From Hákarl to Kleinur – 10 Essential Dishes to Try in Iceland
Iceland, the land of fire and ice, where everything is about nature and where everywhere you look at, your eyes are amazed. Iceland is also a place to be discovered food side, given the fact it’s one of the European countries able to sustain itself and to provide raw materials to other countries.
Considering you can fly from Dublin to Reykjavik daily in just few hours, Iceland can definitely be your next destination and if you’re looking for good food this country won’t be a disappointment. While you are there, be sure to try these 10 essential dishes in our Iceland food guide.
Cod is one of the main product of Iceland and even if the majority of the production is meant to be exported, it’s not hard at all to find good cod dishes where the fish is cooked in the traditional way (e.g. with sheep’s fat and boiled potatoes) or in a much more innovative way (e.g. fried).
It’s definitely one of the strangest thing ever: the famous Icelandic rotten shark that, after being left rotated for weeks (6 to 12) in wooden crates beneath the ground, lost all its poison by releasing ammonia. If you’re brave enough, try it.
Lobsters and langoustines are two of the most important products in Iceland: the soup is just a delight for the palate, a bit salty and creamy (but no cream added!) to be eaten with the rúgbraud, the steamed rye bread. If you’re in Hofn, approaching the North of Iceland, make a stop to eat at least one langoustine or one lobster and you’ll be very happy since Hofn is considered the Icelandic capital of langoustines and lobsters.
If you’re on a tight budget, do not miss the famous Icelandic hot dog: available pretty much everywhere, it is made with lamb, beef, and pork accompanied by onions, fried onions, mayonnaise and mustard. In Reykjavik, try the world famous hot dog at the most kiosk Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur.
Icelandic lamb is said to be one of the best in the world and it’s eaten well roasted usually with sugar-glazed potatoes. It can also be a gourmet dish and you can have part of the lamb also in other dishes: for example, the fat is also used to cook fish.
If we’re used to eat candies or nuts during a break, Icelandic people love to eat dried fish which is also packaged like chips. They’re rich in nutrients and they’re also good when starving.
It looks like a yogurt but it’s a typical Icelandic product made using skimmed milk to whom some lactobacillus are added. Despite the fact it’s Iceland signature product, the skyr has not been trademarked and this means you can find it everywhere but there’s no comparison with the traditional one possibly eaten with some blueberry and cream.
Everywhere you go, you will notice a luscious cake made with meringue, cream and eventually strawberries, chocolate or caramel sauce. Light and fluffy, creamy, not extremely sweet, it’s absolutely a must try especially if eaten together with a cup of coffee.
Also called twisted donut, the kleinur is similar to a classical donut but it has a different shape, it’s crunchy outside and the interior is soft and smells of cardamom. Traditionally they’re not sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Never leave Iceland if you haven’t tried one of the many licorice based chocolates you can find in every grocery store and coffee shop. You can try different flavors and shapes but please do not count the calories.
Useful tips for your trip to Iceland:
– If you’re a foodie, save some money for your Icelandic trip: Iceland is very expensive when it comes to food and drinks so you really need to plan carefully where and what to eat.
– In Reykjavik, plan a dinner in Matur og Drykkur, a newly nominated Bib Gourmand Michelin Restaurant which gives Icelandic traditional food a twist using Icelandic and fresh ingredients. Menu includes the head of cod cooked in chicken stock, dried fish and skyr with blueberry granita.
If you want to have a taste of the famous cod, book a table in Hofnin, in Reykjavik harbor and ask for the traditional cod and the fish and chips with tartare sauce.
If you’re looking for hotels in Iceland for your trip, Icelandair is a good solution: they offer all inclusive rates with room, wi-fi and breakfast and you can choose among 8 hotels all around Iceland in the most important locations where you can also have dinner.
If you have decided to head to the West, try the Icelandic burger and the cakes in Hraunsnef where all the products are produced locally in the farm. In Vik, pay a visit Sudur Vik a local legend where you can taste of of the best lobster soups and some special cakes. Sudur Vik is also famous for pizza.
I’m an Italian, but Dublin based, food and travel writer. I decided to start my food blog in 2010, when I moved to Ireland. Since then, I’ve been working with brands, companies, tourism boards and magazines producing content, strategies and taken part in cooking shows and events all over the world. Among them, Jamie Oliver, Barilla and many many more. I plan and write while my husband and business partner Giuseppe takes care of the pictures, both food and travel side.