This is pretty straightforward stuff, to a point. There’s the standard milk trinity of whole (nýmjólk), low-fat (léttmjólk), both 55 ISK per litre, and skim (undanrenna – “under-runnings”) which is 57 ISK per litre. A fortified version of skim, called fjörmjólk, is 77 ISK per litre.
Súrmjólk (77 ISK per litre), “sour milk,” is a sort of more viscous version of yoghurt, and þykkmjólk (61 ISK for 180g) is a more sugary version of the same thing. AB mjólk (117 ISK per litre) is whole milk (and Létt AB mjólk, from low fat) made thick by the two different kinds of bacteria living in it: Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium bifidum, two types of “probiotics” that are supposed to aid digestion – sounds like breakfast to us! All of these thick milks are considered good with a spoonful of brown sugar mixed in or, for those under the age of 75, breakfast cereal.
The selling point of G-mjólk (83 ISK per litre) is that it has gone through “UHT (ultra high temperature) pasteurization” and can therefore be left open on a countertop until the end of time.
Hidden away from the milks, just above the margarines, is something called Stoðmjólk (30 ISK per half litre), which is the only milk that comes with an age group: it’s recommended for ages 6 months to two years, but this mix of cream, whole milk, low-fat and at least a dozen different vitamins fortified into it would probably replace most nutrition shakes if adults ever caught onto it.
Biomjólk (64-94 ISK per half litre) has something called “the Biogarde bacteria” in it, which it turns out is a type of yogurt culture.
LCG (143-195 ISK per 65 mL) are really just tiny portions of AB mjólk with more nutrients and a range of flavours from apricot to pear.
For vegans tired of making hot chocolate with orange juice instead of milk, there are three soy alternatives to choose from in Iceland: Soyage (68 ISK per litre), Milkfree drink (159 ISK per litre unflavoured, 199 ISK per litre for banana, vanilla or chocolate) and Provamel (168 ISK per litre).
While it’s true that in its raw form, skyr (147-162 ISK per half litre) is both low in fat and high in protein, some flavoured forms are better for you than others. In fact, only two flavours of Skyr.is brand skyr – vanilla and vanilla-apricot – are sugar-free (using aspartame). KEA brand skyr (173 ISK per half litre), on the other hand, uses only “sugared fruit” in its flavoured brands. We personally recommend buying raw (hrært) skyr and mixing in some all-natural jam.
Skyr.is also has a drink version, called drykkur (86 ISK per 330 mL) and again, only the vanilla flavour is sugar free – all others list sugar as a second ingredient, as does competing MS’s version, the “Smoothie” (76-81 ISK per 250 mL).
Létt jógurt (29 ISK per 170g plain, 40-45 ISK flavoured) is a perennial favourite. Again, there’s no sugar in the vanilla version, but sugar is also absent from peach & passion fruit and kiwi & pear. Húsavíkur Jógurt (83 -111 ISK per half litre), on the other hand, uses sugared fruits. There’s also an Aloe Vera yoghurt (123 ISK per 170g), which contains both aloe vera gel and sugar. While those two ingredients might cancel each other out internally, you could probably still rub it on a burn and get something out of it.
Like skyr, there is also a drink version of yoghurt called drykka (40-53 ISK per 250 mL), that lists sugar second on the list of ingredients.
Cream and sour cream are much simpler affairs. Cream comes in both 36% percent fat (245 ISK per half litre) and 15% (125 ISK per half litre), which is marketed as being better for cooking. Sour cream comes in 10% and 18% versions, both 81 ISK per 200g.
Margarines range from dairy-like to dairy-ish to non-dairy. Smjörvi (116 ISK per 100g) most closely resembles butter in that its primary ingredients are cream, soy oil, salt and vitamin D. Létt og Laggott (116 ISK per 100g for plain, 137 ISK for the olive oil version) heads into the dairy grey area with milk fat, soy oil, milk protein and salt as primary ingredients, followed by various preservatives. The olive oil version contains the exact same ingredients, with olive oil instead of vegetable oil. The Bónus brand Smyrill (99 ISK per 100g) gets creative with vegetable oil, milk powder, gelatin and preservatives. But the only truly non-dairy alternative to butter available is Smjörlíki, which comes in half kilo blocks for a mere 89 ISK, and contains mostly vegetable oil, salt, water and binding agents.
Of course, if you like the real thing, butter goes for 157 ISK by the half kilo, or you can by single serving 15g portions for 13 ISK each.
Many newcomers to Iceland are disappointed to find that most ice creams here are more ice than cream. MS Hverdagsís (145 ISK per litre), for example, contains water, sugar, and skim powder as its only naturally-occurring ingredients. Bónus brand ice cream (279 ISK per 2 litres) and Mjúkís (175 ISK per 2 litres) get a bit closer to cow-like by starting their ingredients list off with skim milk and sugar before heading into vegetable fat and preservatives. This brings us to the most dairy-like of the Icelandic ice creams, Skafís (175 ISK per 1.5 litres), which contains milk, milk fat, skim powder, and sugar as primary ingredients. We recommend the Daim flavour. The only all-natural ice cream available at the Bónus on Laugavegur is Ben & Jerry’s (498 ISK per “pint,” roughly 1/4 litre), an American ice cream that once devoted a flavour to the lead singer of the Grateful Dead (“Cherry Garcia”).
For standard, run-of-the-mill cheese, the Mildur Gouda (11%) is the best value at 912 ISK per kilo. While you’d be hard pressed to find foreign cheeses in Bónus, there are Icelandic versions of foreign cheeses available. Among the best are two camembert-like inventions called Gull Ostur (171 ISK per 250g) and Höfðingi (233 ISK per 150g).
Cottage cheese, called kotasæla, is priced at 394 ISK for 500g and 405 ISK for 200g. We think this is a pricing error. Buy all the cottage cheese you can before they notice the mistake!
Iceland has a variety of spreadable cheeses of various flavours ranging from shrimp to ham to vegetable. We personally recommend the wild mushroom flavour (191 ISK per 250g).
And don’t be fooled by the product advertising itself as Veggie Slices (199 ISK per 168g), especially if you’re looking for a non-dairy cheese: a quick look at the ingredients list shows skim milk powder as the second ingredient.
For the truly adventurous, we recommend mýsingur (109 ISK per 200g), the hákarl of the dairy world. This combination of whey, caramel and cheese isn’t for everyone, but, also like hákarl, it is a part of the Icelandic experience and worth trying once.