How Iceland Does Mardi Gras

When you think Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday you think parades, music, dancing, drinking and any other and indulgences of all sorts but in Iceland, things are a little different. Instead of Mardi Gras we have Sprengidagur. The weather this time of year in Iceland doesn’t really allow for big parades but it’s perfect for eating saltkjöt (salted meat) and baunir (yellow split pea) soup until you burst.


Sprengidagur literally means exploding or blast day. In the tradition of eating as much as one possibly can in preparation for fasting during the lenten season, Icelanders fill up on salted lamb meat and pea soup. Most people don’t actually fast but who is going to turn down an opportunity to eat until they just can’t eat anymore?

Saltkjöt og baunir

Saltkjöt, salt-cured lamb–usually made using the less expensive cuts–and peas and are cooked together with vegetables into a soup known simply as saltkjöt og baunir. And on Sprengidagur, you will find it served not only in homes, but in restaurants, schools and workplace cafeterias all over the country.
There is even a call-and-response couplet associated with the day and dish. Just take, “Shave and a haircut, two bits,” and replace it with “Saltkjöt og baunir, túkall,” which literally translates to “salted meat and peas, two kronur (or bits).” This one is popular with the dads of Iceland and kids, even if they won’t admit it

I’m so sad I could spring

Needless to say, by the end of Sprengidagur, everyone will have had enough saltkjöt og baunir to last until the next Sprengidagur. You might even hear some Icelanders murmur. In a Sprengidagur induced food coma, “Ég er svo saddur að ég gæti sprungið” which to the English speaking ear may sound like, “I’m so sad I could spring” but actually means, “I’m so full I could burst.”

The recipe for a classic Saltkjöt og baunir.