Kjötsúpa – Icelandic Lamb Soup

One of the things I most enjoy about travelling is the ability to try new food.  On our recent trip to Iceland, we were introduced to Kjötsúpa, a traditional Icelandic lamb soup.  Served up with crusty bread and lots of butter, it was the perfect warm up from the cold temperatures at Gullfoss. 

Gullfoss, December 2018

Since the farm show was just finishing up this weekend, it was the ideal time to order lamb, and I convinced my husband (aka The Soup Whisperer) to give Kjötsúpa a whirl.  Of course, after the season’s first snow, we were eating soup in the weekend’s opposite weather: 70 degrees F (about 21 degrees C)!  But I can always eat soup, so…. We knew we would never be able to replicate the taste exactly.  While all lamb has a distinct flavor, Icelandic lamb has a unique taste all its own, thanks to the native vegetation that comprises their diets.

Our tour guide in Iceland, Gummi of Gateway to Iceland Tours (which we highly recommend), told us the soup at the Gullfoss Café  began with a broth made of lamb neck.  So we ordered a neck and then purchased several packs of shanks to supplement.

Traditional recipes usually include parsnip and rutabaga, the latter of which we substituted with turnips due to rutabaga availability (who knew?!).  Additional ingredients include sliced carrots, firm-fleshed potatoes (we used Yukon golds), celery, onion and cabbage.  The shallots were a late addition by the Soup Whisperer.

If you don’t mind the smell of lamb – which is as distinct as its taste – I can share that the house smelled wonderful while the Whisperer was doing his thing.  I could have easily been inspired to whip up some homemade bread to serve alongside, but a little voice inside my head said I would probably just be shooed out of the kitchen! 😊 

One thing about the Whisperer….he does NOT know how to cook for less than a small army, especially when he makes soup.  So remember when looking at my photos that he made 20 quarts of Kjötsúpa.  Yes, that’s correct: 20 quarts.  I scaled down the recipe below for a more family-friendly less-tiny-country-population to a quarter of that, or five quarts, so your standard sized stockpot is plenty large enough.


1 lamb neck, cut into chunks (ask the butcher to help with that)

1-2 lamb shanks, use two for  a meatier soup

6-8 small firm fleshed potatoes

1 small parsnip, peeled and diced

1 small turnip or rutabaga, peeled and diced

¼ small head white cabbage, leaves sliced about 1” thick and then into strips about 2-3” long

10-12 baby carrots, sliced into rounds

1 bay leaf

½ shallot, peeled and minced

1 small onion, diced

2-3 ribs of celery, sliced thinly or diced (your preference on texture)

Water to cover

Salt and pepper


Add lamb to stockpot with onion peels, celery tops, and bay leaf.  Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil, then turn down heat and allow to simmer slowly for several hours.  Remove meat to a bowl and place in refrigerator to cool.  Skim the broth, return to boiling and add potatoes, celery, onions, shallots, parsnip and turnip/rutabaga.  Boil until potatoes and vegetables are tender.  While that cooks, pick lamb from bone, then turn heat back to medium low and add cabbage, simmering until just tender.  Add meat back to pot to heat through, stir in thyme, and adjust salt and pepper before serving with warmed crusty bread and butter.

What are some of your best travel food memories? Have you recreated any of them at home successfully?

5 Comments Add yours

  1. pedrol says:

    so this is how is cooked the famous icelandic lamb soup eheh thanks for sharing!! maybe i’ll try to do it someday… but for sure i’d rather try it in Iceland ahah greetings from Portugal!! PedroL


  2. Sue Chaplinski says:

    I’m not a fan of lamb but maybe I’d like it if I’d have been in Iceland! I love Iceland so sure would have tried it!


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