A Culinary Adventure in Iceland: Local Dishes for Foodie Travelers

An image of a waterfall in Iceland

Wanting to head to a country with magnificent waterfalls, active volcanoes, fantastic scenery, and delicious food? Are you a keen foodie who loves to explore new authentic dishes? Then Iceland is for you! Keep reading to find out some of our favorite Icelandic food that will get any gastronome’s heart racing and mouth salivating!

Iceland is famous for its natural beauty, wonderful friendly locals, and of course, unique and interesting culinary dishes that will have you running back for more.

The landscape of Iceland is diverse and rich in nutrients, producing some exquisite local dishes that will blow your mind and taste buds.

In this week’s blog, we dive deep into the delicious food that Iceland has to offer, from regional dishes to our personal favorites, these dishes will have your mouth watering and mind boggled from the get-go. Let’s dive into our favorite delicious dishes for a real foodie adventure in Iceland.

The History of Iceland’s Food

an image of viking arriving into Iceland

Icelandic history is embedded with food; many of the country’s traditional dishes date back to the Vikings. It is thought they brought many recipes with them when they landed in Iceland around 850 AD. Their recipes focused on preserving food and using the local landscape.

This has carried on through history, making the pillars of Icelandic food meat, dairy, and fish. As a result of these ingredients, dishes were often smoked, fermented, preserved, or salted to make the food last through the cold winter months. 

This history can still be seen in the dishes they produce today, however, there are some variations. With imported food and modern technology, Iceland’s food has changed and grown over the centuries.

A great way to try some Icelandic foods straight from the source is on a food tour. A very popular activity in Iceland, it’s a great way to try traditional Icelandic dishes and meet the local Icelanders who produce them.

Pylsa: Reykjavik’s Famous Hot Dog

An image of Pylsa, Reykjavik's Famous Hot Dog

Reykjavik food is world-renowned and people travel from all corners to sample traditional cuisine in their popular food trucks. The Reykjavik hot dog is one of the most popular street food dishes in Iceland – not only does it taste delicious, it’s cheap to buy!

How is it Made?

This Icelandic hot dog is made of lamb which is smoked and then boiled, giving it a wonderfully fresh and juicy flavor. The lamb used in these hot dogs is often organic, free-range, grass-fed, and raised in a pollution-free, clean environment. (How fantastic is that?!)

The special additional ingredients in this recipe have been kept secret by the locals, hiding this dish’s true identity. This Pylsa is unique to Reykjavik and makes you want to come back for more! 

The hot dogs are served in a soft white bun with crispy fried onions, ketchup, sweet mustard, and a remoulade sauce (made with mayo, capers, mustard, and herbs).

A delicious blend of flavors has made this hot dog famous throughout Iceland. You can find it on street corners, in popular food trucks, or near convenience stores.

They are very common among locals and visitors to the country. When you’re visiting Reykjavik, make sure you grab yourself a bite of this authentic meal.

Kjötsúpa: Icelandic Lamb Soup

An image of Kjötsúpa, Icelandic Lamb Soup

When visiting Iceland you must try Kjötsúpa (translating as “meat soup”). It is another wonderful staple dish in an Icelandic diet. It is a delicious soup that is made with fresh Icelandic lamb and root vegetables. 

This Icelandic meat soup is hearty, rustic, and filling, warming you up on a cold day.

How is it Made?

Cooked usually when the snow begins to fall in Iceland, this dish has been around for centuries. The recipe for the soup is passed down from generation to generation, each family adding their own special twist to the dish.

The base of the soup is lamb – this can be chops, shoulder, or leg, and forms the base flavor of the soup. Next, small diced vegetables are added to the soup, along with spices, salt, and pepper. Once boiled down, the soup comes together, bursting with flavor and tender meat.

The local cuisine is traditionally served with dark rye bread and a dollop of Skyr (an Icelandic creamy yogurt) on the side. Grab a bowl at one of the many authentic places that serve Kjötsúpa in Iceland.

{Learn how to cook an authentic Icelandic Kjötsúpa}

Rúgbrauð: Dark and Rich Rye Bread

An image of Rúgbrauð, Iceland's Dark and Rich Rye Bread

Rúgbrauð (Icelandic dark rye bread) is a traditional and popular bread in Iceland, found in cafes, restaurants, and Icelandic homes. It is a dark, dense, and chewy bread made with rye flour, golden syrup, buttermilk, and a few other special ingredients.

The Rúgbrauð has a long shelf life and is often used to make sandwiches, or as a side dish.

How is it Made?

Traditionally this bread was cooked in old milk cartons which were buried near natural geothermal hot springs. It was left there all day to cook and retrieved at the end of the day, and then served with homemade smoked salmon or with Kjötsúpa (the traditional Icelandic lamb soup).

The main ingredient in this bread is rye flour, formed from rye grains. These grains are grown easily in Iceland, making them very cost-effective in cooking. Thanks to the addition of golden syrup, the bread becomes sweet, rich, and chewy. 

Today Rúgbrauð is still cooked all over Iceland in modern ovens, giving it a delicious taste in today’s kitchens. We think this is a good staple in your diet when you visit Iceland.

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Skyr: Icelandic Creamy Yogurt

An image of Skyr, an Icelandic Creamy Yogurt

Skyr is a thick and creamy yogurt that has been around for almost 1000 years, and is fundamental in an Icelandic diet. Said to be a hybrid of creamy yogurt and cheese pudding, this dish was enjoyed by Vikings (who created and brought the recipe to Iceland), and now by people all over the world.

How is it Made?

It is made with boiled skimmed milk and Skyr cultures. Once heated and combined, they are left to cool, turning them into this thick and creamy dish. Skyr has a very high protein content, making it a filling and satisfying snack.

The yogurt is often used as a condiment or a side dish, but can also be eaten as a dessert. This delicious Icelandic cuisine can be found in many shops, restaurants, and cafes. For those with a sweet tooth, you won’t want to miss this!

{How to make authentic Skyr}

Hákarl: The Famous Fermented Shark Soup

An image of Hákarl, Icelands famous fermented shark

Hákarl is a soup made from fermented shark meat and vegetables. It is considered to be one of the national dishes of Iceland. It has been debated in the media for many years: to eat or not to eat? Let’s put it this way, in our opinion, you’ll either love it or hate it!

This dish dates back to the Vikings who created it to preserve food in the winter months. By using fermented shark meat, the Vikings could store the meat throughout the summer and add it to soups through the winter.

Today it is known as a delicious, quirky dish made with local ingredients.

How is it Made?

To make the Hákarl, the shark is buried in the sand for several months and allowed to ferment. Once it is dug up, the meat is hung to dry and left until it has fermented. It is then cut into small cubes and put into the soup.

The soup is traditionally served with boiled potatoes, onions, and flatbread and is described by travelers and locals as “ammonia-rich” and “fishy”.

Despite its strong smell and taste, Hákarl is a popular dish among Icelanders. This local cuisine is often served at special occasions such as weddings and funerals, making it the perfect Icelandic food to try on your trip.

This dish is often found on a local food tour, showcasing how it’s made and where the food came from.

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What to Drink When You’re in Iceland?

An image of drinks in Iceland

As well as delicious food, Iceland is full of exotic and unique drinks to quench your thirst after a long day of exploring. Let’s take a look at a few of our favorites:

Brennivin

Not for the faint-hearted, this local brew is a signature spirit in Iceland and dates back to the 17th century. Found in supermarkets and local bars, it is served cold in a small shot glass and is bound to put hairs on your chest!

Malt og Appelsin

Mostly enjoyed at Christmas, this malt and orange sweet soda will send you fizzy with excitement. This non-alcoholic drink is the perfect sugar rush for those cold nights in Iceland.

Beer

Did you know that beer was outlawed in Iceland until the late 1980s? Now celebrated around the country, you must try a classic Viking Gold beer! Whether you buy it in one of the local bottle shops, at the airport, or enjoy it with your dinner, this beer is not to be missed!

An image of beer

There you have it, some of our favorite traditional foods from Iceland. Not only does Iceland offer a real foodie adventure, but it is also covered in natural beauty, packed full of adventures, and home to friendly locals. So what are you waiting for? Get your trip to Iceland booked!

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