Must-try food of Iceland

Natacha Costa | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Iceland is famous for many things, but food is not really one of them. In the "land of ice and fire" you will find some of Mother Nature’s best works: hot springs, glaciers, volcanoes, massive waterfalls, aurora borealis, and many more outdoor attractions. This country is special in many ways, and one of them is also its food, inspired by those few ingredients that can be found around.

I will share with you four of the most popular Icelandic dishes. Not that I liked them all, but well, there is no accounting for taste. You go on and see for yourself. 

Lamb (including sheep's head - Svið)

Vegetarians might have a hard time in Iceland. Most of the main dishes include lamb or fish, in many different ways. Smoked, grilled, slow-cooked, in a hearty lamb soup, or a kebab. Shortly - lamb is one of the country’s culinary classics and Icelandic sheep is one of the purest breeds in the world. They roam freely from spring to autumn, drink water from glaciers and aren't fed on grain or given growth hormones. The meat of the Icelandic sheep is considered to be a gourmet meat. 

Then, there is a head. Icelanders will try to convince you that it does not taste as bad as it looks. They eat the whole head, with the exception of the brain. While sharing it, people may fight over the cheeks, eyes and tongue that are considered the best parts. You can try it at the "Fljótt og Gott" fast food at the BSI bus terminal in Reykjavik. 

photo: javarman3

Fermented Shark (Hákarl)

Hákarl is a traditional dish in Iceland, but today locals don't eat it that often. Centuries ago, people were figuring out how to make food survive harsh Icelandic winters and so they came up with a particular fermenting process. They used to burry it, smoke it, dry it for months and even soak it in urine and leave it to "ferment". Nowadays, shark is fermented with vinegar and other more natural ingredients. Its taste is strong, but the but smell is even stronger. Hákarl is today often served in cubes on cocktail sticks. After your first bite, do as the Icelanders do — take a shot of a local schnapps.

photo: Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon

Skyr Yogurt

No shopping list of an Icelander and no list of traditional Icelandic food would be complete without  "Skyr". This low-fat dairy product has been a part of Icelandic cuisine for over a thousand years. It is similar to Greek yogurt, but the flavour is milder, although it's still very rich and creamy. Icelanders usually eat skyr with berries, cereals and fruit, but it can be also used in smoothies and ice creams. If you are a cheesecake lover, try the "skyrkaka", a less caloric version of it, done with, of course, skyr. 

photo: ThitareeSarmkasat

Hot dog

After all the weird food you will find around you might be surprised how ordinary is the most famous fast food of Iceland. It's a hot dog. Icelanders, however, say that their hot dog is like no other! A classic one comes with onions, fried onions, mayonnaise, and mustard but there are many other creative options. You can buy a hotdog everywhere, including the gas stations, but seems like the most famous place to taste it is "Bæjarins beztu pylsur" (which translates from Icelandic as "the best hotdog in town"). In the weekends it's open till 4:30 in the morning; it's a usual stop after experiencing Reykjavik night life.

photo: Marcin_Kadziolka

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