You are here wondering what Iceland traditional food is like. You’ve come to the right place.
Iceland is not just a country of pristine landscapes, natural hot springs, and abundant waterfalls. Dig deeper, and you’ll find a vibrant culinary heritage that matches the natural wonders.
Iceland’s traditional food allows you to experience the country’s fascinating culture and unravel your taste buds with something exotic. And while the dishes are a taste of the old ways, you can always expect a distinct character in each.
Keep reading for traditional culinary suggestions you should explore during your next visit to the “Land of Fire and Ice.”
What is Iceland’s Traditional Cuisine Like?
Forged by the unforgiving climate and secluded from mainland Europe, Icelandic traditional cuisine tells a captivating tale of resilience and resourcefulness.
As you venture into Iceland’s culinary landscape, you’ll discover an abundance of meat and dairy delights, such as the heartwarming lamb stew and the sumptuous Icelandic skyr.
Furthermore, time-honored food preservation techniques, like fermentation and drying, not only showcase the nation’s ingenuity but also add a distinct and unforgettable flair to its gastronomic scenes.
Common Iceland Traditional Food
The traditional culinary options in Iceland might feel limiting, but surprisingly, they’re among the healthiest diets worldwide. Below are the typical favorites:
Hákarl: Fermented Shark
Hákarl is an Icelandic culinary heritage traced back to the Viking era. It’s prepared from Greenland shark, said to contain dangerous amounts of ammonia when fresh but safe for consumption when fermented for about 6-12 weeks.
Hákarl is usually an acquired taste for most non-Icelanders. However, washing down your bites with a shot of Brenivvin should mask the ammonia tang.
Kjotsupa: Meat Soup
When dying for something simple and delicious yet perfect for warming up during your winter adventures, try Kjotsupa. This meat-based dish has many variations carefully passed down through generations and with diverse portions of ingredients.
The standard version of Icelandic meat soup includes bone-in braising mutton or lamb cuts served in a hot broth of potatoes and coarsely chopped winter vegetables. Some locals thicken the soup with rice, pearly barley, or oat.
Skyr is a traditional Icelandic yogurt that has existed for hundreds of years. But as an Icelander will tell you, skyr is a soft cheese with the consistency of yogurt.
This breakfast savory often compares to Greek yogurt, but it’s less tangy, slightly thicker, and more densely concentrated. Its main ingredients are skimmed milk and traditional cultures, so it’s lower in calories and richer in proteins.
You can eat skyr straight from the container, mix it into cakes and smoothies, or top it with honey or granola.
Svið: Sheep Head
Do you fancy something a little controversial? Try Svið, an infamous culinary specialty made of sheep head that locals make visitors taste at least once during their stay in Iceland.
A throwback to the medieval times when no animal parts went to waste, this Iceland traditional food is rare in local eateries. But it’s a common choice for the culinary adventurous attending local midwinter festivals.
The sheep’s head is boiled, smoked, or preserved in sheep’s head jelly, with its typical accompaniment being mashed turnips and potatoes.
Seafood remains a staple of the traditional Icelandic diet. After all, fish is the country’s largest export. Below are the island’s most popular seafood options (along with fermented shark).
- Plokkfiskur: Stew made of white fish, onions, potatoes, milk, flour, and seasoning
- Hardfiskur: Stockfish hang to dry after cleaning and deboning
- Humar: Fried, baked, or grilled Icelandic lobster (langoustine) dish popular for its tenderness and appetizing aroma.