Ever notice how large the yogurt section of the grocery store has gotten? With so many types hitting the shelves, from International yogurts to plant-based options, it helps to know what’s what before you shop.
Table of Contents
- Unstrained, traditional cow’s milk yogurt
- Greek yogurt
- Goat’s milk yogurt
- Sheep’s milk yogurt
- Icelandic yogurt
- Australian yogurt
- French-style yogurt
- Soy yogurt
- Almond yogurt
- Cashew yogurt
- Coconut yogurt
- Drinkable yogurt
- Selecting a type of yogurt
- Ways to cook and bake with yogurt
- Here are some recipes to try
Aside from being a key ingredient to a delicious parfait (a great snack on the go) and the base of many delicious homemade sauces and dips, yogurt is also a popular food because of its health benefits. It’s a good source of calcium (1), vitamin B12, and other key nutrients like phosphorus and riboflavin. Go for the Greek, and you’ll also get the benefits of extra protein.
How it’s made can vary based on the type, but essentially, yogurt is milk that has been fermented using a type of fermentation called lactic acid fermentation. Healthy strains of bacteria known as live cultures (two in particular called S. thermophilus and L. bulgaricus) are added to milk to kick-start the fermentation process. The bacteria ferment the lactose sugars in the milk into lactic acid. The acidic environment causes the proteins in the milk to coagulate. This gives it a more gel-like and creamy texture, as well as all those healthy probiotics touted by health professionals.
Yogurt has to contain these two cultures to be labeled as yogurt, but some manufacturers select additional strains that help create their desired texture and thickness. Additionally, it’s important to know that some manufacturers use too much heat once the cultures are added during the yogurt-making process, which can kill the healthy bacteria. If the label lists the species and strains of the probiotics, that’s a good sign they’re controlling the temperature to keep the cultures alive and active.
Unstrained, traditional cow’s milk yogurt
This is your everyday, run of the mill yogurt. Much like milk itself, you can buy whole milk yogurt, low-fat, or nonfat. It’s made using the process described above, and the result is a medium to a thinner texture that can be sour when it’s plain. Many commercial brands add sugar, fruits, and natural flavors to balance this.
Nutritional profile: Per 1 cup — 8.5g protein, 8g fat, 11g carbohydrates, 11g sugar, 113mg sodium, 296mg calcium, and 233mg phosphorus. (Reference: USDA FoodData Central)
Greek yogurt is strained after it’s fermented. This gets rid of the whey liquid and results in a thicker texture, and it can also taste sourer than traditional yogurt (unless flavors and sugars are added). Before purchasing, check the label and make sure that milk and live cultures (good for your gut health) are the main ingredients.
Nutritional profile: Per 1 cup (nonfat)— 25g protein, 1g fat, 10g carbohydrates, 8g sugar, 90mg sodium, 245mg calcium, and 333mg phosphorus. (Reference: USDA FoodData Central)
Goat’s milk yogurt
If you like goat cheese, you might also be a fan of goat yogurt. It has a similar earthy quality that’s a bit sweet. The texture is rich and creamy but not quite as thick as Greek yogurt. It has a similar nutritional value to traditional yogurt with less lactose, making it a tolerable alternative to those who are sensitive to dairy.
Nutritional profile: Per 1 cup — 9g protein, 10g fat, 11g carbohydrates, 11g sugar, 122mg sodium, 327mg calcium, and 271mg phosphorus. (Reference: USDA FoodData Central)
Sheep’s milk yogurt
Made from sheep’s milk, sheep yogurt has an earthy and natural flavor. Compared to traditional cow’s milk, it’s thicker and creamier, like Greek yogurt. But it has less lactose, so it also makes a great alternative to dairy yogurt.
Nutritional profile: Per 100g — 5g protein, 4g fat, 5g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 4g sugar, 176mg calcium, and 47mg sodium. (Reference: Bellweather Farms Sheep Milk Yogurt)
This lesser-known type of yogurt is also called skyr. And while it’s not as common, it’s becoming increasingly more popular with Greek yogurt lovers. It’s strained longer, therefore removing more whey liquid and making it even thicker. When it comes to taste, it has less tang than plain Greek yogurt.
Nutritional profile: Per 1 cup — 16g protein, 0g fat, 7g carbohydrates, 7g sugar, 150mg calcium, and 60mg sodium. (Reference: USDA FoodData Central)
Australian yogurt is also often lumped in with Greek and Icelandic yogurt because of its thickness. However, there’s one key difference. It’s not strained, and it cooks longer during the fermentation process to achieve a thicker texture. To help with that creaminess, it’s typically made with whole milk.
Nutritional profile: Per 100g — 5g protein, 5g fat, 16g carbohydrates, .4g fiber, 15g sugar, 17mg calcium, and 49mg sodium. (Reference: Noosa brand yogurt)
French-style yogurt simply means it’s made in small batches. Instead of mixing a large batch of milk with active cultures to ferment and then divided, it ferments in individual containers. It’s often sold in the container it’s made in. Like traditional cow’s milk, it’s unstrained. The texture is thinner but delicate and rich and typically less sweet than yogurt made from cow’s milk.
Nutritional profile: Per serving — 5g fat, 3g protein, 17g carbohydrates, 15g sugar, 100mg calcium, and 55mg sodium. (Reference: 1 container Oui brand yogurt)
Of all the non-dairy yogurts, this may be the closest in texture and thickness to traditional cow’s milk yogurt. It tends to be a popular choice for vegans, and it’s also one of the easier types of dairy-free yogurt to find in stores. Like soy milk, it tastes a little sweet. And like traditional plain yogurt, it has some tang.
Nutritional profile: Per 1 cup — 9g protein, 4g fat, 39g carbohydrates, .5g fiber, 3g sugar, 289mg calcium, and 93mg phosphorus. (Reference: USDA FoodData Central)
Almond yogurt is typically made by adding a thickener to almond milk, heating, and then adding live cultures at the end. It’s denser than traditional yogurt but still pretty similar in taste and texture. It’s not overly sweet, and it’s a little tart.
Nutritional profile: Per 150 g (1 container) — 5g protein, 11g fat, 19g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 15g sugar (Reference: 1 container of Silk Vanilla Almond Milk Dairy-Free Alternative)
Cashew yogurt has a reputation for being oh-so-creamy. It’s made by soaking and blending cashews before adding probiotics and letting them thicken (sometimes using heat). Because it’s so creamy, it’s a great plant-based alternative to using cream in dips and sauces. However, when unsweetened or not mixed with other ingredients and flavors, it can taste acidic.
Nutritional profile: Per 1 cup — 4g protein, 10g fat, 9g carbohydrates, .9g fiber, .9g sugar, 19mg calcium, and 30mg sodium. (Reference: Forager Project’s unsweetened plain Cashewgert)
Like rich yogurt? Coconut yogurt may be for you. But it’s definitely not light. Sometimes made with coconut cream and other times with coconut milk. It makes for a decadent snack and can be high in calories and fat depending on the brand. But there are lighter options, too.
Nutritional profile: Per 1 cup — .8g protein, 9g fat, 19g carbohydrates, 18g sugar, 0g fiber, 51mg sodium, 416mg calcium, and 5mg phosphorus. (Reference: USDA FoodData Central)
Kefir is actually more like drinkable yogurt because of its very thin texture. Unlike traditional yogurt, it ferments at room temperature rather than using heat. In the end, it tends to have more probiotics than most traditional yogurt, but check the label. It’ll depend on the brands you’re comparing.
Nutritional profile: Per cup — 9g protein, 3g fat, 12g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 11.2g sugar, 97mg sodium, 316mg calcium, and 255mg phosphorus. (Reference: USDA FoodData Central)
The only thing that separates drinkable yogurt from other yogurts is the package it comes in. It’s simply yogurt or kefir (the latter of which will have more probiotics) in a drinkable bottle. The nutritional profile will vary based on whether it’s traditional yogurt or kefir.
Selecting a type of yogurt
You’ll find different types of yogurt in large containers and packs of single-serve portions (each of which is usually 8 ounces). Recently, shelf-stable yogurt pouches have been hitting the stores. This is made possible by sucking the air out and sealing the pouches to keep them from spoiling.
When selecting yogurt, the biggest thing to watch for is sugar content. Many flavored options will be high in added sugars. Other than that, which one is the healthiest depends on what you’re looking for. If you want more good, gut-healthy probiotics, Greek yogurt and kefir are great choices. But if you’re trying to eat more plant-based foods, try soy, almond, coconut, or cashew yogurt.
Yogurt is always best stored in the fridge — even the shelf-stable stuff. After all, you want to enjoy it cold, right? Because yogurt goes through fermentation, it can stay good for up to three weeks in the fridge and sometimes longer. Different strains of live cultures used in making it will impact the shelf life manufacturers recommend. It depends on how much lactose versus lactic acid is left over at the end. Always check the date on your carton, but ultimately, it may last one to two weeks longer when unopened (2).
Ways to cook and bake with yogurt
Yogurt makes a great base for sauces, dips, and marinades (the acid content makes it a great meat tenderizer). It’s always interchangeable with sour cream or mayo. You can also substitute in soy yogurt without changing the measurement.
Always use room temperature yogurt when you are using it in recipes that require heat. This helps prevent separation. And it should only be gently folded into recipes to maintain its integrity.