Kjotsupa- Icelandic Lamb Soup

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As my husband and I touched down in Iceland we were greeted by the all-consuming darkness and biting cold wind. The hope of seeing the northern lights burned within us and made the cold seem non-existent. As night fell after a day of exploring Reykjavik, we suited up to drive out into the deep night to chase the northern lights. Our gracious guide drove us for hours upon hours but the fog and clouds never allowed the lights to peek out.

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On Day 3 as the icy rain poured down on us, the fog got heavier; the ride in our monster truck jeep became more dismal by the minute. As we drove around the south coast, we managed to visit the impressive waterfalls but could not walk on the glacier. Finally, we took a break stopping at a local lunch spot. As I entered I was greeted by a cafeteria-style dining room. Not just any old “mess” hall, but one with floor to ceiling windows that made it seem as though you were sitting amongst the snow covered mountains. I ordered an obligatory cup of hot chocolate in hopes of starting to thaw out.

Staring at the menu, I was drawn to the Icelandic “Meat Soup.” Upon ordering, our guide mentioned that Icelandic “Meat Soup” was his favorite meal. He explained his grandmother used to make it for him all time and I jumped at the chance to continue the conversation by asking him many questions on how she made it. I began to warm up just watching this large burly man turn into a child as he explained, with a wistful smile, his memories of his grandmothers cooking. Our conversation was interrupted by the arrival of our soup.

Appearing through the steam was the sight of hearty potatoes, carrots, and lamb in a clear broth. Soon enough, the icy disappointment of our weather tribulations began to melt away as I began to understand that one good meal could change the tone of a trip. That night, the clouds started clearing and we took a chance by going out and again chasing the elusive lights. Fortunately, this time we were successful. For me, the brightest lights were not seen in the sky, but rather on my plate.

Kjotsupa - Icelandic Lamb Soup


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

  • 3 lbs lamb shoulder, chop

  • 1 medium white onion chopped

  • 1 Tbsp garlic, finely chopped

  • 3 white potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces

  • 2 rutabagas, chopped into uniform pieces

  • 6 c water (plus 1-2 more to supplement later in the recipe)

  • 1/3 c white wine

  • 1 Tbsp fresh rosemary

  • 1/2 Tbsp dried oregano

  • 1/2 Tbsp thyme

  • kosher salt

  • black pepper


  1. In a large dutch oven (ceramic), heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the lamb shoulder pieces with salt and pepper.

  2. Add the lamb shoulder to the pot and brown on both sides. Remove from the pot and reserve.

  3. Lower the heat and add in the garlic. Let it saute for about 2 minutes, then add your chopped onion along with the rosemary, oregano, and thyme. Let that saute together for about 5 minutes, until the onion starts to get soft.

  4. Deglaze the pot with the white wine. The wine may sizzle as it hits the pot which is what you want! Use this opportunity to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Let it simmer together for about 5-7 minutes.

  5. Add the lamb back to the pot. Pour in the 6 cups of water, making sure it covers everything. With the stove on a medium heat, let it simmer with the lid on for 45 minutes.

  6. After 45 minutes skim the fat off the top. You may be able to see a "Film" has formed over parts of the soup, that is what you want to scoop up with a spoon!

  7. Let it simmer about 45 minutes more, until the lamb is tender, falling off the bone. Remove the lamb from the pot and cut it away from the bone (discard). Pull/cut the lamb into small pieces, try to discard any fat and reserve.

  8. To the simmering broth, add the root vegetables. Season the broth with a teaspoon each of salt and pepper, along with half of the parsley. Add some more water to the soup at this stage if you feel the vegetables need to be covered. Do not add in any more than 2 cups.

  9. Cook for another 15 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Then add back in the lamb meat to warm through. Taste the soup to adjust seasonings.

  10. Serve and garnish with the remaining parsley.

  11. If you can, let the soup sit overnight to develop the flavors.