Greek Yogurt: Important Facts, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Explore the health benefits, history, and various uses of Greek yogurt, a protein-rich, gut-friendly food that's perfect for cooking, baking, and snacking.

What Is Greek Yogurt?

  • Greek yogurt is regular yogurt that has had the liquid (whey) strained from it (usually through fine mesh cloth), making it thicker and denser.
  • It is made by fermenting yogurt in tanks and then straining whey and other liquids during the final processing steps. The process creates a thicker product with a higher protein content .

Is Greek Yogurt Good For You?

Yes, Greek yogurt is very good for you as it offers many health benefits.

5 Health Benefits Of Greek Yogurt

  1. Greek yogurt is a great source of protein. One half cup serving has 10 grams protein compared to regular yogurt having 4.3 grams
  2. Greek yogurt may be good for bone health.
    1. Greek yogurt is a good source of calcium. One half cup provides almost 9% of your daily needs.
  3. Greek yogurt is a good source of Vitamin B12 . One half cup provides 38% of our Daily Needs for B12.
    1. B12 is needed to form red blood cells and DNA. It is also a key player in the function and development of brain and nerve cells.
  4. Greek yogurt is good for gut health because of the probiotics
    1. Be sure that it says Live and Active cultures
    2. Buy plain for best results. Studies show that if it has added sugars, the probiotics may not be as effective.
  5. The protein in Greek yogurt may help you feel full and more satisfied between meals.

History, Background, and General Facts About Greek Yogurt

  • The word “ yogurt ” is believed to have come from the Turkish word “yoğurmak,” which means to thicken, curdle, or coagulate.
  • Strained yogurt is required to have at least 5.6% protein content, relative to the 2.7% for unstrained yogurt. Strained yogurt has less sugar content than other yogurts
  • Some food manufacturers produce Greek-style yogurt by adding milk proteins to the yogurt at the beginning or end of processing
  • Straining yogurt is common in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries
  • Labneh (or lebneh) is soft cheese made from strained yogurt and salt
    • To make labneh, you stir salt into good quality full-fat plain yogurt, and then strain it through cheesecloth until it reaches the desired consistency.
    • Tie the cheesecloth into a ball and set it in a sieve over a deep bowl in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours
    • Labneh is then a soft cheese, perfect for dipping. Drizzle olive oil over it, sprinkle on some za'atar, and dip pita chips or veggies in it.
    • The longer you let it strain, the thicker the labneh becomes—until it eventually reaches the texture of a block of cream cheese.
  • Greek yogurt is often used in cooking because it curdles less than regular yogurt
  • Since straining removes the whey, more milk is required to make strained yogurt, increasing the production cost.
  • Thickeners like pectin , locust bean gum , starches or guar gum may also be used to thicken yogurts. In western Europe and the US, strained yogurt has increased in popularity compared to unstrained yogurt.
  • There isn’t a standard for what can be called Greek yogurt, so sometimes regular yogurt with added thickeners can be called Greek yogurt
  • Since the straining process removes some of the lactose , strained yogurt is lower in sugar than unstrained yogurt.

What Are The Cuisines That Regularly Include Greek Yogurt?

  • Central Asia (Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan) - chakka or suzma is strained yogurt and sometimes its further drained to make a cheese
  • Western Asia /Eastern Mediterranean(Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Armenia) - labneh (strained yogurt + salt creating a soft cheese) covered in herbs and olive oil and used as a dip
    • In Egypt, it is sometimes eaten with honey as a breakfast food or snack
  • Indian - shrikhand is dish made with strained yogurt (chakka), sugar, saffron, cardamom, fruit and nuts
  • Europe - In Albania it’s eaten with dill, garlic, cucumber, nuts or olive oil or made into a cheese or a drink
    • Bulgaria it’s used in salads and dressings
    • Greece - tzatziki sauce and as a dessert with honey
    • Denmark - ymer (less whey is drained) + bread crumbs and brown sugar as breakfast
    • UK - Greek yogurt is only marketed as Greek yogurt if made in Greece. Otherwise it is called Greek-style yogurt
  • United States - eaten similar to regular yogurt or used in place of sour cream for soups or salad dressings

What Is The Best Way To Store Greek Yogurt?

The best way to store Greek yogurt is to cover in the refrigerator until the use-by date.

What Are The Different Types Of Greek Yogurt?

  • Whole milk - 5 grams fat, 2.7 grams saturated fat, 10 grams protein
  • Low-Fat - 2.2 grams fat, 1.4 grams saturated fat, 11 grams protein
  • Skim Milk - .2 grams fat, .1 grams saturated fat, 9 grams protein (sometimes have thickeners added: locust gum, guar gum, etc.)

Toxicity and Side Effects Of Greek Yogurt

Read the labels of your yogurt to be sure there aren’t added sugars. If it has a flavor, it most likely has added sugar. This is especially important if you watch your sugar intake or if you have diabetes.

Typically yogurt is easier on the digestive system than regular dairy because of the probiotics. But if you are lactose intolerant, keep in mind that yogurt is still dairy, so eat in moderation if you find it doesn’t make you feel comfortable.

What Is The Best Substitute For Greek Yogurt If I Don't Have Any?

If you don't have Greek yogurt available or need a substitute for it in a recipe, there are several alternatives you can consider based on the purpose and texture you're looking for. Here are some options:

  1. Regular Yogurt: Regular yogurt can be a suitable substitute for Greek yogurt in most recipes. However, note that regular yogurt has a thinner consistency and slightly different taste. To achieve a thicker texture similar to Greek yogurt, you can strain the regular yogurt through a cheesecloth or coffee filter to remove excess liquid. Straining for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator will result in a thicker consistency.

  2. Sour Cream: Sour cream can be used as a substitute for Greek yogurt in many recipes, particularly in dressings, dips, and baked goods. Sour cream has a rich and creamy texture, but it has a slightly tangier flavor compared to Greek yogurt. Adjust the quantities and consider the impact on the final taste.

  3. Cottage Cheese: Cottage cheese can work as a substitute for Greek yogurt, especially in recipes where the creamy texture is desired. Blend the cottage cheese until smooth to achieve a consistency similar to Greek yogurt. Keep in mind that cottage cheese has a slightly different taste, so it may alter the flavor of the dish.

  4. Silken Tofu: Silken tofu can be used as a dairy-free substitute for Greek yogurt in certain recipes, particularly in desserts, smoothies, or creamy sauces. Blend the silken tofu until smooth and creamy to mimic the texture of Greek yogurt. Adjust the flavors and sweetness as needed.

  5. Coconut Cream: If you prefer a dairy-free alternative, coconut cream can be used as a substitute for Greek yogurt in recipes that can accommodate its flavor. Coconut cream has a rich and creamy texture. Be aware that it will add a coconut flavor to the dish.