Last Updated on January 20, 2022 by Michael Joseph
Dairy products are delicious, and they are one of the main types of food in the human diet.
However, most people only stick to a few of the common dairy foods.
Some of these typical options include butter, cheese, cream, milk and yogurt.
Despite this, there are hundreds of different dairy foods, and only sticking to the popular options means we’re missing out on a lot of choices.
Let’s take a look at some interesting dairy products from around the world.
Ayran is a salty yogurt drink made with a mix of three simple ingredients; yogurt, water and salt.
A traditional dairy food from Turkey, Ayran is popular across the whole Middle East region.
Nutritionally, ayran provides all three macronutrients and a high dose of sodium from the salt content (1).
With a history going back over 1000 years, Ayran was first invented to dilute the taste of bitter-tasting yogurt.
The result is a drinkable yogurt with a salty taste, and alongside black tea, it is one of the two most popular drinks in Turkey (2).
Although it can be difficult to find, certain stores and online shops stock ayran in Western countries.
Butter is a high-fat dairy food made purely from churned milk or cream.
Although butter had some negative PR in the past due to its saturated fat content, it has become increasingly popular over recent years.
However, more is not necessarily better, and butter is best as a condiment – as it always has been.
While butter does contain some nutritional value (vitamins A and D), it is not particularly nutrient-dense, so consuming it in reasonable amounts is better than several tablespoons per day.
The best thing about butter is that it tastes delicious.
One tablespoon of butter provides the following nutrition (5);
Buttermilk is not quite as famous as its two namesakes, and butter and milk are both more prevalent.
However, it is an interesting, sour-tasting dairy product.
If you are wondering what buttermilk is, then traditionally, it is the leftover pale-yellow liquid after churning butter.
Buttermilk can be drunk by itself, and it also works well as an ingredient in a marinade for meat.
The reason for this is that buttermilk has a high proportion of lactic acid (hence the sour taste) and this works well as a tenderizer with meat.
Most modern buttermilk products have a bacterial culture (such as Lactococcus lactis) added to them, and these are known as cultured buttermilk.
However, they are often just called ‘buttermilk.’
Per 100 g, buttermilk’s nutritional profile looks like this (6);
See this full guide to buttermilk for an in-depth review of its nutrition benefits.
Cheese is delicious and it is popular throughout the world.
Every country has its own particular variety, and some of the most famous include;
- Cheddar (England)
- Camembert (France)
- Feta (Greece)
- Gorgonzola (Italy)
- Gruyere (Switzerland)
- Manchego (Spain)
- Mozzarella (Italy)
- Parmesan (Italy)
- Riccotta (Greece)
Cheese is a fermented dairy product, and it comes in all different shapes and sizes; some cheese is hard and very strong, while other types of cheese can be mild and soft.
Concerning nutrition, cheese is generally an excellent source of protein, and its fat content will vary depending on the cheese variety.
Since it is probably the most popular cheese in the world, here is the full profile of cheddar cheese per 100g (9);
5. Clotted Cream
Originating in England, clotted cream is a traditional accompaniment for afternoon tea and scones.
Clotted cream is a delicious, extra-thick spreadable cream, and it is made by gently baking fresh heavy cream.
As the cream heats, it loses moisture and thickens, and because of this it also has a higher fat content than regular cream.
By weight, clotted cream is approximately 55% fat. Here is the nutritional profile per 100 grams (10);
It is also possible to make clotted cream at home. However, it will require about 12 hours of baking!
There is a recipe here.
6. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a kind of high-protein, curd-based cheese.
The flavor is mild but with a slightly sour taste.
One of the best things about cottage cheese is that it is exceptionally protein-dense.
Cottage cheese is low in calories, carbohydrates and fat and provides over 12 grams of protein per 100 grams.
This protein density makes it an excellent option for anyone looking to increase their protein intake. As a result, it enjoys popularity with bodybuilders and dieters.
The full nutrition profile for 1% milkfat cottage cheese is as follows (11);
Cream is a high-fat dairy product, and it consists of the butterfat layer at the top of milk before the milk’s homogenization process.
There are several different varieties of cream, and the fat percentage can vary between 18% and 55%, depending on the specific type.
Similar to butter, cream provides a reasonable source of the fat-soluble vitamins A and D.
However, the biggest “positive” has to be the taste. Cream makes just about anything taste better.
On the negative side, cream does contain a significant amount of fat/calories, and it isn’t particularly nutrient-dense.
In other words; enjoy it in moderation.
Here is the full nutrition profile per 100 grams (12);
See this in-depth guide to heavy cream for more information (and some tasty recipes).
8. Cream Cheese
Cream cheese is a delicious, soft and spreadable cheese made from milk and cream.
In the kitchen, it has many different uses, and cream cheese often appears in recipes for anything from cheesecakes to baked potatoes and even low-carb sushi.
However, it is worth noting that there are many different cream cheese brands and the relative health merits vary by product.
Some cream cheese is just 100% fresh cheese with a bit of salt, while others are full of additives, colors and sweeteners.
For health AND taste, go with the former.
Here is the nutrition profile of cream cheese per 100 grams (13);
Ghee is a traditional Indian food that has been around for centuries.
This particular dairy product is a higher-fat and creamier version of butter, and it tastes amazing too. As a result of the high-fat content, ghee enjoys popularity with individuals following low-carb and ketogenic diets.
In fact, the preparation method of making ghee is so simple that doing it at home is fairly easy.
Firstly, it involves gently simmering button on the stove until the proteins and sugars separate as solids from the butter liquid. The liquid can then be poured into a jar through a mesh sieve and it will re-solidify as it cools.
One of the main positives about ghee is the heat-stability it has.
Compared to regular butter, it is tough to burn, and as a concentrated source of saturated fat, it doesn’t easily oxidize.
Ghee provides the following macronutrients per 100 g (14);
From regular cow milk to goat milk and reduced-fat options, there are many different varities of milk.
Each of these milk options have vastly differing taste and nutritional profiles, so the best option will depend on what the individual is looking for.
See this guide to 24 different types of milk for more information.
Kefir is a healthy fermented dairy food that originated in Russia, and it provides large amounts of beneficial bacteria.
To make kefir, starter “grains” are combined with milk and left in a warm place to ferment. These “grains” are not the same type of grains as wheat, barley and oats; it is just a name given to describe the bacterial cultures.
During the fermentation process, lactic acid breaks down the lactose in milk, which means that individuals with lactose-intolerance can enjoy kefir.
After fermentation, the texture of kefir resembles sour cream; it is thick and quite sour.
Various studies show that the bacteria within kefir may provide some health benefits, particularly concerning our gut health.
Although more research is necessary before we can confirm tangible benefits in humans, the studies thus far are promising.
Per 100 grams, kefir provides (17);
Originating in Germany, quark is a type of soft cheese and it contains significant amounts of protein.
While popular in Northern and Central Europe, quark is not widely known outside of bodybuilding circles in the West.
It is a kind of curd cheese, and it has some nutritional similarities to cottage cheese.
Regarding taste, quark is mild and slightly creamy.
Since quark production uses skim milk and lactic acid breaks down the lactose content, quark is very low in fat and carbohydrate.
It is a protein-rich dairy food and a convenient way to get more protein into the diet.
Quark provides the following nutritional values per 100 grams (18);
Skyr is a cultured dairy product from Iceland, and it provides several health benefits.
For instance, it is high in protein, and it contains a wealth of probiotic bacteria.
Although skyr meets the definition of cheese, it resembles a yogurt in appearance.
Similar to quark and cottage cheese, skyr uses low-fat milk, and this makes it a relatively protein-dense food.
Making skyr involves mixing skim milk with bacterial starters and rennet, and then allowing the milk to thicken via coagulation.
Skyr is now available throughout the world, and it provides the following nutrition per 100 grams (19);
14. Sour Cream
Sour cream is a delicious dairy product made by fermenting cream with a lactic acid bacterial culture.
The resulting sour cream from the fermentation is creamy, high in fat and sour.
Sour cream is delicious and works well in a range of recipes, and it plays a big role in Mexican cuisine alongside other condiments like guacamole and salsa.
Nutritionally, it provides a source of vitamin A, D and calcium, and per 100 grams, the macronutrient profile looks like this (20);
For more details, see here: the health benefits of sour cream.
This one probably wins the award for ‘most difficult to pronounce dairy product.’
Uunijuusto is a traditional cooked dessert in Finland, made by mixing cow’s colostrum with salt and then baking it in the oven.
For those who are unaware, colostrum refers to the first milk from a cow that recently gave birth.
Interestingly, and despite the fact it is purely baked milk, the name ‘uunijuusto’ translates into English as ‘oven cheese.’
Although no specific data is available, the nutritional profile should be similar to regular whole milk.
Viili is a Scandinavian fermented dairy food that enjoys popularity in Finland and Sweden.
Similar to kefir, viili is made by mixing a mesophilic culture into milk and allowing it time to ferment at room temperature.
Once ready, viili is a kind of yogurt with a thick consistency, and it offers the same probiotic benefits as other fermented dairy foods.
Viili made from whole milk provides the following nutrients per 100 ml (21);
17. Whey Protein
In recent years, whey has been one of the most popular dairy products.
All in all, its main selling point is as a concentrated source of dietary protein.
Whey provides a convenient way to get protein on-the-go at the gym or following exercise.
While whole food sources of protein are ideal, pure whey protein is a relatively healthy product that provides a range of highly bio-available amino acids.
Whey is a by-product of the cheese-making process, and it is made from the leftover liquid.
Significantly, whey protein has an incredibly high protein-density. The total amount of protein tends to fall between 70% and 90% depending on the product.
Here is the nutrition profile of a standard product per 100 grams (22);
For a complete guide to whey protein, see this in-depth review.
18. Whipped Cream
While some store-bought whipped creams contain numerous unnecessary ingredients, it is easy enough to make whipped cream at home.
The only thing we need is some real cream and a whisk or hand blender.
For homemade whipped cream, a few minutes of vigorous whisking will thicken the cream enough to form ‘soft peaks’.
Soft peaks mean that the cream has started becoming firmer, but it is still soft and won’t retain the shape.
At this stage, a few more minutes of whisking will result in ‘firm peaks’.
Once you see firm peaks, this means that the cream has become thick enough to maintain its shape. Further whisking at this stage will be difficult due to the stiffness of the cream.
Nutritionally, there is no difference between (100%) whipped cream and the cream used to make it.
Ymer is a soured milk dairy product from Denmark.
To make ymer, producers add a lactic acid bacterial culture (Lactococcus lactis) to whole milk and leave it to ferment.
After fermentation, the whey portion of ymer is drained away which gives it a thicker texture, while also increasing the solid protein content (23).
Ymer has a tart flavor and a thick consistency similar to mousse.
Nutritionally, per 100 grams it provides (24);
Yogurt is one of the most popular foods in the world.
To make it, milk is heated to denature the proteins.
Following this, producers add bacterial cultures known as “yogurt cultures” (Lactobacillus and Streptococcus) to milk (25).
The temperature is kept warm for a few hours, and then the yogurt is allowed to cool.
After this, the yogurt needs to remain in a warm place to ferment; the more extended the fermentation period, the sourer the yogurt will be.
Yogurt has been the focus of a wide variety of studies and is believed to have several positive health benefits.
For one thing, it is full of beneficial bacteria that may benefit gut health.
- A systematic review of seven controlled, clinical trials demonstrated that yogurt consumption has either neutral or favorable influence on risk markers for chronic disease (26).
- Concerning weight gain and metabolic syndrome, a systematic review points to yogurt having an inverse association with these conditions (27).
Here is the nutrition profile of yogurt per 100 grams (28);
Greek yogurt is a little different from regular yogurt. This dairy product has a thicker and creamier texture, and it also contains more protein and less lactose than regular yogurt.
It would be easy to call zincica the Slovakian version of kefir.
First of all, zincica does share many traits with kefir – the main difference being the type of milk.
To make zincica, sheep’s milk is fermented with a variety of lactic acid bacterial cultures.
After fermentation, people consume it as a drink.
Per 100 ml, zincica provides (29);
There are many exciting dairy products available around the world. With globalization, most of them have become available outside of their home nation too.
It is also possible to make the majority of these fermented dairy products from home, and recipes are only ever an Internet search away.
Overall, dairy products provide a range of beneficial nutrients and they taste great too.
For more dairy ideas, see this list of heavy cream alternatives.