It Takes a Viili

Viili (spelled with two i’s) is cultured milk– a Finnish version of yogurt. Some drink it, but it is more commonly eaten like yogurt, with jams, muesli or bread mixed in. It’s milder tasting and stringier than yogurt, but still contains loads of helpful lactic acid bacteria. I felt privileged when my good friend Niina (spelled with two i’s) recently brought me a viili culture from her mother (who is Finnish).finnflag

Adding living cultures to pasteurized dairy “adds enzymes and restores nutrients” that are zapped by the pasteurization and homogenization processes. Since raw dairy is neither easily had, within everyone’s budget, nor even legal everywhere (yet), culturing is a great way to add nutrients back to an otherwise overly-processed food.

Did you know that cultured dairy is more digestible than normal pasteurized milk products (including fresh cheeses), and can even be eaten by most lactose-intolerant people? Why? Because during fermentation, the bacteria consume most of the lactose, converting it to lactic acid. And they break down another protein, casein, into more useful amino acids that our bodies can use.


Viili Milk
Prep time
Fermentation time
Cuisine: Scandinavian
Yield: 1 pint
  • 12 oz./350ml pasteurized (or raw) milk
  • 2 Tbsp./30ml viili from previous batch
  1. In a clean pint-sized mason jar, add milk and stir in viili starter.
  2. Cover with metal lid (but not ring) so it sits loosely on top.
  3. Leave out at room temperature for 24 hours. DO NOT DISTURB as it can affect the texture.
  4. Cover with ring and refrigerate 24-48 hours (it will continue to develop flavor) before enjoying!
  5. To make another batch, reserve 2 tablespoons from previous batch.


Confusion over Viili, surmjölk, Filmjölk, and Piimä

There appears to be some confusion over the various cultured dairy products from Scandinavia, as some wily and passionate folks have pointed out. I shall try to clarify based on their suggestions and a little research:

finnflagViili- a Finnish name for cultured milk (yogurt)

swedenflagFilmjölk (sometimes called Fil)- the Swedish name for several varieties of cultured milk Source 1  Source 2

finnflagPiimä- Finnish for buttermilk; NOT the same thing as viili. A Piimä Milk recipe is used as a “mother” recipe for many other cultured dairy recipes in the indispensable Nourishing Traditions cookbook (page 83).

swedenflagSurmjölk- the Swedish word for buttermilk


Here is a link to a really cool project: Viili- tracing an ancient culture.

Move over, yogurt! You’ve got a new shelf-mate in the fridge… viili! One more thing. Ii thiink Ii’m goiing to start spelliing everythiing with two i‘s. :)


4 thoughts on “It Takes a Viili

  1. Great to see a story about viili on here! I’m living in Finland nowadays, and have just placed two bowls of milk with a viili starter out on the counter this afternoon. Finns eat the stuff with a spoon – they don’t drink it – though I admit keeping the stringy strands on the spoon is a bit of a challenge. And you are right: viili and piimä (same word is used in Finnish) are not the same thing to the Finns and Swedes. Piimä is buttermilk and is consumed from a drinking glass. Viili is something else altogether! And yes, two i’s. And two k’s or u’s or double other letters always throw me off in spelling and in pronunciation. Finns, at least, expect to hear both of them if they are in the word: every letter gets its moment of glory!

  2. Guys, piimä is not Swedish. That would be surmjölk. Viili in Swedish is fil. Please change this info. It’s just simply wrong.

    Why are piimä and viili always mentioned in the same articles online by so many people claiming to have the info from Finnish people? It’s just bad info and it’s always the same bad info! Listen: Piimä is basically buttermilk. Just as there are different grades of buttermilk depending on method and type of milk, so is there with piimä.

    Now viili is an entirely different thing. Don’t even mention them in the same paragraph! Viili will grow quite spontaneously without any special culture if you use the right method, or if you happen to have an infestation of the stuff in your kitchen due to some raw goat’s milk that has it in there wild – as I do at the moment. It’s infiltrated my kefir cultures so I’ve switched back to cow’s milk for the time being. I just don’t know how to get it out of the kefir yet.

    By way of information, I’ve lived in Finland for the past quarter century plus a few years now. I ferment everything under the sun. Please do not perpetuate this bad info about these two things being Finnish and Swedish respectively. They are two different things, period.

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