Icelandic Cuisine

Icelandic Cuisine: Typical Icelandic Dishes and Food – 2024

Icelandic cuisine , its food and typical dishes are an experience in taste and culture, knowing what to eat in Iceland . The traditional recipes of the Land of Ice and Fire include fish among the main ingredients , fishing being one of its main activities. But also lamb. Furthermore, we will find some truly particular preparations ideal for those looking for strong and decisive flavors dating back to ancient traditions . Let’s discover the best typical dishes and Icelandic foods, thus making your trip to Iceland complete and unique!

Icelandic Cuisine

If you’re wondering what Icelanders eat, you’re in the right place. Iceland’s history and the cultural influences that came to the island from Scandinavia have created a cuisine with a well-defined identity. Traditional Icelandic food, its typical dishes and the cuisine of this wonderful island is simple. Using mainly lamb and fish among its main ingredients and the recipes combine innovation and tradition , based on fishing and grazing. In the 9th century the diet of the Vikings on the island was poor, based on game, mutton and porpoise.

Due to the climatic conditions the lands were not easily cultivable and so they developed many conservation techniques . These include fermentation, smoking and salting. Over the centuries, Icelandic cuisine has been enriched with Danish and Norwegian traditions. Also introducing new agricultural techniques and diversifying the diet, always keeping fish at the base. Today, Iceland’s food scene is ever-growing, offering unique cuisine and foods.

So let’s go and see what we eat in Iceland during the trip!

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Read also: History of Iceland in Brief – Guide 2024

What to Eat in Iceland and Where

1. Fish balls

Among the first things we recommend you eat in Iceland, we find the tasty Fiskibollur among the traditional Icelandic foods. Fish balls, or fishcakes , are usually made from cod or haddock. Among the most famous typical dishes of Iceland, especially among street food in the capital, and it is also prepared at home. These delicious fried meatballs are also accompanied by a sauce made of mayonnaise, meat or butter. Potatoes may also be present among its ingredients; used as a binder.

The cod fillets, or other local fish, are first minced. Then combining them with the onions, flour, eggs, pepper, potato starch and milk, mixing everything. This mixture is left to rest for about 1 hour, then forming the balls. Then dipped in hot margarine or oil, frying them on each side and drained on absorbent paper. This typical Icelandic food, based on the size of the meatballs, is consumed both as an appetizer and as a second course . A real delicacy!

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Fiskibollur, fish balls

2. Cod

Considered the best in the world , Icelandic cod is one of the typical dishes you absolutely must try if you are wondering what you eat in Iceland. Thanks to the temperatures of its waters and the clear and pure fishing areas. In the North Atlantic, excellent quality cod is fished, especially the Gadus Morhua type . This fish is caught at 150m depth, at a temperature between 4 and 7°C and following sustainable guidelines . In fact, to be fished a specimen must exceed 3 kg and is never fished during the breeding season.

The white, firm meat is divided into fillets and the loins separated. Furthermore, desalted, seasoned and cooked cod has excellent energy values , a source of omega oils and proteins. Furthermore, as we will see, nothing of this fish is thrown away, preparing many Icelandic foods. The main fishing areas are concentrated in the western fjords and the southern coasts. After fishing it is cleaned and placed in brine for approximately 24 hours and then salted for over 2 weeks. Then it is desalted and added more salt. Thanks to this ancient preservation method , it can be preserved for over 2 years.

dried cod reykjanes peninsula - typical icelandic food - typical icelandic food - typical icelandic foods - typical icelandic foods - traditional icelandic foods - traditional icelandic food - iceland food
Cod drying on the Reykjanes Peninsula

3. Sky

If you are wondering what you eat in Iceland for breakfast , but also for a tasty snack, Skyr certainly cannot be missing from your table. Among the products of Icelandic cuisine par excellence, this is a soft and low-fat dairy product made from cow’s milk. Very similar to yogurt and with a slightly acidic aftertaste. Usually consumed plain, but also with sugar, granola or fruit. Historically there is evidence that Icelanders already consumed skyr in medieval times , as we read in the Grettis saga . Furthermore, already present, albeit different in composition, among the Gaelic peoples and throughout the Scandinavian area.

This typical Icelandic food is prepared with skimmed cow’s milk, obtained by coagulating caseins through acidification. Combining the remains of skyr prepared previously to activate this process. Today, thanks to its properties , it is a popular food also distributed outside Iceland, being low in carbohydrates but rich in proteins and live lactic ferments. Skyr is therefore not only tasty, but also an excellent food for bones, nervous system and muscles, as well as being more digestible for those intolerant to lactose.

shy away

4. Hot dog

Yes, you understood correctly, among the typical Icelandic dishes we find Hot Dogs, which have made the capital famous. Called by the locals eina með öllu , they are prepared by also adding fried onions and sauces of your choice. So you are wrong if you think you have to go to New York to try the best hot dog in the world . According to many, it is found in a street food stall in the center of Reykjavik : Bæjarins beztu pylsur .

Literally the best hot dog in town and founded in 1937 by the grandfather of Gudrun Kristmundottir, the current owner, it became world famous in 2004, after the visit of Bill Clinton . This fortunate meeting with the former American president made Bæjarins beztu an icon, present in all guides to Iceland. To try this delicious hot dog, be prepared to queue at any time, but it is absolutely worth it to try one of the best typical Icelandic dishes for only around 4 euros : therefore also among the cheapest typical Icelandic foods.

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Gli hot dog di Bajarin Beztu Pylsur, in Reykjavik

5. Meat soup

Among the most popular typical Icelandic dishes, ideal for warming the soul and body if you are wondering what to eat in Iceland after a day of sightseeing, kjötsúpa is ideal. A soup made with lamb and vegetables, often barley or oats are also added. Certainly among Icelandic foods this is not among the most dietary and is rich in carbohydrates, as well as proteins, creating a nutritious dish .

This typical Icelandic dish is easy to find everywhere on the island during your trip and is present in many variations based on the areas. Furthermore, this has been one of the traditional foods of Icelandic cuisine for centuries and its recipe is passed down from generation to generation. In general, dehydrated flavors called súpujurtir , comparable to our sauté , are added to the broth . Furthermore, the turnips are added first and the meat last. After adding the water, the recipe requires slow cooking for a couple of hours.

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Lamb soup

6. Cod liver

As we said before, nothing of the cod is thrown away and many of its parts are found among the things eaten in Iceland. In fact, for the locals the cod tongue and its liver are a true delicacy among typical Icelandic dishes. The tongue is cooked au gratin, boiled or pan-fried, while oil with omega 3 is also obtained from the liver . This is a real panacea for health, considered an antidepressant and used as a dietary supplement. Cod liver is sold in cans and eaten as a pâté , added to salad, put on toast, and in many other ways.

In general, canned cod liver is already cooked and ready to enjoy, after removing excess liver oil. This Icelandic food is present in many traditional dishes and preparations of its cuisine, it has a creamy consistency and is rich in vitamin A and omega 3. Furthermore, it is also a dish present in the traditional breakfast .

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Cod liver on croutons

7. It is divided

Among the typical Icelandic dishes there is certainly no shortage of special foods for strong stomachs, such as Porramatur. This is a selection of traditionally cooked meat and fish seasoned, in pieces, slices and often accompanied by the typical dark rye bread, rúgbrauð , butter and a glass of Brennivín , a brandy. This typical Icelandic dish is prepared according to tradition to celebrate the ancient Nordic month , which is January 20 and February 19, celebrating the festival of Þorrablót. Festivities dedicated to Icelandic culture date back to the times of the first settlements.

The celebrations begin on Bondadagur , the husband’s day, and end with Konudagur , the women’s day. Porramatur is therefore considered a truly special food for Icelanders, as it is a symbol of delicacies and all the cooking techniques and preservations used since the times of the Viking settlers. Its preparation includes smoked lamb meat, a typical black pudding called Blómör, boiled sheep’s head and mutton testicles.

Dry food
© wikipediaThe Þorramatur, a selection of traditional food

8. Stew fish

Also called plokkari , this is among the most popular dishes of traditional Icelandic cuisine. A very simple but tasty food, it is a stew that allows you to reuse fish leftovers : the basis of poor cuisine. Usually haddock is used for its preparation, as cod is rarely leftover or is not considered a fish for this preparation due to its value for Icelanders. As with all the typical dishes eaten in Iceland, for this too each family has its own recipe handed down , but the basic ingredients beyond fish are always onions, potatoes, pepper and bechamel.

Despite not having the most inviting appearance, this dish is actually rich and tasty , as well as simple to prepare, and considered by Icelanders to be a pillar of home cooking . Finally, it is served with rye bread, also called lava bread or Rúgbrauð, and creamy Icelandic butter. For more elaborate versions, such as those served in restaurants, for example, cheese or Béarnaise sauce is added on top.

stewed fish
Stew fish

9. Shark

Thinking about Icelandic cuisine and typical dishes, hákarl, or kæstur hákarl, will certainly come to mind. Literally fermented shark, not putrefied, this Icelandic food has become famous for its very particular taste. Definitely a taste and smell for strong palates and not much loved by all Icelanders, but its preparation is truly characteristic. In fact, after being caught, the shark is gutted and its head cut off, then buried in a pit on a pebble beach . The pit is covered with pebbles, thus forming a hill and placing other stones on top, pressing the shark.

Thus the fluids inside it are eliminated and the shark ferments under the gravel and stones for up to 6 months, depending on the season, thus eliminating the toxins in its flesh. When you smell ammonia , the shark is ready to be extracted and the meat is cut and left to dry for months in a ventilated environment in isolated places; given the pungent odor . Once ready, the hákarl is vacuum-packed into small pieces. Traditionally, this typical Icelandic food is served during Þorramatur among the typical dishes, but it is also sold in the supermarket all year round. To enjoy it, it is recommended to accompany it with a glass of Brennivín , the typical brandy, thus masking the flavor and smell. For Icelanders, eating this typical dish is a symbol of courage and strength .

hakarl drying
L’essiccazione del Hákarl

10. Hangikjot

Finally, among the Icelandic cuisine foods to try during your trip to the Land of Ice and Fire we find Hangikjot. Typical Icelandic dish based on lamb , it means hung meat , a name that takes from the tradition of smoking meat by hanging it in a special shed dedicated to smoking. For Icelanders this is a dish that cannot be missed on the tables at Christmas . For its preparation, the meat is enclosed in a food net and hung to smoke with birch wood, or sheep dung, then boiled and served in slices .

It is brought to the table both hot and cold and is prepared with various parts of the animal, although for many the best part is the legs , although others prefer it boneless. To accompany this course we find peas, bechamel or typical bread, such as rúgbrauðo or flatkaka. Furthermore, it is sold with various degrees of smoking and cuts, thus meeting all preferences.

hangikjot - piatti tipici Icelandic

Visit Iceland along the Ways of Taste

Gone are our tips on cooking and what they eat in Iceland, with the typical Icelandic foods you absolutely must try during your trip. To end your journey through typical Icelandic cuisine on a sweet note , don’t miss the Pönnukökur , pancakes with cinnamon, or the Kleinur , the typical fried donuts. Furthermore, there will be no shortage of chocolate and liquorice desserts ; a true passion for Icelanders!

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Read also: ICELAND What to See and Do – Guide 2024

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