Among all the meals that stand out among Icelandic cuisine, Icelandic hot dogs take the cake. As a first-time visitor to the country, it’s easy to assume that all your tastes of local Iceland food will involve fancy seafood-based dishes or arctic delicacies. Those things certainly exist, and they’re delicious—but Icelandic hot dogs are one of the nation’s most popular foods, and they’re adored by locals and visitors alike. In fact, they just might be the best hot dogs in the world. (Seriously!)
Icelanders have a very different approach to hot dogs than the rest of the world, both in preparation style and the way hot dogs are viewed. While hot dogs are a summer favorite in the US, they’re not exactly viewed as a “fancy” food. Icelandic hot dogs, on the other hand, are prepared with care, and are made with much finer quality products than in most other parts of the world.
Icelandic hot dogs are made mainly of hormone-free, grass-fed Icelandic lamb, as well as beef and pork. Iceland’s massive sheep population (there are more sheep on the island nation than humans) has long served as an Icelandic food source, so lamb hot dogs are a match made in heaven for Icelandic taste buds.
Icelandic hot dogs are long and thin, and the meat is rich and sweet. One of Icelandic hot dogs’ telltale characteristics is the satisfying “snap” of the dog’s natural casing when you take a bite. Add to this the satisfying crunch of the hot dogs’ traditional onion toppings, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for bliss.
The Icelandic words for hot dog are pylsa and pulsa. (The word is conjugated, so you’ll often see pylsur or other variations depending on the context.) Both words mean hot dog, but most people will consistently use one word over the other. In fact, many Icelanders disagree over whether the hot dogs should be called pylsa or pulsa. It remains a hot debate to this day!
The most popular spot in Reykjavik to try this Icelandic cuisine is the Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (“Best Hot Dogs In Town”) stand near the city’s waterfront. The stand opened in 1937 and has become an Icelandic food legend over the years. Many other stands appeared in the following two decades, but many are long gone while Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur remains. For the equivalent of just a few US dollars, the stand offers the best sampling of Icelandic hot dogs, especially if you’re a first-timer.
Locals, tourists, and even visiting celebrities all share a lot of Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur’s top-of-the-line hot dogs. There are often long lines at the stand, and there is just one nearby picnic table for seating, but the staff are pros at keeping things moving quickly. Even if it’s cold or rainy, it’s almost always worth standing in the outdoor line for a dog of your own. Once you take your first bite, the warmth of your hot dog will keep you toasty in any weather.
To eat a hot dog the true Icelandic way, order it “with everything” so you can try all the locals’ usual condiment choices. That means with raw and fried onions, a sweet mustard called pylsusinnep, ketchup, a mayo- and herb-based sauce called remoulade. Icelanders eat hot dogs at all hours of the day—lunch, dinner, and late at night after a night at the club are all fair game—so there’s no right or wrong time to try one.
If you can’t make it to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur while you’re in Iceland or simply want to try something different, there are plenty of other options to choose from. You can find a hot dog stand in most populated parts of the country, and there is especially no shortage in Reykjavik. You can even pop into a convenience store for a hot dog.
If you’d like to try making them at home, you can get them in the Icelandic duty-free store on your way out of the country. (Iceland’s massive duty-free store is legendary in itself, but that’s another story for another time.) If you take them home, be sure to prepare them with care, as they require a bit more precision to make than American hot dogs do. Luckily for US fans of Icelandic cuisine, steps are in motion for the hot dogs to be available to US consumers more regularly. Demand for the hot dogs from Americans is very high, and Icelandic sellers are responding. One of the major Icelandic food companies in the nation and a major hot dog supplier has ramped up its plant in order to export them to the US.
If you want to try an Authentic Icelandic hotdog then you’re in the right place.