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These tasty donuts were a staple in my Icelandic grandmother’s kitchen. Now, we make them every year around Christmas time for a special treat filled with memories. The key ingredient? Cardamom!

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Hey guys! Christmas just doesn’t feel like Christmas without a few things, most of which revolve around food.

Many of my childhood Christmas memories are centered around food. Little did I know, but our family’s Christmas eve traditions weren’t totally traditional.

I blame it on our Icelandic heritage. See, my grandmother came from a big Icelandic farming family in North Dakota. They did a LOT to preserve their heritage, including keeping many of their Icelandic foods.

Once such food is lutefisk – cod treated in lye – a specialty I have never had the *pleasure* of trying. The story goes: My grandma (Nanny) made lutefisk ONCE at Christmas and it stunk up the house so much that they started a new Christmas Eve tradition: lobster.

Total upgrade, right?

And that’s how I ended up thinking that everyone eats boiled lobster tail dunked in glorious butter on Christmas Eve.

But I digress…

Another food that makes Christmas feel like Christmas is kleinurs.

Nanny’s kleinurs and vinarterta were staples on the tray of sweet treats in her kitchen every year around the holidays.

As my kids get older, and we establish traditions of our own, one thing remains: kleinurs. My sister does a better job of making them every year. This year I decided to whip up a few batches to give to neighbors and friends.

I hope these little fried treats bring you as much joy and cheer as they do for me.


How to Make Icelandic Kleinur

How Hot Should The Oil Be to Make Kleinurs?

I used regular old canola oil in a gallon jug from the grocery store. Using an instant-read thermometer, I aimed for the 340 to 350-degree range. You really don’t want to get much hotter than that, because you can start to burn.

You really don’t want your house smelling like dirty, burnt donut oil for a week! Trust me. The smell lingers.

How do you cut and twist kleinur?

You may cut dough into diamonds by hand with a sharp knife, pizza cutter, or even a crinkle cutter. I find it easiest to use this special rolling cutter.

Whatever cutting method you choose, the real key to success is plenty of flour so you don’t have sticky dough!

As far as cutting and twisting, I think it’s easiest to watch this quick video below:

How long do you cook kleinur?

This will largely depend on the temperature of your oil. I HIGHLY recommend using an instant-read thermometer and WAITING until your oil reaches the 340 to 350-degree mark.

Once you (carefully) plop each piece of twisted dough into the oil, it will only take a few minutes to brown on one side. Use a spatula or tongs to flip the kleinur to cook on the other side. Wait a few more minutes.

Then remove from the hot oil and place on paper towels (with a tray or parchment paper underneath) to cool.

These tasty donuts were a staple in my Icelandic grandmother's kitchen. Now, we make them every year around Christmas time for a special treat filled with memories. The key ingredient? Cardamom!
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Icelandic Kleinur Recipe

  • Author: aimee
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: approx 9 dozen donuts 1x


These tasty donuts were a staple in my Icelandic grandmother’s kitchen. Now, we make them every year around Christmas time for a special treat filled with memories. The key ingredient? Cardamom!


  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cups sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamom*
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • About 9 cups flour (plus more for rolling)
  • 1 gallon canola oil for frying

*The original recipe from my grandmother’s family cookbook had this special TIP regarding cardamom: “Whole seed cardamom is the best for these. Shell the seeds on a formica counter. Roll a quart jar over the seeds until they are crushed fine.” I still get a chuckle every time I read this 🙂


Beat eggs until light; add sugar, milk, sour cream with soda added, cardamom, and salt. Add flour. To mix in the last cups of flour, put dough on counter and mix with hands. Divide dough into five equal parts; shape each into a large pancake about one inch thick. Place in plastic bags; chill until ready to use.

Roll dough 1/4-inch thick on floured canvas. Cut into 3 x 1 1/2-inch strips with crinkle cutter. Slit the centers, pull one end through the slit.

Fry like doughnuts. Heat oil to 340-350 degrees. Working in batches of 8-12 donuts (depending on the size of your pot or deep fryer), place the twisted pieces of dough in the hot oil. Let cook for a few minuted until golden on one side. Flip, and let the other side cook.

Remove with tongs or a skimmer. Set the kleinur on paper towels to cool.


About cutting the dough: I have a special rolling cutter – it’s the same style that my grandmother used.  You can cut the dough with anything really – a crinkle cutter, pizza cutter, a sharp knife.

  • Prep Time: 90 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Cuisine: Icelandic


  1. I was just looking up Kleinur and saw this post and recipe. I scrolled down and happened to see that your amma came from a large Icelandic farming community in ND. I too have Icelandic heritage, my mother was a full Icelander and was born and raised in an Icelandic community in ND. I grew up loving the Icelandic desserts, Vinarterta, Kleinur, ponnukokur and more. Where at in ND were they from?

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