It seems likely that many of you are in some way familiar with Iceland’s dairy product extraordinaire, skyr, but for those of you who aren’t, skyr is a creamy, cultured dairy product which, with its thick consistency and delightful tartness, may remind you much of greek yogurt. According to Wikipedia (above) skyr is actually a type of cheese, but I don’t think that any non-Icelander who ran across it in a grocery store would think of it that way.
Skyr is ubiquitous in Iceland, and there are seemingly endless varieties and flavors. There are a couple main brands and when you buy a small cup in the grocery store or at a shop, they come with these adorable little folding plastic spoons, the better to eat on the go.
Now, many of you may have tried skyr in the US via the company Siggi’s. Siggi’s skyr was developed by and Icelander living in New York but while it is pretty tasty, I have to say that not only is it rather expensive, it just isn’t the same as what you get here (it seems a lot more sour, and some of the flavors are a little random.) But if you’re looking to get the gist of skyr and have a healthy pro-biotic morning infusion, then I wouldn’t dissuade you from splurging on a Siggi’s, which nicely enough, has a recyclable label so you can feel good about that too. But back to skyr in Iceland…
Mark and I have probably eaten our weight in skyr in the last month and have sampled a lot of flavors in the process. And so for fun, I suggested (in the spirit of the neighborhood rankings published annually by Mark’s former publication) that we come up with Skyr Power Rankings. If I had planned this ahead better, I would have come up with all sorts of qualities on which to judge the various skyrs, and perhaps would have set up a side by side taste test, but alas, I did not. We’re basically just rating these on flavor for the time being, irrespective of differences that you might find between brands. Even as I write this, though, I regret the lack of scientific accuracy here, so rest assured that one day very soon I will compare these instinctual and not at all scientifically qualified rankings with results obtained a more robust experiment involving control groups, brand comparisons, and the like. (Keep in mind that there are some flavors which will never be reviewed in my power rankings–banana, for instance–because I dislike the flavor and the idea of eating bananas still gives me a bit of the willies. I’m sure that for a banana lover, however, that the banana skyr is exceptional.)
But for now, I give you a ranking–from lowest to highest–of the skyr flavors we’ve tried thus far in Iceland:
- Caramel — This one was interesting, but a little underwhelming. More like dessert than something you’d eat for breakfast, the caramel is mixed in instead of being added in as a swirl or bottom layer. So the whole cup of skyr is a sort of toasted brown color, and is not unlike eating cold flan. I like flan, but maybe not for breakfast.
- Melon & Fig — Mark had this one and I just tasted it a little. The melon flavor was definitely subtle and I wouldn’t normally pick anything flavored with figs, but it was actually pretty good. Like Fig Newton cookies, you take a bite and think, ‘Oh yeah–figs are not bad,” but that realization doesn’t really encourage you to go out and buy more Fig Newtons or fig skyr in the future.
- Peach/Pear — Two separate flavors, tied in rankings. Both had a very good, very pear-y/peach-y flavor, but neither had that special something to take them over the top. For instance, like the…
- Raspberry and Peach — With the berry flavor to take plain peach to the next level, this one is quite tasty–you can taste both elements really well and there are little raspberry bits sprinkled throughout.
- Blueberry/Raspberry — These are two different flavors, again, not one combined. (Actually, I can’t say I’ve seen a ‘mixed berry’ skyr, which is a little odd–that seems like it would be a natural choice.) Really, whether you like blueberry or raspberry best entirely depends on well, whether you like blueberry or raspberry best. Being in Iceland, which has delicious home-grown blueberries, I tend to opt for that one, but Mark prefers the raspberry.
- Plain (Unflavored) — You wouldn’t think that plain skyr would be toward the top of the list, but really–this guy has a multifaceted personality, and that puts him very close to the best in the rankings. Sometimes you just want the classic, and plain skyr, like plain greek yogurt, can also function as sour cream, so it has a sort of double identity when you’re cooking. It is also a fantastic base for the yogurt sauces that you might make with middle eastern dishes or fish (garlic-cilantro-cayenne yogurt sauce, for instance). It is also absolutely delicious in the morning when drizzled with a little rhubarb jam, which is one of my favorite things in Iceland thus far.
But at the end of the day, the Best Skyr We’ve Had in Iceland so far is…
- Vanilla! (by a long shot) — The fact that vanilla skyr is so much better than all other skyrs (especially when, again, topped with a little rhubarb jam and/or berries) was a surprise to us. But it is really, really exceptionally good. The vanilla flavor isn’t chemically at all–it’s more a French Vanilla, actually–and the consistency is a little less thick than some of the other skyrs, which seems like it would be a detriment, but is actually rather ideal. I think that this would make an excellent base for a frozen yogurt, and have plans to experiment with that in the future, if it ever stays in our fridge long enough to play around with in recipes.