Iceland
We Icelanders love our food, and although our preferences are much more international now than our ancestors, the ancient traditional cuisine still has a strong influence on Icelandic culture. Here are 12 foods you should try on your trip to Iceland to get a more vibrant experience of the country. Gjörið svo vel. Bon appetit!
So, here’s a list of 12 foods to try in Iceland.
Hangikjot – Smoked lamb
Hangikjöt is a smoked lamb that Icelanders traditionally eat at Christmas. During the days before Christmas you will smell it literally everywhere. The meat is usually served with potatoes in béchamel sauce and green peas, but there are several other ways to eat this delicious local delicacy. Leftover hangikjot can be used to make sandwiches on Icelandic flatbreads, sandwiches, and simply served as an appetizer with beverages. Hangikjot is usually cooked, and every family has their own recipe for the perfect meat. Try it with Christmas Malt & Appelsín, a malt and orange soda cocktail that has become a traditional drink at Christmas time.
2. Vatn (Vatn) – Water.
It is clear that water is everywhere, but the Icelandic water is famous all over the world for its unique purity. Drinking water directly from the tap, stream or river, if you are in nature, is perfectly normal, safe and even recommended. It is said that it makes Icelanders look younger. Drinking a glass of cold Icelandic water will immediately make you feel awake and refreshed. It’s like an instant detoxification.
3. Plokkfiskur – Fish stew
Plokkfiskur fish stew is a perennial favorite among Icelanders’ home dishes. It is delicious and easy to prepare at the same time. All you need to do is boil the fish and potatoes and mash them together with onions, butter and milk. Well, this is a layman’s recipe. You’ll also find plokkfiskur on the menus of many fine dining restaurants. It is prepared by talented chefs according to modern culinary trends. Icelanders are also obsessed with sauces. Put a little béarnaise sauce in your plokkfiskur and it will turn out divine, trust me.
This unassuming Icelandic dairy product has become an international success because of its great flavor and combination of low fat and high protein content. Although technically a cheese, the texture of skir is more like thick yogurt, and it can be used in the same way as yogurt to create delicious healthy desserts. Skir is mentioned in several Icelandic sagas and undoubtedly played a role in nurturing future strong and healthy Vikings. Proponents of the classic skurr just sprinkle it with a little sugar and eat it, but if you don’t mind experimenting with flavors, you can buy skurr with different fillings, like coconut or blueberries.
5. Lifrarpylsa – Liver Sausage
Lyfrarpilsa, similar to Scottish haggis (but without spices), has been a staple of the Icelandic diet for centuries. Sheep stomachs are sewn into sacks that are filled with a mixture of fat, flour, oats and liver. The making of lyfrarpilsa and its derivatives is called slátur (Slátur). It is a whole family event that many people look forward to throughout the year. The sausage is eaten both hot and cold and is often served together with Blóðmör, blood pudding, or over rice pudding Hrísgrjónagrautur.
6. ein með öllu (Ein með öllu) – Icelandic hot dog
The Icelandic hot dog, often called the national dish of Iceland, has its own niche. Everyone has a favorite place that serves the best hot dogs, and everyone knows what kind of toppings they prefer the sausage with. If you want to try an authentic Icelandic hot dog, ask for the Ein með öllu (Ein með öllu), which translates to “one with everything.” One of Reykjavik’s oldest hot dog kiosks is still very popular. It is a family business, and is now owned by the fourth generation of hot dog masters. An Icelandic hot dog is best washed down with Kókómjólk chocolate milk with ice and, of course, topped off with another hot dog, because one is always not enough!
7. Lakkris (Lakkrís) – Liquorice
Icelanders love their licorice in every way, shape or form imaginable. Icelandic licorice is most often salty rather than sweet, and the locals won’t take no for an answer until you try it. Whether it’s in liquid form, in marshmallows, or in a chocolate coating, licorice is everywhere in Iceland, and we’ll do our best to make you love it
8. Berjamó – Berry picking
Berry picking has been an important part of life in late summer in Iceland since its settlement. The most common berries are blueberries and lingonberries. They grow all over the country. In Viking times you were allowed to pick berries on private land if you ate them immediately, but it was forbidden to pick and take away the harvest. Today, wild picking is allowed everywhere, and “berjamó” has become a family favorite. Berries that are not eaten during the harvest are boiled, watered with skurry, or simply eaten with cream and sugar.
9. Jarðhitabrauð – Bread from hot springs
Icelanders are resourceful people and we have learned to use the forces of nature to our advantage. We use the geothermal energy that Iceland is so rich in, not only to heat and power our homes, but also to cook food. The most popular product that is made in the ground is plain rye bread, also known as hot spring bread. It has a uniquely sweet flavor and can be stored for a long time, which was very helpful during the long winters. The best way to eat the bread is spread with a good portion of Icelandic butter. At Fontana Geothermal Bakery, visitors are served freshly baked rye bread twice a day.
10. Grænmeti – Fresh vegetables
Because of the island’s harsh natural conditions, growing vegetables was a relatively new activity for Icelanders. However, thanks to geothermally heated greenhouses, vegetables are now grown in several places in Iceland all year round. The limited amount of daylight in winter means that artificial light must be an important prerequisite for successful vegetable cultivation. At the same time, cold winters have a big advantage: no insect pests, resulting in minimal pesticide use, and the vegetables grow in more ecological conditions. The Friðheimar greenhouse farm has opened its doors to all visitors, who can come and see how their vegetables are grown and even taste them in the local bistro.
11. Kjötsúpa – Icelandic meat soup
Nothing is better on a cold winter evening than warm Icelandic meat soup which is traditionally made from lamb, root vegetables and onions and has been part of the Icelandic culinary tradition since ancient times. The soup can also be cooked with other meats, such as beef or corned beef, and sometimes it is even supplemented with rice or barley. Our best comfort food will give you the strength to travel through the mountains and glaciers.
12. Jólasmákökur and laufabrauð – Christmas cookies and flatbread
Baking is an integral part of Iceland’s Christmas culinary tradition. Most hostesses bake several different kinds of Christmas cookies, and many of them have secret family recipes passed down from generation to generation. But the most indispensable culinary attribute of Christmas is the Icelandic flatbread lejfabreid . The ingredients for these wafer-thin flatbreads were hard to find during the year except on Christmas Eve when the bread was baked very thin so that everyone had a piece of bread. Scones were carved into decorative patterns to make them look more festive, and the most beautiful ones were often hung on windows as holiday decorations.
Iceland’s national cuisine
Many people have heard about the “scary” Icelandic food, or rather how it smells, looks and what it’s made of.
But let’s see if the traditional Icelandic cuisine is that bad and if you should try some delicacies after all.
Icelanders eat a lot of fish and seafood, and from meat they prefer local lamb. Icelandic skirr and cheeses made from local Icelandic milk are very popular. Also very popular is local rye bread baked with the addition of bran and various, healthy grain additives.
Speaking of the traditional Icelandic food it can be divided into several sections:
The rotting shark – Hakarl or Haukarl, Kæstur in Icelandic
Perhaps one of the most exotic dishes in Iceland, because where else in the world is it customary to eat rotten shark meat?
Haukarl is the jerky meat of the Greenland Polar Shark or Giant Shark, which lives in the Icelandic waters. The shark meat is placed for 6-8 weeks in a mixture of gravel and sand, nowadays it is in special crates, but previously it was just buried. This is done so that the poisonous juices rich in ammonia from the shark flow out and it can be eaten. After essentially rotting out, the meat is dried for 2-4 months in the fresh air. The meat is then diced and consumed.
Hakarl is very popular for Christmas and New Year’s holidays. In fact, only the smell is repellent, the taste of the meat is more or less, but the aftertaste is not the best.
Hritspungur or Hrutspungur
This dish is not a seafood dish, but a meat dish. Eggs of young lamb are marinated in sour milk or whey, and then the whole thing is pressed into one pie. This dish is considered a holiday dish in Iceland, apparently there aren’t many young lamb eggs.
Sweed or Svay.
This dish is unpleasant by its very sight: the head of a lamb sawed in half with eyes and teeth. Of course, it is first cleaned of hair and boiled. Sometimes it is soaked in lactic acid before cooking. They say that the most delicious are the cheeks and brain, eyes come next. but ears are not usually eaten.
The slatur is made of sheep tripe, i.e. the entrails, fat, and sheep’s blood, which are put in the stomach bladder and sewed up. In this form, the whole dish is baked and served. with sweet rice pudding! Isn’t that an interesting combination!
Fiskur dagsins – fish of the day.
Everyone knows that Iceland is in the middle of the ocean, and catching fish is an essential part of life here. Sea fish is caught in great quantities all year round. Part of the fresh catch is served daily in restaurants and presented to the public in a dish called Fiskur dagsins – fish of the day. This dish may include cod, haddock, catfish or other types of sea fish. Either way, rest assured that you will be served a very tasty dish: a portion of sea fish fillets, beautifully decorated with herbs, potatoes, vegetable garnish and a delicate sauce. Average price per serving: 3100-4600 crowns.
Hardfiskur or Harofiskur.
This dish is nothing scary or intimidating and is popular not only with locals but also with visiting tourists. Hardfiskur is a dried or dried fish, most often cod or haddock. Most often Hardfiskur is served with oil, because without oil the fish meat dried in the Icelandic winds is very dry.
Humarsúpa – lobster soup
Humarsúpa is a traditional and famous Icelandic soup. A very tasty creamy soup made with lobsters. A similar crab soup is also found. It is served in many restaurants, the price of a large portion is 2900 – 3200 crowns.
As the name might suggest, this dish has to do with salt and fish. The fish is covered with a fairly thick layer of salt and in this form remains for some time. The salt absorbs the moisture and dries the fish. Cooked in this way, the fish can be stored for a very long time. Next, before cooking the fish for a few hours (or days) put it in water. After the fish has soaked, it is simply boiled and served with bread and potatoes.
Fiskibollur are medium-sized fried fish patties that look like cheesecakes. The minced fish content in the filling from which they are made is at least 50%. Sometimes fish cakes can be quite small, the size of a meatball. Fiskibollur is another national Icelandic dish offered in many local cafes and restaurants, where the cutlets are prepared according to their own family recipes. The price of a portion is 2700-2900 crowns.
This dish is convenient to take on the road. Ready-to-eat frozen fish cutlets are also sold in any supermarket in Iceland. The average price is about 1500 crowns per kilo.
The name of the dish Gravlaks sounds very obscure, but it is quite traditional for us pickled salmon with dill.
Herring cooked with different spices, usually served with potatoes.
Sjávarréttasúpa – seafood soup
Siauvarrehtasupa. It is made with freshly caught fish, shrimp, mussels, langoustines, in general, everything that was caught in the sea. Onions and spices are also added, and dressed with fresh cream. Sjávarréttasúpa is served in sea food restaurants. The plate is usually so full of seafood that the size of a spoon does not fit. One big plate of this soup replaces a three-course dinner and fills you up completely. The price per serving is 2,900-3,600 crowns. Often fresh Icelandic bread with butter is served with the soup.
It is sometimes said that Gellur is made from cod tongues, which is not really true. This dish is made from the muscle that is just under the tongue. Gellur can simply be boiled and served with a side dish and then it is an average tasting dish, however if Gellur is baked in the oven with spices, it is very tasty!
Nowadays Hvalspek is very rarely cooked, but once it was considered one of the main dishes in Iceland. Hvalspik is made from whale fat, which is smoked in lactic acid.
Quite a modern Icelandic dish – meatballs, though cooked from whale meat soaked in whey.
Plokkfiskur – fish with boiled potatoes in a cream sauce. National Icelandic second course, unpretentious and relatively inexpensive (by Icelandic standards), but very tasty and filling. It can be tasted in almost every cafe in Iceland. Plokkfiskur looks remotely like badly ground mashed potatoes. The dish is made from pieces of fillet of boiled fish, usually cod or haddock, with the addition of slices of boiled potatoes. The fish and potatoes are mixed, topped with a cream sauce and baked in the oven. Served with black rugbruise bread and vegetables. The average price of a serving is 2,500 to 2,900 crowns.
Ready-to-eat Plokkfiskur is also sold in the meat sections of Icelandic supermarkets. Its quality is no worse than in the cafes, and the cost is lower. You need to transfer the dish from the polyethylene package into a dish, heat it up in the microwave and enjoy the taste. The price is about 1,500 kroner per kilo.
Boiled seal fins
From the name of the dish everything becomes clear, seal’s fins, which are usually soaked or fermented in Iceland.
This is probably one of the most popular dishes among tourists. Whale meat is not prepared in any way, but the most popular is whale steak. Although also cooked shish kebab, eaten raw with sauces, cured, etc. The meat of the minke whale, which is not protected and is not threatened by anything, is used to prepare the dishes.
Meat dishes in Iceland are not as good as the sea dishes, the choice is rather poor with lamb or mutton, although other kinds of meat can be found.
Lambalæri and Lambahryggur are Icelandic lamb meat. When you come to Iceland, it would be a mistake not to try a hot lamb dish. Icelandic lamb is very tender and tasty meat, which does not have its usual characteristic smell. Icelanders adore their sheep, eat a lot of lamb and know how to cook it in a way that makes your fingers lick. Order Lambalæri or Lambahryggur in a café or restaurant and enjoy the unique taste of juicy, tender and melt-in-your-mouth lamb, combined with vegetables and a delicious creamy sauce. The average price of a portion in a restaurant is from 4500 CZK.
In many roadside cafes you can try Icelandic lamb goulash with vegetables. A very tasty and hearty dish, the price per serving is 2,900-3,200 kronor.
By the way, the recipe for this and some other Icelandic dishes can be found here: http://vikingur.ru/kuhnja-islandii/samye-vkusnye-bluda.html
Meat of lamb or lamb for grilling, can be another kind, the main thing is to cook it so that a charcoal crust is formed.
Hangikjot is one of the dishes that are prepared for holidays in Iceland. The meat of the young lamb is smoked on birch wood, but since this is Iceland, dried sheep droppings are added to the wood for spice. After the meat is sufficiently smoked and has absorbed the “spicy” flavor it is cooked and served with white sauce and potatoes.
You can buy it already cooked, but most often Hangikjöt is a vacuum packaged meat slices weighing about 200 grams, which are sold in supermarkets. And in many Icelandic cafes you can buy ready-made sandwiches with Hangikjot. The average price of a serving of sandwiches is 1700-2100 kronor.
A dish made with poultry. The poultry is a stumpy, the very symbol of Iceland. The meat is cooked in a dairy sauce, usually breasts. Also deadheads are grilled. No one is too worried about them, because there are lots and lots of deadbeats in Iceland.
Kjotsupa is a meat soup, which is prepared from the meat of a young lamb, vegetables and potatoes. Essentially no different from our traditional soups.
Sometimes it is also called kyotsupa. This soup is a must try in Iceland! Relatively inexpensive, but tasty and filling, it is offered to visitors at almost every restaurant and cafe. This rich and dense soup is prepared from a large quantity of meat of young lamb with the addition of potatoes, carrots, onions, other vegetables, rice and spices. The soup is served with fresh bread and butter.
As a rule, the soup is so thick and hearty that it can be successfully replaced as a second course too. Some Icelandic cafes outside Reykjavik will give you a free refill. All you have to do is ask. On the most popular tourist routes of Iceland, near the natural attractions there are small wagons where local farmers sell very tasty, homemade, freshly made Kjötsúpa. The average price of a portion of soup in a café or restaurant is 1,900-2,200 crowns, in the caravans is usually cheaper.
The severe climate of Iceland is not very favorable to the preparation of sweets, and for baking flour is needed, which is not very easy to get in ancient Iceland. So Icelanders make do with rather poor choice, but very tasty.
Very thin bread, in some way reminiscent of pita bread.
Rye bread, which is very popular in Iceland. The main “chip” of this bread is that it is made in a hot volcanic soil, in which the forms with dough are put. The bread is dark in color and has a sweetish flavor, it is usually eaten with butter and fish.
It is these “doughnuts” that can be tasted in every corner of Iceland. They are actually small pieces of dough that taste like doughnuts. It is very delicious to eat kleinjur with hot chocolate in cold weather. That’s how hot chocolate and claymores are greeted at the entrance to Kerid Volcano. Right next to the parking lot is a small wooden house where you have to buy a ticket and get your own portion of kleinur chocolate. The ticket costs 400 Icelandic crowns.
Not really a dessert, but it is probably the most popular fermented dairy product in Iceland. It resembles thick, creamy yogurt, often with berries and fruit added to it. Icelanders use skur as breakfast, snack, drink or dessert, and is used in making sauces.
Often Icelanders make all sorts of pancakes and desserts with berries, and of course make berry jams and jams.
Perhaps the most popular drink in Iceland is coffee, of course it does not grow anywhere in Iceland, but this does not prevent Icelanders to be ardent fans of this drink. In Iceland, coffee is not only prepared traditionally, but also with special caraway seeds.
A strong alcoholic drink, 37.5 degrees. Brennivine is made from potatoes and caraway seeds. The drink ferments for 2-3 months, and then undergoes two stages of distillation. This drink was nicknamed “Black Death” by the Icelandic people during the Prohibition, because the government invented a logo in the form of a skull and bones. And Brennevin is usually served with a piece of Haukarl, a rotten shark.