Updated: Jan 24
At first glance Iceland might not seem like the best place for vegetarians and vegans to eat. And it is true that many of Iceland’s traditional dishes are absolutely not suitable for vegetarians. Meat and fish do figure quite highly in the traditional Icelandic diet. Those must-try dishes on the menu are all too often for the carnivores amongst us.
However the reality of eating in Iceland is another story entirely. Iceland’s restaurants and convenience food stores are all surprisingly accommodating to the vegetarian diet. Happily the vegan and vegetarian options at most restaurants in Iceland are much more than just a rushed afterthought. Chefs actually get very creative with their local ingredients and dream up many tantalising and exciting vegetarian dishes.
Vegetarian options in Iceland
Whether you’re eating out in a restaurant or picking up a snack at a grocery store you’ll be just fine. There are many vegetarian and vegan Icelandic people after all. And with the country so fine-tuned for visitors most places are very accommodating of all foodie persuasions. There are usually a few good vegan-friendly creations in your average sandwich store. And you will even find pre-made vegan cheese sandwiches to take away in the supermarkets!
The best places to eat vegetarian in Reykjavik
As you can imagine the capital city of Reykjavik has the biggest range of vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Iceland. But Akureyri the largest city in North Iceland is well stocked too. Here come a few of our favorite vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Reykjavik.
Kaffi Vinyl – Hip hangout a café/bar/bistro in central Reykjavik
This is the place to come for a fun and eclectic mix of people and diversions. The menu features fish as well as delicious vegan and vegetarian options. Expect fresh and interesting salads, zingy chilli dishes and quesadillas. All served in a laidback atmosphere with some excellent tunes spinning on the record deck. In the daytime you will find creative types tapping away at their laptops. By evening there are drinks mixed and the music ups its tempo. Live bands sometimes play too.
Reykjavik’s Food Halls - for street food galore
One of the best places to go for an exciting but budget-friendly meal out in Iceland is a food hall. Food halls lined with street food vendors are a relatively new phenomena in Iceland. The first one called the Hlemmur Food Hall opened in Reykjavik in 2017 in a disused bus station.
Here street food vendors serve up delicious meals and snacks inspired by all the cuisines of the world. There is something for everyone and some stalls specialise in vegetarian or vegan cuisine. You’ll find all the hot street food trends on offer from bao buns to dim sum. These food halls also nurture new talent. So expect to encounter young Icelandic chefs getting creative with some interesting Nordic ingredients.
Another great food hall in the capital is the Höfði Mathöll Food Hall. Both are great places for a sociable evening out. On weekends there are often bands playing and potent cocktails being shaken up.
Núðluskálin – Noodles to slurp with abandon
Located right in the middle of Reykjavik this noodle bar is the perfect spot for a casual lunch or dinner. A big bowl of steaming hot noodle soup is just the thing on a chilly afternoon in the capital. There are meat options here too and several vegan and veggie options featuring tofu and fresh veg. In fact you can have any dish you like transformed into a vegetarian option. So find a bench and get slurping!
Vegetarian restaurants beyond Reykjavik
Again you shouldn’t have a problem finding good vegetarian food in most places that you visit. Right around the Iceland Ring Road driving route and the Golden Circle restaurants will cater well for all. Even in a gas station there will be vegan-friendly snacks. So if you’re hiring a camper van and heading off into the sunset then fear not.
It would only be in the very small towns and villages in the more remote places that you might have trouble. Even then vegetarians won’t have an issue. It will likely just be that the offer for all is a little smaller than in the busier places.
Cooking vegetarian meals in Iceland
One of the great things about hiring a camper van in Iceland is that you can do your own cooking. Obviously you will want to enjoy eating out and about in the restaurants and cafés sometimes. But being able to put together a simple supper in the great outdoors is a real bonus.
You may find that fruit, vegetables and staples are a little higher in price than you are used to. Iceland is well known to be on the expensive side when it comes to shopping and entertainment. But you will certainly save money in Iceland by enjoying a few meals al fresco in your camper van. It’s actually a really fun thing to do and a welcome change from dining in. Food just tastes better in the open air!
If you travel by motorhome in Iceland then you will have the whole shebang! Your motorhome will come fitted with a full albeit diminutive kitchen. There will even be a dining table and chairs. This should take dining in to a whole other level!
But what about the ice cream?
You may have heard that Icelandic people have a great love of ice cream. Now this might sound strange seeing as the country is on the cool side. But it’s true. In Icelandic ice cream is a big deal.
You will find ice cream shops in all the towns and cities. And there are multiple ways to enjoy this sweet treat too. Find out all about in our article Icelandic ice cream and where to enjoy it.
Obviously vegetarians don’t have a concern and can enjoy gelato to their heart’s content. Vegans won’t be left either though. You’ll find that many ice cream parlours offer vegan ice cream made with nut or coconut milk. As well as shakes, scoops of water ice and vegan sprinkles.
So in short both vegetarians and vegans will be welcomed in Iceland’s restaurants and cafes. You’ll find plenty of tantalising dishes and unusual ingredients to tickle your taste buds. You’ll just have to skip the dried fish, which is no bad thing perhaps!