22 Creative Ways to Cook with Yogurt

Sabrina Tillman
by Sabrina Tillman
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22 Creative Ways to Cook with Yogurt

When it comes to versatility and health benefits, few non-produce ingredients can match the protein-rich, probiotic-powered benefits of plain yogurt. If you’ve only eaten it out of the container, you’re missing out on the many ways yogurt can lighten and liven up both savory and sweet recipes. Our yogurt playbook compiles healthy, easy recipes plus variations for customization, and bonus tips to help you make the most of this humble staple.

YOGURT BOWLS

yogurt bowl

More of a template than a recipe, this nourishing meal-in-a-bowl is a customizable, no-prep way to stay occupied while you wait for the drip coffee to brew:

  • Step 1: Dump one single-serve container of plain Greek yogurt (low-fat or nonfat; it’s your choice) into a bowl
  • Step 2: Tumble in a few handfuls of fresh berries, sliced stone fruit (pits removed), apples, bananas—whatever fruit you have on hand
  • Step 3: Add 1 handful of raw nuts (optional)
  • Step 4: Top with 2 handfuls of your fave whole-grain cereal, granola, toasted wheat germ or ground flaxseeds

Yield: 1 yogurt bowl

Yogurt Bowl Variations:

1. To sweeten: Drizzle on 1 teaspoon of honey, or stir 1 teaspoon of your fave jam into the yogurt before adding toppings.
2. To boost protein post-workout: Stir in 1-2 tablespoons of your fave nut butter into the yogurt until it’s well incorporated before adding toppings.
3. To lower carbs: Omit the grains and add crunch with 1 tablespoon of whole flaxseed (3 grams carbs) and 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds (2 grams carbs).

YOGURT PANCAKES

yogurt pancakes

Reach past the box of pancake mix and, instead, pull out the rolled oats and baking powder from the pantry to make your own hotcakes. Try this standard recipe:

Ingredients
1/2 cup flour of your choice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons milk of your choice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions
Preheat a skillet over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Whisk ingredients in a bowl until well combined and slightly frothy. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, drop batter onto skillet. Cook until the edges start to look dry and bubbles form on top of the pancake. Flip pancake with a spatula and cook for about 2 minutes on opposite side. Repeat with remaining batter.

Yield: 6 medium-sized pancakes

Yogurt Pancake Variations:
Here are some recommended variations; simply use or add the ingredients below to the recipe template above.

4. Cinnamon roll pancakes: Stir in 1 teaspoon cinnamon + 1 tablespoon raisins to batter before cooking. Stir 2 teaspoons maple syrup + 2 pinches brown sugar + 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon into 1/2 cup of low-fat cream cheese. Frost pancakes with cream cheese frosting, and enjoy.
5. Chocolate raspberry almond pancakes: Substitute 1 teaspoon almond extract for vanilla extract, and add 1 tablespoon cocoa powder + 3 handfuls of mini chocolate chips to the batter before cooking. Top pancakes with fresh raspberries.
6. Ham and cheese cakes: Use buckwheat or rye flour, and add 4 slices of diced Canadian bacon + 1/4 cup grated low-fat cheddar or gruyere cheese to the batter before cooking.

YOGURT MUFFINS

yogurt muffins

Yogurt lends a moist texture and slightly tangy note to muffins (a great counterbalance to fruit-filled muffins or recipes with added sugar). Try this basic recipe that’s light on fat but still full of flavor:

Ingredients
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 ripe mashed bananas or 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 egg whites
1/4 cup brown sugar or maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped fruit (fresh or dried), nuts or chocolate chips (optional)

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. Add all ingredients except for the last ingredient into a bowl, and stir to combine. Pour batter into prepared muffin pan, filling each cavity until three-quarters full. Sprinkle the tops of each muffin with fruit, nuts or chocolate chips. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the muffins are set and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool muffins in pan for 10 minutes before removing.

Yield: 12 muffins

Yogurt Muffin Variations:
Here are some recommended variations; simply use or add the ingredients below to the recipe template above.

7. Cinnamon-pecan muffins: Add 2 teaspoons cinnamon + 1/2 cup chopped pecans.
8. Lemon-ricotta muffins: Sub applesauce/bananas for 1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese; add 1/3 cup lemon juice + 1 teaspoon lemon zest.
9. Banana walnut espresso muffins: Use mashed bananas, and add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts + 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder.

COLD SAUCES

cold yogurt sauce

The creamy consistency and tangy, bland flavor of plain yogurt makes it an ideal canvas for chilled or room temperature sauces. Your go-to template:

Ingredients
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 teaspoon citrus juice
1/4 teaspoon dried herbs or citrus zest, or 1/2 teaspoon fresh herbs
1/8 teaspoon spices as desired
pinch of salt and pepper

Directions
Stir all ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Makes 1/2 cup of sauce.

Cold Sauce Variations:
The method above is an adaptable recipe that can be customized to suit your preferences and whatever you’re serving with the sauce. Here are some recommended variations; simply use or add the ingredients below to the recipe template above.

10. Mediterranean sauce to pair with roasted eggplant and lentils: 3 cloves minced garlic + 2 teaspoons olive oil + 2 teaspoons tahini.
11. Tex-Mex sauce to serve on top of tacos: 1 teaspoon lime juice + 2 teaspoons of your favorite hot sauce + 1/2 teaspoon chopped cilantro + 1/8 teaspoon cumin.
12. Slightly sweet version to top grilled or roasted meat (good with pork or chicken): 1 teaspoon lemon juice + 2 teaspoons apple butter or your favorite preserves + 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon.

WARM SAUCES

butter chicken

Yogurt adds creaminess, body and a slightly tangy flavor to warm sauces. Use low-fat plain yogurt in place of sour cream, half-and-half or cream in recipes. Or, if you want to lighten a sauce but still keep some of the richness, use a small amount of sour cream, half-and-half or cream, and supplement the remaining amount the recipe calls for with low-fat plain yogurt.

The following simple warm sauce can be whipped up quickly:

Ingredients
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup broth, beer or wine (or any liquid you desire)
2 pinches salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon seasonings or herbs desired

Directions
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon flour into the yogurt, and whisk until smooth. Add yogurt to a medium-sized saucepan over low heat, stirring the yogurt frequently. In a separate pan over medium heat, warm olive oil. Add 1 tablespoon flour and whisk until combined. Add 1/2 cup of whatever liquid you choose, whisking constantly until any lumps of flour have dissolved. Switch to a wooden spoon or heat-safe rubber spatula, and stir in seasonings and/or herbs. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and slowly pour sauce into the warm yogurt, stirring constantly until well combined. Makes about 1 cup of sauce.

Warm yogurt-based sauce variations:
13. Slow cooker Indian butter chicken
14. Creamy tomato crab pasta
15. Yogurt gravy

MARINADES

yogurt marinade

Yogurt tenderizes and enhances the flavor of protein (think chicken, beef, tofu), so it’s no wonder chefs and cooks all over the world use yogurt in marinades for meat. Here’s a basic template that makes plenty of marinade to cover four chicken breasts:

Ingredients
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 small garlic clove, grated or finely minced
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons flavor booster
2 pinches salt and pepper
1-2 teaspoons spices, zest or herbs

Directions
Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl. Pierce meat with a fork and place in a shallow dish or sealable plastic bag. Pour marinade over meat, cover or seal plastic bag, and chill for at least one hour or overnight.

Yogurt Marinade Variations:
Here are some recommended variations; simply use or add the ingredients below to the recipe template above.

16. Asian-style marinade: Combine 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil + 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce (omit extra salt) + 1 teaspoon lime zest + 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger.
17. Southern-style marinade: Combine 1 tablespoon canola oil + 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce + 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce + 1 teaspoon cayenne + 1 teaspoon hot sauce.
18. Greek-style marinade: Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil + 2 tablespoons lemon juice + 1 teaspoon chopped oregano.

Crunchy Tip: Craving crunch? For chicken tenders and fish sticks, dip chicken or fish into plain yogurt seasoned with salt and pepper, and roll it in breadcrumbs before baking. This will up the protein and save you some calories.

CREAMY SALAD DRESSING

yogurt dressing

You’re likely familiar with those attention-grabbing stories that compare the nutritional values of popular chain restaurant salads to Big Macs. Often the calories, fat and sodium aren’t much different for the salads vs. the double cheeseburgers dripping with “special” sauce. In addition to calorie-laden toppings like fried wontons, chickens or onion strings and full-fat cheese, these salads are often saturated with heavy dressings like ranch, blue cheese or Caesar.

Make your salads at home using a variety of produce with different tastes and textures. Top your healthy creation with spiced nuts, a small handful of smoked cheese and/or toasted sunflower, chia, flax or sesame seeds for extra pop. And use yogurt to make your own creamy dressing. Here’s a solid base:

Ingredients
1/2 cup Greek yogurt (can use 2%)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh herbs (dill, parsley, thyme)
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce

Directions
Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl, and enjoy. Makes about 1/2 cup of dressing.

Creamy Dressing Variations:
19. Low-fat buttermilk ranch
20. Mayo-free green goddess dressing
21. Low-fat creamy blue cheese dressing
22. Jamie Oliver’s Caesar on the lighter side

About the Author

Sabrina Tillman
Sabrina Tillman

Sabrina Tillman is the managing editor for MyFitnessPal. She’s a dedicated runner, Pilates enthusiast and homecook whose knack for creating dishes on the fly (as well as food her son will actually eat) with whatever ingredients are in the house earned her the nickname “Kitchen MacGyver” by her husband. If she can find any spare time, she enjoys chasing her son, reading, attempting to bake, and napping.

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