Trying new food is one of the best parts of traveling, isn’t it? Iceland is no exception to that! Even though we were trying to make budget food choices (because dang Iceland food can be expensive), we still ate some delicious local cuisine. Wondering what to eat in Iceland? Read on!
This post contains affiliate links. When you buy through these links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.
What to Eat in Iceland from Restaurants
Hot dogs are very popular with Icelanders! What makes Icelandic hot dogs unique is they are made with lamb meat. You can get them from many different restaurants or stands, but you can also get them in gas stations. The most famous spot is Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, a little stand in Reykjavik.
Besides the lamb in the hot dogs, Icelandic hot dogs are unique for their toppings: crispy onions, fresh onions, mustard, and remoulade. The remoulade was a nice surprise – it’s a mayo base but it has additional flavorings, often pickles. I also heard it compared to a tartar sauce. Also,, they put all the “toppings” into the bun first. The hot dog itself sits on top of the condiments, bare.
I’m not a big hot dog person, but even for me they weren’t bad! Matthew liked them quite a bit. This is one of the best foods to eat in Iceland because they are so affordable, easy to find, and locals love them.
Also known as just simply “meat stew” (because there’s just not hardly any other meats produced in Iceland). The stew is fairly brothy and more like a soup, but you know, tomato – tomahto. I really liked it! The lamb was really tender and flavorful, and the other carrots and vegetables accompanied the lamb very well.
Lamb stew is incredibly ubiquitous and is an Iceland staple – if you want to try the local cuisine, definitely get you some lamb stew!
We ate our lamb stew at Sköleolfsstaeir, a little restaurant and campground near Stuðlagil.
Langoustines are very similar to lobster, but are much smaller. As there are no lobsters to be found in Iceland, langoustines are often just called lobster on the menu. You can find langoustine on the menu in many spots around Iceland, but the south-east part of the country is where they are most famous and common.
We went to Ishusið Pizzeria in Höfn (a city in the southeast) for their langoustine pizza. We got this recommendation from a local, so we were certain it was going to be good! While I don’t love all seafood, I adored the langoustine pizza! It was absolutely incredible. The one we got had a garlic sauce, tomatoes, mushrooms, langoustines, and pesto.
If you are anywhere in the area, it’s totally worth a stop in Höfn just for this pizza. We also got fish and chips and breadsticks from Ishusið. Everything was delicious – definitely the best meal we ate in Iceland. 10/10 would recommend this restaurant.
Hakarl, or Fermented Shark
Look, is this delicious? No, not even close. Should you still try it? Absolutely! This is one of those old time traditional foods that no one in Iceland really eats anymore, except during a festival in January where everyone eats old-timey foods like fermented shark and boiled sheep’s head.
We ate fermented shark at Cafe Loki in Reykjavik. It’s a little cafe just across the street from the cathedral. It seemed a little touristy – when we were there the only people who came in were Americans – but it got the job done. We went in for the fermented shark only, but also got a side of buttered rye bread to help wash it down.
The fermented shark was an experience. The smell was awful, probably the worst part of the whole thing. It smells like harsh chemicals (which makes sense as it is preserved with ammonia).
The taste was pretty fishy, and the texture was really chewy, with randomly extra tough parts occasionally. Honestly, the first taste in my mouth wasn’t as bad as the smell beforehand.
However, the aftertaste gets you again with a fishy, chemically smell – but I took a big swig of water and a bite of the delicious rye bread we got and that helped immensely.
Also, thankfully fermented shark is presented as a small serving – we got one order and it came out with 4 bite-sized pieces, so we both only had to eat two small pieces each. The fermented shark was not on the menu by itself, so we just asked for it as its own thing, and the total with the rye bread came out to just under $7. Not bad for a unique experience.
If you have a few spare hours in Reykjavik and want to eat with a local, this food tour is an excellent option. The price tag might seem pretty steep, but remember that food in Iceland is exorbitantly expensive – this is actually a good value for the number of dishes you get to try, plus with a local guide!
Other Foods We Wanted To Try
A limited number of permits are given out each year to hunt the wild reindeer (all reindeer in Iceland are wild). However, if you see reindeer on the menu in a restaurant, it likely has been imported from Norway. I’ve been told that Icelandic reindeer is delicious though!
Boiled sheep’s head
If you want to try another old, traditional Icelandic dish, boiled sheep’s head is a classically old traditional food!
Best Food to Eat in Iceland from Grocery Stores
Smoked lamb on flatbread with butter is a common Icelandic meal, so we definitely had to try it! Matthew liked this, but the smell of the lamb was a little strong for me. We ate it with Icelandic butter and Flatkaka, an Icelandic rye flatbread that looks like a burnt tortilla. Matthew wasn’t very impressed with the bread, but the butter was delicious.
Icelandic yogurt – similar to Greek yogurt. We tried several brands and flavors and they all were good, but the creme brulee flavor might have been my favorite. We ate a lot of yogurt in Iceland.
Sirius brand chocolate
Icelanders LOVE black licorice. They particularly love putting their licorice in chocolate. We were recommended the Sirius brand as the best type of chocolate licorice and I can confirm that it was delicious! This brand has a bunch of different flavors (we loved the pretzel one too!) but the chocolate licorice one was unique and very good. We tried a few other types/brands of chocolate licorice and this was easily the best. You definitely should try this chocolate!
You can find this in basically every gas station or grocery store. It’s a chocolate covered toffee and is delicious!
Similar in texture to Skittles, these chewy candies are blueberry and raspberry flavored.
Pastries are going to need their own section! I had no idea that Iceland had many incredibly delicious pastries! We loved sampling as many as we could and they were definitely some of the best food to eat in Iceland! For sure plan to try at least a few of these! Many of these pastries are similar to other pastries in Denmark or Scandinavia.
The most ubiquitous type of Icelandic pastry we saw – they were sold in grocery stores, gas stations, bakeries – everywhere. These Icelandic donuts were very, very lightly sweetened. They weren’t our favorite pastry, and I think they would benefit from being more decisive on if they want to be a bread or sweet, but they were fun to try.
Easily our top favorite pastry and one of the best foods to eat in Iceland. We got these several times. It’s a custard-filled puff pastry with a little drizzle glaze on top! It kind of looked like a flower and it was fantastically delicious.
We stopped in a bakery in Egilsstaðir and asked the baker what of the many delicious looking pastries were the most Icelandic. She pointed to the Astapungar and the Vínarbrauð, so we got one of both! I loved the Astapungar – a slightly sweet, raisin-studded, deep-fried ball of dough. The inside reminded me of an old-fashioned donut, while the outside was golden brown, a little crunchy, and flavorful.
A slightly different version of our favorite Vínarbrauð above. This one was also really yummy.
A chewy, savory, cheesy pastry – almost like a cheesy bun.
This bakery in Reykjavik is located inside a super pretty, colorful building! Inside has that delicious smell of freshly baked bread and pastries. We got a couple different versions of an Icelandic cinnamon roll, plus another version of vinarbraud (this one had mango filling in the middle!). It’s definitely worth a stop.
Skyr Yogurt Drinks
Matthew loves drinkable yogurt and so we picked up several of these. They were creamy and flavorful!
And THE Best Drink in Iceland… Tap Water
You can drink tap water everywhere – it’s very safe and incredibly crisp and delicious. We filled our water bottles from the bathroom faucet so many times and it was amazing. The best place to drink the water in Iceland is on top of a glacier though! If you go up high enough (our 4 hour hike was plenty long) you can drink it right off the ice!
I hope that gives you some good ideas for what to eat on your trip to Iceland! There are so many fantastic things to eat and drink!