Yogurt, Yogurt, Yogurt. The aisle has greatly expanded over the past couple of years with the boom for demand for Greek yogurt. While I am still all in for Greek yogurt I have discovered a couple more dairy products that I love and are very comparable nutrition wise. This posts delves into the dairy products known as Greek yogurt, Skyr, and Quark and compares their similarities, differences, history, and processing.
Nutrition Information Comparison (plain)
Nutritionally wise they are all pretty comparable – Quark and Skyr have a little more fat because they tend to be made with higher fat milks and that in turn also raises the calorie amount. What I love though is all are still pretty much interchangeable.
So let’s start with Greek Yogurt. Otherwise known as “strained yogurt” it originated from Eastern Europe and the Middle East most notably the countries of Turkey, Greece, and Israel. In fact, the word yogurt comes from the Turkish word yoğurt. Greek yogurt came onto the market around 1950 but did not hold a large market share until the last couple of years. Surprisingly, the process is not grandly different than making regular yogurt. It is made using the same techniques it just involves the extra step of straining the yogurt multiple times to create its signature thickness.
The first step of making yogurt involves mixing pasteurized milk and bacterial cultures. Yogurt is defined as “yogurt” due to the bacteria cultures added, Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles, which ferment the milk. During fermentation the milk sugar, lactose, converts to lactic acid, which gives yogurt the sour, tangy flavor. Yogurt can also have probiotic bacteria cultures added for added health benefits such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus subsp. casei, and bifido-bacteria. The last step is to strain the yogurt multiple times to let the whey drip off. Traditionally this is done using a muslin cloth but can also be done with cheesecloths or coffee filters. This process of straining is why it takes four cups of milk to make one cup of Greek yogurt and why the price of Greek yogurt is higher than regular yogurt.
Name Brands I know of and have tried are Chobani, FAGE, Oikos, and Dannon. There are many more that I don’t know of so don’t be surprised if I missed one or your store might have a store brand too. I personally really love Chobani but Oikos and Dannon are very similar. I will say that personally, I don’t like one of Oikos Greek yogurt products that claims the zero sugar and uses artificial sweeteners to sweeten. It doesn’t have the same mouth feel and I get headaches from artificial sweeteners so I try to avoid them (As you’ll find this is a common theme for me with yogurts). As for FAGE, its taste and texture is very different from the other three and I think it tastes more like Quark. I firstly have to say that I love, love, love FAGE. It is my favorite and to me tastes like a dessert, even in the non-fat flavors. Overall, I’ve found that you can’t go wrong with Greek yogurt and many store brands are popping up and their yogurt may taste great too.
Skyr was originally brought to Iceland from Scandinavian Norsemen from Norway over a thousand years ago. Skyr was originally thought to be a bi-product of the production for whey, which helped to preserve meat and fish. However, over time it grew to be a central part of the Icelandic diet. Skyr is actually considered a cheese but is marketed with yogurt here in the States. Alike to Greek yogurt it also takes four cups of milk to make one cup of Skyr just like Greek yogurt but it is claimed to be the thickest in texture overall. It has a naturally mild, slightly sour and sweet flavor to it.
Skyr is made from skim milk that is warmed. The addition of old Skyr adds the bacteria cultures that will ferment the milk and produce the lactic acid and lastly a small amount of rennet is added. Milk is then strained to remove the whey. As you can see there are only slight differences in production but it is still known as a cheese and not yogurt.
Name brands I know of are Icelandic Provisions, Siggis, and Smari (I havent tried Smari as it’s not in our area grocery stores so I don’t comment on Smari). I love Siggis and Icelandic Provisions both. I love how thick Siggi’s is! It is the thickest dairy I have had! The thing I don’t like is the non-fat Siggis uses Stevia to sweeten it’s product so for me the sweetness is a lot and I would rather have the higher fat content without the Stevia. So I usually go with their higher fat products. I do love how environmentally conscious as a brand Siggis is and how even their label is recyclable. Icelandic provisions is also amazing. Slightly less thick but their flavors are traditional to Iceland and so unique that you’ve most likely have never even heard of them before. Both like Quark, are more expensive but you can find them at some places in larger containers.
Alike to Skyr, Quark it’s actually a cheese. Quark is actually known as the “spoonable cheese”, originating from Northern Europe. The word Quark actually translates down to the word curd. It has a creamy and thick consistency similar to Greek yogurt but is known for it’s mild flavor that is not tangy or sour. It also can be found in specialty markets under the name of tvorog or tvaroh.
It is made with soured milk that then has lactic acid bacteria added, known as mesophilic lactococcus. This bacteria likes the lower warm temperatures, 25-30 degrees Celsius, in contrast to regular yogurt processing which is heated to temperatures between, 43-46 degrees Celsius, for fermentation. Therefore, Quark is gently heated and has slower processing time. Due to the longer processing of Quark the flavor becomes non-tart and non-sour compared to regular yogurt. This is a huge perk for me because the plain yogurt just tastes amazing compared to plain regular or Greek yogurt. During the heating process Quark is constantly stirred and then after is strained, which gives it its creamy consistency.
Brands I know of are Misha and Elli Quark. I prefer the Misha product over the Elli brand. While Misha has a little extra fat I prefer that flavor to the added artificial sugars, stevia, added sugar alcohols, or thickeners and stabilizers that sweeten the Elli product . I also think the Misha product has more protein and a thicker consistency, which I like. However, Elli does come in some cool flavors. Overall, I would buy both again considering they are very high in protein but the price is the real killer. I do wish these products were sold in bigger containers but maybe they will be after they are established on the market.
Well hopefully this helps to understand more about the exciting new dairy products on the market! Let me know what you try and what’s your take on different types, flavors and brands!