Skip to Content

Icelandic Yogurt: What Is It and How Do I Make It?

Preview: A beginner’s guide to Icelandic Yogurt — Find out what it is and learn how to make it at home. Detailed pictures included.

Do you have to have something a little sweet to signal the end of your meal? Me, too. We eat Icelandic yogurt for dessert almost every night at our house. 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.  

Here’s the scoop on Icelandic yogurt:

Icelandic yogurt, also know as Skyr, 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 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.

Icelandic Yogurt:  What Is It and How Do I Make It? --3 dishes of thick Icelandic yogurt
Icelandic yogurt — so thick it almost looks like ice cream!

What’s this 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.

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 10 years on this blog.)

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.

4 random observations about making Icelandic yogurt

1. You can use skim, 2% 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. When using milk with increased solids…

Braums (and probably others I’m not aware of) uses a special evaporative technique to increase the solids in their lower-fat milk. This causes their milk to be higher-protein and better-tasting 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 Icelandic yogurt more tart 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 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.

using a yogurt pouch to strain yogurt

The result?

two cups 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 below, 2 quarts of milk reduced 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.

Passing Observations…

  • Icelandic yogurt is more filling/satisfying because it’s more concentrated!
  • Speaking of treats, 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.
  • 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.

How to make Icelandic yogurt at home:

pouring milk into microwave-safe container.
Pour milk into microwave-safe container.
Heat in microwave until temperature reaches 170 degrees F.
checking temperature on cooling yogurt
Allow the milk to cool down to 100-110 degrees F.
 removing the skin from cooled yogurt
Remove any “skin” formed over the top.
adding starter to cooled milk
Add approximately 1 tablespoon of starter to cooled milk.
Whisking starter into cooled yogurt
Whisk well to distribute starter evenly.
incubating yogurt in oven
Incubate at 100-110 degrees F. until set.
preparing yogurt to strain using coffee filters
Strain. Check out my posts about various ways to do it. See links below.
straining yogurt
Allow the yogurt to strain until it reaches the thickness desired.

Posts Related to Icelandic Yogurt:


Did you enjoy this recipe? If so, you can help others and me by leaving a 5-star 🤩 rating inside the recipe below. No comments are required.

Hope to see you again soon!
Paula

p.s. If you have any questions or suggestions, you can email me privately: Paula at saladinajar.com.

Yield: 2 generous cups

How to Make Icelandic Yogurt at Home

icelandic yogurt, in serving dishes

An easy way to make your own protein-rich Icelandic Yogurt at home

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 hours
Total Time 10 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Fill Pyrex batter bowl (my preference) or 2-quart microwave-safe glass container with milk.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. If a skin forms, remove it.
  5. 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.
  6. Cover milk and place in a warm environment where the temperature stays around 100 degrees.
  7. Allow to incubate for 5-12 hours. The longer you incubate, the more tart your yogurt will be.

From regular yogurt to Icelandic yogurt

  1. Strain thickened yogurt. (If yogurt has not set, it will not readily strain.) I use this method. No cheesecloth required. I highly recommend it.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. I'm told it will stay fresh for 3 weeks. We eat it too fast to know.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

3

Serving Size:

5.3 ounces

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 100Carbohydrates: 6gProtein: 17g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Angela

Tuesday 5th of January 2021

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

Thank you

Paula

Wednesday 6th of January 2021

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.

Melissa

Sunday 18th of October 2020

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.

Paula

Monday 19th of October 2020

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.

Paul

Sunday 6th of September 2020

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?

Paula

Sunday 6th of September 2020

Hi Paul,

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

Laurie Higgins

Sunday 28th of June 2020

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.

Paula

Sunday 28th of June 2020

Yes, I've read about this. Sounds fabulous.

Hila

Saturday 9th of May 2020

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.

Paula

Saturday 9th of May 2020

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!

Skip to Recipe