Think you've tasted it all? Well, buckle up, folks, because we're about to dive into the wonderful world of food in Iceland, a culinary landscape as unique and stunning as the country itself.
In Iceland, they're all about making the most of what's around - fresh fish from the icy Atlantic, free-roaming lamb, and hardy root veggies. But it's not just what they eat. It's how they prepare it that really tells the tale.
From age-old preservation techniques to modern Nordic innovation, the Icelandic food scene is a journey worth embarking on. So sit back, relax, and prepare for a delicious exploration of Iceland's gastronomic delights.
Understanding Food in Iceland
When it comes to understanding food in Iceland, we're talking about a cuisine deeply influenced by isolation and the harsh climates of the North. Hardy root vegetables, wild berries, lamb, and seafood form the backbone of Icelandic gastronomy. Traditional methods like smoking, drying, pickling, and fermenting have allowed generations of Icelanders to preserve their food through the long, harsh winters.
In the past, you'd see locals smoking lamb over sheep dung or fermenting shark to make hákarl, a dish only for the brave-hearted. But Iceland's culinary scene hasn't remained frozen in time. From the Viking Age, through periods of scarcity, to the modern restaurant scene, the food culture has continuously evolved. Now, you'll find Michelin-starred restaurants serving up cod cheeks and reindeer in inventive preparations.
There's also been a shift towards sustainability, with organic farming and foraging gaining popularity. Vegetarian and vegan options have grown, too. Check out our guide to being a vegetarian in Iceland for the lowdown.
Uncovering The Top 18 Iceland Food Favorites
If you're setting off to explore the land of fire and ice, make sure you're not missing out on the rich tapestry of tastes and textures of the food in Iceland. From mouthwatering lamb dishes and peculiar seafood delicacies to unique dairy products and delicious pastries, Icelandic food mirrors the country's history and landscape.
Here's our curated list of the top traditional Icelandic foods you must sample to experience the true essence of this dramatic Nordic land.
1. Icelandic Hotdogs
Attention, foodies on a budget! If you're searching for cheap food in Iceland that doesn't compromise on flavor, look no further than the Icelandic hot dog– it's a taste sensation like no other! Forget the standard hot dogs, you know. These babies are a delightful blend of lamb, pork, and beef packed into natural casings for that perfect snap with every bite.
But the real magic lies in the toppings! Try 'The Works' for the full experience – you'll be treated to a tantalizing combination of ketchup, sweet mustard, fried onions, raw onions, and a heavenly remoulade sauce, creamy mayo, and sweet relish delight.
For the ultimate authentic Icelandic hot dog, head over to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. This iconic hot dog stand has been dishing out these delights since 1937. Your taste buds will thank you!
2. Fish and Chips
Attention, fish and chips enthusiasts! The iconic Icelandic fish and chips are a must-try when seeking the best food in Reykjavik. This lip-smacking delicacy graces nearly every restaurant menu in the city. With most of Iceland's population residing on the coast and fishing as a major industry, you're in for a treat with incredibly fresh and flavorful fish.
Picture this: over 300 fish species swimming off Iceland's coast, including cod, arctic char, halibut, haddock, and herring, all featured on the menus. From delightful sushi to hearty fish stews and classic golden fried fish and chips, they have you covered.
For the ultimate fish and chips experience, head straight to Kaffivagninn Restaurant in the old harbor. This top-rated gem, established in 1935, guarantees an unforgettable taste adventure, making it one of Reykjavik's best restaurants.
3. Kjotsupa (Lamb Soup)
When it comes to the Reykjavik food scene, then Kjotsupa Lamb Soup is a true delight for your taste buds! This iconic Icelandic stew is a staple in their cuisine, brimming with tender lamb, root veggies, rice, and fragrant herbs that create a symphony of flavors in every spoonful.
The secret to its exceptional taste lies in the locally-raised lamb, known for its distinct flavor due to natural rearing methods. Icelandic sheep are special, raised without grain feed or hormones, resulting in a delicacy you won't forget.
To savor the authentic Kjotsupa experience, go to Kaffi Loki, the traditional home-style restaurant conveniently located across the street from Hallgrímskirkja church in downtown Reykjavik. Don't miss out on this must-eat dish while you're in Iceland!
4. Harðfiskur (Dried Fish)
Ready to explore the incredible flavors of Icelandic cuisine? Harðfiskur is your go-to, offering a mouthwatering introduction to the traditional food in Iceland.
This unique delicacy consists of dried fish, often cod or haddock, readily available in packets at almost any grocery store nationwide. Picture fish jerky – dry, crumbly, and protein-packed, making it a perfect snack.
While not a full meal, it's a must-try food in Iceland. For an authentic experience, top it off with luscious butter. Just be prepared; wherever you store it, the bag will emit a delightful fishy scent!
5. Plokkfiskur (Fish Stew)
Let us spill the beans on one of the best foods in Iceland – Plokkfiskur, the ultimate comfort fish stew! Being an island nation, Icelanders have nailed the art of cooking fresh, high-quality seafood, and Plokkfiskur is a shining example of that.
Picture tender cod or haddock swimming in a delightful mix of milk, potatoes, and onions. If you're up for trying modern twists, some versions come with curry powder, cheese, or a luscious bechamel sauce on top.
But no matter how you have it, it's all about simplicity and satisfying flavors. So, for the best Plokkfiskur experience, head straight to Salka Valka – they've got the recipe down to perfection, and their local Icelandic beer is a must-try too!
6. Rúgbrauð (Rye Bread)
Ever wondered what a volcano tastes like? Well, Rúgbrauð, a type of Icelandic rye bread, might be the closest you'll get.
This typical Iceland food is dense, sweet, and slowly baked underground by geothermal heat - how's that for a cooking method? Traditionally, locals would find a hot spring, bury a pot of dough, and let the earth's heat do the rest.
The result? A dark, almost cake-like bread that's a staple in Icelandic homes. Fancy a slice? Most restaurants and bakeries across the country have it on their menus.
7. Humarsúpa (Lobster Soup)
If you're jotting down 'things to eat in Iceland,' be sure to add Humarsúpa to your list! Also known as Icelandic lobster soup, Humarsúpa is a delicacy that combines the sweetness of langoustines, the freshness of vegetables, and the richness of cream in a heartwarming concoction.
This soup isn't just a meal; it's a cozy blanket on a chilly Icelandic day. And the best part? You get to dunk a chunk of freshly baked bread into this heavenly broth! For a taste of this culinary masterpiece, Húsið in Isafjordur is the place to go. Their Humarsúpa, teeming with chunky pieces of langoustine, is famed across the land and the sea!
8. Lambakjöt (Roasted Lamb)
Craving some heartwarming comfort food while eating in Iceland? Well, say hello to Lambakjöt! Lamb is a staple in Icelandic cuisine, and for a good reason. Grazing on lush, wild herbs and berries, Icelandic sheep yield meat that is tender, flavorful, and notably lean.
Lambakjöt, or Icelandic lamb, often roasted with local herbs and served with root vegetables and gravy, is a plateful of heartiness you don't want to miss. In the majestic Westfjords, make a beeline for Við Pollinn Restaurant in Isafjordur.
This charming, rustic restaurant is renowned for its buffet-style dishes, including a succulent, fall-off-the-bone Lambakjöt. Paired with their panoramic fjord views, it's a dining experience that'll leave you pining for more!
9. Lightly Salted Cod
Among the best food to eat in Iceland, you'll find the humble yet divine lightly salted cod. While it may sound simple, don't be fooled!
The cod in Iceland, plucked fresh from the frigid North Atlantic, has a sweet, delicate flavor perfectly enhanced by light salting. It's then typically pan-seared to golden perfection, locking in the juices and creating a sublime combination of crispy exterior and flaky interior.
What is the best place to sample this delight? Café Riis in Hólmavík, a classic restaurant, pizzeria, and bar. Nestled in this quaint fishing village, Café Riis serves up some of the finest salted cod on the island, earning it a well-deserved spot on any Icelandic foodie's bucket list.
10. Pan-Seared Rainbow Trout
Looking for the best food to eat in Iceland? Let us introduce you to a mouthwatering delight – Pan-Seared Rainbow Trout! At Restaurant Dunhagi in Tálknafjörður, they've mastered the art of preparing this incredible dish.
Picture tender and flaky rainbow trout, pan-seared to perfection, creating a deliciously crispy outer layer with your taste buds dancing. Served with a medley of fresh local herbs and spices from the fjord, this dish embodies the flavors of Iceland's pristine waters.
Oh, and the cozy surroundings of one of the oldest buildings in the fjord add to the experience. Don't miss out on this must-try specialty at Restaurant Dunhagi for an unforgettable Icelandic culinary adventure!
A popular food in Iceland, Skyr is a type of yogurt-like curd cheese that dates back centuries. However, it has recently gained massive popularity among locals and tourists alike.
It's made by blending skimmed milk with bacteria, giving it a creamy yet slightly sour taste. Traditionally, Skyr was enjoyed plain or with honey and berries. Nowadays, you'll find this Icelandic favorite in various flavors, such as passion fruit and coconut-chocolate-banana!
And if you're visiting Akureyri, be sure to try the Skyr at Strikin– they turn this classic treat into delectable desserts that simply melt in your mouth.
12. Rjúpa (Rock Ptarmigan)
If there's one dish that embodies the spirit of the wild Icelandic highlands, it's Rjúpa or Rock Ptarmigan. A traditional delicacy, especially around Christmas, this game bird is loved for its tender, slightly gamey meat that offers a unique flavor profile.
The bird is often roasted with herbs and spices native to Iceland or braised in a hearty stew. These preparation methods bring out the nuances of the bird's taste, truly reflecting the essence of its wild habitat.
Rjúpa provides not only a window into Iceland's culinary tradition but also its respect for the land and nature. It's a must-try for any foodie adventuring through North Iceland.
13. Hangikjöt (Smoked Lamb)
Alright, foodies, let's talk about Hangikjöt, a quintessential Icelandic dish that will delight your taste buds. Hangikjöt, or smoked lamb, isn't your everyday meat dish.
The lamb is carefully smoked over dried sheep dung or birchwood, bestowing upon it a flavor so unique it's pretty much an edible postcard from Iceland. The result is a juicy, smoky delicacy that'll have you asking for seconds (and possibly thirds!).
Ready to embark on this culinary adventure? Head on over to Hver Restaurant in Reykjavik. Their Hangikjöt is so on-point it could easily be the poster child for Iceland's famous food. Paired with traditional rye bread or creamy potato mash, it's a feast you simply cannot miss.
14. Lifrarpylsa (Liver Sausage)
If you've ever wondered what everyday food in Iceland looks like, let us introduce you to Lifrarpylsa, or, as we would say in English, liver sausage. Now, don't let the name put you off!
This delicacy is a traditional Icelandic comfort food, made from sheep's liver and suet mixed with rye flour and rolled into a casing. The result? A rich, hearty sausage that is full of flavor and a favorite among the locals.
It's typically boiled and served up with potatoes and turnips or spread on bread. You can find Lifrarpylsa in pretty much any supermarket in Iceland, so don't miss out on this unique experience!
Have you ever heard of Gravlax? If not, let us introduce you to one of the finest examples of Nordic cuisine and, without a doubt, some of the best food you'll find in Vik, Iceland. Gravlax is a traditional dish where fresh salmon is cured using salt, sugar, and dill.
Sounds simple, right? But, oh boy, the taste is anything but. The curing process imparts a beautiful, delicate flavor to the salmon, resulting in a melt-in-your-mouth delicacy that will have you hooked from the first bite.
Typically served thinly sliced on rye bread or with a side of boiled potatoes, Gravlax is a must-try for any seafood lover out there.
Alright, pastry lovers, prepare your taste buds for Kleina, one of the crown jewels of Icelandic cuisine. Picture this: a delicately twisted, fried dough pastry lightly flavored with cardamom and dusted with sugar.
Sounds heavenly, doesn't it? That's because it is! Kleina is essentially the Icelandic answer to doughnuts, and trust us when we say it's a match made in confectionery heaven. Its slightly crunchy exterior gives way to a soft, fluffy inside that is sure to leave you craving for more.
And the best part is you can find Kleina in virtually any coffee shop in Iceland. It pairs beautifully with a cup of coffee on a chilly Icelandic morning or as a sweet treat in the afternoon.
17. Rúllupylsa (Rolled Sausage)
Allow us to introduce you to Rúllupylsa, arguably one of the best foods in Iceland. This rolled sausage is a classic Icelandic delicacy typically served during the Christmas season, but thankfully, you can find it year-round.
It's made from a slab of lamb rib meat, rolled up with a delicious stuffing of herbs and spices. Think savory meets umami with a bit of festive cheer. The sausage is then left to cure before it's ready to be savored, typically sliced thin and served cold on bread.
But where can you get this delightful dish, you ask? You can find Rúllupylsa at most supermarkets or butcher shops in Iceland. So, when you're stocking up for your Iceland road trip, make sure to grab some Rúllupylsa for a truly local snack experience.
18. Pönnukökur (Icelandic Pancakes)
If you've got a sweet tooth, Pönnukökur, or Icelandic pancakes, should be on your list of typical Iceland food to try. Unlike American-style pancakes, Pönnukökur is thin, more akin to French crêpes.
They're made from a batter of eggs, flour, sugar, and milk, cooked on a special griddle until golden brown. The end product is delightfully soft yet slightly crispy around the edges. Typically, they're served rolled up with a filling of sugar or fruit jam, making them a hit at any time of the day. But where can you satisfy your Pönnukökur craving?
These treats are found in many Icelandic homes, but you can also buy them at bakeries and cafés or even at street food stalls during festivals.
5 Weird and Disgusting Icelandic Foods
Stepping outside your comfort zone is a huge part of travel, and Iceland's culinary scene certainly offers opportunities for that. Brace yourselves as we dive into the truly bizarre and occasionally stomach-turning, with a closer look at five weird and, dare we say, disgusting Icelandic foods. You've been warned!
1. Hákarl (Fermented Shark)
Are you an adventurous foodie looking to tackle Iceland's national dish? Buckle up because Hákarl, or Fermented Shark, isn't for the faint of heart (or stomach). This unique delicacy, steeped in Icelandic tradition, involves Greenland shark meat being fermented and hung to dry for several months.
The end result is an intensely flavored food known for its powerful aroma, which can be quite the gastronomic adventure. Some describe its taste as a mix between strong cheese and ammonia, definitely making it a memorable experience!
For those willing to venture, Hákarl can be sampled at the Viking Village Restaurant in Hafnarfjörður. This traditional establishment offers the opportunity to taste this distinctive dish in an authentic setting.
2. Fermented Skate
Fermented Skate is a daring Icelandic delicacy that might not be for the faint of heart! Served during the Ögur festival in Ögur, Ísafjarðardjúp, from July 21 - 23, it's an acquired taste that divides opinions.
The skatefish is buried in the sand for a whopping 6 months, resulting in a rather pungent smell of ammonia, which can be quite intimidating. However, some culinary adventurers find it intriguing and worth trying.
For brave souls eager to explore the unique flavors of Icelandic cuisine, the Ögur festival's Friday lunch is the place to savor this 'disgusting' Icelandic food. It's a true feast for the senses, offering a memorable and distinctive experience!
3. Hrútspungar (Ram's Testicles)
If you're hunting for the next unusual 'Iceland famous food' to try, look no further than Hrútspungar or Ram's Testicles. Known as a winter delicacy, they are a centerpiece of the Þorrablót feast.
Returning to the pre-refrigeration era, these goods are cleaned, boiled, pickled in whey for months, then formed into a rectangular block and sliced for serving. Curious eaters can find them during midwinter in select Icelandic supermarkets.
Today, these distinctive bites have garnered an international following, making waves as far as America and Asia. So, are you up for the challenge?
4. Slátur (Icelandic Black Pudding)
Slátur, directly translated to 'slaughter,' is a type of Icelandic black pudding that's not for the faint-hearted but a must-try for those seeking a traditional Icelandic food adventure. This dish has two variations – blóðmör and lifrarpylsa. Blóðmör, similar to the British black pudding, is made with sheep's blood, fat, and rye or barley. Lifrarpylsa, on the other hand, uses the liver instead of blood.
The preparation involves stuffing these ingredients into a sheep's stomach and boiling them. The end product is a dark, hearty sausage enjoyed with potatoes and turnips. Although the dish sounds intimidating, it offers a unique blend of textures and flavors and is deeply tied to Iceland's historical necessity of utilizing every part of an animal.
If you're keen to taste Slátur, it's traditionally served in homes during autumn. However, you can find it in supermarkets year-round, typically near other traditional foods. Just watch for the dark, lumpy sausages, and you've found your Slátur!
5. Svið (Sheep's Head)
Svið, or sheep's head, is a traditional Icelandic dish that has been enjoyed by locals for centuries and offers a unique culinary experience for travelers.
The preparation process involves singeing off the wool, removing the brain, and boiling the head until the meat is tender and easily pulled off. The final product is usually cut in half and served with mashed turnips and potatoes.
Svið is celebrated for its rich flavor and tender meat, particularly around the cheeks. Eating the eyes and tongue is also common for the more adventurous. Though it might appear daunting at first, this dish serves as a reminder of Iceland's historic thriftiness in using every part of an animal.
How Much Is The Cost Of Food In Iceland?
The cost of food in Iceland can vary widely, but generally, it's known to be on the pricier side due to the island's remote location and harsh climate. Here are a few examples:
Fast food: A combo meal at a fast-food restaurant costs around 2,000 ISK.
Café lunch: Expect to pay between 2,100-3,700 ISK for lunch in a casual café.
Dinner at a restaurant: A dinner at a mid-range restaurant, including a main course, a drink, and a dessert, can cost around 6,990 ISK.
Grocery shopping: Basic grocery items like a loaf of bread costs around 400 ISK, while a liter of milk is about 221 ISK.
A Food Trip Itinerary To Sample Traditional Icelandic Food
Day 1: Reykjavik
Breakfast: Start your day with a hearty breakfast at Sandholt Bakery. Try their rugbrauð, a traditional Icelandic rye bread with fresh butter.
Lunch: Visit Þrír Frakkar restaurant for a bowl of traditional Plokkfiskur, a comforting fish and potato stew.
Dinner: Dine at Dill Restaurant, and sample the innovative ways they use traditional ingredients. Make sure to try their smoked lamb (Hangikjöt).
Day 2: Golden Circle
Breakfast: Start your day with Skyr, a thick, creamy, and slightly tangy Icelandic yogurt at your hotel.
Dinner: Back in Reykjavik, head to Icelandic Street Food for Lambakjöt, a traditional lamb soup.
Day 3: Southern Iceland
Breakfast: Enjoy a breakfast of homemade Flatkaka (Flatbread) from any local bakery.
Lunch: At Vik, dine at Sudur Vik Restaurant, and try their fish soup with locally sourced ingredients.
Dinner: Back in Reykjavik, dine at Reykjavik Kitchen to taste traditional Icelandic dishes with a modern twist.
Day 4: Northern Iceland
Breakfast: Start the day with a hearty Kleina, an Icelandic twisted doughnut, from a local bakery.
Lunch: At Akureyri, stop by Rub 23 for a fresh sushi lunch featuring Icelandic fish.
Dinner: Dine at Strikið restaurant, trying their traditional salmon, which is cured, smoked, and served with several accompaniments.
Day 5: Reykjavik
Breakfast: Try the Pönnukökur (Icelandic Pancakes) at your hotel or from a local bakery.
Lunch: Visit Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur for a famous Icelandic hot dog topped with sweet mustard, ketchup, fried onion, raw onion, and remoulade.
Dinner: Cap off your trip with a visit to the Sea Baron (Sægreifinn). Their lobster soup is a must-try.
Icelandic Food FAQ
What is traditional Icelandic food?
Traditional Icelandic food is hearty and often made with seafood, lamb, or whale. Some of the most popular dishes include:
What are some popular Icelandic dishes that are not seafood or lamb?
There are a few popular Icelandic dishes that are not seafood or lamb. These include: Þorramatur, Laufabrauð, Skyrkaka, Grísaskjötssúpa and Kjötsúpa.
What are some popular Icelandic desserts?
Some popular Icelandic desserts include: Skyrhlaup, Rúgbrauðsgrautur, Fimmfjörutíubitinn and Icelandic pancakes.
A Final Look at Food in Iceland
Well, folks, we've come to the end of our food in Iceland journey. If you're as full as we are just from reading, might we suggest renting a campervan in Iceland for your next gastro-venture? With a campervan, you can take your taste buds on a road trip around the island to explore what Iceland's delicious cuisine offers.