I’ve recently begun making our own “Greek yogurt” from low fat yogurt. I often use it in recipes that call for sour cream or cream cheese. Sometimes I blend in finely minced garlic, and use it as a “cheese” spread it on bread. Or sometimes I use it as a base for a veggie dip. We even occasionally put a dollop of it on cake or gelatin in place of whipped cream for a low fat, creamy replacement.
I’ve made this thicker yogurt for decades, though before Greek yogurt became popular we called it “yogurt cheese” is not really cheese. It can be made with low fat yogurt, whole milk yogurt, or even flavored yogurt. (Just don’t use yogurt which has gelatin in it). That’s the only ingredient in this “cheese”–yogurt.
It’s really very easy to make yogurt cheese and while it doesn’t really save me a lot of money since about half of the yogurt drips off, I like the convenience of buying several containers of the same, plain yogurt–making some into “Greek yogurt” and using some as regular yogurt.
Here’s how I made it…
First, I lined a shallow bowl (or a pie plate) with a Handi Wipe and poured in 500 ml (about 2 cups) of plain yogurt… You can use more–or less–depending on how much you want to make.
Don’t have a Handi Wipe? You could instead use several layers of cheesecloth or a fine-weave dishcloth, dishtowel, or napkin. It needs to be thin enough for the liquid to drain out fairly easily, yet not too thin (i.e. not just two layers of cheesecloth) or you’ll lose too much of the yogurt solids.
I brought the corners of the cloth up…and clothes-pinned them together…
I just clipped it to a cabinet handle or a spice rack and let it drip into a bowl… Some people lay the cloth with the yogurt in a colander and keep it in the fridge, dripping into a bowl. I’ve never worried about keeping it in the fridge, and I’m still alive to tell about it.
I suppose if you live in a warm climate, it might be safer, health-wise, to set it in a colander over a bowl in the fridge if you were going to leave it for any extended period of time. However, I think camel-riding nomads in North Africa make this kind of cheese and they don’t even have fridges…so I think you’re “safe” either way. The “cheese” will just be a bit more sour/tart if left in the open-air.
You can let it drip for a few hours…or even overnight. The longer you drip it, the drier it will become. I used to drip it for about six hours, but found it actually got too thick in that amount of time. So I now only drip it about an hour or two. Check yours occasionally to see what the consistency is.
Look how much whey dripped off of a 2-cup container!
I’ve heard this “whey” is nutritious and that some people use it in place of the liquid when making bread. Not a bad idea, but I haven’t tried that yet. I think it would give it a bit of a sourdough flavor.
What remains in the cloth is…
…the soft, fresh “cheese”.
I roll it into a bowl…
And here’s a few of ways I’ve used it:
- Spread it on a toasted bagel, instead of higher-fat cream cheese.
- Stirred in some minced garlic, a little olive oil and salt and enjoy it on pita bread.
- Made the yogurt cheese using a sweetened yogurt (without pieces of fruit, such as vanilla or lemon) and served it beside a slice of cake in place of whipped cream.
- Blended in a few spoonfuls of pesto for a quick appetizer dip.
- Added some dried herbs and a little olive oil and lemon juice and served with veggies for dipping.
- Stirred in a few spoonfuls of jam and used it as a frosting on a muffin or cupcake.
Here are some other ideas I got from Dannon Yogurt’s webpage:
- Add chives or green onions to yogurt cheese for a low-fat potato topping.
- Add a little salsa for a “South of the Border” dip with chips
- Flavor yogurt cheese with a bit of vanilla or maple extract, grated orange rind or honey. Use to top pancakes, waffles or muffins.
- Layer lemon or plain yogurt cheese with low-fat granola and berries in a parfait glass for a breakfast sundae.
- Make easy, creamy blintzes by rolling up the yogurt cheese in pancakes and adding sliced fruit.
It’s takes about 2 minutes of your time to set your yogurt up to drain…and after 2-6 hours, you’ve got a lovely, low-fat “cheese”. Try it!
- 2 C. (500 ml) yogurt (plain or sweetened, low fat or whole milk--just make sure it doesn't use gelatin or whole pieces of fruit)
- Cheesecloth, Handi Wipe, or fine-weave dishcloth or napkin
- Lay the cloth in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Pour in the yogurt and bring the four corners of the cloth together. Pin them closed with the clothespin.
- Hang over a bowl for several hours until most of the whey has dripped out of it. If you live in a warm climate, you may prefer to line a colander with your cloth and drip the yogurt into a bowl in the firdge.
- Once it's thick, gently fold in sweet or savory ingredients as desired to use as a spread or dip.