15 Jun, 2021 · Food

Greek yogurt: the perfect substitute

Greek yoghurt (spelt ‘yogurt’ in the US!), is a really flexible product, that can be used for countless dairy substitutions in recipes. Whether you’re trying to make a recipe healthier or simply lack one ingredient, it can be a really great alternative. If you’ve ever wondered “can I use Greek yoghurt instead of…”, we are here to answer! In the blog below, we’ll suggest all the recipe substitutions you might have considered, and hopefully suggest some that you hadn’t thought up yet too!

Why is Greek yoghurt different from natural yoghurt?

Greek yoghurt is strained multiple times (usually three times, versus natural yoghurt's twice). This makes for a thicker, creamier tasting yoghurt. The straining also removes more whey and lactose, making Greek yoghurt a higher protein source.

Always choose the full-fat version - these are healthy fats, plus low-fat dairy usually replaces fats with ‘undesirables’ like sweeteners. Plus, it’s got to be full-fat to be authentic Greek yoghurt!

Greek yoghurt is usually 10% fat, whereas natural yoghurt is around 4%. This extra fat content, and thicker consistency, make it great for baking. The extra fat makes the cake moister, and also gives a better (depending on your recipe), denser crumb.

Can I use Greek yoghurt instead of natural yoghurt?

Yes - but due to the consistency, you may choose to add water. 1 cup of natural yoghurt for 3/4 cup Greek yoghurt + 1/4 cup water. If consistency isn’t an issue (as mentioned above, the richer consistency can improve your cake baking), just do a direct substitution.

Don’t expect Greek yoghurt to behave exactly the same as natural yoghurt, though. If you heat it quickly, the concentrated milk proteins can sometimes separate from the whey.

Use this for: when you only have Greek yoghurt in. You don’t need to buy both Greek and regular!

Ice cream made with Greek yoghurt
Greek yoghurt makes ice cream into fro-yo; a healthier alternative!

Can I use Greek yoghurt instead of cream?

This is a great substitution. Swap ‘double’ or ‘heavy’ cream for Greek yoghurt, as they have a similar thick texture. You’ll save plenty of calories and Greek yoghurt will add that slightly tangy taste.

Use this for: a direct substitution in baking and recipes needing double cream.

Can I use Greek yoghurt instead of cream cheese?

Depends. For an exact substitution, you’ll need to make your Greek yoghurt thicker. You can do this by straining through a muslin in the fridge overnight (add the whey liquid that comes out to another recipe to incorporate that valuable protein). If it’s for something more forgiving like a pasta sauce, a direct substitution should be no problem. Greek yoghurt becomes thinner at room temperature, so bear that in mind if you consider using it in place of cream cheese in frosting - definitely do the straining step in this scenario.

Use this for: a substitute in creamy sauces, and strain and use for cake frosting.

Can I use Greek yoghurt instead of mayonnaise?

Yes, this is a great calorie-saving swap. For something like an avocado dip, substitute mayo for Greek yoghurt directly. Be aware, though, that they do have a different taste. Where the mayo was primarily providing silky smoothness, yoghurt is the perfect swap. But you are going to notice the difference if you swap mayo for Greek yoghurt on your BLT, for example.

Use this for: making dips and spreads lighter and less calorific.

Can I use Greek yoghurt instead of buttermilk?

Yes. Both of these ingredients have that sought-after tang, but Greek yoghurt is thicker, so water down your substitution. For 1 cup buttermilk, use 2/3 cup yoghurt, 1/3 cup milk.

Use this for: baking recipes featuring buttermilk, eg scones.

Can I use Greek yoghurt instead of butter?

It depends. You can in baking. Substitute 1 cup butter for 1/2 cup butter 1/4 cup Greek yoghurt, or try a direct 1 for 1 substitution. Be aware, though, that Greek yoghurt has a thicker consistency than melted butter. Bakers have told me that you should only do a direct 1 cup butter for 1 cup Greek yoghurt substitution when the recipe calls for less than 1 cup of butter in total, or the consistency of the bake will become too dense. You could also add more liquids to remedy this situation, for example the 3/4 cup Greek yoghurt 1/4 cup water solution outlined in the yoghurt/Greek yoghurt substitution above.

Use this for: a lower calorie alternative in baking.

Healthy dip made with Greek yogurt
Using Greek yoghurt instead of sour cream or mayo in dips makes them healthier

Can I use Greek yoghurt instead of sour cream?

Yes. This is a great substitute, because both have that slight tang - and Greek yoghurt has a much lower calorie count, so could make your recipe healthier. Directly substitute, ie 1 cup Greek yoghurt for 1 cup sour cream.

Use this for: making healthier dips. Check out my spicy feta dip recipe to see Greek yoghurt successfully used in a dip!

Can I use Greek yoghurt instead of oil in baking?

There aren’t too many scenarios where you can envisage swapping oil for yoghurt, are there?! But in baking, any oil included will be there primarily to provide a fat content, and Greek yoghurt can do that too! Substitute 1 cup of oil for 3/4 cup of Greek yoghurt.

Use this for: if your baking recipe calls for oil and you’re all out!

Can I use Greek yoghurt to make ice cream?

Yes! You’ve probably tried, or at least heard of, the American favourite frozen yoghurt - or fro-yo. It’s a healthier alternative to ice cream, but delivers that same creaminess, and can be as simple as whizzing up three or four ingredients! The other good news? Freezing doesn’t affect Greek yoghurt’s nutritional benefits.

Use this for: making a healthy fro-yo alternative to ice cream.

Can I use Greek yoghurt as a marinade?

Yes, yoghurt is a great choice for a marinade, as it tenderises and moistens your meat. Where a citrus- or vinegar-based acidic marinade can make proteins move towards tough, Greek yoghurt tenderises meat gently. It is perfect for an overnight marinade, but can be used in shorter marinade times too. Unlike in other marinades, where the sugars in the coating are the first thing to cook, in a yoghurt marinade the first thing to cook and caramelise is the dairy. If you’re deep-frying, for example, you’ll still end up with a crisp crust - but with a gorgeous tender layer of caramelised dairy protein and sugar combined, insulating the meat. Loosen it with a little lemon juice or vinegar so that it is loose enough to coat your protein. Learn more about yoghurt marinating from Bon Appetit's Alex Delany here.

Use this for: marinating meats before you deep fry, grill or barbecue them.

More unusual uses for Greek yoghurt:

  • Stir it into soups for a blob of creaminess when you serve up.
  • Add to dips to make them go further - you can add a tablespoon to avocado dip, and even hummus, to up the protein levels and give a creaminess.
  • Add it to breakfasts (in smoothies, overnight oats, pancakes or muffins) for added protein. I add them to my overnight oats recipe.

Do you have any great uses for Greek yoghurt, or great substitutions, that I’ve missed? If so, let me know!

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