If skyr—(sounds like “skier”)—hasn’t crossed your radar yet, it’s probably because it’s hiding in plain sight. The Icelandic cultured dairy product, produced by several brands including siggi’s, Icelandic Provisions, and Smári, is poised on grocery shelves right next to yogurt. Given its placement and similar packaging, you may have thought it was yogurt. But skyr is a unique product, albeit with some similarities to yogurt, very much worth getting to know.
Related Reading: Why We Love Yogurt for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner & Dessert
I spoke with Jenna Amos, Registered Dietician Nutritionist at siggi’s dairy, who helped delineate the differences among yogurt and skyr, beginning with skyr’s importance to the Icelandic culture: “Skyr has been a staple of the Icelandic diet for over 1,000 years,” says Amos. “It is consumed daily by most residents as part of breakfast, lunch, or dinner.”
It’s worth noting here that Iceland has comfortably ranked in the top five countries in the World Happiness Report since its inception, and also near the top in Bloomberg’s annual Healthiest Country Index. No correlations have necessarily been drawn to skyr specifically, but perhaps that info is worth enough to reevaluate what’s in your breakfast?
What Is Skyr?
First things first, skyr is an Icelandic dairy product, containing live cultures, traditionally made from skim milk left over from butter production. The primary difference between skyr and yogurt, Amos explains, “is its thickness and therefore protein content. More liquid is strained off to make skyr, resulting in a thicker, more protein rich product.” Much like the difference between gelato and ice cream, to my mind; the way a lesser-fat milk is processed results in a nonetheless denser texture.
Related Reading: Keep Your Gut Healthy with These Probiotic-Heavy Foods
How Is Skyr Made?
“Making skyr is a fairly simple process,” says Amos. “Milk is heated gently and then cultures are added. After some time, the cultures activate and begin to ferment the milk (forming distinct curdles and the milky whey.) The resulting fermented milk is then strained to remove the liquid—or whey—producing a thick and creamy skyr. For a richer variety, cream is sometimes added.”
Because of the curdling stage that skyr goes through, and due to the particular cultures present, unlike yogurt skyr can actually be considered a fresh-milk cheese. (This fact alone is enough for me to make it my number one breakfast.) Skyr can also be made at home in a method similar to yogurt, fresh cheese, or even sourdough creation, utilizing a bit of prepared skyr to act as the culture in the new batch.
Related Reading: What is the Difference Between Yogurt and Greek Yogurt?
What Does Skyr Taste Like?
Like yogurt, and particularly Greek-style yogurt, plain skyr has a slightly tangy flavor profile, though most find it a little less tart than Greek yogurt, and with a little more natural sweetness. While traditionally eaten plain with a topping of milk and sugar, vanilla and fruit-flavored varieties are now widely available. Traditional skyr is made with fat-free milk and still has a remarkably rich texture, but fuller-fat varieties share shelf space with the original skim-milk based products.
siggi's Non-Fat Icelandic Skyr, Plain, 24 oz for $6.19 from Amazon Fresh
Get some skyr in your life for a breakfast both exotic and familiar.
Health Benefits of Skyr
“Skyr is particularly high in protein, a source of calcium and contains probiotics,” says Amos. “Calcium is important for bone health and probiotics have been shown to maintain gut health. However, not all skyr is created equal so be sure to choose one with simple ingredients and less added sugar. A general rule of thumb is that total sugar should be no more than 11 grams per 5.3 ounce serving. Avoid skyr with added thickeners, gums and starches.”
How Is Skyr Eaten in Iceland?
Beyond simply being eaten with milk and a little sugar, another traditional Icelandic breakfast consists of equal parts skyr and porridge. Plain skyr might be paired with fish for lunch or dinner.
Amos also suggests other uses: “plain or flavored skyr can serve as the base of a complete meal by adding some berries, nuts, or seeds for a filling and balanced skyr bowl. It can also be incorporated into many dishes like mashed potatoes, creamy soups, and desserts as a high protein replacement for sour cream, mayo, or whipped cream.”
Try swapping in plain skyr for any of our recipes calling for Greek yogurt:
Header image courtesy of Sarah Lausch/EyeEm/Getty Images.