We’ve had so many requests about how we eat when we’re traveling. And so today I’m taking you on a journey through what we ate while on the road in Iceland! (Skip straight to the bottom for a list of things we made on the trip.)
Most of the questions have been about camp cooking, which is why our trip to Iceland is the perfect place to start because we cooked all but one meal ourselves.
First up, I just want to say that from my limited menu experience in being in a few different areas, it seems like it’s fairly doable to eat out gluten free while traveling in Iceland. If you Google ‘gluten free Iceland’ you’ll come up with lots of up to date articles about different restaurants to eat it.
However like I said we didn’t eat out until our last night in Iceland. So this post is more about what we bought in the grocery stores, and how we cooked from day to day on our camp stove.
I did a lot of reading before we left, and the general concensus was that it would be difficult finding anything gluten free in the grocery stores. And what I mean by that is gluten free products like pasta, bread, crackers, and the like.
So with that in mind, I started planning what we could eat while we were there that would work the best for the way we like to travel. Definitely keep in mind for sure you don’t have to cook in the backcountry to eat gluten free in Iceland!
Knowing how we tend to get when we’re adventuring, I wanted to have some easy and convenient things to cook quickly. While you can just buy veggies, potatoes, and rice to cook, you also need to think about cooking times when you’re cooking with a fuel canister, (more on that later).
If you’ve never cooked while camping before, I wouldn’t suggest being overseas to start out. However if you’re the creative type, and call pull random bits of things together and make a meal – go for it.
So bearing in mind that everything we would make needed to cook quickly, and we would only have a tiny cooler for refrigeration, I decided to bring a few things with us from the States. First up I brought some pasta, rice noodles, (the vermicelli kind that cook in 3 minutes) and some boxes of gluten free mac and cheese. I struggle with additives and such in food, so I also brought a few spice packets along with 1 small packet of red Thai curry paste.
One of the best things I brought along were some freeze dried berries, (because they weigh almost nothing). Those berries got crushed up and put into a gluten free pancake mix that I brought as well. Then I also made a batch of my Maple Cinnamon Granola because I had heard how amazing their yogurt was, and thought it sounded like a great pairing. I’ll put together a list below of everything we made to make it easier as well.
(The above photo was taken at the famous Seljavallalaug pool, and it was yet another night we skipped out on dinner for the experience instead. Those nights we just snacked on yogurt or cheese to dull the hunger pangs before going to bed.)
But back to the story, obviously all these things we brought along added up to about 10 pounds, which we factored in while we were packing. It’s kind of a bummer sometimes to give up suitcase space, but we both knew we wanted the cooking to be easy. And it definitely made it much easier to pack some conveniences with us, that way we could spend more time adventuring, and less time cooking and grocery shopping.
The other thing we brought quite a bit of was Rx bars because they’re a great protein packed meal replacement when you’re on the go. However they’re not that high in calories, so if you’re doing a lot in a day, you’ll need more than just protein bars.
Also I should mention we packed the protein bars in and around our things that we carried on the plane because our suitcases were maxed for weight. That being said, those protein bars got us pulled over by security because their density doesn’t scan well, and all our bags had to be unpacked – just a friendly heads up!
Those protein bars turned out to be invaluable though when we were underprepared but didn’t want to sacrifice on the adventure. For instance, the mountain I’m standing on in the above photo was powered by a protein bar.
We were planning on a huge bacon and eggs breakfast to power us through what we knew would be a very long day without lunch. However we woke up to gale force wind so bad it kept blowing out the stove. Top that off with the fact that we ran out of fuel, and were hours away from a gas station to refill it.
(We made the veggie tomato sauce pasta described towards the end right after the above sunset, and just before the aurora pictured below broke out!)
Running out of fuel caught us completely by surprise because we had been so careful and barely used the stove up until this point. The man who owned the rental company told us we had a full fuel tank for the trip. And since the fuel tank was much larger than what we use when camping at home, we knew we’d be fine for the whole trip.
However, the fuel tank actually turned out to be mostly empty which left us stranded for cooking. So protein bars to the rescue again! We just grabbed a couple, and started heading up the mountain.
I should add that the area this hike starts in, Skaftafell, has a campground with a restaurant. But we didn’t want to wait for it to be open, since we wanted to be photographing from dawn until dark, (just our usual M.O.).
The pattern you may be starting to see is we wanted to be completely free to ‘come and go as we pleased’ so to speak. So being prepared when you have special dietary needs is really key for freedom.
Also businesses in Iceland aren’t open nearly as many hours as in the States, where so many places are now open around the clock. Being prepared and ready to go really helps if you don’t want to wait around for normal business hours.
Also let’s just talk about coffee for a quick second! In the above photo you’ll see me holding a cup of coffee while we off load photos onto our hard drive first thing in the morning.
While we did purchase some coffees in different cafes around Iceland, (mostly to be a paying customer to then have the privilage of using the bathroom) nothing we tried was very good. That’s probably because these coffees we had were always in touristed areas. So if you’re a coffee fanatic, you might want to pack your own.
We’re maybe a little over the top, but I had each day’s coffee ground, portioned, and bagged for the trip. Then we just had to shake out the ground coffee into a pour over filter, and add boiling water.
There’s just something about a really good cup of coffee when you’re ‘ruffing it’ a little that makes all the difference. Plus one of our favorite things to do is to drink coffee and watch the sun rise, so we go all out with the coffee.
And finally, there were so many days were we missed lots of meals. I’m not recommending this at all, I’m just stating the facts. We were often ‘going and going and going’ all hours of the day and night, both adventuring and taking photos.
So there were definitely times where food just didn’t happen. We also survived quite often by having a snack of Icelandic yogurt, (see above photo) or another slice of their wonderful island made cheeses. But all that being said, I’ve listed below all the meals we did make.
Mac and Cheese Variations: We brought along several boxes of Annies gluten free mac and cheese. And while it’s a great brand, boxed mac and cheese always needs some help in my opinion.
- Mac and cheese made straight from the box, then at the end I added a very large lump of Icelandic butter along with chunks of Icelandic cheddar. I say chunks because I had very little to work with, so there wasn’t a cheese grater or anything like that. I just had a stove, a couple pots, spatula, knife, and a cutting board.
- Mac and cheese made the way I described above, but with green onions and bacon bits thrown in.
- And finally mac and cheese made the way I first described with bacon, green onion, spinach, and halved cherry tomatoes added in. Normally I’m a purist about mac and cheese, but when you’re eating it on repeat, then I like to mix it up a bit.
Fajita Pasta: I bought local beef along with zucchini, onions, peppers, and cherry tomatoes to make this pasta dish along with my ‘imported’ pasta and fajita seasoning packet. First up you brown the beef, then add the chopped veggies except the cherry tomatoes. When the veggies are almost just tender add the seasoning packet and stir to combine. Add cooked pasta along with about 1 cup of the cooking water, and stir it all together with the cherry tomatoes cut in half. Then swirl in some plain Icelandic yogurt. Seriously this one was one of our favorites from the trip, and we made it twice. I mean it’s so good I like to make it at home now!
Veggie Tomato Sauce Pasta: I know that’s not the most creative name, but it’s something I make a lot at home, when we’re camping, and we made it twice in Iceland. It goes along these lines, sauté some veggies together and then add in a pre-made tomato sauce. Then add freshly cooked pasta. From there you can add whatever you have. In Iceland I added some butter and yogurt. But at home I have been known to use heavy cream or sour cream as well for the creamy factor. The Iceland version was made with sautéed zucchini, peppers, and onions.
Veggie Tips: You’ll notice I used the same veggies over and over again. This is because they were readily available in the grocery stores we went to. And they also last for at least a few days, (depending on temperatures) without any kind of refrigeration. (Our go-to’s were zucchini, onions, peppers, and cherry tomatoes.)
Thai Red Curry: I made the vermicelli rice noodles I mentioned above both times we made Thai curry. The beauty with them when you’re camping is you only need to bring the water to a boil, then add the noodles and you don’t even need to run your stove anymore – they cook on their own in the hot water in just 3 minutes. For this curry I used the same veggies again, sautéed zucchini, onions, and peppers. Then I sautéed some local beef and added in my packet of curry paste. Finally I had bought some coconut milk at the grocery store to finish it all off. I served it with the rice noodles and we pretty much inhaled it!
Tips for Cooking Meat while camping: I almost always buy ground meat to use while camping because you don’t have to cut it up. I can’t think of any more revolting than cutting up raw meat, and then having nowhere to properly wash the cutting board and knife.
If you’re always staying in a campground, this isn’t such and issue. But the more you get off the beaten path, the more you’ll find it difficult to come by a sink, and we didn’t have anything in our van for washing dishes. With ground meat you simply add it straight from the package to the pan with no fuss!
(The above photo was taken at the ocean side restaurant we ate at our last night. It’s called Kaffi Duus and it’s located in Keflavik. They have a wide and varied menu, and the food was pretty good.)
Oh and I almost forgot to tell you about our breakfasts!
- Icelandic yogurt with this fruit sweetened jam made by Dalfour and topped with my Maple Cinnamon Granola. We ate this on repeat until the granola ran out – so unbelievably good! Also I got an email a little while back from someone who took my granola to Iceland, and both her and her husband couldn’t stop raving about how good it was with their Icelandic yogurt.
- Blueberry and raspberry pancakes – these I made with a mix, (purchased from our health food store, but I don’t recommend it because it wasn’t the best tasting. Since our trip I found Birch Benders paleo pancake mix to be the best I’ve tried yet.) along with eggs we bought locally. To add some flavor, I crushed up the freeze dried berries we had brought, and added them straight into the mix. Then I cooked all the pancakes, kept them as warm as possible, and stacked them together with the jam I mentioned above and Icelandic yogurt. I don’t eat much sugar at home because it doesn’t agree with me, but I do loosen up on vacation more so. And I have to say that my favorite combination was raspberry pancakes spread and stacked with raspberry jam and Icelandic creme brulee yogurt, (the first picture in this post is that exact combination)!
- And finally, we did a few bacon and egg skillet breakfasts that have now become a permanent fixture on our camping menus. You start by cooking the bacon, then drain off excess grease into a container to dispose of later. Leaving the bacon in the pan, add some green onions, and then crack a few eggs into the pan around the slices of bacon. Add a few small chunks of cheddar cheese and cook the eggs to your liking. Then just eat it straight out of the pan, (see the 3rd from the top photo)!
So that’s it, these are all of the meals we made on the go in Iceland! I sure hope this helps you on your next trip, and to plan your next camping adventure as well. Also if you have the luxury of a cooler bigger than 2’x2′, feel free to add more veggies to any of these recipe. Also if you have any questions, be sure and let me know!