When we discovered nonfat Greek-style yogurt many years ago, we were able to give up our high-cholesterol, high-calorie sour cream and cream cheese habit, reduce the calories in dips and salad dressing, and cut the use of mayonnaise in half by substituting yogurt for half of it.
Fat-free (0%) yogurt tastes just as good as the 2% and 5% (whole milk) versions. There’s a slight difference, of course, but not one that makes a difference in how enjoyable the yogurt or the recipe is.
Aside from the popular smoothies and granola toppings, here are ways to use plain, nonfat, plain Greek-style yogurt throughout the day.
Banana Split. What more festive treat for breakfast than making a banana split with yogurt and cottage cheese. If it’s too much for a weekday, enjoy it as your “weekend special” (recipe).
Bread Spread. We enjoy yogurt plain, or mixed with herbs and a pinch of salt, as a spread on bagels and toast. It’s especially good with whole wheat and multigrain breads. But if you want a thicker spread, make yogurt cheese: Add yogurt to a sieve (strainer) lined with cheesecloth or paper towels. Place the sieve over a bowl or pan and let drain for two hours in the fridge.
Labneh Spread. This savory, protein-rich Middle Eastern breakfast spread and dip is delicious and refreshing. Season a cup of Greek-style yogurt with chopped basil, garlic powder, green onion, mint, oregano and/or thyme. Mix with a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil; add salt to taste. Serve in a dish garnished with coarsely chopped walnuts, a drizzle of olive oil and some more herbs. You can also mix finely-chopped walnuts into the yogurt for more texture and flavor.
Mexican Dishes. Replace sour cream with nonfat Greek-style yogurt as a garnish for chili, enchiladas and other favorite dishes.
Salad Dressing. Substitute yogurt for half the mayonnaise in any recipe—green salad, chicken salad, potato salad, tuna salad and so forth. An easy recipe: Combine yogurt, lemon juice, minced garlic and fresh dill. For a seafood salad dressing, mix yogurt with ketchup or chili sauce and sweet pickle relish.
Baked Potato Top the potato with yogurt instead of sour cream, but keep the other fixings: chives, a teaspoon of crumbled bacon (you get a “cholesterol credit” from the fat-free yogurt) or a spoonful of grated Cheddar or Parmesan. Or, use the labneh spread above—it’s terrific with potatoes. For more of a sauce, dilute the yogurt with a bit of lemon juice and add fresh dill and a pinch of salt.
Meat Marinade. The beneficial bacteria in yogurt act as a tenderizer. You can mix yogurt with olive oil, soy sauce and/or other ingredients or just use a cup of plain yogurt with a teaspoon each of lemon juice, minced garlic and one or more herbs and spices (celery seed, curry powder and/or onion powder, for example).
Sauces. Instead of a cholesterol-laden cream sauce, try a yogurt sauce. Start with this easy recipe and add your own variations: 1 cup plain yogurt, 1 clove minced garlic, 1/4 cup fresh lime juice, 1 tablespoon fresh minced ginger; combine, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for flavors to blend. Drizzle over fish, chicken or vegetables. Here’s the recipe for raita, a classic Indian yogurt sauce with garlic, cucumbers, cumin and fresh mint.
Soups. Use it to create creamy cold soups or to garnish any soup. Yogurt will curdle when mixed into hot liquids, so stabilize it first with a teaspoon of corn starch.
Stews. Follow the same direction as with soups. Yogurt really cuts the calories in Beef Stroganoff and Chicken Paprikash.
Dip. Substitute yogurt for half the mayonnaise or sour cream; and ultimately move to an all-yogurt recipe. We love the Greek dip tzatziki, made with with cucumber, lemon juice, garlic and herbs (recipe).
Parfait. Layer yogurt with berries and granola in a glass or goblet.
A favorite, low-calorie snack: Yogurt Dip & Crudités (photo © California Dairy Board).
Muffins & Quickbreads Replace the butter in recipes, adding 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of yogurt. Get a yogurt baking book for many other ideas in your everyday baking.
Find more yogurt recipes in our Yogurt Section.