Kjötsúpa - Traditional Icelandic Lamb soup/stew

Updated 20. December 2013 to include kale. It's not a necessary ingredient, but it will add a lovely flavour note to the soup.

This is a classic Icelandic dish, a relative of Irish stew. Many, many Icelandic home cooks have a recipe for this soup. No two are the same, and most are not really recipes, but general guidelines. It is very hard to put down a measured recipe, since the ingredients available will vary, and so will the taste, mood and inclination of the cook.

The following is one variation, which I have tried to make as authentic as possible. The measurements are not meant to be taken too seriously, and should be varied according to taste and availability of ingredients.

I have marked the absolutely necessary ingredients with an asterisk (*). These are only necessary for authenticity – part of the fun is coming up with your own preferred recipe.

Cooking time: approximately 60 minutes.
Preparation time: 10-15 minutes.

Serves 4-6.

  • 1 1/2 litre water (less if you want a stew)
  • 500 g lamb or mutton pieces on the bone
  • 1/2 medium onion sliced or coarsely chopped
  • 100 g white cabbage, head halved and sliced across into thin strips
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced across or coarsely julienned
  • 50 ml rice (brown or white) or rolled oats
  • 1/2 small rutabaga (a turnip or kohlrabi may be used instead, but taste will be slightly different), cut into bite-sized or smaller cubes (if you dislike the taste, use anyway and discard after use. Rutabagas add a special flavour note to the soup stock)
  • some cauliflower, divided into florets
  • leeks, sliced
  • potatoes, in bite-size cubes; or if small and new, whole with skin
  • some finely chopped kale

Bring the water to the boil. Rinse the meat with cold water and drop in the boiling water. Lower temperature to medium. Allow meat to cook for about 2-3 minutes. Skim off the scum and add salt. Cook for about 30 minutes. Add rice/oats (if using). Lower temperature and cook on low for about 10 minutes. Add carrots, onion, cabbage, cauliflower, rutabaga, potatoes, kale and leeks (if using). Cook for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Skim off fat before serving.

Serving options:
  • Serve the meat on a platter with potatoes. Some people will eat the meat and potatoes first, others will cut them up and return to the soup. Some people also add milk just before serving.
  • Remove the meat and potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces and return to the soup before serving.
 Save some soup for the next meal. Kjötsúpa tastes even better the next day.

  • if you are using mutton, double the cooking time, add rice after 1 1/2 hour and the remaining ingredients 10 minutes later.
  • use brown rice instead of white and cook with the meat the whole time.
  • if you can get freshly harvested organic potatoes, cook and eat them with the skin.
  • some cooks sauté the meat before cooking - it adds more flavour to the soup.
  • you can make the soup with bones and veggies, and serve as a starter.
  • try using powdered coriander and/or saffron in the soup - it adds a wonderful middle-eastern style flavour.
  • Some cooks use bouillon cubes/powder for added flavour, others rely on getting enough taste from the meat.

convert measures to American/British system


Anonymous said…
I never cooked this. But I don't think I will like Lamb. But, I discovered this because I had to do a report on Iceland and I had to do a page on a recipe of Iceland and I found this one. Thank you so much for all the information. Don't worry, I did not plajarise, I cited the page, giving you ALL credit. :) Nicely written page.
Bibliophile said…
Thank you, Anonymous. You could hardly have chosen a better recipe to show every day traditional Icelandic cooking at its best. As to not liking lamb - don't dismiss it until you have tried it. Kjötsúpa is perhaps not the best dish to introduce one to lamb - if you want to try it, start with a fillet, done medium rare, grilled cutlets, or melt-off-the-bone slow-cooked shanks.
Junior said…
Wonderful page and recipe! Thanks Jo. I have followed your page for quite some time a long time ago and recently went to Iceland and had a chance to try this at Gullfoss while I was there. By far the best soup I have ever had! Unfortunately lamb meat is quite a bit more expensive here in Canada. I will have to give this a try on a special occasion!
Bibliophile said…
Thank you, Junior.
Chun said…
Hello There!
I'm a visitor from HK, once I come back form the Northern Island, I searched this reciept.

It was so lovely and good in Winter!Thank you for your information, i will give a try even i'm not well in cookery!
Anonymous said…
Rutabaga (a turnip or kohlrabi) - unfortunately none of these are available in the Czech Republic. I will do my best with ingredients that are available here. I am getting ready to make it an easter dish tomorrow.

Thanks for the recipe!
travelstockblog said…
I had this at Gullfoss too and it was wonderful. Glad to have the recipe and all the information as well. It would be lovely at Easter time.
Thanks for sharing.
Anonymous said…
I just came back from Iceland and this soup was so good. I am going to make it this weekend!!!Thanks for the recipe.
Holly said…
I found your recipe on Google, first one listed at the top when searching Icelandic stew. I used one pound of Icelandic lamb stew meat, and two small shanks with meat one them and made a vice quart pot using rutabaga, potatoes, onion, cabbage, celery, carrots, salt, and pepper. I added the celery and some fresh herbs- a bit of thyme and sage. I had some icelandic stew while visiting Iceland in 2010, and it was certainly a dish to remember! Serving this up to company along with some homemade honey, oat wheat bread. My only drawback from making it more often is the expense... A five quart pot of this stew including the lamb meat from Iceland adds to about $25-$28.
Anonymous said…
This is another fine recipe I found here I absolutely needed to have. I was never able to get this on anywhere near right as Kjotsuppa in Iceland always seems to have a light and delicious flavor all its own. It appears simple, but its hard to get it right!

As a kid I traveled a few times back to Iceland on the freighters Langjokull and (the old) Hofsjokull and this soup was a staple aboard daily. Thanks for sharing this.
Olafur G
paul treble said…
I had this when i visited Iceland this spring and it was delightful and very moreish. I will cook this tonight to see if I can try and create that amazing soup. I think I had it at the cafe bar in Gullfoss too. Regards

Popular posts from this blog

Hangikjöt - Icelandic smoked lamb (instructions)

Harðfiskur – Icelandic hard (dried) fish

How to cook a whale