Many cultures around the world have some form of fermented dairy in their culinary heritage: Greek yogurt and Icelandic Skyr are great examples! The Nordic countries also have their fair share of traditional fermented dairy foods. Finnish yogurt, or viili, makes for a delicious addition to the diet of any yogurt lover. Keep reading for more information on this traditional food, how to make it, and my top five favorite ways to enjoy my Finnish yogurt!
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What Is Viili?
Viili is a traditional Finnish yogurt. It is mesophilic, meaning it ferments at room temperature, and it is an heirloom yogurt, meaning that to you use old viili to make more viili! These factors make it especially easy to make and maintain.
Compared to most conventional yogurts in the US, viili has a looser texture, somewhere between yogurt and kefir. It sometimes can have a slightly elastic, stretchy texture to it. It has a very mild taste.
Viili can be found in a “short” form and a “long” form. The long viili has a stretchier, more elastic texture, and appears more distinct than the short viili. I have the short form, though if I get a chance to get my hands on long viili I’ll certainly take it!
Where can I get some Finnish yogurt (viili)?
Viili isn’t a product you’re likely to find in a US grocery store, unless you live in a very specifically Finnish area.
Since viili itself is used to culture more viili, you can get some from a friend who has some to use as a starter; or you can buy a starter from Cultures for Health! Each packet from Cultures for Health contains two small packets of starter; I used one right away and froze the other for use later.
If you’ve purchased a starter or obtained some viili for a friend, the recipe card with instructions on making your own viili is below!
Why Eat Finnish Yogurt (or any fermented dairy)?
This article from the Cleveland Clinic details the benefits of including kefir in your diet. Generally speaking, these apply to viili as well! Viili, like kefir, is relatively low in lactose and high in bioavailable nutrients and minerals.
This study describes some incredible health benefits of viili, including:
- High populations of beneficial bacteria
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Anti-cancer properties
- Cardiovascular benefits, specifically anti-hypertensive benefits (my nurse brain was blown away by this. Viili can help lower blood pressure by inhibiting ACE, an enzyme associated with hypertension that a whole class of pharmaceuticals targets).
Those are some pretty wild benefits, y’all! Highly recommend clicking through the study linked above for details, if you’re nerdy like me.
5 Best Ways to Eat Finnish Yogurt (Viili)
1. With a drizzle of honey and cinnamon
This simple combination earns the number one spot easily by being absolutely delicious. Alternatively, use sugar & cinnamon or maple syrup & cinnamon.
Don’t feed honey to babies under one!
2. With fresh berries or fruit of your choosing
Bananas, any berry, really any seasonal fruit of your choosing…I do particularly like this with bananas and/or blueberries!
3. With muesli or granola
Viili’s texture is somewhere between that of kefir and the yogurts I’m accustomed to. I find that it works really well with muesli or granola for this reason. It’s not as thick as greek yogurt & granola, but it’s quite a bit thicker and more substantial than just cereal & milk.
4. Blended in a smoothie
Finnish yogurt is a great way to add protein and creaminess to your smoothies without a particularly strong taste.
5. With rye bread
A very Finnish, and very delicious combination! Whether you actually eat them together in the same bite, or enjoy some buttered rye toast on the side of viili and berries, these things just go together extremely well.
Or any other way you might use plain yogurt or kefir!
- Viili starter packet OR 1 Tbsp viili
- 1 cup whole milk (recommend pasteurized-see notes)
- Mix together the milk and the packet of viili starter
- If using viili as your starter, place the viili in a jar or bowl and swirl it around the bottom a little to spread it out. Pour milk directly onto the viili.
- Cover jar lightly (such as with a coffee filter & rubber band) and leaveat room temp to ferment.
- Total fermentation time can vary from 8-48 hours depending on the culture and on the temperature of your kitchen. Check after 8 hours by tilting your jar lightly to see if the texture has changed (ie, become much more solid).
- If the texture of your milk is still totally liquid, leave and check again in a couple hours.
- Once your viili has fermented, switch out the coffee filter for a tight lid and move viili to the refrigerator.
- Refrigerate 6 hours.
- Enjoy! Make sure you save at least 1 Tbsp of viili to ferment your next batch.
The recommended milk to use in making viili is whole, pasteurized (NOT ulta-pasteurized) milk. Ultra pasteurized is too "sterile" and won't allow for proper culturing. Raw milk, on the flip side, has so much bacteria in it already that it can compete with the culture and not ferment as desired.
If you want to use raw milk for viili, you can try heating and cooling it first (won't be the same as pasteurized, but close) or you can click here for some tips from Cultures for Health on making raw milk yogurt.
To make a larger subsequent batch of viili, simply save more viili to shoot for a ratio of about 1Tbsp viili: 1 cup milk. Or you can use less viili, but know that your fermentation time will be longer.
Pin for later:
another Finnish recipe?
another fermented food?
Any questions? Please leave them in the comments!