Top 10 Christmas Foods in Iceland - Hotel Rangá


Plate of turkey, lamb and roast pork at Hotel Rangá.

Top 10 Christmas Foods in Iceland

Christmastime in Iceland is a joyful season filled with good cheer and good food. We made a list of our top 10 Christmas foods in Iceland, some of which are featured on our Hotel Rangá Christmas Menu. Keep reading to learn about the delicious flavors of the holiday season.

Christmas foods in Iceland are incredibly delicious. Here is a list of our top 10 Christmas foods in Iceland, some of which are on Hotel Rangá’s 13 course Christmas Menu. Keep reading to learn more about traditional Icelandic Christmas foods.

A plate filled with delicious dishes from Hotel Rangá's famous Icelandic Christmas Buffet.
Hotel Rangá’s delicious Christmas Buffet.

1. Christmas food in Iceland: Skata

Skata is one of those love it or hate it foods–though many Icelanders are certainly big fans. Skata–skate in English–is a type of fish traditionally eaten on Saint Þorlákur’s Day (December 23). But here’s the thing–skata ferments for weeks before the big meal! This harkens back to the days when Icelanders went without refrigeration or freezers.

Because skata is fermented, it gives off a strong smell. And by strong, we mean really strong! The smell lingers on clothes and hair and even in buildings. In fact, many kindly ask apartment dwellers not to cook skata in their homes! But despite the smell, many Icelanders love skata and happily eat it year after year.

Platter of hangikjöt, Icelandic smoked lamb.
Hangikjöt is a popular Christmas food in Iceland. Photo by Hreinn Magnússon.

2. Hangikjöt with White Sauce

Hangikjöt is a delectable dish of smoked lamb that pairs well with a savory white sauce called uppstúfur. On the side, you’ll often find green peas, red cabbage and a thin, fried bread called laufabrað. This is a very traditional meal that is commonly served on December 24 in many households across Iceland.

In fact, we feature hangikjöt on Hotel Rangá’s 13 course Christmas Menu. Our version features traditional smoked lamb paired with Icelandic flatbread and licorice pearls. The aromatic flavor of the licorice pearls pairs wonderfully with the smoky flavor of the lamb.

Plate of marinated herring, cured salmon, smoked arctic char and cured cod on Hotel Rangá's Christmas Menu.
Hotel Rangá’s Christmas Menu features marinated herring, gravlax, smoked fish and cured cod. Photo by Ingibjörg Friðrikdsóttir/

3. Herring with Rye Bread

Pickled herring is a popular Christmas treat often served with homemade rye bread. Icelanders usually enjoy several different types of pickled herring with their Christmas feast. Common flavors include onion, curry, mustard and beet.

Hotel Rangá’s Christmas Menu includes a modern take on this traditional dish. We offer our guests a flavorful bite of marinated herring with bright chili and sweet mango.

4. Christmas food in Iceland: Ptarmigan

Ptarmigan is a type of bird that is quite popular for Christmas dinner. The hunting season for ptarmigan begins in November and lasts only a few weeks. Therefore, families who enjoy this dish usually have hunters in the family. It is common to cook ptarmigan until tender and serve it with pickled red cabbage and Icelandic potatoes glazed in a caramel sauce.

5. Hamborgarahryggur

Hamborgarahryggur: it’s a mouthful of a word–a delicious mouthful, indeed! This dish of rich smoked ham is commonly eaten at Christmas dinner. Alongside the hamborgarahryggur, Icelanders usually serve a savory sauce, caramel glazed potatoes and red cabbage. This is an incredibly tasty combination and had to be on our list of top 10 Christmas foods in Iceland.

Piles of gravlax or cured salmon decorated with fresh herbs.
Gravlax is a popular Christmas dish in Iceland. Photo by Hreinn Magnússon.

6.Christmas food in Iceland: Gravlax

Gravlax–or cured salmon–is a delectable Christmas speciality. The salmon is covered with salt, sugar and different spices or herbs. Over time, it becomes cured and ready to eat. Gravlax is almost always served with a special sauce which commonly is flavored with mustard.

Our Hotel Rangá Christmas Menu includes our special take on gravlax. Enjoy cured salmon served alongside a rich mayonnaise flavored with dill.

7. Reindeer Paté

During the Christmas season in Iceland, paté is very popular. A paté consists of rich and well-seasoned meat that can be spread on a piece of toast or crackers. This is often served as a first course before the main meal. We include a delicious reindeer paté with port wine jelly on the Hotel Rangá Christmas Menu.

8. Malt and appelsín

Though some of these Christmas dishes carry over across countries and cultures, malt and appelsín is a uniquely Icelandic Christmas tradition. Malt is a sweet, carbonated drink flavored with, well, malt! Applesín is an Icelandic version of an orange soda. During Christmastime, the two drinks are combined to make a special holiday treat.

Now, you can buy pre-mixed malt and appelsín, but families also make their own mix by combining the drinks by hand. There is often a friendly debate in families about how to make the drink correctly. Some people say to add the malt first, some the appelsín.

Plate of chocolate cheesecake and Christmas créme brulée on Hotel Rangá's Christmas Menu.
Chocolate cheesecake and Christmas créme brulée. Photo by Ingibjörg Friðriksdóttir.

9. Möndlugrautur

Möndlugrautur–or almond rice pudding–is a dessert beloved by Icelanders during the Christmas season. The name of this pudding is rather misleading as there is only one almond in the entire dish! In fact, möndlugrautur is a sweet and creamy rice pudding folded through with rich whipped cream. Just before serving, the cook places a special almond into the pudding. The person who gets the portion with the almond wins a special prize.

10. Sarah Bernhardt cookies

These delicious cookies are a sweet combination of an almond cookie, chocolate and coffee buttercream and a chocolate coating. Though the recipe originates in Sweden, Sarah Bernhardt was a famous French actress. These cookies became popular in Iceland in the 1980s, and they are still going strong. In fact, we have included these tasty Sarah Bernhardt cookies on Hotel Rangá’s Christmas Menu.

Vegan pumpkin tofu with pumpkin purée.
Vegan tofu with pumpkin purée. Photo by Ingibjörg Friðriksdóttir.

Vegan Christmas Menu

Hotel Rangá has started a new tradition by creating a delicious 13 course vegan Christmas Menu. These dishes are incredibly creative and delicious. Guests can enjoy carrot soup with coconut, ginger and chili or eggplant marinated with mustard and dill. The menu also features wild mushroom and walnut patée, pumpkin tofu with pumpkin purée and nut steak with sweet potato purée.

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