Icelandic Rye Bread – Lavabread or Geyserbread (Rúgbrauð)

Rye bread is reasonably sweet bread and dark brown. In some places in Iceland, it is cooked by digging a hole into the ground (where there’s geothermal heat). The container is buried there until the bread is ready. You can also bake it in an oven, the hot spring is optional! That is what makes it great, it is so easy to bake. Everyone can do it!

Sugar was very hard to come by back in the day. Icelanders were mostly poor farmers. There were some wealthy people and sugar was something only they could afford. It didn’t matter because the bread became sweet on its own when baked. It is a slow-baked bread, and that breaks down the starch in the rye, which makes it sweet.

When rúgbrauð has become stale, it is sometimes used to make “bread soup”. Then the bread is soaked, simmered with raisins and flavourings (usually lemon) and served hot with whipped cream as a dessert. This recipe probably comes from Denmark.

It is also sometimes called þrumari or thunder bread because of the unfortunate side effects of overeating it. Tying yourself down to a chair might be a good solution against propelling yourself into the next room due to flatulence. The bread is worth it, though!

Ingredients of rye bread:

* 1 cup = 2 dl

  • 15 cups rye flour
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup syrup
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 L whole milk


  1. Preheat the oven to 100° C (212° F).
  2. Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl. It can be a bit hard to mix the ingredients but just take your time; it will all come together.
  3. Grease a sizable fireproof mould with a lid. It is also possible to bake the bread in milk cartons or old Quality Street tins.
  4. Pour the dough into the mould and put the lid on. 
  5. Bake for 12 hours.

 Serve with butter. Serve it with cheese, smoked salmon/trout, or pickled herring for extra deliciousness.

The Icelandic Rye bread is perfect with a Fish Stew (Plokkfiskur). If you are traveling to Iceland maybe you would like to join a Rye Bread Tour?

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