Many vegetarians have asked me if it is difficult to be a vegetarian in Iceland. Compared to the United States it is quite difficult. Iceland is a small country. It lacks the variety of a metropolitan consumer market. Coupled with Iceland’s higher food prices, Iceland is a challenging country for vegetarianism. For those vegetarians who dare enter Iceland, I have some strategies to keep your wallet from screaming.
Tip 1) Pack a lunch. Ready-made foods are the most expensive items one can purchase in Iceland. Avoid spending extra money by preparing a lunch box. I’ll pack a small meal into a tin box before I leave for class. I focus on foods that are high in protein. The easiest are boiled eggs as they take little preparation time. Sandwiches and rice make an excellent foundation dish. The trick is to find food that is both filling and slow to release energy. I fill the extra space with sliced fruits and vegetables. The cheapest to buy are cucumbers, carrots, apples and mushrooms.
Tip 2) Where to shop. Within the last few years, there has been a growing popularity for alternative foods. Soy milk, spelt bread, veggie burgers, organic products and agave syrup are now available in common grocery stores. Supermarkets like Bónus and Krónan are the cheapest in Reykjavík. Bónus is located on Laugavegur, the main shopping street of downtown Reykjavík. There’s another one across from Krónan on the west side of the city and almost every suburb has its own Bónus store. There I’ll buy simple foods like bread, canned foods, baking agents, milk, skyr, and rice.
For vegetables and fruit I will usually shop at Melabúdin. It’s a smaller, more expensive market, but they have an unbelievably fresh selection of fruits and vegetables. Which are the most challenging items to find at the cheaper stores. Melabúdin is located on the west side of Reykjavík. I would recommend Hagkaup for those who do not live in walking distance. These stores are more expensive, but are known to have a great selection of fruits and vegetables.
Tip 3) How to get there. Get used to walking. Nearly everything in 101 Reykjavík is in walking distance. The main shopping street, Laugavegur, is located in the heart of downtown. One can find a wide selection of coffee houses, restaurants and shops of all kinds. Á Næstu Grösum is a vegetarian restaurant located at Laugavegur 20b, on the second floor. I would recommend giving it a try. A meal starts at around ISK 1,400 (USD 18, EUR 11).
Reaching outside of 101, there is a public transportation system that extends to Hafnarfjördur south of Reykjavík and Akranes to the north of the city. The cost per ticket is ISK 280 (USD 3.6, EUR 2.3) but it makes traveling across the capital region simpler. I use bus.is (in Icelandic) for information on the different bus routes and their arrival times.
Tip 4) What to avoid.
Steer clear of white breads. Bónus bread should be avoided like the plague. Instead, I buy Orku Kubbur and Rúgbraud. These dark breads are rich in protein and fiber and make for filling sandwiches. The darker breads cost roughly ISK 260 (USD 3.3, EUR 2.1) for a half loaf. Although more expensive, they are filling and healthier than the cheaper white breads.
Be curious of fruits and vegetables from Bónus or Krónan. They have a reputation for selling diseased-looking produce. Check for wilting, spots and browning. Packaged salad mixes have a short shelf life and should be avoided. I’ve had a continuously good experience with the potted or rooted lettuce, the apples and the bananas.
Keep away from flavored skyr products (an Icelandic dairy product similar to thick yoghurt) like skyr.is and KEA flavored skyr. They are expensive and contain massive amounts of sugar or aspartame.
I would recommend the plain skyr. The churning bucket logo is a good plain skyr. I also buy Plain KEA Skyr, in the sky blue container. Both plain skyr products contain quite a bit of protein. There are 13.3 grams per 100g and a 500g container costs about ISK 119 (USD 1.5, EUR 1.0). I treat it like yogurt and eat with milk and fruit. Skyr can be used in place of milk when eating cereal. I even use it in cakes recipes.
Recipe for Skyr Cake
½ cup olive oil 2 eggs or two cups of apple sauce 1 cup of Skyr ¾ cup of agave syrup or 1 cup of sugar 2 cups of spelt or flour 1 tablespoon of baking powder 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract 1 teaspoon of milk
Preheat oven to 155 degrees C. 1. Crack eggs into large boil. 2. Add olive oil, agave syrup, vanilla extract and milk. 3. Beat until smooth 4. Add spelt and baking power. Mix. 5. Add skyr. Mix. Add extra milk if needed. 6. Pour into baking pan. 7. Bake in oven for 45-50 minutes or until fully cooked
Sarah is filling in for Tobias who is away on holiday.