Is it even possible to get average food in Iceland? This Iceland travel guide presents typical Icelandic dishes that you must not miss.
You may have heard about scary traditional Icelandic dishes like fermented shark, sheep's head, or ram's testicles, but there is much more than that. Most Icelandic people have grown up on these extravagant dishes, but the truth is that it's pretty rare these days. Most Icelanders no longer eat that type of food in daily life. They are more of a curiosity for foreigners that they are excited to try out. 😊
In Iceland, there is no problem getting virtually any food - including vegan options, in downtown Reykjavík. In this article, we introduce you to some of the country's traditions and give you some Iceland travel tips when you are also a foodie lover.
Reykjavík Aims to be Europe's Street Food Champion
In Reykjavík, street food is everywhere, and the competition is fierce! Iceland is recently getting recognized as an up-and-coming street food powerhouse. In 2022, Silli Kokkur (meaning "herring chef" in Icelandic) won the Iceland National Street Food Championship for the third year in a row AND, for good measure - also took second place at the European Street Food Awards! Founder/chef Sigvaldi Jóhannesson is a rising star in the global street food community and is looking to help make relatively-isolated Iceland the #1 street food destination in the world.
Iceland Foodie Travel Tips: Favorite and Traditional Dishes
Iceland has the highest quality of fish in the world. One of the secret (not that secret) ingredients of a long, happy, and healthy life is consuming fresh fish and high-quality Omega-3 oil. People living in such cold and rough environments need to be well nourished by the local natural gifts. The local fish industry provides fresh fish caught up just a few hours ago. That is such a luxury and high-quality product that it doesn't even need special food preparation.
Icelandic lamb Is the best anywhere.
Another natural gift of Iceland is lamb from local farms. This is traditionally served along with cooked potatoes and some sauce. Iceland is not known as a culinary capital, but its local raw materials are priceless.
If you're on an Iceland tour, you should not be bothered by cooking. The best way to try out some good Icelandic lamb is at a local restaurant.
A special food in the far south and west is smoked puffin and game meat (deer). Icelanders are avid hunters and enjoy their trophies on a dinner plate. Despite their national bird being the puffin and rapidly dwindling numbers, a few Icelanders still consume it, and a few Reykjavík restaurants serve it. The Icelandic puffin's natural habitat is cliffs, but their habitat has been reduced due to development and climate change.
Yogurt: for the Licorice Lover in You...
When you stumble upon a local Icelander, you may also meet their obsessive passion for licorice flavor... Nevertheless, this generally unpopular flavor has caught on in Iceland. And where exactly do Icelanders add licorice flavor? For example, the candies, Skyr – traditional Icelandic high-fat yogurt, chocolate, or strong alcoholic liquor. Would you like to try it?
Some Icelandic Food is US-Inspired
Icelanders love American food, and you will surely notice some similarities. Of course, burgers and pizzas are popular in most places. But, since there are only a few bigger cities in Iceland, Icelandic people are used to buying some takeaway in Reykjavik and eating it at home, many hours away from the city. That's a food lover's big commitment.
Iceland Has The Best Hot Dogs in The World
Another Iceland travel stop you must visit is the famous hot dog spot Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (the city's best hotdog). You can quickly identify this hot spot during a stroll through Downtown Reykjavik by its long line. But is it even worth it? In 1937, this hot dog stand started and has run as a family business ever since. Bill Clinton and Kim Kardashian have eaten there, and it is frequently mentioned as the best hot dog stands in the world. So well, that says it all...
But why are Icelandic hot dogs so perfect? It's probably the fact that the majority of Icelandic sausages contain Icelandic lamb. So remember to order "one with everything" when being there and enjoy the hot dog of your life!
This is one of the significant signs that Icelanders love American tastes. For example, they are number one in drinking the most Coca-Cola per year (although it may no longer be produced locally) and eating ice cream (yes...ice cream is incredibly popular in Iceland).
Drinking in Iceland
Do Icelanders drink alcohol? Yes, they do. But much less than other countries. Here is why: alcohol is costly in Iceland because of the high taxes on alcoholic beverages. Even though there is no problem with buying alcohol, you can only do so in specialized shops at certain opening hours. The logic of the Icelandic government is wanting to prevent the country from unemployment and homeless people. However, compared to most of Europe, there aren't many homeless people in Iceland, partially due to the unpredictable weather.
Our Iceland Foodie Guide recommends...Shopping in the supermarket?
We highly recommend using an Iceland travel guide and trying out delicious dishes at the restaurants in Reykjavik. The last day of the All-inclusive Iceland adventure tour will be a foodie tour. There are quite a few excellent foods, however, that you can find in supermarkets, such as the ones in the list below:
Icelandic addiction to licorice has been mentioned, but they also love the sweet taste. This is indicated by their traditional dish with sugar sauce, smoked meat, and caramelized potatoes. Their local chocolate, Nói Síríus, is just perfection you must try!
Icelandic Dried Fish
A typical thing Icelandic locals love to eat on hikes is definitely dried fish. They consume this dried treasure packed with rich nutrients along with butter. It gives them energy and banishes hunger. You can easily purchase it in every supermarket and try it at home. Don't worry; it's vacuum-packed (no smell).
Iceland is a Self-Sufficient Produce Producer
It's little known that Iceland is the biggest producer of bananas in the whole of Europe. Do you think it is impossible? Well, their large agriculture industry says the exact opposite. Iceland uses its natural geothermal heating to run the greenhouses. And it is doing well! They also have a famous tomato farm just an hour of driving from Reykjavik. You can taste delicious tomato dishes such as their legendary Icelandic soup, beer, or coffee. Other significant producers are blueberry farms. Foreigners come to Iceland every season to seek harvesting jobs and earn a relatively good amount of money.
Typical Types of Icelandic Bread
The first one, a delicious traditional rye bread called Rúgbrauð, is delicious! His sweet taste of Golden syrup and perfect softness make it just phenomenal. Another ideal companion is Flatkaka, a flat cake in translation. This reminds me of some African or Indian bread, but quite different. It is soft, slightly burnt, and made of rye flour as well—both types of bread taste even better with slices of butter. You should definitely try this out!
What Can Foodie Travelers Expect in Iceland?
Iceland is a land of fast progress, the same as all Scandinavian countries. In these small and cute cities, you can get the highest quality with fresh ingredients. Unfortunately, the fast progress also confirms the presence of global fast foods like Domino's, Taco Bell, and Subway. Spoiler alert: Iceland is one of the few countries where you won't find McDonald's.
Can't Decide what to Eat? Try Hlemmur.
When you cannot decide where to go for a good meal or you are part of a bigger group of people, Hlemmur should be the place to anchor yourself. This spot is presented like a giant food hall inspired by European markets. You will find different types of cuisine from all over the world. Are you into Mexican food? Or do you want some summer rolls? No problem, everyone will choose. Still, need to decide what to choose? Their opening hours are from 8 AM to 10 PM so that you can sit in the same place and experience breakfast, lunch, dinner, and some coffee and drinks. And when is the best time to travel to Iceland for a foodie tour? Anytime. What a feast!