What to Do with Plain Yogurt

Yogurt is really just aged milk, cultured with the bacteria Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Some producers add other cultures, but streptococcus and lactobacillus are what the FDA requires in its definition of yogurt. Yogurt’s health benefits have long been touted: Not only is it full of calcium and protein, but also the active cultures are said to protect the gastrointestinal tract from infection. It’s commonly eaten for breakfast, but its uses go way beyond granola.

Note: Look for organic, whole-milk plain yogurt. Most organic brands that are labeled “cream on top” are more liquid, so they work well in recipes. They also contain fewer stabilizers—additives used to maintain texture and consistency.

In dressing: Yogurt adds tanginess to salad dressings and dips. You can use it in place of sour cream or buttermilk in just about any recipe, like our Blue Cheese Dressing.

In a marinade: The acidity in yogurt acts as a tenderizer, making it a good ingredient in Tandoori-Style Marinade, a spicy marinade for grilled meats.

Blended: Yogurt is a good cooler in blended concoctions like smoothies; try our Mango Lassi.

In soup: Many soups call for yogurt. We enjoy it in this Cold Minted Cucumber Soup with Toasted Walnuts.

Baked: Using yogurt in batter adds moisture and a little tang. Try these Zucchini–Pine Nut Muffins to see what we mean.

Strained: Many cultures make what is known as yogurt cheese by straining yogurt for a few hours through cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer. The process drains away excess liquid, resulting in a soft “cheese” that has a consistency similar to cream cheese and is great in this Sweet Yogurt Sundae with Saffron and Pistachios.

Cooked: Mixing yogurt and rice is common in Middle Eastern cuisine, as in Persian-Style Rice with Saffron and Lentils.

Hold the cream: Replace the heavy cream called for in many recipes with whole-milk yogurt. Traditionally, panna cotta is made with cream, but here’s the yogurt version: Australian Lemon Myrtle and Yogurt Panna Cotta.

Pseudo Crème Fraîche: Crème fraîche is thick, rich, and tart, a complement to fresh fruit, desserts, or anything you’d like to make a little richer. And now you can make it yourself!

As a snack: You already know this one. Top yogurt with anything from honey and granola to dried fruit and saba for a quick snack that’s good anytime.