Greek yogurt first hit American grocery store shelves back in 1998 and for seven years, it flew under the radar of most consumers. It wasn’t until 2007, when Chobani hit the market and took the market by storm, that Greek yogurt became an item on most household shopping lists. Ever since, yogurt making companies have been striving to keep up, or at a minimum, stake their claim in the Greek yogurt fad.
Except that it’s not a fad. Greek yogurt is here to stay. It’s thick, creamy, smooth and has up to three times as much protein than regular yogurt.
The only downside? It can be expensive. A small, 6 oz cup of Greek yogurt costs on average $1.25. Similar sized, non-Greek yogurt costs only 50¢. Why the difference?
100% authentic Greek yogurt – not “Greek-style” yogurt – takes more time and resources than regular yogurt, that is, if it’s going to be made properly.
The high amount of protein comes from triple the amount of milk used to make the same quantity of yogurt. Real Greek yogurt doesn’t use any fillers or thickeners – most labels include just milk and cultures. Whey is a natural by-product of the yogurt making process, and the only natural way to strain out the excess liquid (in order to have a thicker yogurt) is time.
Cost of Ingredients + No Artificial Ingredients + Time = Money
So we have three options:
- Suck it up and pay the cost of Greek yogurt. (Which will be even higher if you choose organic.)
- Buy Greek-style yogurt.
- Make it yourself.
Obviously I’m going advocate choosing #3, but let’s talk about option #2 for just a second. Those “other” manufacturers that have been playing catch up in the Greek yogurt market have done a really good job of confusing the rest of us, so let’s get our facts straight.
- Greek yogurt is made with milk and active cultures.
- Greek-style (or Greek-strained) yogurt is made with milk, cultures, and “other stuff” to make it thicker.
As a general rule of thumb, “other stuff” is bad. Avoid stuff. Keep it real.
And keep it frugal by making Greek yogurt yourself!
Homemade Greek Yogurt
To make Greek yogurt at home, you first need yogurt. It can be store-bought, conventional, organic, homemade – it doesn’t matter. We’re all in difference places in our real food journey, so don’t feel bad if you’re buying low-fat, flavored store-brand yogurt. A journey is full of baby steps. Here’s how you can inch your way along:
- buy full-fat, plain, unflavored
- buy a yogurt without added ingredients (milk and cultures only)
- buy organic
- make your own with conventional milk
- make your own with organic milk
- make your own with raw milk
Decide where you fall in the spectrum and take a baby step to better yogurt!
Once you have your yogurt, you’ll need a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or both. You’ll get the best results by using both, but you’ll still get a thicker yogurt if you only have one or the other. It may be possible to use a coffee filter in lieu of cheesecloth, but I haven’t personally tested this method. I’d love to hear if anyone else has had any experience though! In additional to the strainer/cheesecloth, you’ll need a small or medium bowl.
Hang your strainer over a bowl and line the strainer with the cheesecloth (if using). Scoop as much yogurt into the strainer as the strainer will hold. Unless your strainer is miniature-sized, you’ll end up scooping 1-2 cups.
Allow the whey to strain – undisturbed – for at least two hours. This can be done at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
For extremely thick yogurt, allow to strain in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours. (You may want to cover the yogurt with a small cloth napkin or towel if you’re going for longer than a few hours.)
The resulting yogurt will the thick like Greek yogurt.
What’s that liquid stuff?
That yellowish-clearish liquid is called whey and it’s packed with minerals and is high in protein. Just one cup contains nearly 2g! This may not sound like much, but it’s more than most non-dairy milks. Use whey to boost the protein in smoothies and in recipes calling for water (rice, soups, beans, etc.).
Starting with one cup of yogurt will yield approximately 1/4 cup of whey. This means that when you’re making 2 quarts of regular yogurt, you’ll end up with 6 cups of Greek yogurt and 2 cups of whey. Take this into consideration for recipes and your grocery budget.
What else can I do with yogurt besides eat it?
Yogurt can be used in place of any acid medium when soaking grains, like in sourdough pancakes or soaked tortillas. You can also use it in ranch dressing or in place of buttermilk for potato buttermilk bread.
If you’re wanting to give homemade yogurt a try, use this super easy tutorial that calls for a heating pad. It’s my preferred method and hasn’t failed me yet! If you’re not quite that ready for homemade, try a yogurt starter kit from Cultures from Health instead.
Do Something: Make your own Greek yogurt and whey. Enjoy it plain, or find a way to incorporate it into your weekly meal plan. Use the whey in your meals or smoothies as well.
By the way – if you’re not sure what “Do Something’s” are, they’re the little steps you can take beyond the first 22 days to help you continue your journey. Check out all the previous Do Something’s from Fats and Carbohydrates HERE.
What’s your favorite style yogurt?
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