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Global | Yogurt in Sweden: An Interview with Andrea Gudmundsson

Cheryl Sternman Rule2 Comments
Swede Andrea Gudmundsson in Northern California, where she now resides.

Swede Andrea Gudmundsson in Northern California, where she now resides.

I've written a lot about the explosion in yogurt offerings here in the United States. I've offered tips on how to navigate the dairy aisle, how to explore yogurt's more savory side, how to understand yogurt's place in world cuisines.

On Team Yogurt, Laura has written about yogurt in Austria, Aglaia has discussed yogurt's role in the Greek provegma (breakfast), and I've shared a piece I wrote about one of my favorite Eritrean yogurt dishes.

Today, I interview Andrea Gudmundsson, a Swedish-born mother of two who currently makes her home in Northern California. 

When I ask Gudmundsson her reaction to the American yogurt aisle, I pretty much know her answer before she speaks. Of course she'll say it impresses her with its scope and breadth.

I am wrong.

"I was surprised when I moved to the United States," she tells me plainly. "You don't have as wide a variety of yogurt as we do in Sweden." 

And she goes on. "Here in the U.S. you have yogurt with different fat content and different brands, but it's basically the same yogurt. In Sweden, you have Turkish yogurt, Russian yogurt, Greek yogurt. You have flavored cooking yogurts as well."

Flavored cooking yogurts? I think immediately of Blue Hill Yogurt, the one brand I know that very explicitly markets its vegetable-flavored yogurt for use in savory cooking.

In Sweden, though, cooking yogurt is a category unto itself. Gudmundsson tells me about Swedish sun-dried tomato yogurts you'd use as a sauce. And pesto yogurt. And yogurt with mushrooms.

With mushrooms!

"There are yogurts with all sorts of herbs," she continues. "Not just one brand. These all come in small containers and are made for cooking."

Swedes are fond of cold sauces for both grilled meats and for fish like salmon and herring. When serving meat, for example, she'll often whisk yogurt with a tablespoon or so of beef demi-glace and a touch of garlic. "It's a great alternative if you're too lazy to make gravy," she says.

Lest we (wrongly) assume that Swedes only skew savory in their yogurt affection, Gudmundsson sets the record straight. The market for fruit-flavored (and fruit-topped) yogurt, she says, is huge. In fact, she serves her two children yogurt for breakfast every other day. (On alternate days, they enjoy porridge.) She guesses an average grocery store will have upwards of 50 flavors of fruity yogurt, in varieties like apples and cinnamon, tropical fruit (guava is popular), or a golden berry that only grows in the north of Sweden. Cow's milk predominates. The vast majority of yogurt Swedes consume is full-fat.

Like here in the United States, food trends do take hold, but given Sweden's relatively small population of 9.5 million, when a trend sweeps through the country, it's very obvious. Right now, she says, chia seeds and oatmilk are both very popular.

These ingredients are likely to appear in the country's yogurts soon...  if they haven't already.