Kleinur Recipe

This popular treat — which gets its flavor from buttermilk and cardamom — tastes much like donuts and is a staple in any Icelandic home.

| June 2019

Photo from Adobe Stock/Antony McAulay

This popular treat is eaten any time of day and is a staple in any Icelandic home


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup whole milk or buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 5 1/2 cups of flour, separated
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom 
Yield: approximately 60

Photo from Homestyle Icelandic Cooking for American Kitchens



  1. In a large bowl, mix eggs and sugar until smooth. In a separate bowl, mix the sour cream, baking soda, vanilla and buttermilk. In a third bowl, sift together 5 cups of the flour (reserve 1/2 cup), with the salt, cardamom, and cream of tartar.
  2. Alternating between the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture, gradually add both to the egg mixture. Stir to blend completely.
  3. On a flat surface, sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Turn out onto flour and knead for one minute. Dough will be slightly sticky.
  4. Divide into three portions. Roll each out to about 1/4 inches thick and cut into strips approximately 1 inch wide by 2 1/2-inches long*. Cut a slit in the center of each and fold one end through the slit.   
  5. Fry in deep pan or fryer at highest setting for approximately 3 minutes, or until golden brown, turning them halfway through frying.
  6. Cool on paper towel to absorb excess oil.
  7. Serve plain or sprinkled with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar. Store in sealed container or freeze up to three months.

Alternatives & Substitutions

Because kleinur requires frying at a very high temperature, when using a fryer, allow the oil time to heat up again after each round of doughnuts. If you make this recipe often, a Fattigmann Cookie Cutter tool will make the process much easier.  

Also from Homestyle Icelandic Cooking for American Kitchens:

homestyle-icelandic-cookingWhether you're looking to connect with your roots, try something new or already love Icelandic cooking, this book is a must for your cookbook shelf. This is a collection of 25 traditional everyday Icelandic recipes, translated with step-by-step instructions. These are some of the simple classic favorites that truly reflect the home-style Icelandic flavors and heritage. Growing up, Heidi Herman didn’t think about her mother’s Icelandic heritage much, though she was familiar with the story. Íeda Jónasdóttir Herman was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, in 1925. Heidi’s father served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and was stationed in Iceland. The two met at a USO dance and were married in Iceland in 1945, settling in the United States after the war. As an adult, Heidi came to appreciate the unique history and rich heritage in her Icelandic ancestry. This book is a true collaboration between the author and her mother, and recipes include alternatives and substitutions for an American kitchen.

Reprinted with permission from Homestyle Icelandic Cooking for American Kitchens by Heidi Herman and Íeda Jónasdóttir Herman and published by Hekla Publishing LLC, 2016. 

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