Kjötsúpa: Icelandic Lamb Soup

Kjötsúpa- Icelandic lamb soup
Louis-Laurent Grandadam / Getty Images
Prep: 25 mins
Cook: 70 mins
Total: 95 mins
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
663 Calories
39g Fat
30g Carbs
45g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 663
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 39g 51%
Saturated Fat 16g 78%
Cholesterol 165mg 55%
Sodium 229mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 30g 11%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 45g
Vitamin C 18mg 88%
Calcium 74mg 6%
Iron 5mg 27%
Potassium 1241mg 26%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

One of Iceland's most important dishes, kjötsúpa is a simple lamb soup made with winter root vegetables. It is a straightforward recipe that reflects the Nordic culture and the practice of cooking with what is in season and on hand. Truly authentic kjötsúpa has very little seasoning except for salt and pepper; however, this version includes thyme and oregano, bringing a little earthiness to the soup.

The lamb should be on the bone and can be thick chops or shoulder meat—whichever is less expensive. Cabbage, rutabagas, and carrots add a bright flavor and color to this traditional Icelandic lamb soup recipe—you can also include cauliflower if you like—and potatoes contribute a nice texture. This soup can be served with a thin broth as its base or thickened a bit with a grain, traditionally rolled oats, or rice, like in this recipe.

The recipe begins with browning the lamb pieces in garlic, and then boiling them along with sliced onion and brown rice in water; the herbs are added, and later the vegetables, and the soup is cooked until everything is tender. Once the lamb meat is removed from the bone, you can return it to the pot and simply ladle the soup into bowls.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

  • 3 pounds bone-in lamb shoulder or thick chops

  • 1 medium onion, sliced

  • 1/3 cup brown rice, or rolled oats

  • 6 cups water

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/2 head cabbage, coarsely chopped

  • 3 medium carrots, 1/2-inch dice

  • 1/2 cup diced rutabaga

  • 1 cup cauliflower florets, optional

  • 4 medium potatoes, 1/2-inch dice

  • Salt, to taste

  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat and briefly sauté the garlic for 1 to 2 minutes (do not brown). Add the lamb pieces and brown on all sides.

  3. Add the sliced onion to the pot and sauté for about 1 minute, then pour in the brown rice and water. Raise the heat to high, bringing the soup to a low boil; allow to boil for 5 minutes, skimming away the froth as it rises.

  4. Reduce the heat to medium, stir in the dried thyme and oregano, cover the pot, and cook for 40 minutes.

  5. Add the cabbage, carrots, rutabaga, cauliflower (if using), and diced potatoes. Cook, covered, for an additional 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are fork-tender.

  6. Remove the meat and bones from the pot, chop the meat coarsely, and return to the soup. Warm for an additional 5 minutes.

  7. Season with salt and pepper, serve, and enjoy.

Recipe Variations

Some Icelanders will remove the lamb and potatoes from the pot and serve these on a plate, separately from the soup. If presenting the meal this way, chop the potatoes into larger, 1-inch chunks.