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What is Skyr Yogurt & Why Do You Need This Delicious, Nutritious Snack in Your Life?

October 22, 2021

As you walk down your grocery store’s dairy aisle and head toward the yogurt, you may spot a product somewhere among the traditional yogurts and Greek yogurts labeled “Icelandic-Style Skyr.” 

But what is skyr?

If you’re new to this decadent, creamy delight, it is an Icelandic milk product rich in probiotics and protein. Skyr has adapted to modern tastes and is considered a type of yogurt in the United States.

Skyr has been a staple of Icelandic food since the Norwegian Vikings first settled on the island in the late ninth century. Genuine skyr is made only in Iceland, where the product is labeled “Icelandic skyr.” When made anywhere other than Iceland, it must be labeled “Icelandic-style skyr.”

So, how is skyr different from Greek yogurt? Flavor-wise, the Icelandic milk product is a bit more tart than Greek yogurt, which tends to be a bit more tart. When it comes to consistency, skyr is thicker and smoother. In fact, it is so thick and creamy that you could flip a spoonful upside down without it falling off!

There are also many differences in how it is made and its composition, which is what we’ll explore below. Keep reading to discover the unique process of making Icelandic skyr, its health benefits, and the many ways you can enjoy it.

How is Icelandic skyr made?

Before we dive into the methods of making skyr, it is important to understand that milk is made up of two proteins: 80% casein and 20% whey.

Traditional Methods

Historically, skyr was not pasteurized, but today it must be as required by the USDA. Pasteurization is a method of heating up raw milk to temperatures high enough and held for a long enough time to kill all bacteria that could possibly be in the milk. Pasteurization is one of the most important food safety standards in our country!

The traditional method of making skyr involved straining milk through a cloth with the culture from a previous batch of skyr.

Producers began using the centrifuge system in the 1960s, which is still used to make many Greek yogurts in our country today. The centrifuge spins fluids at high speed within a container, separating fluids of different densities (e.g., cream from milk) or liquids from solids. 

With both the traditional straining method and the centrifuge, a lot of the whey (a finer protein) is removed and lost. Additionally, a good portion of fat is lost in the process. This is why many yogurts do not contain whey protein or as much fat content (if you see high-fat Greek yogurt, it typically means they’ve back-added it). Stabilizers, protein, and fats must also be added to many Greek yogurt brands, resulting in a product that is not as smooth or as pure.

The New Skyr: Ultra-Filtration

The ultra-filtration machine was introduced in 1990 to create pure, super-smooth skyr and other dairy products. 

To make skyr, cultured milk is pushed through a series of thousands of paper-thin filtered with holes so tiny you can’t see them. Nothing is added to the product except occasional probiotics and flavors like fruit, resulting in clean, pure skyr.

During ultra-filtration, the only filtered substances are water, some minerals, and 50% of the lactose. This means the finished product contains all of the healthy whey and casein! As for fat content, ultra-filtration ensures that the amount of fat you start with is the same amount you will have in your finished product. Because skyr yogurt is commonly made with skim milk, the final product tends to have anywhere from 0% to 4% fat.

Some skyr yogurt can contain more healthy fat content. For example, to make skyr with 6% fat, the yogurt maker would need to start with 2% whole milk (due to the straining in the ultra-filtration process). Skyr made with whole milk could be upwards of 12% cream!

You will both taste and feel the difference from ultra-filtration technology, which ensures:

  • A thicker, creamier texture because the skyr is strained more than other methods.
  • Higher protein content.
  • A better, smoother mouthfeel because skyr doesn’t require added stabilizers, meaning a more homogenized product.
  • No milk solids (i.e., the portion containing vitamins, proteins, carbs, and minerals) are lost except lactose.

While delicious and nutritious skyr is the most common type of yogurt made with the ultra-filtration machine, it can also be used to make other products like Greek yogurt.

Health Benefits

Speaking of nutritious, let’s check out the many health benefits of Icelandic skyr, which is packed with all the right nutrients, including:

  • Protein: The high protein content can help with diet control, immune system strength, and other critical bodily processes.
  • Calcium: One serving of skyr can provide 20% of the daily recommended amount!
  • Probiotics: The yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics, specifically BB12, which is unique to skyr and promotes gut health.
  • Heart Health: Evidence shows that dairy products like skyr could be linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, thanks to minerals like calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
  • Blood Sugar Control: Since it is high in protein but low in carbs, skyr could help slow your body’s absorption of carbs, resulting in better blood sugar control and lower blood sugar levels.

Guilt-free and tasty? Count us in!

Popular Ways to Enjoy Skyr

Now that you’ve gotten the lowdown on what exactly skyr is, how it’s made, and why you need to try it, you’re probably looking for ideas on how to eat it.

You can always start with the traditional Icelandic way: A simple dessert topped with cream, sugar, and fresh berries. But don’t stir the cream and skyr together—you want to enjoy those yummy contrasting flavors!

Skyr also pairs well with other fruit, jams, honey, or maple syrup for a hint of natural sweetness. Throw on some toppings like nuts, seeds, and oats for a crunchy touch!

We also love skyr to make dips, sauces, and toppings. It can be a great addition or complement to both sweet and savory dishes! Try:

  • Pairing sweet skyr flavors with graham crackers and cookies.
  • Making your own savory skyr by adding garlic, cucumber, a splash of lemon juice, and salt.
  • Using it as an alternative to sour cream, cream cheese, and meat sauces.
  • Topping desserts with a little dollop of sweet-flavored skyr.
  • Adding it to your favorite fruit smoothie. 

The beauty of skyr is its versatility, so don’t be afraid to get creative with the flavors and ingredients you add to it.

Painterland Sisters Icelandic-Style Skyr

Are you searching for naturally delicious skyr to enjoy with your next appetizer, dessert, or main dish? Stay tuned for Painterland Sisters Icelandic-Style Skyr, coming soon to a store near you!

Check back soon for more information!

Stephanie Painter

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