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Icelandic Food: 9 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of Iceland

Icelandic Food: 9 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of Iceland

Iceland is an island in the very north of Europe, just south of the Arctic circle and Greenland, with cultural ties to Scandinavia. Home to some of the world’s most stunning natural beauty, Iceland is a volcanic island and one of the most popular places to see the northern lights. The legacy of the Viking peoples also left an immense mark on Icelandic culture and gastronomy. 

Most Popular Icelandic Dishes

Icelandic cuisine is made up of various dishes based on lamb meat, shellfish and fish, which can be found quite easily due to its characteristic geographical position in the Nordic area of ​​the European continent.

Icelandic cuisine has its roots in Scandinavian cuisine which was established in Iceland when Norwegian settlers arrived in the 9th century. The main dishes in it are seafood and lamb, which is due to the peculiarities of the climate in the country and the situation on the island. After all, locals need, above all, high-calorie food, to be able to provide the body with the necessary amount of energy, so important on frosty days. 

The roots of many dishes can go quite deep, with recipes used today often initially invented even by the ancient Vikings. So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try traditional dishes of Iceland along with recipes for you to try for yourself.



Hardfiskur is essentially just fine pieces of dried fish, usually cod, whiting or halibut. What is impressive is that one of the oldest preservation techniques in history is used to prepare it. 

To do this, the water is extracted from the fish through evaporation and dried in the sun for a couple of months. Subsequently, the fish is left to cure for three months in a dry and ventilated environment. This process hinders its putrefaction while retaining all its nutrients and giving it its characteristic flavor. The dish is one of the most recognizable typical Icelandic foods because it can be found in any restaurant or market on the island regardless of the time of year. 


Icelandic Kjötsúpa

Kjötsúpa is a lamb meat soup accompanied with various herbs and vegetables that can be prepared from the comfort of your home. In particular, its preparation is quite simple. 

To start, the meat is cut and boiled in a pot over low heat for several hours. At the same time, the broth is not seasoned too much so that when the turnip is added, the powerful flavor of the lamb is balanced. The potatoes, carrots and other vegetables are then added at the appropriate time to maintain their correct cooking point. It is one of the most popular dishes in Iceland that can easily be found in most big restaurants. 


Photo credit: Martin Sønderlev Christensen

Hangikjöt is a dish consisting of slices of smoked lamb covered in béchamel sauce. These are accompanied with potatoes and peas so it has a large amount of nutrients. 

Its preparation is quite easy. First, the meat is cleaned and pickled in brine for two or four days and later, when it is salty enough, it is hung up and the smoking process begins.



Graflax is one of the most typical Icelandic dishes which simply consists of salmon cut into small slices, which has been cured in salt, sugar and dill. It is a very easy dish to prepare and can be eaten at any time of the year.

To make this dish, the salmon is first cured by burying it underground for two months. This process allows the fish to slowly dehydrate and lose its moisture in such a way that it also gives it its characteristic and delicious flavor. It is then marinated with a crust of coarse salt, sugar and dill and then refrigerated for a couple of days. 


Smalahove or Svið
Photo credit: Schneelocke

Svið is a dish consisting of cooking a sheep’s head that has been cut in half and the fur and brains have been removed. In general, this recipe uses mashed potatoes and keeps the eyes of the animal, which are considered the best part of it. Its preparation is quite easy and simple.  

To prepare this dish, you must burn the animal’s hair, as well as remove its brains. Next, the head should be cooked with boiled water or lactic acid until it softens. Once the meat is tender enough, you can cut it in half and serve it whole along with various spices to add flavor.



Skyr is a kind of condensed milk yogurt but thicker than yogurt itself. Usually, this dish is eaten with berries, sugar, and cream. It can be found in almost any supermarket or restaurant that serves desserts in Iceland.


Photo credit: Jschildk

Pylsur is a type of hot dog consisting simply of a piece of bread stuffed with sausage, chopped onion and many other unusual condiments such as apple ketchup and remolaði (an Icelandic sauce based on mayonnaise, vinegar, onion and some pickles).

Suffice it to say that pylsur is a meal that can be prepared from the comfort of your own home. In addition, the meat of the sausages can be of three different types: lamb, pork or beef. 


Hakarl shark being stored

Hákarl is an Icelandic delicacy of fermented Greenland shark meat that is known for its particularly pungent odor. Shark meat is fermented for 9 weeks before it is ready to eat and is traditionally eaten uncooked in little chunks.


Swedish Kanelbulle

Kanilsnúður is a sweet cinnamon bun prepared using flour, cinnamon, sugar and butter. The dish is known by several other names, such as cinnamon roll, cinnamon bun, cinnamon swirl, cinnamon Danish and cinnamon snail. It is popular throughout Scandinavia and other parts of Northern Europe.

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