Rúgbrauð (Icelandic Rye Bread) – Recipe

When I returned from Reykjavik a couple of weeks ago I was already missing Cafe Loki's homemade dark rye bread, known as rúgbrauð. Luckily I found their rúgbrauð recipe (allegedly) online, along with a bunch of other Icelandic bread recipes to refer to.

Before we continue, you should know that this Icelandic bread takes SEVEN HOURS to bake. The good news is that's the hardest part: the bread batter itself is just seven simple ingredients mixed together and poured into a tin. All you have to do is be patient while it bakes.

Dark, dense, mildly sweet and with a slight sour note from buttermilk, rúgbrauð ('rye bread') gains its intense colour and flavour from a looooooong bake at a low temperature. It's also known as thunder bread, and as 'hverabrauð' (hot spring bread) too. Because this dark rye bread used to be cooked by burying it in the ground by natural hot springs, where it would bake slowly for hours. Nowadays, although Iceland's hot springs are still going strong, we have the modern convenience of ovens to save us from the labours of digging and washing off soil.

I mentioned this Icelandic rye bread recipe takes seven hours to bake (in lieu of burying it near a volcano and letting the geothermic heat cook it overnight). Well, you could actually bake this overnight to save you from tying the oven up all day. I was a bit hesitant about the safety aspect of this, despite having an electric oven that's very reliable. In fact, many people roast turkeys overnight for Christmas on a low heat. But I wouldn't recommend baking overnight, especially not if you have a gas oven. Instead, just start it first thing in the morning.

Rúgbrauð also has a malty, slightly caramelised flavour thanks to its long and slow baking time. This bread is best eaten within a day or two of making: as much as I adore rúgbrauð/hverabrauð, I couldn't eat a whole loaf in two days all by myself. All of the recipes I found seemed to make either one or two huge loaves. I played around with the quantities of Cafe Loki's Icelandic bread recipe, and in the end I made the perfect amount of mixture to pour into my little 1lb loaf pan.

(See how I've lined it? This way it won't stick and I can just lift my mini loaf right out).

Here I've served this rich, dark rye bread buttered with herrings and sliced egg Cafe Loki-style, but it's also great with smoked salmon/ trout, smoked lamb, soup, jam, or even served as a dessert with ice cream (or as ice cream!) 

You can also watch me make this on YouTube:


115g dark rye flour
45g wholemeal flour
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
A good pinch of salt
284ml buttermilk
5 tbsp / 50ml golden syrup


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, and line and grease a small 1lb loaf tin.

2. Mix all of your ingredients together with a spoon (it'll look like porridge).

3. Scrape the thick batter into your tin and cover loosely with foil (make a slightly domed shape as the dough will rise).

4. Pop in the oven and immediately turn the heat right down to 110°C.

5. Bake for seven hours.

6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.

7. Lift out of the pan, slice, serve absolutely however you like and enjoy!

(Did you notice that there are seven ingredients, seven steps and seven hours of cooking time?)


  1. Looks great. I'm just back from 10 days in Iceland and I'm already missing this bread!

    1. I really miss the food and friendly people haha. Are you going to have a go at this recipe? =)

  2. May you share your Loki rye bread ice cream recipe?

    1. Hi there, here's the link to my recipe: http://tashcakes.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/apple-rose-frangipane-tarts-with.html

  3. I have made this to your recipe and it worked out well! Do you think it would freeze ok?

    1. Hi there, hope my reply isn't too late! Really happy it worked well for you – yes you can freeze this bread. =)

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