10 Must-Try Icelandic Foods
Are you the kind of traveller who maps out every meal or prefers to let your taste buds guide the way? No matter your approach, finding out what to eat while in a country is a fantastic way to get involved in the culture. That’s why we’ve compiled 10 of Iceland’s must-try foods so you not only witness how nature has shaped Icelandic culture, but taste it too.
1. Hákarl (Fermented Shark)
Iceland's national dish is Hákarl, a fermented shark dish. The sharks are usually Greenland sharks, and their meat is poisonous unless it's been fermented. The whole fermentation process takes between 5 and 6 months and involves the shark meat hanging and curing. Although not typically eaten on the day-to-day, Hákarl is consumed during Þorrablót and is popular with tourists. Typically, you will find this authentic dish served with a shot of Iceland's national drink, Brennivín.
A dark rye bread that is the best vessel for toppings, and rúgbrauð is no exception. Its most notable features are its crustless characteristics and dense flavours. The way it's traditionally made is by putting it in a pot and burying it near a hot spring, and the heat from the ground around is used to bake the bread. Try this dish with some fresh Icelandic salmon and salted butter; you won't be disappointed.
3. Icelandic Hot Dog
From old traditions to the new, Iceland loves hot dogs. Known as “pylsur" in Icelandic, these quick and easy snacks have earned a special place in the hearts of locals and visitors. What sets them apart from their New York cousins is a mix of meats (often lamb, pork, and beef). It creates a unique experience with every bite. Topped with an array of condiments, including ketchup, sweet mustard, remoulade, fried onions, and raw onions, these hot dogs are quintessential street food enjoyed at stalls and restaurants throughout the country.
4. Icelandic Ice Cream
There is nothing that Icelanders love more than ice cream. In fact, they have some of the coolest ice cream parlours. From soft-serve to gelato, the flavours and textures on offer will not disappoint. Wander around Reykjavík after enjoying the nightlife, and you may even stumble upon one; some parlours are open until 1 am! Try out some of the tantalising selections available and don't forget to try the sauces and toppings.
Translating to “hard fish," this delicacy is beloved by locals. The dish has been a part of Icelandic culture for centuries, developed to preserve food year-round. Harðfiskur is dried fish, typically cod, although wolffish and haddock can also be used. It's highly nutritious, packed with protein and essential nutrients. Don't be surprised to see Icelanders enjoying Harðfiskur—it's a genuine favourite.
You may already recognise this Icelandic must-try food, popular at breakfast time. Skyr, a distinctive dairy product, is a staple in Icelandic cuisine. Similar to yoghurt, Skyr is created by straining curdled milk, resulting in a high-protein, low-fat product. A fixture in Icelandic diets for generations, skyr has gained global recognition for its health benefits and flavour. Available in diverse flavours, from plain to berry, skyr's versatility lends itself to many combinations. Whether standalone or as an ingredient, skyr is an authentic Icelandic dish.
Icelandic lamb is a delicacy. The sheep in Iceland are wild and free-range, making their meat some of the most delicious in the world. On top of that, many Icelandic dishes have been created to incorporate lamb. Throughout the country, you can find local variations of lamb dishes, each with its own twists. While in the capital, there are many restaurants serving world-class lamb dishes. Try out Fröken Reykjavík and their leg of lamb.
It’s not unusual to find fish on the menu in our country, as there are many delicious fish to eat in Iceland. A hearty and wholesome stew is a perfect way to finish a day of exploring the land of fire and ice. Plokkfiskur is a fish stew made with a mix of white fish, potatoes and onions. Starting out as a cheap way to bulk out meat, Plokkfiskur quickly became a favourite. The sauce is thick and creamy, making filling on its own or spreadable on a piece of the rúgbrauð.
Something to try if you are heading to Iceland at Christmas is Hangikjöt. This smoked meat is typically lamb or mutton and is served either hot or cold in slices. Served with potatoes and a creamy sauce, this dish is eaten around Christmas time. Outside of the festive period, you can find this on the menu sliced thinly in between rúgbrauð.
Ending our list on something sweet, Snúður, an Icelandic cinnamon roll. Sold in most bakeries, cafes and supermarkets, this little roll is the perfect snack to take on an adventure or to enjoy with a cup of coffee. Across the capital city, you can find many bakeries putting their own twist on the classic. To maximise the sweetness and flavour, your Snúður can be covered in chocolate or icing. A perfect treat for a day of adventuring.