What can't Greek yogurt do? Thanks to its creamy texture and mildly tangy flavor, Greek yogurt is an incredibly versatile ingredient that has as many tricks up its sleeve as cauliflower. While it can certainly be eaten solo or topped with fruit for a quick and nutritious snack, Greek yogurt has so much more to offer the health-conscious home cook! An excellent source of protein, immunity-boosting probiotics, and essential vitamins and minerals, Greek yogurt is a creamy ingredient that you can incorporate into so many of your favorite recipes.
Not sure where to start? With these easy tips, you’ll be swapping in Greek yogurt like a pro in no time!
1. Choosing a Greek Yogurt
First things first: For cooking and substitutions, plain (read: unflavored, unsweetened) varieties are best. Though it may be tempting to go hog-wild with fat-free substitutions, just remember that fat has an important role to play both for flavor and texture as well as satiety. Non- or fat-free options are also often packed with more added sugar, salt or hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Plus, considering that full-fat yogurt has 77 percent fewer calories than something like heavy cream, there’s no need to always reach for non-fat varieties.
2. Start Small
With your Greek yogurt in hand, it’s time to get swapping! When experimenting with a new substitution, always start small and don’t hesitate to look online for guidance and inspiration. Though ingredients like mayonnaise and sour cream can often be replaced outright, others take a little more experimentation to find the right ratio. This is particularly true with baked goods, where even a small change can greatly affect the end result. While your favorite muffin recipe might bake up beautifully when half the oil is replaced with yogurt, a complete substitution might result in an epic kitchen fail.
3. Keep Your Temper
Ever add dairy to a piping hot recipe only to see it break into a curdled catastrophe? Don’t let this happen to you! To keep your yogurt from separating into a hot mess, be sure to temper it by first adding a small amount of the hot food to the yogurt before stirring it into the main dish. This will allow the yogurt to warm up gradually, which prevents those dairy proteins from curdling. Once added, be sure to lower the temperature to avoid breaking the yogurt.
Keep in mind that fat-free dairy products in particular are more likely to curdle or break at high temperatures or when added to acidic dishes. Case in point: When put to the ultimate kitchen test—a steaming batch of homemade tomato soup—the addition of full-fat Greek yogurt made for a luscious, perfectly creamy soup with nary a curd in sight. The lower-fat varieties, sadly, couldn’t stand the heat. While the low-fat (two percent) yogurt managed to stay mostly intact with just a small amount of curdling, the non-fat yogurt was an utter failure and broke completely. If ever in doubt, full-fat Greek yogurt is your safest and best bet!
4. Go Easy
Finally, remember that a gentle hand is best; when mixing Greek yogurt with other ingredients, carefully fold using a rubber spatula. Avoid vigorous mixing or whisking as this tends to loosen up Greek yogurt’s thick and creamy texture.
It's All Greek to Me
Now that you’ve got the basics under your belt, here are some delicious ideas to get you started!
- Do you struggle to get in enough protein at breakfast? Greek yogurt is an easy morning solution loved by kids and grown-ups alike. Whether you choose to throw it into your favorite smoothie, overnight oats, or layer it up with berries and nuts, Greek yogurt can give you the energy you need to make it through your busy morning.
- Looking to lighten up your favorite dressings and dips? Greek yogurt can be used in place of other fat-laden condiments, such as mayonnaise and sour cream, for just a fraction of the calories. To make the substitution, simply replace some or all with plain Greek yogurt, fold gently to combine and pop in the fridge to thicken. It’s an easy way to cut out extra calories and your taste buds will be none the wiser!
- Owing to its ability to add moisture and richness, Greek yogurt is also fantastic in many baked goods—even brownies! By replacing a portion of the butter or oil with Greek yogurt, you can feel better about your favorite treats without compromising on flavor.
- Greek yogurt is also an excellent pinch hitter in many recipes that call for heavy cream, such as pasta, soups and sauces. Equally delicious folded into a nutty pesto, spicy curry or atop tacos, Greek yogurt adds the perfect amount of body and tang without bouncing your calorie budget—with extra protein to boot!