Beyond Greek: Tasting Icelandic Skyr, Kefir and Australian Yogurt
Skyr (pronounced “skeer”) is a staple food in Iceland—natives of the country have been eating it for hundreds of years. It’s a thick, creamy probiotic dairy product that uses skyr cultures. Compared with U.S. yogurts, skyr is more dense, higher in protein and less sweet.
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This product uses traditional Icelandic cultures but is made here in America. We found that the vanilla flavor came through as rich and warm. It packs 15 grams of protein alongside 10 grams of sugar. It was the least sweet of the bunch, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the most tart. It tastes like vanilla-flavored dairy, pure and simple. If you prefer a less tangy product, this is a good fit for you.
Price: about $2 for 5.3 oz
The ad campaign for Siggi’s focuses on the founder’s opinion that American yogurts are too sweet. And the Siggi’s skyr is definitely less sweet than most U.S. mainstays. The whole milk variety, which is 4 percent milkfat and has 12 grams of protein and 8 grams of sugar, has a mild vanilla flavor but is definitely dairy-forward: You taste the cultured milk first and foremost. The nonfat—15 grams of protein and 9 grams of sugar—is very thick (almost too dense for some of us). It’s more tart than the whole milk option and has a slightly stronger vanilla flavor.
Price: $1.69 for 5.3 oz.
Smari’s whole milk offering is the sweetest of the skyrs we tasted. It is less sweet than standard yogurts, but the 10 grams of sugar have been stretched to taste far sweeter than the other skyrs. It’s also looser than its skyr compatriots, and its vanilla tasted more synthetic. Smari’s nonfat option is more tart than the whole milk offering (and has one additional gram of protein—16 vs 15), so it might be worth trying both if you are interested in a less thick skyr.
Price: $1.99 for 5 oz.
Full disclosure: Lifeway does not offer a vanilla flavor, so we tasted the honey variety. Because the honey is a mix-in option, we tasted the base with and without honey. This skyr is definitely for those after a sharp tang. It was the most tart of the skyrs we tasted. It has a hefty 18 grams of protein, and the ability to control the addition of honey means you can make it as sweet as you’d like (about 2 grams of sugar without honey and 30 grams with).
Price: $2.29 for 5.3 oz.
Kefir is fermented with a mixture of bacteria and yeast and can be more sour than traditional yogurts. This probiotic product originated in the Caucasus Mountains and spread to Russia and parts of Asia and Europe. Much of what is now on the market in the United States is drinkable, meaning it isn’t strained to be spoonable.
Though kefir is largely catching on as a beverage, Lifeway is offering it in a cup that comes with a handy lid with a spoon built right in (like its skyr). As with its skyr, there is no vanilla option, so we tasted the honey flavor. The sugar ranges from 5 to 33 grams, depending on how much honey you add. This kefir thick and creamy with 15 grams of protein, and it tips toward sour versus tart on the tangy scale. If you’d rather eat kefir than drink it, pick this up.
Price: $1.49 to $1.79 for 5.3 oz.
At its core, Aussie yogurt focuses on whole milk. It makes it more luscious than American yogurts that use low-fat or nonfat milk. But some of the Australian-style yogurts on offer in America are low-fat and nonfat (and some of those are Greek-style), so the category is a bit muddier in terms of a clear national identity.
Noosa does, in fact, stick to whole milk offerings, meaning its yogurts are richer than many U.S. products. But like American options, this yogurt—or yoghurt, as the packaging says—is sweet. It smells like ice cream and eats like a dessert (that you can have for breakfast without anyone blinking). Its numbers bare out the flavor profile with 6 grams of protein and 16 grams of sugar. Noosa cranks out a lot of inventive flavors, and it has created a full-bodied vanilla. If you want something less dense than skyr or prize sweetness over tang, this one’s for you.
Price: $4.99 for a 4-pack of 4-oz tubs
Wallaby has whole milk, low-fat and nonfat options. We tried the whole milk Wallaby Organic Smooth variety. We noted that, unlike the others, this option included water in the ingredient list. And it tasted, well, watered down. The clearest summary came from a taster who said “it tastes like a yogurt-flavored product” rather than tasting—or feeling—like yogurt. But if you like a mild yogurt or value smoothness, it fits the bill.
Price: about $1.20 for 6 oz