Are you wondering what you will be eating on your next trip to Iceland?
If so, this land of Fire and Ice will surprise you in a good way.
The city of Reykjavik has a large variety of fresh and delicious food.
Some foods in Iceland will be familiar and others not so much.
Certain dishes will be a testament to the toughness and survival skills of the Icelanders who live there.
They may even make you pause before taking a bite, so to fully appreciate Icelandic diet plan on trying new flavor combinations or ingredients that bring you outside your comfort zone.
Most importantly, you will find creativity, imagination, and quirkiness in the cuisine of Iceland.
I have no doubt that eating in Iceland will be a favorite part of your travels to this unique country. So let’s Dive in and explore the best foods to try in Reykjavik.
So yes, if you are a fan of Game of Thrones you know that some of the scenes include the landscape of Iceland. The stunning, raw beauty of this country is truly spectacular.
When I traveled to Iceland in the summer of 2021, I did not believe any scenery could outdo the one we just stopped at.
But as we drove on each day the next location was just as jaw-dropping as the day before.
Iceland is a land of amazing landforms and gorgeous waterfalls.
However gorgeous the geography was it was clear that the climate and topography made it a harsh place to live and thrive.
Much of the cuisine is not only shaped by the need to survive the weather and environment but by the location of the country as well.
The geography of Iceland as an island, keeps it isolated from other countries. Not being physically near other countries makes it a self-contained being.
Furthermore, within the country itself, cities and towns are spread out around the perimeter. The harsh winter weather results in isolating citizens and neighbors from each other often for months at a time.
The food culture in Iceland has evolved over hundreds of years.
According to a local guide I spoke to on my trip, one thing never changes.
“No one goes away hungry in Iceland.”
It is a testament to the generous spirit of the Icelandic people. Whether eating at a neighbor’s home or a restaurant, you get as many helpings as you need.
Is the Food Good in Iceland?
YES! The answer is yes.
While eating in Iceland the food will be hearty and often very fresh.
Icelanders have lived off the land and sea for hundreds of years.
With only a population of about 375,000 people, pollution is minimal.
Therefore, the local seafood, livestock, and produce are not exposed to contamination the way much of the developed world is.
The water in Iceland is some of the cleanest and purest in the world.
Do They Eat Normal Food in Iceland?
Of course there is!
A typical Icelandic diet offers plenty of fish, meat, fruits, and vegetables.
Being an island, fish is a staple of the Icelandic diet and includes cod and Artic Char.
A platter of fish and chips at a local pub in Reykjavik is not to be missed.
Lamb is the most popular meat.
The sheep in Iceland roam freely to graze all through the spring and are herded in the fall. The result of the animal’s diet produces a delicious, tender meat that Icelanders take much pride in.
The lamb meat is served fresh through the fall and winter and dried or frozen for consumption during the summer months. Fresh fish is the more common protein during the warm season.
Some of the best traditional dishes you may be interested in are:
- Plokkfiskur- fish stew eaten with rye bread
- Meat soup- made with lamb
In addition to root vegetables, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers are grown in greenhouses. There is a well-known greenhouse, Fridheimar, that serves great meals featuring tomatoes in their restaurant.
Dried fruits and berries are added to many Icelandic dishes.
Is There Fast Food in Iceland?
While there is no McDonalds, there is a KFC, but the best fast food you can ever get is a local favorite.
The pylsur is a hot dog made from lamb and is an infamous Icelandic street food. You will find the Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur walk-up kiosk in Reykjavik surrounded by wooden picnic tables.
It is best to get with your pylsa with “the works” just like the locals do. It includes raw onion, cooked crunchy onions, and their special sauce.
There are locations both in Reykavik and Keflavik, but if you miss this family-owned business, you can always grab a pylsur at any gas station around the country.
Eating Bread in Iceland
Bread can be found in just about every culture that exists and you can expect to be eating bread in Iceland.
Grains are difficult to grow in the harsh climate of Iceland and historically difficult to get due to Iceland’s geographical isolation.
Barley and rye are two common grains that have been easiest to produce and are used in many traditional dishes.
Over the years, modern transportation has expanded the availability of grains to the country and in turn, the variety of breads and pastries has widened.
Dark, dense rye bread is a classic Icelandic food. It is served with butter or topped with fish. Icelanders love their rye bread so much they have even turned it into ice cream.
Trust me on this when I say it is a treat you will not want to miss.
The best place to try this along with other traditional Icelandic food is Cafe Loki. Try a yummy bow-shaped donut called a kleina while you’re at it.
Cafe Loki is easy to find as it is located right across the street from the famous Hallgrimskirkja Church. The building is an iconic Iceland landmark and a fully operating community church.
You will have a beautiful view as you munch away on these traditional Icelandic foods.
Historically, to cook the rye bread it was buried in the black sand of a hot spring. It would take 24 hours using geothermal energy to bake the bread. There are still places today that bake the bread this way as they claim it is the tastiest way to do it.
You can take a day trip and visit the town of Hveragerdi just outside Reykjavik. There you will find a geothermal park open to visitors. A short stroll around gives you a good look at the hot springs and geysers. If you are lucky you may see some spouting water!
At Hveragardurinn Geothermal Park, you will have the opportunity to taste some of the geothermally baked rye bread. If you like you can even cook your own egg at the spring as well.
Best Snacks in Iceland
One of the best snacks in Iceland is also one they are famous for. Skyr, is a thick yogurt that is actually a cheese. It was brought to the country by the Vikings and has been eaten in Iceland for over a thousand years.
It is high in protein and low in fat which makes it a very healthy choice as well. It can be eaten with granola and fruit for breakfast or anytime.
Skyr is creamy and delicious and one of my favorite Icelandic snacks. Skyr is available and sold in containers like yogurt in the United States, but for whatever reason, just doesn’t taste the same as eating skyr in Iceland.
Another high-protein snack is Hardfiskur. This is salty, dried fish that is sometimes eaten with butter spread on top. It is a strong-smelling, acquired taste not recommended for the picky eater in Iceland.
Both Skyr and Hardfiskur are nutritiously dense examples of food that throughout time have helped Icelandic people survive the harsh climate and isolation of the country.
More adventurous eaters might be interested in trying Hakarl. This is rotten, fermented, shark meat. Yes, you read that correctly.
It has a strong ammonia smell, but luckily, the taste is not as powerful as the aroma.
It is usually served in small cubes and washed down with some local schnapps called Brennivin.
Although locals today no longer indulge, it is a great way for tourists to contemplate the struggle and resourcefulness Icelanders used to survive over the years.
If you are not an adventurous eater you may want to put hakarl on your list of what not to eat in Iceland.
Icelanders love ice cream. It is eaten all year round no matter what the weather. For a popular stop in Reykjavik try Valdis.
Valdis also offers 2-4 vegan flavor options each day so its a great Iceland dessert spot for those who need a dairy-free option.
Sugar is consumed in large quantities here. Chocolate and candy can be found for sale everywhere. A stop at any gas station along Ring Road will reveal rows and rows of sweets for sale.
It is not a stretch to say that licorice, lakkris, may very well be the favorite flavor of Iceland. This salty black licorice flavor is added to endless foods and dishes but most notably candy and chocolate. The variety of choices is endless.
After finishing up with dessert you can wash it all down with an Appelsin, the local orange soda.
While not technically forbidden, both Minke Whale and Puffin are two food items that remain controversial in Iceland.
Whale harvesting in Iceland is an everchanging, tightly regulated industry. Most locals no longer eat whales. Furthermore, they are encouraging tourists to go on whale-watching tours as opposed to dining on them.
The Cost of Eating in Iceland
Is food expensive in Iceland?
Due to the extreme weather and isolation, it is safe to say there is no cheap food in Iceland.
While on vacation, treat yourself to a restaurant meal; however, don’t overlook the less expensive ways to eat in Iceland.
- Go to the grocery store in Reykjavik. Grab some rye bread and fish stew to make a simple, but delicious meal.
- Stop at the kiosk or gas station and grab a pylsur.
- Some dried fruit and skyr is a filling and nutritious meal and sold just about everywhere.
Use this guide to help determine other costs while traveling in Iceland.
Food for Picky Eaters in Iceland
Are you worried about what is available for your picky eater in Iceland?
Maybe you have young children who will only eat limited food items. You have a companion with dietary restrictions such as a gluten-free diet, a vegetarian, or vegan?
Either way, there is something for every type of eater in Iceland.
One excellent solution for a picky eater is a Food Hall.
Food Halls are newly popular in Iceland.
They are a perfect choice for groups traveling together that have varied dietary tastes and needs.
Hlemmur Mathöll is a popular Food Hall that opened in 2017.
It is located in a central and lively spot in Reykjavik.
It offers multi-ethnic soups, sandwiches, and main dishes. There are snacks, coffees, and treats. It has something for everyone.
Hungry to travel to Iceland that is?
Anticipating the culinary delights of a different culture is my favorite part of traveling.
Rest assured, when you arrive, eating in Iceland will be a joy and an experience you won’t soon forget.
During your travels don’t forget to check out some of the weird and wonderful things to do in Iceland.
FAQs about Eating in Iceland
What is the typical Icelandic diet?
The traditional Icelandic diet consists mainly of fish, lamb and dairy products, as well as potatoes, rye bread and other grains.
Are there restaurants in Reykjavik, Iceland that offer vegetarian options?
Yes, many restaurants in Iceland offer vegetarian and vegan options. Some of the most popular include Gló, The Coocoo’s Nest, Kaffi Vinyl, and Jomm for street food.
What is the traditional Icelandic breakfast?
The traditional Icelandic breakfast usually consists of skyr (a type of yogurt), smoked salmon, rye bread, butter, cheese and tea or coffee.
Do you tip the waiters in Iceland?
No, tipping in Iceland is not customary or expected. Rounding up the bill for a small tip is always appreciated.
What time do Icelanders eat dinner?
Icelanders typically eat dinner between 6 and 8pm.
Geothermal Park Hveragerði. https://geothermalparkhveragerdi.business.site. Accessed 3 Nov. 2022.
Iceland – Government and Society | Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Iceland/Government-and-society. Accessed 3 Nov. 2022.
“Icelandic Food: The Ultimate Guide to Iceland Food Culture.” Guide to Iceland, https://guidetoiceland.is/history-culture/food-in-iceland. Accessed 3 Nov. 2022.
Travel, Saga. “Your Icelandic Grocery List: What to Eat in Iceland.” Days to Come, 8 Aug. 2017, https://www.tourradar.com/days-to-come/what-to-eat-in-iceland-list/.
Visit Iceland – Official Tourist Info for Iceland. https://www.visiticeland.com/enjoy-icelandic-food/. Accessed 3 Nov. 2022.