Iceland – Vegan Eats!
With a little planning, eating a vegan in Iceland is surprisingly simple, even in winter. One of my biggest priorities when visiting Iceland was to see the northern lights. With that in mind, I chose our accommodations a bit far out of the way from big cities (or should I say city?) and easily accessible vegan food. Even as a vegetarian, I was a bit concerned when researching that fermented shark was a delicacy and hot dogs were road food. Hmmm, but as soon as entered a grocery store, those fears melted away.
Boyfriend is working on a video for his own YouTube channel, which I will link to here, as soon as it is out. Less reading would be great, right?
Before I get too deep, please be sure to check the restaurant hours for the time of year you are going. I was shocked to find out that some coffee shops did not open until 9 am in winter – what! I need coffee!
Being the capital city, Reykjavik obviously had an array of vegetarian and vegan options. I found this incredible article by an Icelandic local, which definitely helped source places as well as navigate menus. For the restaurants, we predominately stuck to Glo restaurant. We went to the one near downtown and was blown away by the fresh salad selections and the vegan lasagna absolutely knocked our hair back. Best vegan lasagna in the world?? Quite possibly. We also hit up the Glo – to go version, which is a little out of the way from downtown, but absolutely delicious. Luckily we had incredibly patient worker who spoke perfect English (of course) and walked us through the steps. It is a bit like chipotle where you build your own bowl, except each item you add (base, startch, protein, sauces, toppings.. etc.) is each more complex and delicious than the last. I recommend the pesto sauce topping – incredible. There was also a small grocery store with vegan and vegetarian brands you would definitely recognize attached to the Glo – to go.
For breakfast or coffee, I recommend visiting Kaffi Vinyl. Not only does it have an insanely cool vibe, the entire menu is vegan. When we visited, the kitchen was not quite opened up, but we were able to have a mango and chia seed parfait, coffee, and other treats.
For desserts, there is a dessert case at the downtown Glo location. We lucked out and got some sweet buns on sale. I would also recommend that you check out Joylato, which is just up the street. This family business makes the ice cream on the spot using liquid nitrogen! You choose your base with fresh homemade additions. We had the coconut milk with strawberries and it was just dreamy. We chatted with the owner for a bit and they are planning to open a second location. I would go back to Iceland just for this fun treat. I don’t think we saw many non-dairy options in the grocery stores, so definitely stop by this place. 5 out of 5 stars.
I obviously need to start taking my own advice because while we were in the north, I tried to go to a coffee shop in the botanic gardens. The café was not open, for the whole winter. But we did stop into Te & Kaffi, which had non-dairy coffee options and a vegan sandwich available. Located in a book shop, this location had a local vibe with girls studying for exams and a dad with two young girls getting hot chocolates with whipped cream.
Due to a storm, we stayed in Akureyri for much shorter time than anticipated. I did see that Hamborgarafabrikkan had a vegan burger available. With fewer options be sure to stock up on grocery-store items before heading North.
GROCERY SHOPPING & GAS STATIONS
With few vegan and vegetarian restaurants available as well as the expense of eating out, it made a lot of sense for us to go grocery shopping and cook at our accommodations. This does take some fore-thought in the booking stages to make sure you pick accommodations that have mini kitchens with the proper utensils. There are a bunch of different grocery stores in Reykjavik, so here is a bit about each of the ones we visited:
- Bonus: Known for being the cheapest grocery store by Icelandic locals, it is indeed considerably cheaper than other grocery stores. Definitely check hours because it seems like Bonus is a franchise, where each store has different hours. It was day 4 before we even visited one. The Bonus we visited was packed! I found some great basics – apples, spinach, jam, etc. There were also a few vegan sausages in the frozen section. Not necessarily healthy, but vegan! Expect a discount store when you enter.
- Cronin: While I searched around Bonus, boyfriend convinced me to visit Kronin as an additional stop. Wow, am I glad we did. This place had a health-food aisle with a ton of options. Also a very good selection of vegan candy bars, which is always so much fun. (I couldn't find a website for this store..?)
- Netto: Fantastic selection of vegan and vegetarian foods to choose from. They even had a section for gluten-free items. We stopped here on our first night to Iceland and were blown away by the selection. They were also open late!
If you are driving, you’ll eventually end up at a gas station. Inside are the infamous hot dogs, which I hear are quite tasty. The ones we visited were exceptionally clean and had a variety of vegan snack foods, which can help hold you over when getting from one place to another. If you do dairy, don’t miss the Icelandic yogurt in all shapes and forms. I’ve noticed that one of the local grocery stores now carries Siggis, an Icelandic yogurt, which delicious!
PACKING FOR SUCCESS
Knowing that we would be cooking our own foods, I had a few tricks up my sleeve… or rather, in my checked suitcase:
- Individual packets of coconut from oil Trader Joes: This was a brilliant thing to pack, so we did not have to buy an entire container of oil when we arrived. I think I packed 12 or so.
- Daiya cheese packet from their white sauce vegan Mac & Cheese: This has got to be my most brilliant idea when traveling. I do not bring the noodles as I figured Iceland had to have some sort of noodles in every single grocery store. The packet does not take up much space and is a nice change from anything else we made that week.
- Granola bars, nuts, and snacks: although you will be able to find these in the grocery stores and gas stations, these came in clutch when we landed at 4:00 am and nothing was open. Also, there is no guarantee that the labels will be in English.
Although not as fun as eating out in a foreign country, our decision to cook in our Airbnb accommodations was easy, delicious, and a fantastic way to save money.
Do you have any packing tips for cooking abroad? I would love to hear any new ideas. A mistake I made on this trip and will not be making in the future was not buying coffee at the very first grocery store or bringing instant coffee. Things got a little dire....