The Greeks have a few different words for what we call “yogurt,” which makes sense, because yogurt is a major part of their diet and over the millenia they’ve been eating it, they’ve recognized that there are several different kinds. Today, a decent-quality supermarket in America now includes American-style yogurt, Greek yogurt, Icelandic yogurt, drinkable yogurt, yogurt with various toppings, and yogurt with disastrous neon colorings and flavorings.
This is fine. Good, even. I like almost all of those yogurts! But because American-style yogurt, which is thin, mild, and usually sugary and/or heavily flavored, was by far the most popular variety of yogurt in this country up until just a few years ago, it still colors the way we think of all yogurt. Which means that Greek yogurt is often mistakenly treated the way we would treat American-style yogurt. This is obviously wrong. Greek yogurt is best thought of not as a yogurt, but as a soft white cheese.
In Greece, there is a strained fermented dairy product called “straggisto” which is fairly similar to what is branded as Greek yogurt here. In fact, most of the Mediterranean and Middle East has some variety of strained yogurt-type product. Straggisto yogurt in Greece is sometimes mixed with honey or fruit preserves in the way that we will sometimes drizzle goat cheese with honey. But more often than not, it appears in a savory dish: tzatziki, a mixture of yogurt with chopped cucumbers, olive oil, and sometimes lemon and/or herbs.
That’s not to eliminate all sweet Greek yogurt dishes; soft cheeses, which include creme fraiche, cream cheese, and ricotta, are great in some desserts. What they are NOT great in is American yogurt dishes. Like parfaits. For the love of god, stop putting Greek yogurt in a bowl and topping it with fruit and granola. Imagine sticking a blob of cream cheese in a bowl and covering it in granola. That’s what Greek yogurt parfaits are. A yogurt parfait works with American-style yogurt because it is airy, sweet, and has not been drained of most of its water and lactose; the yogurt is comparatively mild, won’t overpower the other flavors, and has a high water content so it mixes easily.
Greek yogurt, on the other hand, works well with vegetables, with meats, with herbs and spices. It adds creaminess and fattiness and a bit of tang, which makes it a great helper for vegetable dishes. That’s assuming you buy the right yogurt, which many people do not. Full-fat Fage is the best option that can be found almost anywhere. The zero percent Fage yogurt is also very good, but it can be crumbly, so it won’t work as well for certain dishes. Any of the major American-style yogurt brands’ attempts, like Dannon’s “Oikos” or Chobani, are total bullshit.
Once you’ve got the right yogurt, it’s easy to use. It might feel weird using something from the yogurt aisle in savory dishes, but an easy way to use it is to simply replace various other soft white dairy products with Greek yogurt. Any recipe that calls for creme fraiche, sour cream, or cream cheese can almost certainly be made in exactly the same way with Greek yogurt. Many more cheese-like dairy products will work too — goat cheese, ricotta, queso blanco, and even feta, sometimes. It also works, rarely, in place of mayonnaise.
Asparagus With Herbed Yogurt And Roasted Almonds
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a small saucepan, melt two tablespoons of butter. Add in a pinch of sugar, a pinch of cumin, and a smaller pinch of cayenne and stir to combine. Toss in a handful of almonds and stir until they’re all coated. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about ten minutes, until fragrant and toasted. Eat one to see if it’s done; it should be crisp, not cardboard-y the way raw almonds are, but not burnt. Try not to eat too many of them.
Take a microplane grater and grate two cloves of garlic into a bowl. Add in one small container of Greek yogurt. Chop a bunch of herbs very very finely; the ones I listed are just a suggestion, pretty much anything works. Add the herbs to the yogurt. Squeeze half a lemon’s worth of juice into the yogurt, and pour in a tablespoon of olive oil. Stir to combine and let sit.
Put a cast iron pan on the stove over medium-high heat. Chop off the woody ends of the asparagus but keep the rest of the stalks whole. When the pan is hot, pour in a tablespoon or so of olive oil and, before the oil starts smoking, throw in the asparagus. Turn frequently; you want a little bit of char, but they should still be firm and crisp. Shouldn’t take longer than three minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.
Lay the asparagus down on a plate. Spoon the yogurt sauce over it and scatter the almonds over the top. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and/or lemon juice if desired.
Beets And Toasted Israeli Couscous With Harissa Yogurt
Shopping list: Red beets, Israeli couscous, red harissa, Greek yogurt, radishes, arugula (alternately: get beets with the greens attached), fresh mint, olive oil, orange, red wine vinegar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the dried Israeli couscous as evenly on a baking tray as you can; they’ll roll around but don’t worry about it too much. Put it in the oven for about five minutes, watching carefully, until golden. Remove from oven and turn the heat up to 400 degrees.
Trim greens from beets, if they’re attached, and save them for later. Wrap each beet completely in aluminum foil and stick right on the bare rack of the oven. Roast for, I don’t know, forty-five minutes or so, until tender. Let cool, then peel. Wear gloves if you don’t want your hands to be pink for the next twelve hours. Chop beets into cubes.
Cook the couscous the way you normally would, which is to say like any other pasta: bring a pot of salted water to a boil, toss ’em in, cook until al dente, maybe seven minutes. Drain.
Squeeze half a small orange’s worth of juice into a container. Throw in a small container of Greek yogurt, and pour in a tablespoon or two of olive oil and a couple teaspoons of red wine vinegar. Mix thoroughly; it should be about the color of the beets. Also chop some mint, and slice some radishes.
To plate: put the toasted couscous down on the plate, scatter beets on top, stick the radishes in between the beets, pour the yogurt dressing all on top and around, and scatter the mint. Finish with a touch more olive oil.
Roasted Rhubarb With Sweetened Yogurt
Shopping list: Fresh rhubarb, white sugar, Greek yogurt, honey, fresh basil
Here’s how you do dessert with Greek yogurt. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Trim the ends of the rhubarb and chop the stalks into about four-inch pieces. Place them down on a baking sheet and scatter sugar all over them. The amount depends on the tartness of your rhubarb, but it shouldn’t ever be, like, covering the rhubarb. Maybe two teaspoons per stalk. Put in the oven and roast until very tender, maybe half an hour.
Mix your yogurt with honey in about a 3:1 ratio. Add salt, too. Chop some basil however you want to; a chiffonade is fine if you’re a shithead like me who wants to show off, or you can just tear it into smaller pieces with your bare hands. It’ll taste exactly the same.
To plate: in a bowl, place a few stalks of roasted rhubarb on one side, and tilt the pan to add some of the juices on top. Take a spoonful of the sweetened yogurt and put it on the other side. Add basil on top.
These recipes barely crack the surface of what you can do with Greek yogurt; one of my favorite stupid recipes is to mix it with cilantro and cumin in it and plop it on top of nachos, or add (with pickled onions and mustard) to a hot dog, or, hell, just mix in some olive oil and lemon and dip in any kind of bread product. This isn’t to argue that Greek yogurt isn’t spectacularly versatile; I’d merely suggest that it’s a mistake to treat it as if it was American-style yogurt. When you see “yogurt” you shouldn’t automatically think “breakfast.” You should think “cheese.”
Photo by Klearchos Kapoutsis
Happy Greek Yogurt Week at Food Republic! We’re honoring the Mediterranean miracle food by posting recipes, interviews and insider information on one of the fastest-growing food sectors in the world. Got a yogurt question we haven’t answered? Tweet us — all yogurt-based inquiries will get priority attention. Use the hashtag: #FRGreekYogurt
While we love it straight from under the parchment, cooking with Greek yogurt is another way to incorporate it into your diet. To avoid congealey failure and maximize delicious success, follow these tips.
- Don’t expect it to act just like regular yogurt – chiefly, don’t bake with it unless it’s thinned out and don’t heat it quickly or the concentrated milk proteins will separate from the remainder of the whey, never to unite again. Temper it before adding it to a warm dish, and only then, right at the end.
- Don’t try to make it before you’ve mastered regular yogurt, straining three times requires more effort and planning than you might think. Cool tip: big coffee filters.
- Don’t push it. Greek yogurt is a great substitute for regular yogurt or even mayonnaise in certain applications. That said, your BLTs and lobster rolls will never forgive you if you try to force that transition.
- Don’t accidentally use vanilla before it’s too late. I’m just repeating it cause it’s happened to me more than once. Grossness on the raita front.
- Don’t use aluminum cook or bakeware when dealing with Greek yogurt, the acidity reacts unpleasantly to the metal.
- Do substitute Greek yogurt for buttermilk or heavy cream, two things you might not readily have in your fridge (who has buttermilk in their fridge?) Just water it down slightly to match the consistency.
- Do put it in your ice cream maker, it freezes faster and creamier than regular yogurt. Plus the healthy bacteria will even survive a freezing!
- Do be aware of the temperature. The longer your Greek yogurt is out of the fridge the thinner it will appear. A stint in the fridge will thicken it back up again, so give it a chill before you deem it ruined.
- Do marinate! This is once instance where Greek yogurt’s clinginess is a good thing. You can use less Greek yogurt in a traditional marinade like tandoori but still get the same tenderizing and moisture and flavor-enhancing effect.
Practice cooking with Greek yogurt:
- Tandoori Lamb Chops
- Grilled Corn Soup With Yogurt And Mint
- Yogurt Béchamel Sauce
Is This the Next Greek Yogurt?
Unless you haven’t been in the dairy section of a grocery store in a long time, you know that Greek yogurt is all the rage. With 20 grams of protein per serving and a creaminess that makes it seem more indulgent than it really is, Greek yogurt is a weight-loss staple.
But now there’s another yogurt from Europe trying to steal our hearts (and mouths and stomachs) away: Swiss yogurt.
While the Greek style is made from milk that has had some of the water removed or from straining the whey from plain yogurt to make it thicker and creamier than traditional yogurt, Swiss yogurt (also called stirred yogurt) is made from cultured milk that is incubated and cooled in a large vat, then stirred to give it a thinner, creamier consistency than its Mediterranean counterpart.
Because tangy Greek yogurt stands up to heat better than many other yogurts, it’s great for cooking. It also makes a good substitution for sour cream and is often used in dips. Lighter, sweeter Swiss yogurt is better eaten as-is, in cold beverages, or in desserts.
How do they stack up from a nutritional standpoint? For comparison’s sake, let’s look at My Essentials Nonfat Plain Swiss yogurt and Fage Total 0% Plain Greek yogurt.
You can see that while both brands include a hefty dose of protein and the same calorie count, the Swiss yogurt contains more sugar and carbs. Moreover, Swiss yogurt tends to be (but isn’t always) pureed with fruit. This gives it a sweet taste—but also ups the sugar content, so those of you concerned about sugar or carbs may be better off enjoying Swiss yogurt as an occasional dessert instead of a regular snack.
Bottom line? It’s important to choose a yogurt that fits into your lifestyle. If you can’t bear the thought of giving up your beloved Greek yogurt, try one of these 10 recipes that uses the versatile superfood. If you’re interested in trying the Swiss yogurt, check out the parfait recipe below for a quick and easy snack or dessert, provided by Emmi.
4 6-ounce containers of Emmi Swiss Yogurt (Try blueberry or strawberry for traditional flavors, or pink grapefruit, coffee, or apricot if you’re feeling adventurous)
1 cup granola (optional)
6 to 8 strawberries, sliced
A few tablespoons of fresh blueberries
Almonds and mint sprigs (for garnish, optional)
Layer yogurt, granola, and berries in four glass serving dishes. Garnish with almonds and mint sprig. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Believe it or not, all yogurt is created equal. Whether it’s Greek-style, Balkan-style, fat-free, coconut or any other denomination, the life of yogurt starts out the same. Yogurt is created when active bacterial cultures are added to pasteurized dairy (or dairy alternatives). The type of liquid dictates the fat percentage and the protein (ie. cow’s milk, almond milk). The mixture is then left in a warm area to incubate and ferment, so bacteria can grow and multiply, thickening and souring it into what we know as “yogurt.” As soon as yogurt is refrigerated, this fermentation process will stop.
The main difference between plain and Greek-style yogurt is taste and texture:
Though the process starts out the same for both, plain yogurt’s journey usually ends when the fermentation process stops. When you open a tub of plain yogurt, it is often light, creamy and runny with liquid whey. Whey is acidic, which gives yogurt its trademark tang. (Non-fat yogurt varieties include the addition of commercial stabilizers to give it the creamy texture they can’t get from fat.)
We love it in: desserts and salad dressings.
Try it in:
Strawberry vanilla yogurt pops
Lemon and dill potato salad
This style is made by straining plain yogurt multiple times to remove the whey. The result is a thicker, creamier yogurt with less tang. The higher the original fat percentage of the dairy, the more luxuriously creamy the yogurt will be. Because Greek yogurt is essentially a very concentrated version of plain yogurt, it also contains a higher amount of nutrients per serving. Regardless of which yogurt you prefer, both are rich in essential nutrients like protein, calcium and potassium, as well as probiotic bacterial (“good bacteria”) that is essential for a healthy digestive system.
We love it in: dips and thick sauces.
Try it in:
Parsnip savoury yogurt
Mediterranean beet plate
Easy eggs benedict
Did you know? Compared to regular, Greek-style yogurt has almost double the protein content, and triple the amount of saturated fats.
Knowing that, go ahead and eat more of it, provided you choose the healthy kinds. For years, Greek yogurt has been the go-to variety for optimum health. But what’s the difference? Greek yogurt is yogurt that has been strained to remove its whey, resulting in a thicker consistency than that of unstrained yogurt, while preserving yogurt’s distinctive sour taste. Is one better than another?
Let’s take plain nonfat yogurt — no fruit at the bottom or any other garnishes — and see how Greek and regular compare.
It’s no wonder nutrition experts steer you toward the Greek kind. On average, Greek yogurt contains as much as 17 grams of protein, compared with around 9 grams in regular yogurt, Ewoldt says. Double the protein! More protein in your diet is beneficial for muscle recovery and growth, and it helps keep you feeling fuller longer.
You’ll notice that Greek yogurt is creamier. That’s because the whey, the watery liquid you see at the top of regular yogurt, is removed from the Greek variety. That extra step gives Greek yogurt a creamier consistency. Choose the texture that fits your taste buds.
Sugar and carbohydrates
Yogurt is one of those healthy foods that can easily be made less healthy because of the sugar content. Some taste like dessert. Because nutritionists urge us to avoid too many sweets, going Greek is a smarter choice.
“Greek has a lower amount of sugar (around 5-8 grams, compared to 12 or more grams) than the regular yogurt, while still having the high levels of vitamins and minerals,” Ewoldt says. Greek yogurt also contains about half the carbohydrates of regular varieties. And remember, adding sweeteners and fruit can up the carb count.
Nutritionists usually suggest choosing nonfat yogurt. Do that and you’ll find both regular and Greek yogurts with less than 1 gram, as they’re made with skim milk. But if you go full fat, regular yogurt has fewer fat grams. A serving size of regular yogurt can contain 8 grams of fat, 5 saturated. By comparison, a Greek full-fat yogurt has 10 grams total, 7 saturated. Ultimately, it depends on your diet. An advantage of more fat is that it does keep you satiated longer.
“When comparing yogurt brands, it’s best to look for lower sugar, which will generally be your plain, not flavored, lower-fat options and higher-protein options,” Ewoldt says. “Choose plain yogurts, then add your own fruit or nuts to enhance the flavor and nutrition.”
The difference between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt
I recently needed whole fat yogurt for a recipe, but found that my local grocery store only carried whole fat Greek yogurt.
This prompted the question, what’s the difference between regular and Greek yogurt anyway?
Turns out the answer explains why Greek yogurt has become more ubiquitous than its regular counterpart.
Greek yogurt is more strained than regular yogurt.
The reason that Greek yogurt is so much thicker and creamier than regular yogurt is because the whey is strained off of it. Whey is the milk’s watery component, which remains after the milk has curdled. Removing that liquid is what gives Greek yogurt its denser consistency.
Greek yogurt has more protein than regular yogurt.
Greek yogurt is commonly considered a healthy snack partly because it provides more protein than regular yogurt. According to Prevention, a six-ounce serving of Greek yogurt has just as much protein as three ounces of lean meat, which makes it a great alternative source of protein. Plus, it’ll keep you fuller for longer than regular yogurt will.
Make sure your yogurt doesn’t have too many added flavors. Gail / Flickr
Greek yogurt has less sugar and carbohydrates than regular yogurt.
Straining off the whey translates into fewer carbs and less sugar in Greek yogurt. According to US News and World Report, regular yogurt has double the amount of carbs than Greek yogurt does. Just be wary of buying flavored Greek yogurt, which can pack the sugar and the carbs back on.
Greek yogurt has more fat than regular yogurt.
While Greek yogurt boasts more protein and less sugar and carbs than regular yogurt, it also has a higher fat content. An eight-ounce serving of Danon’s regular full-fat yogurt has five grams of saturated fat, whereas a seven-ounce serving of Fage full-fat Greek yogurt has over three times that amount (16 grams of saturated fat). It can be a good idea to go for low-fat or fat-free versions when buying Greek yogurt.