The Ultimate Guide to the Famous Icelandic Hot Dog

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Discover the famous hot dog of Iceland. Learn everything you need to know about its history, its main ingredients, and the best condiments to pair with it. Find out how and where to buy this delicious meal, including the world-famous Baejarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand.

Beyond its breathtaking natural attractions, Iceland is known for its rich food culture. The country's unique cuisine, primarily associated with lamb and fish, draws thousands of travelers annually.

However, not all signature dishes of Iceland are friendly to everyone's taste buds. For example, you might encounter local food you may not be accustomed to, like hakarl, a flavorful fermented shark with a pungent ammonia-like odor that you may enjoy or dislike intensely.

Fortunately, there's one food in Iceland that every local and tourist loves to eat: the Icelandic hot dog. If you've known hot dogs as just cheap junk food with a bland taste, you're in for a treat when you try them in Iceland. Considered one of the best in the world, the Icelandic hot dog is something you shouldn't miss.

But what's the hype for Icelandic hot dogs all about? In this article, we'll try to find out what makes this food particularly unique to Iceland and where you can sample it on your next visit.

What's So Special About the Icelandic Hot Dog?

Eating hot dogs is part of the cultural experience in Iceland.

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Caitlin. No edits made.

The Icelandic hot dog, locally known as pylsa or pulsa, is a popular go-to food in Iceland. Despite being a cheap street food, it is one of the symbols of Icelandic food culture with a "cult status" amongst locals and foreign travelers.

Unlike its counterparts in other countries and cultures, the hot dog of Iceland is well celebrated in the country. It's not just a quick and easy meal you can buy on the streets but an authentic culinary experience made from high-quality and healthier ingredients.

If you've visited Iceland in the past, the popularity of this local food might not come as a shock to you. You might even be one of the many who enjoyed your first bite after queueing in long lines to buy it.

However, if you're planning your first visit, you probably think it's bizarre why a hot dog gets to be in the front center of the cuisine conversation from all the food you can pick in this island country. Then pair this up with countless blogs and lengthy articles (like this one) hyping it up and listing it as one of the top must-try food in Iceland.

Are you setting yourself up for disappointment due to the overwhelming word of mouth? Will it just turn out to be a tourist trap?

To help us understand how special the Icelandic hot dog is, we'll discuss the different factors that differentiate it from its counterparts. Below, you'll learn about its main ingredients and composition, unique toppings, price, ways of cooking, and the best places to sample it.

Main Ingredients of Hot Dogs in Iceland

A traveler enjoying their order from Iceland's most popular hot dog stand.

Photo from Flickr, Creative Commons, by travelwayoflife. No edits made.

The most distinct feature of Iceland's hot dog dish is its taste that emanates from its main ingredients. Its meat and spices are mostly locally sourced, with a blend particularly unique to Iceland.

The main ingredients of Iceland's hot dogs are lamb, beef, and pork. These three types of meat are mixed in a specific ratio, giving them savory and flavorful characteristics. The proportion of lamb, pork, and beef depends on the store or stand you're buying from, but they're not far from each other.

Sheep meat or lamb is the secret ingredient to the Icelandic sausage, unlike the typical hot dog elsewhere, which uses just plain pork or beef.

It's important to note that the Icelandic sheep is one of the purest domesticated breeds of sheep in the world. They graze on lush countryside farmlands and enjoy cruelty-free and hormone-free environments. This setup ensures their meat is organic, high quality, and healthy (for a hot dog!). 

Sheep in Iceland freely roam farms and grasslands in the countryside.Apart from the meat compositions, the recipe includes salt, paprika, pepper, garlic, onion, coriander, and other seasonings before being stuffed into a natural casing.

How to Cook Icelandic Hot Dogs

There are many different ways to prepare or cook an Icelandic hot dog. Although the preparation is not entirely different from how you cook other sausages, the pylsur still has a distinctive touch.

The popular ways to cook the hot dog are boiling or grilling for around five minutes. The key is to cook the hot dog until it's firm to the touch and gives you that iconic "snap" when biting into it. If you cook it for too long, the sausage casing (or "skin") can rupture, which can turn the hot dog inside out. If that happens, it's still edible but it ruins the texture.  Regardless of the method, overcooking should be avoided to retain the juicy and savory taste of the snack.

Boiling water is the most common method of cooking this Icelandic delicacy. After boiling the water, remove it from the fire or stove before placing and simmering the hot dog.

Boiling the hot dog technique ensures you're not overcooking the food while retaining its original flavors.

You may even experiment with using different spices or adding beers or ale to the water, but that's for more advanced hot dog eaters.

Conversely, grilling and frying are your best options if you prefer your hot dog with more crispiness on the outer layer.

Toppings and Condiments to Put on Hot Dogs in Iceland

Tour joiners in Iceland sampling Icelandic hot dogs.

Photo from Small-Group 3-Hour Traditional Icelandic Food Tour in Reykjavik.

Although you can eat the hot dog without anything because it's already packed with flavors, adding some toppings and buns is ideal. Pairing it up with your favorite condiments will elevate the overall taste and complete your food trip in Iceland.

If you want the complete experience, you can request all these toppings on your hot dog. However, you're also free to choose the only toppings and condiments you prefer.

  • Buns

There's nothing quite like eating hot dogs with steamed buns. Its warm, fluffy, and sweet taste complements the delightful flavors of pylsa while making a great base to hold other toppings and condiments.

You can also enjoy a more satisfying or fuller meal with hot dog buns. Apart from the protein and fats the Icelandic hot dog provides, the buns offer additional nutrients like carbohydrates.

  • Fried and Fresh Onions

Not everyone appreciates the strong taste and smell of onions, but they remain excellent toppings for hot dogs and sausages.

Fresh onions add a fresh and juicy element that balances the hot dog's saltiness and the sauces' sweetness. Its crunchy texture also contrasts with the bun's softness, which can improve your eating experience.

Meanwhile, fried onions provide a sweeter taste and crispier texture when caramelized. Besides being standard toppings on hot dogs, fried onions are common in burgers, sandwiches, and other snacks.

  • Ketchup

Ketchup is among the most popular condiments for all sausages in different countries, including Iceland. Its sweet and tangy flavors from its main ingredients, apples and tomatoes, enhance the overall tastiness of pylsur.

In addition, adding ketchup on top of the Icelandic hot dog is quick and easy. It usually comes in a bottle or a refillable squeeze tube. You can pick this condiment if you're in a rush or don't want strongly flavored toppings.

Ketchup and sweet brown mustard are top condiments of hot dogs in Iceland.

Photo from Appetizing 3-Hour Food And Beer Walk Tour Around Reykjavik's Local Food Destinations.

  • Icelandic Mustard or Pylsusinnep

The sweet brown mustard, locally known as pylsusinnep, is a condiment for hot dogs in Iceland that you shouldn't miss. Although mustards did not originate from the Nordic country, Iceland has its original take on the sauce that locals and foreign travelers have used for decades.

Pylsusinnep has a distinct brownish color because of brown mustard seeds. There are other Icelandic mustards with more yellowish and golden colors because they use more yellow mustard seeds.

Regardless of the color, pylsusinnep is known for its delectable sweet and slightly spicy taste. Like ketchup, the mustard sauce for hot dogs is convenient to apply or use because it comes in a squeeze bottle. You can even put them in patterns like zigzag, spiral, or straight lines.

  • Remoulade Sauce

Remoulade, a mayonnaise-based condiment, is another sauce to include on your Icelandic hot dog order. The creamy texture of this sauce is almost similar to mustard or ketchup but has a more noticeable taste.

Besides mayonnaise, remoulade infuses mustard, capers, pickles, herbs, and spices like turmeric, garlic, and paprika. The overflowing combination of ingredients makes a great addition to the savory taste of pylsur.

History of Pylsur

Pylsur may not be officially the national dish of Iceland, but many people consider it a hallmark of the country's cuisine. On top of being inexpensive and delicious, its colorful history makes it essential to the culture of Iceland even today.

Sausages of varying kinds have been popular in Iceland for a long time, and the Icelandic "bjúga" sausage has been eaten in Iceland since the Viking era.

However, putting sausage on a piece of bread with condiments and calling it a hot dog is something that has its origins in the early 20th century and came to Iceland via Denmark.

Because there was a lack of pig farming in Iceland during that time, but a lot of sheep, they started experimenting with using lamb meat in the hot dog with good results.

To start with, the hot dogs were served not on bread, but in a piece of paper. But in 1948, when restrictions on wheat production ceased, they started serving hot dogs in hot dog buns.

Iceland has produced local hot dogs and sausages since the early 1900s, with Slaturfelag Sudurlands leading the way. Also known as SS, Slaturfelag Sudurlands is the country's largest abattoir and remains the biggest pylsa producer today, with an 80% market share.

However, it wasn't until 1937 that hot dogs found their footing in the local food culture. Baejarins Beztu Pylsur opened this year and became the country's first hot dog stand. Since then, numerous hot dog stands have popped up in Reykjavik and other towns in Iceland.

Where to Buy Icelandic Hot Dogs

Icelandic hot dogs are widely accessible in the country, particularly in Reykjavik, the capital city. You can easily find hot dog stands on the city's busiest streets, including the downtown area, Laugavegur shopping street, and even near the harbor.

Supermarkets and convenience stores in Iceland sell pylsur or sausages.

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Tiia Monto. No edits made.

Apart from hot dog stands, you can buy hot dogs in supermarkets, convenience stores, and restaurants. In supermarkets, you can buy ready-to-cook packs of pylsur that you can cook in your accommodation or bring when joining multi-day tours in Iceland. However, you need to buy the buns and condiments separately.

If you plan to sample Icelandic hot dogs in restaurants and cafes, you can buy them as a snack or an entree. You can even get gourmet meals and fancier dishes with sausages as the main ingredient. They also offer more toppings and flavors, but they all cost more.

On the other hand, you can also buy this popular snack from hot dog stands and convenience stores outside Reykjavik, such as in Keflavik and Akureyri. Additionally, most gas stations in different villages and towns sell it. If you're on a road trip in Iceland and need to refill gas, don't forget to grab a hot dog in a bun.

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur

Baejarins Beztu Pylsur is the best hot dog stand in Iceland.

Photo from Flickr, Creative Commons, by Comdor. No edits made. 

There are numerous hot dog stands in Iceland, but nothing is as popular as the Baejarins Beztu Pylsur. This small chain of hot dog stands has maintained an iconic reputation among locals and tourists since it began operating in 1937.

Like the typical Icelandic pylsa, Baejarins' products contain lamb, beef, and pork. The best thing about ordering from this food stand is its complete selection of toppings and condiments. 

In addition to the buns, your hot dog comes with mustard, remoulade, and ketchup. You can also request fresh and fried onions for a tastier snack.

If you want every available topping and sauce on your hot dog, you can just say "eina med ollu," which means "one with everything."

The hot dog stands of Baejarins Beztu Pylsur is a tourist destination in their own right. Thousands of locals and travelers flock to the area annually to taste their famous Icelandic pylsur.Locals and foreign travelers buy from Baejarins all throughout the day.

Photo from Flickr, Creative Commons, by Studio Sarah Lou. No edits made.

In 2006, British news media, The Guardian, listed the food business as one of the best food stalls in Europe. It's only fitting because the shop's name translates to "the town's best hot dogs" in English.

Baejarins Beztu has nine locations in Iceland, with seven stands in Greater Reykjavik Area and two in Keflavik. The main shop lies on Tryggvagata Street in downtown Reykjavik, near the city harbor and the beautiful Harpa concert hall.

Each Baejarins stall has different opening and closing times, but they mainly open around 9:00 to 11:00 in the morning and close around 19:00 to 22:00 PM. The main shop near the harbor has longer opening hours running from 9:00 to 1:00 AM on weekdays and 9:00 to 6:00 AM on Fridays and Saturdays.

How Much is a Hot Dog in Iceland?

There is no fixed price for Icelandic hot dogs because it varies depending on the establishment and location.

On average, expect to pay between 3 to 5 USD (400 to 600 ISK). This price range mainly applies to Baejarins Beztu and hot dog stands in Reykjavik. This amount can increase or become cheaper depending on where you order and the add-ons you want.

In particular, expect to pay cheaper when you buy from gas stations and more expensive if you order from restaurants or cafes.

Regardless of where you buy them, the Icelandic hot dog or pylsa is one of the cheapest food you can buy in the country. Fortunately, although it's relatively inexpensive, it remains delicious and satisfying.

Tips for Ordering Hot Dogs in Iceland

Travelers lining up to order delicious hot dogs in Reykjavik.

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by cjuneau. No edits made.

To help you get the best experience in sampling the famous hot dog in Iceland, here are a few tips you should consider.

Pair Your Hot Dog with All Toppings and Condiments

If it's your first time eating a hot dog in Iceland, ordering one with all the condiments and toppings is recommended. You're only getting half the flavors if you buy the sausage and the buns with ketchup.

To order everything like the locals, just say "eina med ollu, takk" to the cook or server at the hot dog stand. Ordering this gets you a hot dog with remoulade, onions, ketchup, and pylsusinnep.

Know Your Order Before Queueing

Before heading to a hot dog stand, it would be best to have a little research to save you some time. It will allow you to place or say your order right away when you get your turn. This can also benefit other customers waiting because the line can move quickly.

You can decide beforehand if you want a plain sausage or one with toppings and sauces. Some hot dog stands also offer drinks such as soda and chocolate milk.

Be Patient with the Long Lines

Some hot dog stands in Iceland, particularly the famous Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, can get crowded daily. Icelanders and visitors from different countries brave the long lines just to buy this simple yet tasty snack.

When you see a long queue when you order, don't worry, as the line moves quickly. You also have different food places besides Baejarins, including Vikinga Pylsur, Reykjavik Sausage Company, and Pylsuvagninn Laugardal.

Hot dog stands in Reykjavik like Pylsuvagninn Laugardal have tables and chairs where you can eat your order.

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Vogler. No edits made.

Buy During Non-Peak Hours

If you want to skip the long lines as much as possible, your best option is to buy during non-peak hours. 

Some stores can get crowded during opening hours around 9:00 AM as many people grab their meals. Likewise, dinnertime, around 6 to 8 PM, attracts many customers, so expect the queue to be longer.

Off-peak hours to order are mid-afternoon and late at night, so you should consider buying during these periods.

Famous Personalities Who Have Tried the Hot Dog in Iceland

Even global personalities are not exempt from the popularity of Iceland's hot dogs. There have been many celebrities who made it into the national news after sampling a pylsa.

The most prominent is former US President Bill Clinton, who sampled the snack in 2004. Clinton visited the Baejarins Beztu Pylsur and tried the hot dog with mustard as the only condiment. Subsequently, this combination order became known as "The Clinton."

Former US president Bill Clinton enjoys a hot dog at Bæjarins Beztu, made by legendary hot dog server MæjaAfter Clinton's visit, the popularity of the Baejarins hot dog stand gained significantly outside Iceland. It's also part of some Icelandic tours and gets featured in countless blogs and magazines. For example, this Reykjavik food walk tour includes a stop at one of the hot dog stands of Baejarins.

Over the years, celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Gordon Ramsay, James Hetfield of Metallica, Charlie Sheen, and author John Green have also tried this delicious snack and had some good things to say about its taste.

We hope this guide provides you with essential information about Icelandic hot dogs. May the tips we laid out give you an excellent experience of ordering and eating this snack.

What's your favorite feature of pylsur? Do you want to eat them again on your next visit to Iceland? Let us know in the comments below about your stories of tasting the famous hot dogs of Iceland for the first time.

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