My yogurt obsession began at an early age, when my mom would hand me a container of it on my way out the door as a “you’re late for school” breakfast. Recently I’ve learned to love the thicker, richer Greek variety, but I remain an equal-opportunity fanatic (in fact, most of my suggestions below work with both Greek and plain).
The chefs at all my favorite spots make it easy to continue this love affair. They use it to dress up shaved vegetables, cool down spicy meats, and replace boring old cream as the whipped topping on what seems like every dessert. At Sqirl in Los Angeles, Jessica Koslow scents it with cumin, then swooshes it below blistered green beans. “I love it because I always want something refreshing and light,” says Koslow, who adds dollops to brighten and balance fatty or fiery foods.
Taking a cue from chefs like Dan Barber at Blue Hill and the restaurant’s line of savory yogurts, I’ve returned to my yogurt-for-breakfast ways, but now I stir in shallots, cucumbers, and herbs, not fruit. I’ve also been inspired to mix it with freshly grated garlic (you’ll forget aioli exists) and serve it with shortcakes (still counts as breakfast!). It’s become as ubiquitous as olive oil in the way I cook and eat, and not even because of all those probiotics—though they are a nice bonus.
YOGURT, YOU’RE SO VERSATILE:
1. Boost your breakfast
You can eat it straight from the container, sure, but yogurt’s also great slathered on toast in lieu of butter, or as the base for a chia pudding.
2. Use it in salad dressings
Just add a tablespoon or two of olive oil to about a half cup yogurt, thin with water, then season with salt and pepper. If you’d like, bolster with cider vinegar and chopped shallot.
3. Replace your mayo
Lighten up chicken salad, dips, or spicy crab toasts.
4. Try it in a marinade
The enzymes in yogurt help break down proteins, which tenderizes meat and fish. The upshot? It’s ideal for marinades, especially ones with Greek and Middle Eastern flavor profiles.
5. Add a dollop to (almost) anything
A spoonful (or two) makes the perfect finishing touch on everything from roasted vegetables to cooked meats to eggs with sautéed greens. It’s cooling, a bit fatty, and versatile—mix in toasted spices, herbs, or chiles to build flavor.
6. Make labneh your new go-to spread
Remember when we all fell for hummus? Now we’re all into labneh, Lebanese strained yogurt.
7. Whip up actual frozen yogurt
Dessert feels virtuous when it’s packed with probiotics. Get the recipe for Yogurt-Lime Sorbet here.
8. Swirl it into soups
Lend body and creaminess—without any cream—to vegetable soups like carrot or cauliflower. Just stir in some Greek yogurt right before serving.
A BUYER’S GUIDE:
As yogurt options multiply, it’s harder to know what’s healthy and what’s “healthy.” A few rules:
1. Go Greek
“Plain Greek offers two to three times the protein of traditional yogurt, so you stay full longer. It’s also lower in sugar and sodium,” says nutritionist Lauren Slayton, of New York City’s Foodtrainers.
2. Skip nonfat
Proof that the fat-free craze is fading: Slayton endorses only full-fat and 2 percent (just keep in mind that full-fat is higher in calories). “Avoid nonfat because it won’t keep you as full. Plus, you need some fat to absorb the vitamin D,” she says.
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3. Beware of faux-gurt
It can take three times the amount of milk to make real Greek yogurt, so some companies try to create the same consistency by adding thickeners. Make sure there’s no cornstarch, milk protein concentrate (MPC), or tapioca on the ingredients list.
4. Sweeten it yourself
You want single-digit sugar content, which means buying plain yogurt and adding your own natural sweeteners or fruit. Slayton advises keeping it to two teaspoons or fewer of Grade B maple syrup, honey, or coconut sugar.