Iceland has a lot of different dairy products on offer. Some of them are well known, like skyr, while others are more obscure, like smjörvi or súrmjólk. In this article, we will explain some Icelandic dairy products you can find in every supermarket.
Skyr is a unique Icelandic dairy treat. Not only is it delicious, it also happens to be virtually fat-free and full of protein. It looks similar to Greek yogurt but is actually produced like cheese. It’s a little bit thicker than yogurt and the unflavoured version tastes tangier. Skyr is available in just about every flavour you can imagine, from coconut to lemon cake! The unsweetened version is delicious with berries and cream but is also increasingly used in savoury cooking.
Nýmjólk, léttmjólk, fjörmjólk, and undanrenna
Let’s zoom into the different kinds of milk that are being sold in Iceland, which, to be honest, are quite a lot. What do you buy when you just want regular milk?
If you want whole milk, with a fat percentage of 3.9%, you should buy nýmjólk. It’s sold in blue and white cartons. If you want low-fat milk, look for léttmjólk, with a fat percentage of 1.5%. Léttmjólk is sold in yellow and white 1l cartons. Nýmjólk and léttmjólk both have the word mjólk (milk) in it, which could point you in the right direction. However, if you’re looking for skimmed milk, you’re not so lucky. Undanrenna is the Icelandic word for skimmed milk, and it’s sold in pink cartons. If you’re looking for semi-skimmed milk, go for fjörmjólk, milk with 0.3% fat, enriched with calcium and protein, and fortified with vitamins A and D. All these milk products are pasteurised in Iceland.
Súrmjólk, AB-mjólk, and þykkmjólk
Now, let’s look at different yogurt types. Súrmjólk is Iceland’s version of thick buttermilk or cultured milk, and you can either buy it with 3.9% fat or as low-fat version. Buttermilk is a type of sour liquid originally left after churning butter from cultured cream. These days, you can also make it from fermenting dairy products. The Icelandic version is thicker than the one you might know from your home country. Don’t expect real milk when you buy súrmjólk, it’s actually like a sour yogurt you eat with a spoon! AB-mjólk is L. acidophilus- and B. bifidum-cultured yogurt, with 3.9% fat normally and 1.5% fat in the low-fat version. Just like súrmjólk, you eat it with a spoon. Þykkmjólk is a thick, creamy yogurt, that is available in many flavours.
Mýsa is acid whey, the liquid that is left over after producing cheese. Whey is healthy and is used as nutritional supplement by bodybuilders and athletes. In Iceland, whey has been used for centuries to pickle food. Especially traditional Icelandic food eaten during the month Þorri is often pickled in acid whey, like acid-whey-pickled lamb’s head terrine and acid whey pickled ram’s testicles. You can also just drink it! In case you want to try it, you can buy mýsa in 1l cartons in any supermarket.
Smjör, smjörlíki, smjörvi, and smurostur
There’s one more category that we should cover in this article, and that’s butter and margarine. Smjör is the Icelandic word for butter. This is a natural product with 81.5% fat that can be used on bread, for baking, and for frying. In the supermarket, you can also find a product called smjörvi. This is a mix of butter and margarine with 75% fat, of which 20% rapeseed oil. It also has added vitamins A and D, and you can use it on bread and for frying. Smjörlíki is margarine. Some brands add a little bit of butter, while other brands use only a mix of vegetable oils. Smurostur is no butter and no margarine, but a cheese spread of 18% fat.
Icelandic dairy products are a little bit confusing, but we hope we cleared things up for you!