Icelandic fish soup

Iceland? I can’t think of a better way to describe this exceptional northern country than by introducing you to Haukur Morthens, the Blue Lagoon, the Sagas, folktales, elves, kleinur, kókosbollur, wool sweaters and fiskisúpa (fish soup). As my husband is Icelandic, I have had the chance to add another culture to my life. I am enchanted by Icelandic folklore, which is in many ways the foundation of Iceland’s spirit.

There is a very special place in Iceland close to my heart called Búdir in the Snæfellsnes peninsula. There you can find Snæfellsjökull, a 700,000 year old volcano with a glacier covering its summit. Very near Búdir is a tiny fishing village called Hellnar, where my husband and I have gone for long walks on the beach and adventuring about in caves where the colour and lighting are in tune with the movements of the sea, just out of a kaleidoscope dream. There is a small café, a tiny house on a cliff, where you can have kleinur (deep-fried pastry), waffles, and the classic Icelandic fish soup. Sitting there, on a beautiful day, looking at the sea made me fall in love with Iceland.

I have a collection of black rocks found on the beaches around Snæfellsnes, they are my little trophies of adventure, making me feel like a ‘Jules Verne’ heroine. They have somehow become my lucky rocks, captivating thousands of years of history. Geologists have a saying – rocks remember

Souvenirs of Iceland – Búdir 2007

You can find fish soup almost everywhere -it embodies the nation’s tradition where fish is very much part of daily life. Everybody has their own version, consisting of vegetables melted in butter, covered in stock and white wine, throwing in the fish last-minute. And lots of cream for those who like it.

Ingredients: (serve 6-8)

3-4 tbsp butter
2 small onion – finely sliced
1/2 leek – finely sliced
3 tomatoes – chopped into very small pieces
2 small stalks celery, finely sliced
1.5 liters chicken or vegetable stock/ 6 cups
200 ml cream/ 4/5 cups (you can add less if you wish, or none)
100 ml/ 1/2 cup sherry or port or Noilly Prat
3 tbsp tomato concentrate
1/2 tsp saffron powder (optional)
3-4 tbsp wine vinegar
160 ml/ 3/4 cup dry white wine
400 g/ 4 cups small shrimps (without shells)
500 g/ 5 cups mixed nordic fish – salmon, haddock, plaice, halibut – cubed
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large pot, add all the vegetables (except the tomatoes) and cook for 10 minutes until tender. Add sherry/noilly prat/port and white wine and reduce for 4 minutes. Add the stock, tomato concentrate, saffron and vinegar. Boil for 15-20 minutes. Add the fish, shrimps and chopped tomatoes, bring to a soft boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add cream and stir. It is important not to make the soup boil again (as the cream might ‘break’/curdle).

Serve with some warm bread and butter on the side.

My husband Oddur and I (pregnant with Louise) – Búdir 2007

41 thoughts on “Icelandic fish soup

  1. It’s winter here in Australia, and I can’t think of a more delicious, soul-warming meal than this fish soup, with some good crusty oat bread and fresh butter. I’ll be trying this one out this weekend I think!

  2. Oh, I’d love to visit Iceland! Its a family trip we want to make at some point. Nothing like the food of a place to introduce you to the cultura and spirit.

  3. My husband and I went to Iceland for our honeymoon and Budir was my favorite place. We stayed at the inn that is very close to the church in your photo. I am so happy to see the church again, thank you!

    1. A couple years ago, we hosted a high school exchange student from Stykkishólmur for 10 months. The following summer, we were lucky enough to spend a week on the Snæfellsnes peninsula. We look forward to hosting his brother in a year or two, and I hope to visit Iceland again as soon as possible. In the mean time, I made this soup last night, and it brought me back!

      Your photos are simply incredible. Iceland is truly an enchanting place. Thanks for sharing!

  4. We recently returned from our second visit to Iceland in 3 years and spent a couple of days on your beautiful Snaefellsnes pennisula before taking the ferry over to the Westfjords. Magnificent! We ate our first fish soup in Stykkisholmur and sought it out again thereafter as we travelled around the country. That and the geothermal pools in which soaked virtually every day are in themselves reason to visit this most amazing land. Today, to my family’s delight, I followed your recipe and baked a loaf of French bread. Many thanks – It was like being back in Iceland again!

  5. When you say small shrimps do you mean brown shrimps (Crangon crangon) or small prawns ?

    I presume you mean bring to the boil again and simmer for five minutes.

    I find it tricky when making milk based fish soups not to curdle it. Someone told me that using the highest fat content milk that you can get helps but it hit and miss with me.

    1. Any shrimps will do, I use fresh small prawns, but I also buy them frozen when I can find fresh ones. If you add the cream right at the end, the soup won’t curdle. I agree that higher fat content cream is better. Low fat dairy products are more likely to curdle. I hope this helps! Mimi

  6. I am dying to see Iceland. I spend hours reading books and blogs about it, looking at photos of it, researching its cuisine, its people, its history, listening to its music… This article absolutely made my heart sing!

    I’m going to cook the ‘fiskisúpa’ tonight; I’m damn excited. Thank you for the recipe, I’ll let you know how it goes!

      1. So glad you liked it! I hope you can visit Iceland soon, it’s a beautiful and magical place. Do let me know would love to share some good tips! Best, Mimi

        Sent from my iPhone

  7. Dear Mimi, many thanks for this recipe! The soup turned out perfect and reminded me of our two trips to Iceland, the amazing country that I adore. Thanks for the great blog!

  8. Hi!
    I went in the Snæfellsnes peninsula last September…yesterday I cooked your recipe and I felt Iceland! The soup is delicious and perfect in a spring rain day.
    Thank you Mimi

  9. I just returned from Iceland and am craving that outstanding fish soup! Thank you for your recipe – I look forward to trying it.

  10. I just recently discovered your blog and I find it simply amazing. Few years ago I was traveling in Iceland and I just loved the country, its people, nature and of course food. So when i saw this recipe, i told to myself … I just have to try it out 🙂 and the result was simply wow !!! it was the best fish soup ever! Thanks bringing little bit of Iceland into my kitchen 🙂

    1. What a perfect surprise. My wife and I spent two nights during the second week of May at the Hellnar Hotel just above the cafe. We had supper first night at the hotel but frankly we really wanted to eat less gourmet and taste real sea food made by fisher people.
      We stumbled on this totally humble place on a rainy midday and assumed that it was probably empty like everywhere else in Iceland at this time of year. Imagine our amazement to discover that the place was crammed with people, not a chair vacant (apart from those outside in the rain on the patio overlooking the old harbour).
      Just from the cooking smells we knew we were onto something special. Everybody was eating fish soup!
      We discussed with the owner when was the latest we could return and still have some soup. We returned at 18.00 and had the best fish soup of our lives.
      Naturally we told them of our delight and that we had every intention of spreading the word!
      The place is called FJORUHUSID, Kaffihus Hellnum, Snaefellsnese.
      Tel: 4356844
      I think the owners name is Sigridur Einarsdottir tel: 8635042
      [email protected]

      What a gem!

  11. Coucou!
    This soup was wonderful!
    I made it on Wednesday for dinner and had it for lunch that week.
    Do you happen to have a recipe for pot au feu? I enjoy making it but I’m curious about how you prepare it.

  12. Just go back from a one week family trip to Iceland. Last year we stumbled upon this restaurant while visiting the black church in Budir. This year we made a special day trip just to have some. The soup and the bread are so amazing… Do you know what type of bread they serve to go with the soup? Do you have a recipe? Would love to make the soup and bread for a meal. Thanks!

  13. I spent ten wonderful days in Iceland this spring. I loved the fish soup and lamb soup and have pined for them ever since. Now that Fall has arrived in BC I cannot wait to try your recipe and satisfy my craving.

  14. Hello Mimi
    For geographical or other reasons I don’t always manage to get all of the ingredients for your recipes, last night I did. This soup was outstanding and you can a feed a few people with it. The maybe 5 or 6 dishes I have cooked of yours have one thing in common which I most admire about your work, they are perfectly balanced. And I mean balanced in the very best fine sense.
    I put that down to your many influences 🙂 Thanks!

  15. Í think we went tó the sama café. Fjöruhúsið. Ís that the one? We were on our honeymoon and came across it. It was authentic.

  16. Hi Mimi,
    Thanks for the recipe! We went to Iceland in April and this was my favourite thing to eat. Excited to try to recreate it. For the cubed fish, do you cook it first or add it to the soup raw? Thanks again!

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