I was overwhelmed by the amount of dairy products the first time I walked into a grocery store in Stockholm. There are the standard ones that can be found in many countries, however, the products I am discussing here were the most confusing. In addition, I have never had an issue with lactose, but many of the products in Sweden have a higher lactose content so it took some trial and error to realize what I could safely consume. Many of the dairy products have a low lactose or no lactose option which will have ‘laktos-fri’ on the package.
After living in Sweden for 2 years, I now understand the different products and have decided to publish a little guide for expats.
So, without further ado, here is your handy guide!
1. Mjölk (Milk)
There are three kinds, about the same amount as you would see in any grocery store elsewhere and with varying levels of fat. However, I am not sure, there seems to be more lactose in many of the milks. Do not worry though, there are similar amounts of lactose-free milks. In addition, Arla, a Swedish dairy company has color-coded these milks to make it easier to choose, especially for those who do not speak Swedish.
- Lättmjölk. 0,5% fat. Lätt means light, and it is extra skim milk. It is enriched in Vitamin A and D, which is perfect for Swedish winters which lack sunlight. This one can be found in a blue carton.
- Mellanmjölk. 1,5% fat. Mellan means middle, in between or medium. This is also a skim milk and enriched in Vitamin D. You can find this one in a green carton.
- Standardmjölk. This is the fattiest option with 3% fat and is the standard milk. It has a creamy consistency and can be found in a red carton.
2. Filmjölk (Buttermilkish yogurt)
Filmjolk is close to buttermilk but it is thicker. This is usually added to make fluffier pancakes but it is best described as a mix of milk and yogurt. Many Swedes will use it in their cereals or muesli. It is processed with a bacteria that helps metabolize the lactose which can help lactose intolerant individuals consume these products easier. Many come with a low-lactose variant and have various fat contents:
- Lättfil – 0.5%, also comes in a low-lactose variant. Can come flavored or unflavored.
- Mellanfil – 1.5%. Only unflavored.
- Standardfil- 2.7-3%. Can come in a low-lactose variant and be flavored or unflavored.
- A-Fil contains acidophilis (LA-5) which is a common probiotic.
3. Gräddfil (sour cream)
This is self-explanatory. It is great for dips and is sold with 12% fat.
4. Keso (cottage cheese)
Keso refers to both the main brand that offers this item and the item itself. This also comes in a variety of fats and flavors. Some have fruits mixed in and there are the natural flavors which is great in the vegetarian lasagna recipe I have here.
5. Ost (Cheese)
It is found in almost every Swedes kitchen, including mine. Usually they have it on a slice of bread for snack or as an addition to breakfast. It can be used in many different ways and there are several varieties, I mean my grocery store has a cheese room! These are the main cheeses you can find in a typical Swedish household:
- Hushållost – translated to household cheese. It is the most basic type of cheese you can find in a kitchen, it is made from whole milk, so it has a high fat content, usually around 26%, it is a semi-hard cheese with small holes in it. It is somewhat sour but is mild, it tastes similar to Port-Salut cheese.
- Herrgård – semi-hard aged cheese that has a mild, nutty taste.
- Präst – aka Priest’s cheese, it was created because the Church was once paid by tithes with farm products, including milk, which easily spoiled. So to combat this, this cheese was born. You can find it as regular cheese but sometimes you can find it cured in whisky or vodka!
- Jämtgård – another basic cheese
6. Kvarg (yogurt)
It is normally sold as a sweet yogurt but the available ‘natural’ flavor is a little sour so I usually add honey to it. The main difference is that it has a thicker consistency than Fil but it is great for breakfast with some fruit toppings.
At the grocery stores there are your standard dairy products, including butter which does have varying levels of salt. There are many other non-dairy milk substitutes, including oat, almond, rice, and soy milks..
All in all, lots of choices and it can be overwhelming. Let me know if this helps you!