Icelandic Rye Bread (rúgbrauð)

So, last year I visited Iceland a couple of times. To say I’m a fan would be an understatement – in fact I’m heading back there next week, so watch this space for a post or two on what I eat while I’m there.

I stayed in Reykjavik both times – I’ve yet to do more travelling around other than the usual tours, so that’s something that will be on the agenda in future trips. I love everything about Reykjavik – the people are friendly; the city has a relaxed, town-like feel to it; the scenery is absolutely beautiful; and the food is to die for.

Iceland – land of waterfalls, great food, and horses who want in on the selfie action

Apparently traditional Icelandic Rye Bread is baked by steaming it – burying it in a cask near a hot spring, or baking in a pot. It’s traditionally made purely with rye flour, but can have wheat flour added to make it a little less dense.

Now, I was already a fan of rye bread before I went – you can get lighter rye breads here that are really good, and I’d sampled some darker bread on a trip to Sweden a few years ago. The bread I had in Iceland though, was unlike any I’d tried before – it’s dense and cakey, with a gorgeous almost spiced flavour. I sampled plenty while there and even took a loaf home with me on my last trip. Keen to recreate it for myself, I scoured the internet for tips and recipes. Now, a tip before you try it – it’s one for a long day in the house or to cook overnight (if your oven doesn’t helpfully switch itself off after several hours, like mine) as it takes a whopping 8 hours to bake. 100% worth it though, as you can reward yourself with a lazy day in the house but still feel productive at the end of it!


Almost every recipe I’ve found for this is in US measurements. I have cup measures so I just went with that, but I’ve put in the conversions as well.


  • 2.5 cups/255g dark rye flour
  • 1 cup/125g wholemeal bread flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate soda
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups/355ml buttermilk
  • ¾ cup/177ml golden syrup

Plus butter for greasing, and I’d recommend having a really good quality salted butter to hand to slather over your bread when it’s done.


Grease a standard sized loaf tin, and pre-heat your oven to 100oC.

Combine all your dry ingredients in a large bowl, then slowly add the buttermilk and syrup, mixing together as you go.

Stir until combined – this is the heaviest, stickiest dough I have ever worked with so don’t be alarmed by it, it all works out in the end!

Pour/scoop mixture into loaf tin and smooth down, cover the loaf tin tightly with foil then pop in the oven for 8 hours.

I’ve seen a couple of tips to tip the warm loaf into a kitchen towel and wrap it up so that it doesn’t get crusty when it cools, which seemed to work really well. I do recommend having a wee bit while still warm, spread with lots of the aforementioned butter. It’s also amazing with smoked or cured fish and smoked meats – smoked lamb is particularly good with it but I’ve never seen any around here. With this batch I also made some home-cured salmon (shown above), which complemented it beautifully.



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