Totally Iceland Logo

Icelandic Candy: Strange but Delicious

By Milda November 19, 2019

The Most Enticing Iceland Sweets and Black Licorice Madness

When it comes to Icelandic candy, you might get the impression that licorice is king. And you’d be absolutely right. Icelanders have a tremendous love for salty-sweet licorice and especially licorice covered in chocolate. 

Licorice isn’t for everyone, but Icelanders know how to make some of the best licorice candy in the world. At least 75 percent of the candy in Iceland contains some variety of licorice. 

Should you ever find yourself lost in Iceland’s candy aisles, here’s a quick guide to the best sweets and treats.

What’s the Deal with Icelandic Licorice?

Chocolate-covered licorice, coconut-filled licorice straws, licorice-flavored ice cream … you name it, Icelanders have it. 

But how did licorice become so ubiquitous on the volcanic island?

There is no definitive answer to this question, but locals posit a few theories: 

1. Harsh Climate

The harsh climate in Iceland made licorice the country’s main sugar fix. Although the volcanic soil is not suitable for growing crops, licorice plant doesn’t need to flower to be usable. The edible part is the root, also known as sweet root. Thus, licorice became the only candy Icelanders were able to produce for a long, long time.

2. The Great Depression

Decades of candy import bans following the Great Depression played their role too. Cut off from the outside world, Icelanders were pushed to make their own sweets. Over the years, Icelandic candy factories achieved licorice candy perfection with no equal anywhere else in the world. Some believe that the secret lies in the high quality of licorice used to make the sweets. 

3. Icelanders Just Love Licorice

Love is uncontrollable and unexplainable. Icelanders simply love licorice, sometimes referred to as “black gold.” Maybe it reminds them of volcanoes and dark winter nights.

Icelandic Chocolate Bars and Candies You Need to Try

From seriously delicious chocolate-licorice combinations to classic sweets without licorice, here are the top 10 Icelandic candies you need to try.

Graded Licorice Candies: From Light to Strong

1. Draumur

Draumur means  “dream” in Icelandic — and this candy carries the name for good reason. This chocolate bar is a light introduction to Icelandic licorice candies. Prepare your taste buds for two licorice strips covered with creamy (and dreamy) milk chocolate. As soon as you taste Draumur, you’ll know whether you’re a licorice lover or not. 

2. Þristur

Þristur (thristur) candy is another great choice for newcomers to licorice. The individually-wrapped bars decorated with a big number “3” are a smash hit in the country. Inside you’ll find small licorice pieces mixed in nougat and coated in heavenly milk chocolate.

3. Kúlu-súkk

If you’re ready for a stronger licorice flavor, we present you Kúlu-súkk, tiny soft licorice pieces covered in chocolate. This candy will gently melt in your mouth and leave a slight salty aftertaste. The name Kúlu-súkk refers to the island Kulusuk in East Greenland, where flights from Iceland to Greenland often land.

4. Eitt Sett

If you want to know what the first licorice candies in Iceland like, throw Eitt Sett into your supermarket cart. This chocolate bar was the first commercially-made licorice delicacy in the country. As you might guess, it's a perfect blend of salty licorice strip and high-quality milk chocolate. The licorice and chocolate parts might separate in your mouth, but that makes it even more interesting! 

5. Opal

Once you’re ready to fully embrace licorice, grab a pop-art box of Opal. These chewy pastilles taste like mint. Dating back to 1945, Opal is one of the oldest Iceland sweets still on the market. These licorice lozenges are manufactured by Nói Síríus, Iceland’s biggest candy producer.They’re also the inspiration behind Opal Pipar, a popular alcoholic beverage.

6. Stjörnurúllur

Do you love marzipan? Do you have an affection for licorice? If you answered yes to both questions, then you’re ready for Stjörnurúllur. This freaky-looking roll is a perfect harmony of marzipan and licorice. But beware it might put a licorice spell on you!

Icelandic Sweets Without Licorice

7. Lindu Rís Buff

Want to take a break from licorice? Go for Lindu Rís Buff, a  yummy dessert in a bite-size treat. Within seconds of putting one in your mouth, you'll taste marshmallows covered in chocolate. Rice puffs complete the flavor experience!

8. Hraun

If you're in love with Lion Bars, you’ll be mad about the Hraun candy bar, a perfect balance of chocolate and wafer. The crunchy exterior will take you to heaven. Last but not least, this wafer bar is designed to look like a piece of lava. Dating back to 1973, Hraun was famous even before the Iceland tourist boom. 

9. Súkkulaðirúsínur

Chocolate-covered raisins are a true classic. Be careful if you’re traveling around Iceland with a pack of these treats — locals will be desperate to become your friend!. Súkkulaðirúsínur is one of the most beloved sweet snacks in the country. Choose between juicy raisins coated with milk chocolate or dark chocolate.   

10. Nóa Kropp

Have a sweet tooth? You'll love these crispy corn balls covered in milk chocolate. This sugary treat is very popular among Icelanders and will be a great gift to yourself or your friend.

History of Licorice

Licorice is a very interesting plant. First created as a medicine, licorice was used in ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and India. Many samples of licorice were discovered in King Tut’s tomb. In the Middle Ages, people believed it led to magical cures.

Licorice, which comes from the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra plant, was used as a popular remedy for the common cold and hay fever. In the year 1760, English pharmacist George Dunhill added sugar and licorice became the candy we know today.

Local Insider Tips

  • The easiest way to find traditional Iceland sweets in the supermarket is to look for the word “Lakkrís.”  It translates to “licorice” in English.
  • If your travel plans allow, get sweets on Saturday, which is the famous Iceland Candy Day (Nammidagur). Every Saturday, Icelanders enjoy a 50 percent discount on candies.

Related tags: