When you visit Iceland you will probably, like most visitors, be pleasantly surprised by the high quality of the food here. The fresh air, abundant water, geothermal energy and vast unpolluted landscapes provide outstanding raw material for chefs around the country - and ultimately for your enjoyment!
We have listed some examples of typical Icelandic food you may encounter on your travels around Iceland and that we encourage you to taste. We even included some secret insider tips on where to find it...
Iceland is surrounded by the North Atlantic Ocean so no wonder it boasts the freshest of seafood. You will encounter fresh fish on most menus including traditional dishes such as plokkfiskur (fish stew), fresh and smoked salmon, arctic char, mouth-watering langoustine and mussels. In some places you can even catch your own seafood to eat later on! A popular Icelandic snack worth trying is harðfiskur (dried fish), which admittently has a distinctive smell, but is very healthy and delicious spread with some pure Icelandic butter.
Bread and pastries
Icelanders love their coffee – and appreciate something to go with it, too. In the Icelandic countryside pastries and other sweet things such as kleinur (doughhnuts), pönnukökur (pancakes), vöfflur (waffles), ástarpungar (“love balls“) and Hjónabandssæla (an oatmeal cake with rhubarb jam) are never far away! As for bread, don‘t miss out on flatkökur (flat bread) and rúgbrauð, a traditional dark and sweet rye bread, sometimes baked underground using geothermal steam (and then called hverabrauð).
Insider tip: Vogafjós in North Iceland bakes its own geothermal rye bread and serves it at its cowshed restaurant.
Ice cream and sweets
As odd as it sounds considering the rather cold climate in Iceland, Icelanders are very fond of ice cream and consume it all year round, whatever the weather! The most popular type of ice cream that you will find all around the country is vanilla flavoured soft ice with an optional chocolate dip and sprinkles. Sweet-wise, liquorice in all forms and in particular chocolate covered liquorice is undoubtedly Iceland‘s most favourite candy!
Insider tip: Farms such as Brunnhóll and Efstidalur produce their own delicious and creamy farmhouse ice cream – recommended!
In a country where sheep outnumber people, lamb naturally features prominently on the menu. In Iceland, sheep graze freely in nature during the summer, feasting on fresh grass and wild mountain herbs, making the meat exceptionally lean and tasty. You will encounter plenty of lamb on Icelandic menus, including traditional dishes such as kjötsúpa (meat soup), hangikjöt (smoked lamb) and the ubiquitous pylsa or hot dog. According to public opinion, the famous hot dog stand “Bæjarins beztu“ near Reykjavík harbour serves the best dogs in the country; however, Icelander‘s favourite snack can be enjoyed in almost any shop or petrol station around the country. It is traditionally topped with mustard, ketchup, fried onions, raw onions and remolaði, a mayonnaise-based sauce with sweet relish. We recommend asking for "ein með öllu" (one with everything on)!
Insider tip: Lamb Inn at Öngulsstaðir farm in North Iceland specialises in lamb dishes.
Low in fat and rich in protein, traditional Icelandic skyr is currently enjoying a massive popularity surge both at home and abroad due to the growing international health trend. A dairy product similar to thick yogurt, skyr is often enjoyed for breakfast, as a snack in between meals, or in the form of a (inevitably more calorie-rich) dessert – traditionally served with sugar, cream and wild blueberries.
In Iceland, abundant geothermal energy is used to heat up greenhouses, making it possible to grow fresh and chemical-free vegetables all year round, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and lettuce. Potatoes and root vegetables such as turnips and carrots are also cultivated in the rich, volcanic Icelandic soil.
Insider tip: Visit Friðheimar farm for the tastiest tomato soup made from their own geothermally grown tomatoes.
Berries and herbs
Blueberries and crowberries are the most common types of berries you will find growing wild in Iceland‘s countryside in late summer. They are packed with vitamins and anti-oxidants and are popular on their own, in jams, on skyr or in cakes. Wild thyme (try making your own tea by simply pouring hot water over it), moss and angelica are also easily found in Iceland‘s countryside and are often used in Icelandic cooking.
Insider tips: The Westfjords boast some of the best berry picking grounds in Iceland.
Experience the best of Icelandic food on your travels!
Many of our member properties around Iceland offer tasty local food – whether at the breakfast table, for lunch, dinner or a light snack. Some specialise in traditional Icelandic cuisine while others serve their own homegrown local and sometimes organic produce.
Check out our food-themed Flavours of the South self-drive tour!