We spoon up so much yogurt at breakfast, lunch and dinner that we spent $7.3 billion on the tart stuff last year.
Its creamy texture and good-for-your-gut benefits are draws. So are the varieties: full fat, nonfat and low fat; organic and conventional; honey sweetened or plain, fruit on the bottom or swirled throughout.
Among these cultured denizens of the dairy case, it’s Greek yogurt that’s getting lots of attention.
Retail sales in the U.S. of this thicker-than-regular yogurt increased more than 50 percent in 2012 to reach $1.6 billion, according to Packaged Facts, a Rockville, Md., market researcher. Such numbers, they said, have pretzel, salad dressing and cereal-makers jumping on the Greek yogurt bandwagon.
Greek yogurt’s appeal is easy to understand. It’s deliciously thick and creamy, it plays well in recipes, its ingredient list is simple (milk plus live cultures) and its tartness dovetails with our fondness for fermented foods (pickles, beer, etc.).
“There’s been a lot of marketing with the Greek yogurts. And people like the thick texture of the Greek variety,” said registered dietitian Sarah Krieger, an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson. “If you’re using Greek yogurt in cooking, basically you can use it anywhere that sour cream is used.”
Subbing Greek yogurt for sour cream in many recipes cuts calories and sodium, while delivering more protein. “If you’re making a cold soup that uses sour cream, I would swap it out for nonfat Greek yogurt,” she said. “You’re getting more nutrition with the Greek yogurt.”
Its acidity also works well as a marinade for meats and poultry. “It’s great for baked fish or chicken. If you’re using it instead of mayonnaise, you’re actually using less fat and you’re adding a little bit of protein and a little bit of calcium,” said Krieger, a St. Petersburg, Fla., mom. She spreads yogurt on whitefish, then mixes dried herbs with breadcrumbs to sprinkle atop before baking.
“With yogurt, almost anything goes, the possibilities of cooking with it are infinite,” wrote Arto Der Haroutunian in “The Yogurt Cookbook: Recipes From Around the World” (Interlink Books, $35). The late author, restaurateur and artist suggested using it in place of cream, milk, buttermilk and sour cream.
Greek yogurt, like regular yogurt, can be temperamental in the presence of heat. If you’re using it in cooking, it will curdle if you cook it over high heat, said Krieger, who suggests using low heat or stirring Greek yogurt into sauces at the end of cooking for texture and creaminess.
Nutritional differences between Greek and regular yogurts are due in part to the number of times each is strained. Regular yogurt is strained twice to remove liquid (called whey); Greek yogurt is strained three times, which makes it thicker and sometimes tarter.
Skewered chicken (Murgh Tikka)
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 10-15 minutes
Adapted from “The Yogurt Cookbook” by Arto Der Haroutunian (Interlink Books, $35). The author suggests serving it with a tomato and onion salad, plus rice pilaf or the Indian bread, chapati.
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
- Juice of 1 large lemon
- 1¼ cups plain Greek yogurt
- 2 teaspoons each: ground coriander, salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or mint
- Cut chicken into 1-inch cubes. Put the onion, garlic, ginger and lemon juice in a blender; puree until smooth. Empty paste into a large non-reactive bowl. Add yogurt, coriander, salt and cumin; mix well. Add chicken pieces; turn until well coated. Cover; refrigerate overnight.
- Remove chicken from marinade, discarding marinade; thread pieces on skewers. Cook on a grill or under a broiler, turning frequently, 10-12 minutes. Serve sprinkled with chopped mint or cilantro.
Nutrition per serving: 255 calories, 6 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 127 mg cholesterol, 1 g carbohydrates, 46 g protein, 228 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.
Apricot and yogurt custard
Prep: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Cook: 30-40 minutes
Adapted from “The Yogurt Cookbook” by Arto Der Haroutunian (Interlink Books, $35), this dish has a firm texture, not unlike cheesecake. The egg yolks help stabilize the yogurt.
- 4 ounces dried apricots, soaked overnight in cold water
- 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons chopped pistachios
- Heat oven to 325 degrees. Drain softened apricots; cut them into small pieces. Place in a 4-cup baking dish. Beat yogurt and yolks together in a bowl; pour over apricots. Place baking dish in a baking pan. Pour enough cold water into the pan to come halfway up the outside of the baking dish. Bake until set, 30-40 minutes. Allow to cool. To serve, mix brown sugar with pistachios. Sprinkle over top.
Nutrition per serving: 297 calories, 16 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 112 mg cholesterol, 29 g carbohydrates, 10 g protein, 45 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.