Eating on the Road in Iceland

How do you say “Nom, Nom” in Icelandic?

I debated whether or not to title this post “Icelandic Cuisine“, because while I have listed a number of traditional Icelandic dishes, I ate way more “international” meals during my time road-tripping around the country with Iceland Unlimited.

It’s certainly possible to tour the country strictly on Icelandic cuisine–Harðfiskur and Slátur are a plenty–but as with any road trip in the world… junk food often prevails.

I wasn’t bothered by this. Bring on the fries.

Nonetheless, here is a list of meals, snacks, desserts and drinks that you will likely come across on a road trip around Iceland’s Ring Road:

 

Breakfast

 

Toast, Sliced Meat, Vegetables & Fruit

After any amount of time spent in Iceland, you will inevitably come to love these three items, whether you like it or not.

It seems that every hotel, hostel and guest house in the country shares a breakfast menu and serves the same thing every day. This certainly isn’t a bad thing, as I personally came to look forward to my favourite little breakfast sandwich every morning.

It’s similar to the breakfast of most Scandinavian countries and it is a hearty start to the day.

Breakfast at Hotel Geirland in Kirkjubæjarklaustur

 

Waffles

Although a traditional breakfast food in North America, waffles are enjoyed throughout the day in Iceland, available at waffles stands and restaurants.

I thought it was a strange dish to be so popular at first, but after a few waffles (and crepes) of my own, I had absolutely no arguments.

Waffle Truck in Reykjavik

Crepes from Kolaportið

 

Lunch

 

Soup

Soup is a popular dish in Iceland, for both lunch and dinner.

On a cold day, there is nothing better than sipping on a hot soup in a warm cafe before deciding where you want to explore next.

There are numerous traditional Icelandic soups like Kjötsúpa, a lamb soup with rutabagas, carrots add a bright flavor. There is also Brauðsúpa (bread soup), Fiskisúpa (fish soup) and even Fjallagrasamjólk (soup made with Icelandic moss).

Lobster Soup from Egilsstaðir Guesthouse

 

Hamburgers

What was the number one meal that I saw most of while road-tripping around Iceland?

Hamburgers.

Weird, right?

I certainly wasn’t expecting it, especially because there are no real fast food chains (like McDonalds) in the country, but hamburgers were available at every rest stop and restaurant that we visited.

The one thing I couldn’t help but giggle about every time I watched someone eating one was the fact that Icelanders use a knife and fork to eat their burgers.

It was a first for me.

 

Light Meat

Lunch is usually a lighter meal, so a shaved or sliced meat is more appropriate, or perhaps a thin meat sandwich with vegetables.

 

Hot Dogs

Another unexpected one–but hot dogs are a big thing in Iceland.

Whether you visit the famous Bæjarins beztu pylsur in Reykjavik or simply take a break at any roadside rest stop, you are bound to find hot dogs on the menu.

Most places have a special sauce and variety of toppings, and need to be tried at least once during your Icelandic road trip.

 

Dinner

 

Lamb

If you only eat one thing in Iceland, it should probably be the lamb.

I don’t like it personally, but it seems to be a favourite among everyone else that I spoke to.

Lamb is available at almost every restaurant and can be made to order just the way you like it.

Lamb in Höfn

 

Meat

If you’re not a fan of the lamb, there are several other juicy meat plates to take its place on the table.

Whether it be steak, beef, chicken, goose or duck.

The best meal I had in Iceland was the Tenderloin with tomatoes, sugar snaps, Jerusalem artichokes, peppers and mashed potatoes at the Egilsstaðir Guest House Restaurant.

I couldn’t speak for about five minutes after finishing it.

Tenderloin

Chicken at the Perlan in Reykjavik

Duck

 

Seafood

When you live on an island, seafood is a staple.

As someone that does not like seafood, I was happily surprised by the number of seafood dishes that I actually enjoyed in Iceland. That’s what you get when the food is fresh.

 

Snacks

 

Skyr

This infamous Icelandic “yoghurt” may be a common breakfast treat, but Icelanders will eat it morning, noon and night.

Choose your favourite flavour, mixture or get a cup with ready to mix oats and berries to make a healthy snack (or five) during your day.

Technically, skyr is actually a very soft cheese.

 

Hákarl

I’m not sure why anyone would willingly indulge this as a snack, but this cured shark delicacy is available all around the Island.

Pairing it with a cube of rye bread is a good way to reduce the smell and taste of ammonia as you knock it back and resist the urge to hakarl all over the floor.

Hákarl is prepared by gutting a Greenland shark and placing it in a shallow hole then covering it with gravel and stones in order to press the shark until the fluids are pressed out of the body. The shark ferments for 6–12 weeks and is then cut into strips and hung to dry for several months. During this drying period, a brown crust will develop, which is removed prior to cutting the shark into small pieces and serving. It is part of the Þorramatur, which is the traditional Icelandic cuisine enjoyed by locals between late January and early February (Þorri season).

At least it comes with a shot of booze.

 

Chocolate

Chocolate is a popular snack anywhere, but Iceland has some pretty interesting and delicious chocolate bars available.

Grabbing a Kropp or Pipp while on the road is an excellent way to fuel up while you fuel up the car.

 

Dessert

 

Cakes

There are numerous mouth-watering pastries to try in Iceland, but the variety of delicious cakes is sweet (lame pun alert).

A popular cake is the lava style cake, with liquid chocolate and icing sugar.

 

Ice-cream

Home made ice-cream is a common treat in Iceland, which may seem peculiar given the average annual temperature.

They are made up of interesting flavours like geyser-bread and glacier ice-cream.

 

Drinks

 

Brennivín

Black Death.

That’s what it is, that’s what it tastes like and that’s how it makes you feel.

Okay, it’s not really THAT horrible, but it’s a pretty strong drink with a kick.

Brennivín is a clear, unsweetened schnapps that is considered to be Iceland’s signature distilled beverage that is typically bottled at 80 proof.

 

Beer

The best thing about Icelandic beer is that it’s made from, surprise, surprise.. Icelandic glacial water.

I don’t know about you, but the thought alone of drinking clean, fresh water straight from a glacier is almost better than the beer itself. Almost.

Don’t drink & drive ;] 

Thanks to Iceland Unlimited for showing me all the good foodie spots.
I was invited on their Iceland Express Tour, all views are my own. 

There are so many more Icelandic dishes that I have not been
able to include on this list, as I still have many to try.

What is your favourite Icelandic dish?

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4 Responses to “Eating on the Road in Iceland”

  1. can lo lo
    October 17, 2013 at 12:20 am #

    Superior write-up.

  2. Matt Humphrey
    August 3, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

    Thanks for the info! I am headed there and in few days and appreciated a little heads up on what to expect from a culinary prospective!

    • Seattle Dredge
      August 6, 2014 at 11:26 am #

      I’m sure you’ll experience way more than I’ve posted here, but this is a good starting point. Enjoy!

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