What is the difference between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt?
Greek yogurt, known as yiaourti in Greece, is thicker, creamier, and healthier than regular yogurt.
This type of yogurt is an ideal protein-rich food which can be consumed on a variety of occasions as a snack, a main meal, and even as a condiment.
You can consider Greek yogurt as the strained version of regular plain yogurt. Traditionally, in Greece, they make Greek-style yogurt by straining regular yogurt three times. This removes all of the liquid (whey) giving you a thicker, creamier, and richer yogurt that also has a stronger flavor.
Cup for cup, Greek yogurt contains more protein than regular yogurt. Because the liquid is removed, Greek yogurt gives your recipes and sauces a thickness and texture that regular yogurt simply cannot give you.
Here are some of the main differences between Greek yogurt and plain, regular yogurt:
- Protein content in 6 oz serving of yogurt 9 grams. Protein content in 6 oz serving of Greek yogurt 15 to 20 grams
- Greek and regular yogurt have the same amount of calories; 8 ounces of nonfat Greek yogurt contains 120 calories while 8 ounces of nonfat plain yogurt contains 100 calories.
- Since Greek yogurt is made by straining regular yogurt, it contains less sodium and lactose compared to regular yogurt. Most lactose-intolerant people can tolerate Greek yogurt due to this reason.
- The calcium content of regular yogurt is slightly more than that of Greek yogurt because the whey that is lost in the process also removes the calcium.
- Since Greek yogurt has a consistency like sour cream, far less fat and far greater nutrients, it makes a better base for dips, salad dressings, and smoothies. It is perfect as a dollop on your mashed potatoes, creamy soups, or baked chili. The taste of Greek yogurt is tangier than plain, regular yogurt so it lends itself to recipes like meat marinades, dips, sauces, and potatoes.
- Greek yogurt generally costs more than regular yogurt. After all; it takes more milk to make the same amount of Greek-style yogurt than regular yogurt. For example, 3 lbs of milk will yield 3 lbs of plain yogurt but only 1 lb of Greek yogurt.
Greek yogurt versus plain yogurt nutrition facts
|Greek Yogurt (non-fat, plain 6 oz)||Traditional yogurt (nonfat plain, 6 oz)|
|Calories 87||Calories 95|
|Total fat 0.5 grams||Total fat 0.3 grams|
|Cholesterol 7 mg||Cholesterol 2 mg|
|Sodium 53 mg||Sodium 77 mg|
|Sugar 4.8 grams||Sugar 8 grams|
|Protein 15 grams||Protein 6 grams|
|Calcium % daily recommended value 16||Calcium % daily recommended value 33|
As you can see in the table above, Greek yogurt has 38% less sodium than traditional yogurt. It also has about 40% less sugar.
For folks with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, Greek yogurt with 38% less sodium is a better option to keep their daily intake of sodium in check.
As far as sugar goes, Greek yogurt is a clear winner too. However, fruit-flavored Greek yogurt can contain a lot of sugar. Also, the nutrients will vary from brand to brand; so always read labels.
Greek yogurt is great for kids as it contains protein and calcium. You can opt for natural sweeteners like honey to add a hint of sweetness to your kids’ yogurt.
Does Greek yogurt have probiotics?
Greek yogurt contains many probiotic bacteria like lactobacillus casei. This friendly bacterium reduces the IgE antibodies in the bloodstream. These IgE antibodies are responsible for allergy symptoms such as runny nose, watery eyes, and itchy skin that are seen in people allergic to pollen or certain foods.
Our intestines are constantly bombarded with bacteria; some of them good which promote health and some of them harmful, which promote illness. Eating probiotic rich foods like regular yogurt and Greek yogurt helps to increase the good bacteria that strengthen the immune system.
Commercial Greek yogurt brands often use alphabets like ‘L’, ‘B’, ‘S’, etc to denote the good bacteria they contain. These denote L.acidophilus, L.bulgaricus, S.thermophilus, and L.casei.
Another way your Greek yogurt brand may advertise its probiotic content is with the words ‘live and active cultures’. This was recommended by the National Yogurt Association to help identify yogurt products that contain significant amounts of live and active cultures.
Ingredients and equipment you need to make Greek yogurt
If you go back to the legend of the farmer who accidentally made the first batch of yogurt, we’d all be carrying milk in special bags made using animal intestines and walking around on warm plains.
Thankfully, yogurt making is not as tedious as the process as it once was hailed to be. However, you do need to use the right equipment and the right raw ingredients.
While it is very safe and easy to make good Greek yogurt at home, things can still go wrong. You certainly do not want your family turning up their noses at the curdled sour milk. So get your basics right and you will always end up with good batches of plain or Greek-style yogurt.
I recommend that you check out my guide on How to make yogurt at home.
Here are the basic ingredients and equipment you will need to make yogurt:
You can use any variety of milk though Greek yogurt will be creamier if you use whole milk or full-fat milk. You can also use dry milk.
Organic milk works best but if you do not have a choice, inorganic works just as well. Many lactose-intolerant people also use non-dairy milk like rice, soy, or almond milk to make Greek yogurt.
Yogurt is fermented milk. And like every fermented food, you need a starter culture. You can use a culture with Lactobacillus bulgaricus, lactobacillus acidophilus, and streptococcus thermophilus bacteria.
Some cultures contain only two of these three bacteria while others may contain all three. The cultures produce lactic acid during fermentation of lactose, a sugar present in milk. These bacteria coagulate the milk and form the rich, creamy yogurt.
You can also use yogurt from the store or made at home from a previous batch, as your starter culture. Just make sure that the starter does not contain any preservatives, dyes, or additives.
You may use yogurt with pectin which is a natural, plant-based thickening agent. If you plan to use yogurt to inoculate the warm milk, you can use ¼ cup per quart of milk.
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- Do good to your health with 100 billion live and active bacteria per 100 g serving!
- PROMOTE GUT WELLNESS - They can improve lactose digestion, play a role in preventing and treating diarrhea and act on the immune system, helping the body to resist and fight infection. The presence of “live cultures” keep your gut populated with healthful microflora that keep you healthy.
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- ALL-NATURAL PRO-BIOTIC SUPPLEMENT – No harmful preservatives or coloring agents. No harmful chemicals.
Instant or non-fat dry milk
This is optional but it adds a rich and creamy texture to the Greek yogurt. Use about ¼ to ½ cup dry milk.
Like making butter, the process of making yogurt is fairly standard provided you maintain the temperature of the inoculated milk (warm milk to which you have added the culture) at 110 F. You need to hold this temperature for at least 6-8 hours so that the good bacteria get adequate time to do their job.
If you find you love homemade yogurt and plan to do it frequently, you can invest in a yogurt maker. Yogurt makers vary in styles and features, but their primary function is to maintain a consistent temperature to make the yogurt, for at least 6-8 hours.
Regardless of whether you choose to buy a yogurt maker or not, you will save a lot of money by making Greek yogurt at home, instead of buying it from the store.
Once you make your first batch, the only cost would be the price of the milk. You can even use organic milk and still save money.
You can also use a slow cooker to make your Greek yogurt instead of using a yogurt maker. Just set the cooker on a warm setting and fill it up with water. Set the yogurt jars inside the cooker. Be sure to keep a close eye on the water temperature. Also, make sure to keep the cooker closed for the duration of incubation. You can provide additional insulation by placing a towel around the cooker.
Heating pads are optional in the yogurt-making process but they help insulate the inoculated milk and keep it warm. They especially come in handy during the winter months when ambient temperatures are freezing. You must ensure that the heating pad temperature is warm and not too hot. The heat can destroy friendly bacteria and could cause the inoculated milk to curdle.
You can use the same heating pad you use for kombucha if you already have one.
You can also use a thermos to insulate the milk. However, the thermos should ideally have a wider opening else it can be cumbersome to remove the set yogurt from it.
Without a slow cooker or a yogurt maker, you can make use of an oven to keep the milk warm. Preheat the oven to about 150 F. Turn it off and place your yogurt jars in the middle rack once the temperature has come down to 120 F. You can keep the oven light on for additional warmth. Make sure that the jars remain undisturbed.
If you have any appliance that radiates heat, place your yogurt jars near the same. Make sure the area is clean and free from dust, flies, and similar. Ensure that the jars can be left undisturbed for at least 6-8 hours. People even use their TV, computers, and audio equipment to incubate their yogurt. Naturally, I do not recommend these methods!
If you live in a warm climate
Simply place the yogurt jars wrapped up in towels in any warm part of your house. Usually, yogurt sets very early in warm climates.
Strainers and cheesecloth
For making Greek-style yogurt, you need to use a strainer to remove the whey and separate the milk solids from the liquid. Cheesecloth is ideal for the job, though you can also use coffee filters. However, the drawback with using coffee filters is that you’d need to divide your yogurt into smaller batches to fit the filters.
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Greek Yogurt Recipe
Recipe for Greek-style yogurt
If you are using store-bought yogurt, simply skip the first two steps and go to the third step below. Else you can make your regular yogurt as below:
Step 1: Make plain yogurt
The first step is to make plain or regular yogurt and that starts with heating the milk to a temperature of about 185 F. This kills off bad bacteria or harmful microorganisms present in the milk. It is necessary to eliminate these bacteria as they could compete with the good bacteria that we will introduce later for inoculating the milk.
As stated above, you can use starter cultures from the store and simply follow the instructions given on the product. If you are using yogurt from a previous batch or using store-bought yogurt, then add about a quarter cup yogurt to a quart of warm milk boiled and cooled down to 120 F.
Step 2: Add the culture
After you introduce the yogurt culture, you need to maintain the inoculated milk at a temperature of about 110 F to encourage the growth of the good bacterium.
Use a yogurt maker, slow cooker, oven or other methods mentioned above to incubate your yogurt. Your yogurt will be ready in 6-8 hours. Make sure your yogurt is left undisturbed during this time. Try not to move the jar or peek into it.
Try not to let your incubated milk’s temperature to fall below 98 F. If this happens, worry not, you’d still get your yogurt set once the temperature goes up. The taste may be a bit tart. Do not let the temperature go very hot, otherwise, the culture will get destroyed and you’d have to start all over again.
Step 3: Strain the regular yogurt
Greek-style yogurt is made by straining regular yogurt obtained above to remove the excess whey. You can also use store-bought yogurt.
Both homemade and store-bought yogurts will give you wonderfully thick and creamy Greek yogurt to use in your recipes. Different brands have different consistencies, so draining time will vary from batch to batch. If using store-bought yogurt, always use high-quality brands and do avoid ones with additives or preservatives.
Use a very fine strainer to remove the whey. As stated above, ideal for this job is cheesecloth. You can also use coffee filters but, depending on their size, you may have to work in batches.
Fine, unlined strainers are best if you do not have either cheesecloth or coffee filters at hand. Here are the steps:
- Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Make sure that some of the cloth hangs over the sides of the strainer.
- Place the strainer over a large bowl.
- Cover the yogurt with the cheesecloth and squeeze gently.
- Let it remain in the refrigerator for 12 hours or at room temperature for 1-2 hours.
- When the yogurt in the strainer is thick and creamy, transfer it to an airtight container or use it in your recipes.
- Discard the whey or use it to knead the dough for making bread, flatbreads, and similar.
Greek yogurt is delicious, healthy, and packed with the good stuff. I hope you will try making yogurt and Greek yogurt at home using the steps above. I am confident you will enjoy the process so much that you will come back to make it again and again at home. Good luck!