Icelandic Candy 101Published: 9. March 2020
Iceland is known for many things like their sometimes rebellious Eyjafjallajökull volcano, endless sunlight in summer and darkness in winter, and the gorgeous landscapes making for an incredible camping experience. But you may not know that Iceland is a country of serious candy addicts, and for a good reason. Eating “nammi,” or candy, by the fist full is practically a national pastime in Iceland. Just like the rest of the country’s food and culture, Icelandic candy is strong, unique, and somehow whimsical all at once.
Although there are plenty of wafer and chocolate treats on our Iceland Candy 101 list, the country's candy is traditionally licorice based. The history of Iceland's cold, Nordic winters made it near impossible for the earliest settlers to grow grain or flowers, not to mention attract bees for sweet-tasting honey. Always the ingenious ones, Icelanders soon discovered licorice root could transform into a delicious treat and have evolved into something other-worldly.
The rest of the world needs to get started on their thank you notes and express their gratitude to Icelanders who graciously gifted us with so many fascinating twists on all things chocolate and licorice. Ready to try some nammi for yourself? After sampling some of Iceland's best traditional dishes, top it off with one of the country’s best candies.
Opal dates back to the 1950s and is one of the old-school Icelandic candies on the market. This treat also has a scandalous history. The original blue version contained chloroform that was later banned as a food additive for obvious health reasons. Pop an Opal candy in your mouth for a chewy treat that tastes like a combination of licorice and methanol in a hypnotic package. And Icelanders love it so much; the company finally presented them with Opal liquor after locals kept putting them into their vodka.
I’m pretty sure it’s a law that you can't drive your Happy Camper around Iceland without the bite-sized Súkkulaðirúsínur. Similar to chocolate covered raisins, this treat is sweet and satisfying to savor. But unlike Opal, this treat has no chloroform scandal attached to its legacy.
Nóa Kropp also offers an uplifting, bite-sized treat for the road that's easy to share with friends. But instead of raisins, Nóa Kropp is created from crisp cereal centers drenched in milk chocolate. The result is a light, crispy treat made from one of the oldest Icelandic chocolate manufacturers in Iceland, hailing back to the 1920s.
The adorable, pint-sized Þristur are champions in blending Icelandic chocolate with a chewy black licorice center. But there's more to it than chocolate and licorice. The chocolate is really more like a truffle, giving this Icelandic candy a unique texture and flavor.
Hraunbitar e. Lava Bites
Hraunbitar chocolate, or lava bites, give the nod to the dramatic landscape of hardened lava fields around Iceland. This Icelandic chocolate wafer treat is fun and satisfying to eat with crispy corn puffs and multiple layers of milk chocolate.
Sink your teeth into the wildly popular Kókusbollur, and you'll see what the fuss is all about. These coconut buns come drenched in soft, white cream with milk chocolate and coconut. Make sure you buy a couple of boxes for camping or to take home to friends and family to brag about your latest Icelandic candy find.
Fun fact: Kúlusúkk was named for the island settlement in Greenland and is a longstanding staple around Iceland. Have you noticed how much locals adore their Icelandic licorice and chocolate yet? Kúlusúkk combines both in this classic treat.
Freyja Smá Draumur
Ready to bite into the "small dream" of Freyja Smá Draumur? Although they may resemble small chocolate bites on the outside, the inside contains a licorice straw for a chewy, fascinating center.
Don't let the translation "bingo bullets" scare you off from trying this treat. The rounded Bingókúlur is filled with a delectable Icelandic licorice center that's topped off with dark chocolate. Pro tip: Don't open up a bag unless you're okay with your best life being all about consuming candy until it's completely gone.
Lindu Rís Buff
The dangerously delicious Lindu Rís Buff is impossibly easy to eat. Savor the bite-sized pieces of Icelandic chocolate and chewy marshmallow center covered in a healthy dose of crunchy rice puffs. They're also fabulously sticky, making it easier to eat all of them by yourself so your travel companions don't get messy. They won't thank you for it, but you'll still be satisfied with this Icelandic candy.
Prince Polo is like the expat of Icelandic chocolate that the country has adopted as its very own. Originally hailing from Poland, the widely sold "Prins Póló" features a light wafer and chocolate layers that pair perfectly with an afternoon coffee. Try one as a pick me up before a hike on the world-famous Laugavegur and Fimmvörduháls trails.
Just in case you haven't reached your licorice quota in Iceland yet, the Lakkrísreimar is here to help. These strong tasting Icelandic licorice shoelaces resemble long, flowing straps that are as black as night and ready for a candy lover with a strong constitution. Take your pick from a handful of varieties like those filled with marzipan or peppers.
The smooth, round Góu Kúlur boast delicious toffees covered in milk chocolate. They’re ideal if you need a break from all the Icelandic licorice love. Bring these along in your Happy Camper to share on a campout under the stars.
Of course, we need to round-out this Icelandic candy list with what else, but more licorice based nammi. Bite into tiny balls filled with Icelandic licorice and coated with generous milk chocolate. But instead of stopping at the delicious chocolate topping, the sweet tooth geniuses of Iceland also topped these beauties off with white frosting. It's simply fantastic and will likely create a line item in your ongoing budget to import this stuff by the truckful.
Now that we're all sufficiently craving nothing but Icelandic licorice and chocolate let's all plan our next adventure around acquiring these phenomenal treats. Fire up your Happy Camper and stop at Vínberið, Aðalhotnið, or Drekinn candy stores in Reykjavík to take your pick of nammi, or look for smaller town shops selling Icelandic candy to loyal locals and wayward campers.
But if you need a reason to celebrate all things Icelandic candy, you're in luck. Saturday is always nammidagur, or candy day in Iceland — and shops frequently offer generous discounts on sweets. As good travel guests, I say we should all support this Icelandic candy tradition. After all, it would really be poor form not to partake in the tradition of eating Icelandic licorice by the fistfuls and satisfying your sweet tooth before heading out for an unforgettable camping adventure.