Skyr Recipe (Icelandic Yogurt): What Is It and How Do I Make It?

Home » Skyr Recipe (Icelandic Yogurt): What Is It and How Do I Make It?

Sneak Preview: This Skyr recipe will show you how to make Icelandic Yogurt at home. Find out what it is and learn how to make it at home. Detailed pictures included.

Icelandic Yogurt:  What Is It and How Do I Make It? --3 dishes of thick Icelandic yogurt

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Do you like to have something a little sweet to signal the end of your meal? Me, too. If I don’t have a satisfying dessert, well, I start nibbling on dark chocolate. From there, I spiral down.

We eat skyr for dessert almost every night at our house to help me avoid spiral-down syndrome. It’s rich, creamy, high-protein and so filling. No midnight snack needed! 

This guide to Icelandic yogurt includes answers to your questions and instructions for making it yourself at home. If you want to know more about this cousin of Greek yogurt, keep reading.  

What is Skyr:

Skyr, also known as Icelandic Yogurt, is a popular style of yogurt originating from Iceland. According to the Icelandic Provisions (a commercial brand available locally) carton, “it has been enjoyed for centuries in Iceland.” 

They describe it as “a combination of dairy milk and cultures that is rich and creamy…simplicity on a spoon.”

On a side note, low-fat milk is listed as the first ingredient on the Icelandic Provisions container.

Another popular brand called Siggi’s lists pasteurized skim milk as the first ingredient.

What about rennet?

Neither brand lists rennet, a thickener. Although rennet is advocated by some, I have it on good authority (an email from a company that makes this stuff commercially) that rennet is not necessary if your live cultures are plentiful and active.

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Skyr is thicker than Greek yogurt and contains a higher level of protein than other yogurts. This makes sense when you consider it takes 4 cups of milk to make one cup of Skyr.

Traditionally, Greek yogurt requires 2 cups of milk to make one cup of yogurt.

Want to try making it yourself?

Since I love to make yogurt, and I like to save money, I decided to try making skyr at home. (I’ve been making Greek yogurt and answering your questions about it for the last 13 years on this website.)

If you want to try making it for yourself, check out my method below. Compare it to others online, and I think you’ll find this method easier and less complicated than most.

Maybe you’re not like me, but I find I won’t make something very often if it’s too involved. Of course, the first few attempts may take longer until you get your system figured out. But in my opinion, it’s so worth it.

Four observations about making skyr:

1. You can use skim, low-fat, or whole milk to make Icelandic yogurt.

The fat adds creaminess. So does whipping the final product (optional) and/or adding a bit of heavy cream.

-- yogurt in dish with candy sprinkles

Go ahead and take it into ice-cream-like territory with some sweetness if you want. A few colorful sprinkles might even convert the kids in your life.

2. What is milk with increased solids?

Braums (and probably others I’m not aware of) employs a special evaporative technique to increase the solids in their lower-fat milk. This results in milk with higher protein and better taste right out of the carton.

Consequently, it will be difficult to strain this yogurt down to 1/2 of the original volume because of more solids. No worries.

Even if you get it down to 1/3 of the original volume, it will be very thick and totally delicious.


3. Which brand of starter should I use?

I purchased Siggi’s plain yogurt as a starter for one batch and Icelandic Provisions Skyr for the other. Both batches turned out similar with only the slightest difference in tartness. The particular strain of cultures used in each brand is listed on their respective cartons. Interestingly, they are different.

Which starter you use is not as important as how fresh it is. That’s why the best starter is often the fresh yogurt you make yourself. Of course, you won’t have that available in the beginning.

Note: You can use either Greek yogurt or regular yogurt as a starter so long as it is fresh and has no additives.


4. Why is my yogurt too tart (or too mild?)

Some people consider Skyr or Icelandic yogurt tarter than Greek yogurt. My experience is that it is milder than Greek or regular yogurt. Although many people prefer a sour taste, I like a milder yogurt with less tartness.

The “tartness” of any homemade yogurt can be affected by the length of incubation and the type of milk used.

I go for the shortest incubation period possible that still produces a firm product. Mine usually takes about 4-5 hours to set.

I strain it on my kitchen counter for about 3-5 hours using a Kleynhuis yogurt bag as seen in the picture below. The yogurt is perfectly safe at room temperature for several hours because of the acid content.

If you don’t want to purchase the yogurt bag, see this post about using coffee filters and a cheap colander. It’s so much better than using a double layer of cheesecloth.

using a yogurt pouch to strain yogurt

The result?

Icelandic Yogurt sitting next to whey

My yogurt turned out similar to what I have always called yogurt cheese. As you can see in the picture above, 2 quarts of milk strained down to a generous 2 cups of yogurt and lots of whey.

If you’re wondering what to do with all that whey, see this post for 18 ways to use yogurt whey.

yogurt crash course signup

How to make Skyr yogurt at home:

pouring milk into microwave-safe container.

Pour milk into a microwave-safe container.
Heat in a microwave until the temperature reaches 180˚ F. For thicker yogurt even before straining, add 15 minutes in your microwave at 20% power to hold the temperature around 180˚F.

checking temperature on cooling yogurt

Allow the milk to cool down to 100-110˚F.

 removing the skin from cooled yogurt

Remove any “skin” formed over the top after the milk cools.

adding starter to cooled milk

Add approximately 1 tablespoon of starter culture to your warm milk.

Whisking starter into cooled yogurt

Whisk well to distribute the starter evenly.

incubating yogurt in oven

Incubate at 100-110 degrees F. until set. Don’t disturb or move the bowls during this period. Cover yogurt with a towel, paper plate, or nothing if the bowls are sitting in an enclosed compartment.

straining yogurt

Allow the yogurt to strain until it reaches the thickness desired. Chill before eating for the best flavor.

FAQ about Skyr:

Why is skyr more satisfying?

Because it’s more concentrated which means more protein. Protein is usually satisfying.

How do I serve this yogurt?

Serve it the same as Greek or regular yogurt. Here’s an idea: Try some Icelandic yogurt mixed with a small serving of Halo ice cream (our new fave) or any ice cream for that matter. I think it tastes like soft-serve frozen yogurt.
Other serving ideas involve fresh berries, honey, vanilla extract, chia seeds, toasted almonds, pecans, granola, and my personal favorite, cherry jam.

Is skyr healthy?

For the record, both brands of commercial yogurt I purchased claim 17 grams of protein, 6 carbs, and approximately 100 calories in a 5.3-ounce serving. I’m assuming the stats on my homemade Icelandic yogurt are similar.

Are you new to making yogurt? Start simple with an Instant Pot and the cold start method for making regular yogurt. When you master that, come back and try this Icelandic yogurt.


If you have questions or suggestions, email me privately to Paula at saladinajar.com. Hope to see you again soon! Paula

skyr yogurt in martini glasses

Skyr Recipe

An easy way to make your own protein-rich skyr or Icelandic yogurt at home
5 from 15 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 10 hrs
Total Time 10 hrs 30 mins
Course Making Yogurt
Servings 6 servings (1/3 cup)

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts skim or low-fat milk - or whatever milk you prefer
  • 1-2 tablespoons generous tablespoon plain - non-flavored commercial Icelandic yogurt (once you make your own yogurt, you can use it as a starter)

Instructions
 

  • Fill Pyrex batter bowl (my preference) or 2-quart microwave-safe glass container with milk.
  • Heat on HIGH in microwave until bubbles begin to appear around the edge. Temperature should reach 175-180 degrees after you stir it. (In my microwave, it takes 17 minutes on HIGH). You can also heat milk on the stove if you prefer. It will take a lot longer and be careful not to scorch it.
  • Allow milk to cool until temperature drops to between 100 and 115 degrees. This is the step (more than any other) where more people ruin their yogurt. In the beginning of your yogurt adventures, get yourself a thermometer and check!! Too hot and the little yogurt bodies will be murdered!
  • If a skin forms, remove it.
  • Whisk in 1 tablespoon unflavored commercial Icelandic yogurt as a starter or use yogurt from a previous batch of your own homemade yogurt. No need to heat or warm it ahead of time.
  • Cover milk and place in a warm environment where the temperature stays around 100 degrees.
  • Allow to incubate for 5-12 hours. The longer you incubate, the more tart your yogurt will be.
  • From regular yogurt to Icelandic yogurt
  • Strain thickened yogurt. (If yogurt has not set, it will not readily strain.) I use this method. No cheesecloth required. I highly recommend it.
  • Let yogurt sit in the strainer till the yogurt is reduced down to a quarter of the original volume. Time to strain may be as long as 8-10 hours. Tip the strainer or stir very gently if whey has pooled on top while straining.
  • Empty whey from batter bowl and pour yogurt out of strainer back into the original bowl. Use a good whisk or portable mixer to beat until smooth or leave as is. Chill.
  • I’m told it will stay fresh for 3 weeks. We eat it too fast to know.

Video

Notes

The Nutrition Facts will vary according to how much you strain the yogurt and what kind of milk you use. 

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Skyr Recipe
Serving Size
 
6
Amount per Serving
Calories
 
135
Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
3
g
5
%
Saturated Fat
 
2
g
13
%
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
1
g
Cholesterol
 
16
mg
5
%
Sodium
 
140
mg
6
%
Carbohydrates
 
16
g
5
%
Sugar
 
17
g
19
%
Protein
 
11
g
22
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Author: Paula Rhodes
Course: Making Yogurt
Cuisine: Scandinavian
Keywords: skyr recipe, skyr, homemade skyr, Icelandic yogurt, homemade yogurt
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33 Comments

  1. This is timely, Paula. I was introduced to skyr by my new DIL, who is Russian. I like it, and she loves it. Cultures for Health supposedly sells a culture that makes a reliable skyr, but I can’t remember if it is mesophilic or thermophilic. I have been thinking of getting into making mesophilic yogurt so that I won’t have to buy anything to use for a culture. Now that I have read your post, I will certainly try to find some plain skyr to use for a culture. All I have been able to find locally is flavored skyr, but I have in the past used flavored yogurt (no fruit!) as a culture when that was all I had available with good results. Skyr reminds me somewhat of a loose cream cheese that has a great flavor. My DIL also likes kefir, and I made it for a while, just for the experience. It is much too tart and sour for me, so I put my grains in the freezer. Thanks for this post!

    1. Hi Becky,
      I’m not a big fan of kefir either. I’m not sure where you live, but Sprouts near us carries the unflavored Skyr. Wish you were my neighbor and I would just give you some fresher than fresh starter from my last batch. Have a great day!

      1. Paula, just wanted to get back to you about my efforts in making this. I was able to find some Icelandic Provisions plain skyr at my local Sprouts. It is very good; first time I had tried it. So I used it for the culture. Success! I let it ferment for about 5 hours as I like a more mild yogurt/skyr. Unlike yogurt, it stayed very liquid for about 4 hours, then suddenly came together. It is incredibly satisfying and a very good foil for whatever you want to put on it. I put a tablespoon of real maple syrup on it this morning for breakfast. Now I just need to be creative and use all that whey! Thanks so much for this guide. It was much easier than I thought.

        1. Hi Becky,
          Glad to hear it came out good for you. Maple syrup sounds fabulous! About that whey: I gave up on using all of mine long ago. Since I have no pets or livestock, most of it goes down the drain, unfortunately.

  2. Looks like a fun new yogurt experiment to try! I’ve never had Icelandic yogurt before. Have you had the new Yoplait Oui French style yogurt? We really like it and have made our own from what we bought at the store.

    1. Hi Gina,
      Let me know how you like the Icelandic Yogurt if you try it. I have tried the French-style Oui. Love the little glass container it comes in!

  3. Susan Cunningham says:

    Hi Paula,

    I’m excited to try this. One question however. Is this a frozen treat? Your recipe says “chill”, does that mean freeze?

    Thanks,

    Sue

    1. Hi Susan,
      That’s a good question. No, it is not frozen–just chilled like any other yogurt. The texture would change–in a bad way if you froze it straight up. It breaks down and separates a bit. You could still use it in a cooked recipe, but not good to eat out of hand. Sorry if I mislead you.

  4. Hi, I know this is an old post, but I have a question about making skyr that it seems you might be able to answer. Usually when you use store-bought yogurt as starter, you can only get maybe three or so re-cultures out of it before you have to buy fresh again from the store, because it won’t come out the same. After researching, I understand this is because the companies use very precise mixtures of specific bacteria strains to always get the same result and consistency. But once you start reculturing (or back slopping, as it’s called), the bacteria strains start to change their ratios to one another, based on the specific milk, temperature, time, etc. that you are incubating it at home. But I notice that you say that you do continuous back-slopping/reculturing after starting with Siggi’s or Icelandic Provisions. Have you noticed the culture changing after any number of times, when you had to buy fresh from the store again?
    Thanks for any help!

    1. Hi Ginny,

      You pose an interesting question. In my experience there is no exact answer about how many times you can “reculture.” (a much better term than back-slopping, IMHO) I have gone as long as a year before I had to buy new yogurt from the store. I’m no scientist, but I think it depends on many things. This summer, I think I picked up some wild yeast and I could only use it 4 times before it went weird on me. My sister always starts over after about 3 or 4 times. I’ve heard of people in India who pass down their starter like some people pass down sourdough starter. Some factors that make a difference in my experience: What yogurt did you start with? How fresh was it? How often are you re-culturing? (It can get old if you’re not making yogurt very often–I make yogurt every 5-7 days.) How carefully are the temperatures monitored and held at a constant level when incubating? Is it possible that it has become contaminated by wild yeast or foreign bacteria? There are probably other reasons if I thought about it for awhile. I’m glad you asked that question. It would make a good blog post.

  5. love this article! how long were you able to freeze/keep home-made greek yoghurt to use as starter for the next batch? i’ve read in few articles that some wld freeze but never more than 1 week, or they start from scratch. my work schedule has me on the go quite often so sometimes i can’t make a fresh batch of yoghurt every week…

    any advice?

    1. Frozen yogurt lasts longer than a week for me. I know I’ve used it successfully after a month. Maybe longer. I need to do and experiment and really pay attention. This weekend I tried to make yogurt with some starter that had been in the freezer for many months. Maybe a year??? It work–a little. Too weak. Had to go buy new starter.

      Your homemade yogurt should last at least two weeks in the fridge. You might try freezing some “starter” yogurt if you make it at least once a month.

  6. Amy Hazelrigg says:

    In my experience, yoghurt tends to be quite tart if allowed to ripen in a clear glass container exposed to light. It will be much “gentler” in taste if ripened in an opaque container—including the lid—and placed in the dark. I use a single two-quart container made of safe, heavy white plastic, and simply leave it overnight in an oven that has been preheated at 170 degrees for one minute. No need for wrapping in towels. When it’s firm, refrigerate until chilled.

    1. Hi Amy,
      I have never heard of this idea about a clear glass container. I’m curious. How long do you incubate your yogurt? In my experience, the length of incubation and how much and what kind of starter has more to do with it. I will experiment and see if I can tell a difference between using glass, plastic, and ceramic. Mine also incubates in the dark, generally speaking. But I’ve also put it outside on a warm summer day and got the same results as usual. Thanks so much for writing.

  7. I am new to yogurt making, did some in the past but am back to try it again. I like the thicker yogurts and am gobsmacked at the price! I found your site while looking on the net to find out why my last 2 batches were “slimy”. I don’t think it’s as simple as my culture (Kirkland Greek) is contaminated. The texture feels fine in my mouth and tastes the same but slides off the spoon in a not so appetizing way!
    To make this even more complicated for you, I decided a simpler way of getting more milk protein in my yogurt was to add a 1 quart envelope of nonfat dry milk to my 2 quarts of milk ….. I had never thought about how simple it would be to strain the whey out… But I will try that.
    One more question, before I make a pest of myself, while you strain out the whey, doesn’t the yogurt become more and more tart? The one victory that I feel like I have accomplished with this time around making yogurt is that I learned to take it out after 6 to 8 hours instead of letting it go to the point that it’s too tart to eat without adding lots of sweetener.
    I was so glad to find your site! Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Marilyn,
      Have you ever tasted whey all by itself? That stuff is sour, man. So if you strain it out, your yogurt will not be quite as tart.

      About the slime–don’t like that texture either. When that happens to me, I make a clean sweep. Start with a brand new starter. Interestingly, it only seems to happen in the summer.

      About the time of incubation: Have you tried reducing from 8 to 5 hours? When you check your yogurt at 5 or 5.5 hours, is it already set?

      Let me know how it goes for you.

  8. I know it says plain and no additives, but all I have is Vanilla Siggis. Can I use it as my starter?

    1. Cintia,
      You can try it. Might work. I much prefer the plain but if that’s all you can get, it’s worth a try. At least it doesn’t have fruit in it. Let me know how it works for you.

    2. Vanilla Siggis is the only one I have ever used. It works every time! I get super thick yogurt ♥

      1. Thanks for your input. It helps all of my readers.

  9. I’m brand new to making yogurt. Pretty much to most fermentation projects. When making curds & whey, kefir, or yogurt completely from scratch- I understand you have to use raw milk as pasteurized milk is dead. My question is do you need raw milk when you are adding this one of this Skyr cultures or can/do you use pasteurized milk from the grocery store?

    1. Hi Cat,
      Nice to hear from you. I’m not sure what you mean by “pasteurized milk is dead.” It’s your yogurt starter that should contain the live bacteria needed to make yogurt, not the milk.

      I have no source for raw milk as it is against the law to sell it in normal stores where I live. So I never use raw milk. You may use pasteurized milk and ultra-pasteurized milk for Skyr but you still need to heat it to 170-180˚F to unravel the proteins (then let it cool down) so your yogurt will be thick like Skyr. Otherwise, it will be “drinkable yogurt.” To get milk as thick as Skyr or Icelandic yogurt, you will need to strain off quite a bit of the whey as explained in this post. Let me know if you have more questions.

  10. Hey, thank you for the post and all the explanations – it’s very detailed!
    I live in a place where we don’t have Icelandic yogurt at all but I really want to try it.
    I’m experienced with yogurt making. Do you think I have to use Icelandic yogurt in order to make the first batch successfully? thanks.

    1. Hi Hila,

      Good question. I made it using store-bought Icelandic yogurt. Honestly, I couldn’t tell much difference in the taste from Greek yogurt. (I’ve never to been to Iceland to try the home-grown product. It has a thicker texture because I strained it longer than Greek yogurt. But your letter spurred me to order the freeze-dried Icelandic yogurt to see if it would taste different. I’ll add my thoughts to this post after I experiment with it. If you can’t get any Icelandic yogurt at the store, I would use any unflavored yogurt without additives as a starter. Let your yogurt strain until you have approximately 2 generous cups of yogurt from 2 quarts of milk. Or stop straining off whey at the point where you like the thickness of the yogurt best. That’s the cool thing about making yogurt at home. Agree? Thanks for writing.
      Happy Yogurt-Eating!

  11. Laurie Higgins says:

    You might want to check out the Mediterranean version of yogurt – Labna or Labneh. I might try that next. It’s a slightly salted yogurt with an infusion of herbs.

    1. Yes, I’ve read about this. Sounds fabulous.

  12. Thanks for the great recipe! You mentioned something about adding a bit of heavy cream if desired, at what point in the process would you do that? At the beginning in place of some of the milk or after has been separated from the whey?

    1. Hi Paul,

      You could do either way. I add it after the whey has been drained.

  13. I’m not new to yogurt making, I’ve made it the traditional way and the cold start method. I’ve seen Icelandic in stores but this is the first I’ve read on making it.

    I read the directions and I’m sorry if I missed it but what is the difference in the way Icelandic is made from that of Greek? You heat it, cool it, culture it, then stain it. Again I’m sorry but what am I missing? I thought maybe the difference was just the Icelandic starter but then I read that Greek or regular yogurt starter could be used as long as it was fresh. Is it just that it’s strained longer?

    I’ve never actually ate Icelandic yogurt but it looks really good in your photo.

    1. Hi Melissa,

      Yes, you are right. Basically, it just gets strained longer. I have never eaten Icelandic yogurt in Iceland. I’m guessing it has a slightly different taste because of differences in climate, cows, ways of serving, etc. But the Icelandic yogurt you buy here is just thicker than Greek yogurt. Different brands can vary just like different brands of Greek yogurt can taste different or be a different consistency.

  14. Can this be done in an Instant Pot like regular yogurt?? I don’t mean the cold method…

    Thank you

    1. Hi Angela,
      Yes. Make it like you always do, but strain it even more than Greek yogurt until it’s really thick. I think you’ll love it.