Blessed with an abundance of coastline and freshwater, Iceland has long been famous for its seafood. But there’s so much more to Icelandic cuisine for meat lovers, vegetarians and vegans too. The country prides itself on making delicious bread, decadent pastries and the finest lamb dishes you’ll ever try. Local chefs work hard to create exciting contemporary dishes alongside traditional restaurants and fish houses.
Nick and Laura from Savored Journeys have been eating their way around the world for over 10 years. The duo seeks out the best affordable luxury food and wine experiences to share with their followers. Their mission led them to Iceland, “Icelandic cuisine is quite unique,” they told us. “Not only does Iceland have foods that many of us have never tried like reindeer, shark and minke whale, but Icelandic cuisine goes beyond just exciting ingredients. The cuisine showcases the products and their origin, making them the true star of the dish. We loved getting to know the foods as well as local producers and chefs.”
We asked Nick and Laura what their favourite Icelandic dish is, “One of the dishes you can find throughout Iceland is a basic fish soup, which turned out to be one of our favourite things to eat. We tried it in many different restaurants and while it was slightly different in each, it was always delicious and satisfying, especially when made with the succulent local langoustine.”
Kanilsnúðar, Kjötsúpa and Rúgbrauð
Popular Icelandic dishes
Fish and Chips
With an abundance of fish in its oceans, Iceland knows a thing or two about cooking fish. Enter Icelandic Fish & Chips in Reykjavík, where a traditional batter is made with organic spelt and a few other secret ingredients. As spelt is a more complicated carbohydrate than refined wheat, it absorbs less oil during the frying process, leaving a light, delicate coating likened to Japanese tempura. Paired with wedge-style roasted chips coated in parsley and artisanal salt and a selection of skyr-based dips, you’ve got a mouth-watering meal.
Kjötsúpa, a traditional lamb stew, is very popular in Iceland. The recipe varies from place to place but is most commonly made with potatoes, swede, lamb, carrots, garlic, onion and thyme. The concept of this hearty warming stew translates no matter where in Iceland you’re eating it.
Traditional Icelandic fish stew, plokkfiskur, is made with fish, potatoes, onions and a creamy bechamel sauce. You’ll find this firm favourite throughout Iceland. Directly translated as ‘plucked fish,’ plokkfiskur is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser for any fish eaters and is well worth a try during your cruise to Iceland.
Did you expect to see a hot dog on this list? Probably not! But at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a small chain of hot dog stands in Reykjavík, this classic dish has become iconic. The hot dog stand on Tryggvagata has been open for over 80 years and is always busy. The hot dog is made with lamb meat and topped with crispy onions, sweet mustard, raw onion, ketchup and remoulade.
Icelandic rye bread, or rúgbrauð, is traditionally baked in a pot or steamed in special wooden casks buried near a hot spring. The bread is crustless, dense and sweet and typically served with butter, mutton pâté or pickled herring. If you stop for lunch, look out for rúgbrauð on the menu.
Throughout Iceland, you’ll be able to find kanilsnúðar which affectionately translates as ‘cinnamon snails.’ These moreish pastries are simply yet wonderfully tasty and the perfect accompaniment to a warming cup of coffee during your visit. Another sweet treat to look out for is kleina, one of Iceland’s oldest pastries, which can be likened to a doughnut.
Liquorice, particularly salted liquorice, is a firm favourite among the people of Iceland. Liquorice is regularly incorporated into chocolate bars, used in cooking and a common ice cream flavour. In Reykjavík, artisan chocolatier Omnom has created a liquorice chocolate bar, perfect for taking home as a gift.
Vegetarian and vegan Icelandic dishes
While much of Icelandic cuisine is focused on meat and fish, there are lots of restaurants catering to vegetarians and vegans with inspiring dishes. Anne from Anne Travel Foodie has visited over 60 countries in search of new experiences. One of her favourite places to visit is Iceland, “With its volcanoes, waterfalls, lava fields and geysers, it’s a geographical wonderland,” Anne told us. “Whether you’re taking an extended break or just stopping by, there’s a lot to explore. The best food options can be found in Reykjavík, here are my favourites:
Eldur og ís
“Eldur og ís is an ice cream parlour that also serves crepes. They have wholegrain spelt crepes and vegan, gluten-free crepes. You can choose your own toppings, either sweet or savoury. I went for the banana and dark chocolate. Yum!
Looking for a nice cafe for a drink or a small bite to eat? Laundromat Café has a great interior, some walls are covered with big maps of the world, others with pictures of American laundromats. The bar doubles as a big bookcase, with books assorted by colour. They have meat, fish and veggie options on the menu and actual washers and dryers downstairs.
For dinner, Glo is heaven for health lovers (like myself). You can choose one item from the menu on the board and a choice of three side salads at the buffet-style counter. Many options are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free or all of the above. I had a delicious vegan wrap packed with veggies and red beets, quinoa and sweet potato as side dishes. The menu changes every day but they’ll have always have similar options.”