Yogurt is a beloved snack and breakfast food, but this tangy calcium powerhouse also works well in savory marinades and side dishes.
When you buy yogurt, check the sell-by date on the container. Select the latest-dated carton you find on the shelf.
Keep yogurt in its original container in the refrigerator. An unopened container of yogurt with live cultures should keep for about 10 days past the “sell by” date. Yogurt that was heat treated after fermentation, and thus has no live bacteria, will keep even longer.
Here are 11 tasty ways to serve yogurt.
- Stir toasted cumin, minced pickled jalapeños, and chopped roasted pumpkin seeds into yogurt, and use as a topping for chili.
- Use yogurt as a part of a marinade for chicken.
- Use low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream in baking.
- Mash potatoes with plain low-fat yogurt instead of butter or sour cream.
- Make a smoothie with sliced bananas, strawberries, yogurt, and a couple of ice cubes.
- Stir diced cucumber, minced cilantro, and sliced scallions into yogurt for a refreshing accompaniment to curries.
- Make your own fruit yogurt by stirring an all-fruit spread into plain yogurt.
- Stir herbs and spices into yogurt and use as a dip for crudités.
- Finely chop garlic and stir it into yogurt along with a little olive oil, and use as a sauce for pasta.
- Use yogurt to lighten a potato salad dressing.
- Try making yogurt cheese,using the instructions immediately below.
How to make yogurt cheese
Yogurt thickens when the whey is drained from it. The resulting mildly tart yogurt “cheese,” or curd, can be substituted for sour cream or cream cheese in recipes, depending on how long you let the yogurt drain. You can buy an inexpensive yogurt cheese “funnel” or make your own out of common kitchen items. Use any type of plain low-fat or whole milk yogurt that does not contain gelatin, as gelatin keeps the whey from draining off.
Fruit yogurts will not work well, but flavored yogurts that do not have solids in them (such as vanilla, coffee, or lemon) can be made into tasty dessert cheeses by this method.
To make yogurt cheese, line a strainer or colander with dampened cheesecloth, a clean white cloth napkin or towel, or paper towels. Place the strainer over a bowl. (You can also use a simple funnel-shaped drip coffee filter.) Stir the yogurt, then spoon it into the strainer. Cover the strainer with plastic wrap and place the strainer and bowl in the refrigerator.
The thickness of the resulting product will depend on the type of yogurt you use and how long it drains. As a rule of thumb, an hour or two will yield a yogurt “sour cream” and six to eight hours, or overnight draining, will produce a yogurt “cream cheese.”
Yogurt “sour cream” can be used instead of mayonnaise in tuna or chicken salad. When heating yogurt “sour cream” (as part of a sauce or creamy soup, for example), take the same precautions you would with regular yogurt to keep it from curdling or breaking.
Here are some ways to use yogurt cheese in meals:
- For appetizer dips or sandwich spreads: Try flavoring yogurt “cream cheese” or “sour cream” with herbs, spices, or chopped vegetables. For instance, add minced garlic and fresh or dried herbs such as basil, thyme, dill, or oregano. Or flavor the dip or spread with chili or curry powder, chopped scallions or chives, puréed roasted bell peppers, capers, anchovies, or mustard. Add shredded carrots, chopped cooked spinach, or pureed artichoke hearts.
- For dessert: Consider sweetening the “cream cheese” or “sour cream” with honey, brown sugar, or frozen fruit juice concentrate, or flavoring it with vanilla or almond extract, nutmeg, cardamom, or ginger. You can fold in grated citrus zest or chopped dried fruit, if desired. Serve it with fresh fruit (it’s especially good with bananas or berries) or plain cookies. You can make a chocolate cheese spread for fruit slices (or a simple frosting for cake or cookies) by adding cocoa powder to sweetened “cream cheese.”
See our recipe for Yogurt Cheese Spreads.