Want to add some thick, rich, tang to your cooking and baking? Learn the differences between Greek yogurt and Icelandic skyr, as well as the benefits of each one.

By Kristin Tice Studeman
Updated November 12, 2018
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Believe it or not, there was a time before your dairy case was lined with multiple brands of Greek yogurt and skyr. In the early aughts, Greek yogurt took up very little (if any) space in the yogurt section of American supermarkets. Most of us just knew about regular yogurt and the many different flavors it came in. But Greek yogurt? That was pretty much a foreign concept. Skyr? Never even heard of it.

These days, however, Greek yogurt is everywhere and takes up about half the yogurt shelf, along with an increasing number of lesser-known alternative yogurts that continue to pop up along with it, like Icelandic Skyr and kefir.

What is skyr? How is it any different from Greek yogurt? You aren’t the only one wondering these things. It’s starting to get confusing with all the fermented dairy options out there right now. Here’s what you need to know:

What Is Greek Yogurt?

Greek yogurt is essentially regular yogurt (made from milk that’s been cultured and then fermented) that’s been strained. Through this straining process, whey (the watery part of milk that remains after curds form) is very slowly drained, resulting in a much thicker consistency than regular yogurt. It also means it is higher in protein concentration and lower in sugar than most standard American yogurts. You can find full-fat versions, as well as low-fat and non-fat varieties out there.

Greek yogurt (especially the plain, full-fat version) lends itself perfectly to dips and sauces, baking (it adds an excellent, fluffy texture), and of course, as a breakfast dish. Here are some of our favorite ways to get creative when cooking with Greek yogurt.

What Are the Benefits of Greek Yogurt?

Greek yogurt is loaded with beneficial nutrients, from iodine (especially good if you have a thyroid deficiency) to calcium (great for weight loss and preserving bone density) to B12 (important for energy and brain function) to probiotics (helps regulate your gut health). Perhaps most importantly, it is higher in protein and lower in sugar and carbohydrates than most American yogurts. Why is protein so vital? It helps to build muscle, repair tissues, and combat illnesses, to name a few of its many benefits. Also, it’s particularly crucial to work protein into your diet to help your skin remain strong and healthy as you age.

What Is Skyr?

Icelandic skyr (pronounced skeer) might be newer to you, but it’s been an important part of Icelandic food culture for over 1,000 years and has started to crop up in the States in a big way in recent years (popular brands include Siggi's, Sky.is, and Icelandic Provisions). It is an Icelandic-style strained yogurt that’s even thicker and more densely concentrated than Greek yogurt. Icelanders will tell you that true, Icelandic skyr is not actually yogurt at all but instead, it’s categorized as a cheese. Traditionally, skyr involves heating skim milk and then adding old skyr cultures. Curds will form and then the whey is drained for many hours until there’s a thick, sour skyr.

Though skyr is typically made with skim milk, you wouldn’t guess it because it’s so thick and full in flavor. (Some brands, like SmariOrganics in the U.S., also make great whole milk versions these days.)

You can eat skyr the same way you would eat a yogurt, either on its own or topped with granola, honey, or fruit. Or, you can get creative and work it into more savory recipes and dips.

Does Skyr Have the Same Benefits As Greek Yogurt?

Aside from the smooth, thick texture, skyr gets bonus points for its health benefits. It’s super high in protein (even higher than Greek yogurt), and also packed with vitamins and minerals, and typically lower in sugar, carbs, and fat than most yogurts. (Skyr is fat-free unless the brand adds cream during the production process so be sure to double check the label.) The high protein content makes it extra beneficial for weight loss and/or weight management because it makes you feel fuller for longer periods of time, meaning it also decreases hunger. The combination of high protein levels, along with the low carbs, is a winning duo when it comes to controlling blood sugar levels. Like Greek yogurt, skyr is also high in calcium (just one serving can provide roughly 20 percent of your recommended daily amount), and can help increase bone mass density in children and teenagers and can protect against bone loss and as you age.