From fermented Greenland shark to pylsur—hot dogs—Iceland is well known for its culinary traditions, and the strongest gastronomic institution of the North Atlantic island is skyr.
Simply, skyr is most often and easily compared to yogurt. Although skyr resembles yogurt in both ingredients and product placement in grocery store coolers, this Icelandic staple is quite different, and its chemical composition makes it a closer relative to a soft cheese. The craft of skyr-making has been passed from mother to daughter for 40 generations starting with a recipe arriving in Iceland during settlement of the island in the 9th century. Each new batch used a sample from the previous batch to pass along the active cultures, which compare in modern terms to yeast and hops in beer.
The result is a delicious, nutritious, and inseparable part of Icelandic culinary culture and common life. Iceland is even home to a museum dedicated to the product; Skyrland in Selfoss immerses visitors in the world of skyr through interactive exhibits and is home to the Ísey Skyr Bar. Skyr producers have been established around the world. Below are the top seven Skyr brands based on two-years of taste tests.
Örnuskyr is a product from the Bolungarvík, Iceland milk processing company Arna. Most skyr is low in lactose content, and this skyr is lactose-free. Lactose in the milk is broken down into glucose and galactose and the lactose enzymes are then destroyed before creating Arna products. Our favorite is blueberry, which contains six percent fruit, plus blackcurrant and carrot concentrate for a superior flavor. Folks living in North Atlantic countries love black licorice, and Örnuskyr satisfies the demand with chocolate and licorice flavored skyr.
Dairy producer Mjölkursamsalan makes two brands, Ísey and Kea. We prefer Kea because we like to stir things up a bit. Kea skyr has fruit on the bottom and comes in two flavors, mango and strawberry. Other Kea flavors include salted caramel, coffee and vanilla, strawberry and banana, Blueberry and strawberry, plain, and vanilla. Kea is a creamy skyr. Ísey and Kea can be found in most Icelandic grocery stores.
The Painterland Sisters, Stephanie and Hayley, launched their skyr brand in March 2022. After growing up in north central Pennsylvania, USA on their family farm, which has been in operation since 1941, the sisters wanted to create a healthy snack meeting their lifestyle. This skyr is exceptionally creamy and full flavored. Painterland Sisters skyr is certified organic, lactose-free, and comes in five flavors, plain, blueberry lemon, strawberry, vanilla bean, and meadow berry.
Siggi’s is the skyr brand produced by The Icelandic Milk and Skyr Corporation headquartered in New York City. Siggi Hilmarsson’s skyr recipe took the US by storm in 2008 after teaming up with Whole Foods Market. Siggi’s has the most diverse range of products offering a drinkable, probiotic rich yogurt, a plant-based blend, squeezable pouches for kids, and a decadent triple cream skyr more closely related to dessert.
Icelandic Provisions has the widest reach in terms of distribution, and in our opinion, it is the thickest skyr on the market. Available around the world, Icelandic Provisions skyr tastes close to its made-in-Iceland counterparts because it uses some of the same active cultures by partnering with Mjölkursamsalan (see above). Icelandic Provisions has some unique ingredients like boysenberry, cloudberry, and bilberry. Our favorite flavor is key lime.
Pennsylvania is known for raising high quality milk cows. It is not hard to understand why an organic skyr startup, although not based in Pennsylvania, would source its milk from Keystone State cows. With an emphasis on Scandinavian heritage, Norr produces non-fat and whole milk skyrs. Our favorite flavor is vanilla chamomile. Other creative flavors include raspberry and rosewater, black currant and blood orange, and elderflower and lemon.
Sometimes a person needs skyr on the go, and even though it is traditionally thick, eating skyr usually requires a spoon. Næra found the solution. Available in only two flavors, strawberry and strawberry banana, skyr crunch is a freeze-dried snack similar to astronaut ice cream. Milk used to produce Næra snacks contains 80 percent A2 enzymes, which have proven to be more easily digested by humans than A1 enzymes commonly found in standard cow’s milk.