Exploring the Icelandic Tradition of Dried Fish

Iceland is a country with amazing scenery, a deep historical heritage, and unique food traditions. Dried fish is a staple that has been a part of Icelandic cuisine for ages. In this article we will dig into the intriguing realm of dried fish. Examining its cultural significance, history, and also sharing some easy recipes.

The History of Dried fish

Since the Viking era, drying fish has been a widespread practice in Iceland. Fish drying has become a viable method for preserving fish and guaranteeing a steady food supply all year round as access to fresh food sources is restricted during the severe winters. The Icelandic people relied on this preservation technique not only to get by during hard times but also became deeply ingrained in their culinary heritage.

The process of drying fish

Fish drying is a reasonably easy process although it does take time and accuracy. Cod, haddock and other whitefish are traditionally gutted, filleted and left to dry in the crisp Icelandic air.

Iceland’s dry, cold atmosphere makes it perfect for the fish to gently dry up without going bad. The fish loses moisture over a few weeks, giving it the distinct firm, leathery texture of dried fish.

There are many stores that sell dried fish providing locals and adventurous tourists alike with the opportunity to experience this iconic Icelandic treat without the hassle of preparing it!

Cultural significance of dried fish

In Icelandic cuisine and culture, dried fish is treasured. It serves as a useful food source as well as a representation of resilience and resourcefulness in the face of Iceland’s challenging environment. Dried fish is known as the “poor man’s food” in Iceland since it has helped generations of people survive harsh and lengthy winters.

Culinary Uses

In Icelandic cuisine, dried fish is used in a variety of ways, adding depth of flavor and texture to dishes. Rehydrating dried fish is another way to use it in soups, stews, and classic Icelandic recipes like “harðfiskur” (hardfiskur), a snack typically produced by breaking up dried fish into little pieces and eating it with butter.

Here are a few easy dried fish recipes you can try:

Icelandic Harðfiskur Salad:


  • 100g dried cod or haddock jerky fillets (harðfiskur)
  • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup black olives, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh dill for garnish


  1. Firstly, begin by breaking the dried cod or haddock jerky fillets into bite-sized pieces and placing them in a mixing bowl.
  1. Then, add the sliced cucumber, red onion, diced tomatoes, and sliced black olives to the bowl with the dried fish.
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the extra virgin olive oil and white wine vinegar to make the dressing. Season with salt and pepper.
  1. Next, pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss gently to combine.
  1. Then, transfer the salad to a serving platter and garnish with fresh dill.
  1. Serve immediately and enjoy this refreshing and nutritious Icelandic Harðfiskur Salad!

Icelandic Fish Soup with Dried Cod or Haddock:


  • 100g dried cod or haddock jerky fillets (harðfiskur)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 4 cups fish or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup milk or cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh parsley for garnish


  1. Firstly, start by soaking the dried cod or haddock jerky fillets in cold water for about 30 minutes to rehydrate them slightly. Once rehydrated, break the fish into smaller pieces and set aside.
  1. In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté.
  1. Then, add the diced carrots and potatoes to the pot, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  1. Next, pour in the fish or vegetable broth and bring the mixture to a simmer. Allow the soup to cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
  1. Stir in the milk or cream and the dried cod or haddock pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
  1. Let the soup simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.
  1. Once the soup is heated through and the fish is tender, remove from heat.
  1. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with fresh parsley.Serve hot with crusty bread for a comforting and satisfying meal.


Dried fish is definitely an interesting and unique culinary experience that offers a myriad of flavors and textures to explore. Whether you’re a seafood enthusiast looking to diversify your palate or someone intrigued by Icelandic cuisine and culture, dried fish presents an enticing opportunity to embark on a culinary adventure.

Packed with nutrition, it’s a delightful addition to any kitchen cupboard. Discover its tastes, appreciate its history, and give in to the culinary charm of dried fish.

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