Greek yoghurt – what it is and how to make it

Greek yoghurt with fruit and granola
Greek yoghurt with fruit and granola

The keto diet craze is sweeping through Nigeria, by word of mouth and social media. As such I get asked about Greek yoghurt a lot because people want to use it as part of this way of eating.

Before I started making my own, I used to think it was something exotic and out of reach. It really isn’t. Making Greek yoghurt from regular yoghurt is so simple. But I’ll come back to that.

What is Greek yoghurt?

It is simply regular yogurt that has had the liquid portion (whey) strained out. What you’re left with is a yoghurt that’s much thicker and creamier than what you started with.

It is curious that it’s called “Greek” yogurt because some form of it is consumed in many countries.
The labneh (yoghurt cheese) that I see in a popular Lebanese supermarket is apparently yoghurt that has had so much of the whey strained out of it that it’s almost solid. Labneh is used as a spread for flatbread and also as a dipping sauce.

Labneh with olive oil
Labneh with olive oil

Apart from the consistency, there are a few more differences between regular and Greek yoghurt.

Protein

Because part of the liquid has been removed from the yogurt, 250g of Greek yoghurt will contain more protein than 250g of regular yoghurt, almost twice as much. Protein is satisfying and helps to keep hunger at bay. A serving of Greek yoghurt will keep you full longer than a serving of regular yoghurt.

Carbohydrate

Greek yoghurt has fewer carbohydrates than regular yoghurt. Most of the carbohydrate (in the form of lactose or milk sugar) in yoghurt is in the whey, the liquid that is drained out from the yoghurt. This makes it a great food if you’re trying to cut down on your carbs.

Fat

The amount of fat in yoghurt will depend on the kind of milk you use to make it – full fat, semi-skimmed or fat-free. Typically, a portion of Greek yoghurt will have more fat in it than the same amount of regular yoghurt, unless you’re using non-fat milk of course.

Vitamins and minerals

Yoghurt is a good source of Vitamins B6, B12, riboflavin and also minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc and potassium.

However, Greek yoghurt contains less calcium than regular yoghurt because it is lost in the whey that is drained out.
Greek yoghurt also contains about half the amount of sodium compared to regular yoghurt.
Generally speaking, some of the water-soluble vitamins and minerals will drain out of the yoghurt into the whey.

Which yoghurt is better for you?

is Greek yoghurt better than regular yoghurt?
Which yoghurt is better for you?

If you choose Greek yoghurt you can still get extra calcium from other sources like seafood so that should not discourage you.

If you’re on a low salt diet, you may prefer Greek yoghurt.
You may like the texture of regular yoghurt more than that of Greek yoghurt and vice versa.

It’s hard to say that one type of yoghurt is better for you than the other. Your choice will depend very much on what you’re trying to achieve in eating yoghurt in the first place.

Make your own Greek yoghurt

You will need:

  • Plain, unsweetened yoghurt. Make your own yoghurt or buy it.
  • A cotton dish cloth aka tea towel or kitchen towel. You can also use a cloth for making akamu (pap). Really, any cloth will do as long as it has a tight weave, you can even recycle an old t-shirt.

    dish cloth for straining yoghurt
    A dish cloth/ tea towel
  • A sieve, the size will depend on how much yoghurt you’re using.

    A large sieve
    A large sieve
  • A bowl large enough for your sieve to fit in.

    a large bowl
    A large bowl

Steps for making Greek yoghurt

  1. Boil your cloth for about 5 minutes to kill as many germs as possible. I dip mine in clean water and microwave it for a few minutes.
  2. Line the sieve with the dishcloth.
  3. Place the sieve over the bowl.
  4. Pour the yoghurt into the sieve.
  5. Put everything into the fridge for 8 hours.
  6. Transfer the Greek yoghurt into your container of choice.
  7. Store in the fridge.

What about the whey?

After straining your yoghurt you’ll be left with the thick Greek yoghurt in the cloth and the watery, slightly greenish whey in the bowl. What do you do with the whey?

Of course you could just pour it away. But if you want to be extra frugal there are many things you could do with whey.
Note that this is acid whey (as opposed to sweet whey from cheese making) so it’s not good for plants.

Salad in a jar and Don’t waste the crumbs have some great ideas for using up your whey.

Why go to the trouble of making your own Greek yoghurt?

I’m a big fan of DIY wherever possible and when it makes sense and Greek yoghurt is no exception.
For one thing, you’ll have a tough job finding it in most parts of Nigeria.

Aside from that, there is no standard for what qualifies as Greek yoghurt.
It is expensive to produce so manufacturers like to take shortcuts.
Regular yoghurt can be thickened with corn starch and carrageenan and milk proteins can be added to increase the protein content.

If you make your own yoghurt and subsequently Greek yoghurt, you will have less to worry about in terms of additives.

Ways to eat Greek yoghurt

Now you’ve made it how do you eat it?
Right now there are 3 easy ways I use my Greek yoghurt.

Yoghurt and fruit

ripe mango
I love mangoes!

I love mangoes and when they are in season, I make lots of Greek yoghurt. I simply cut up some mango, put it in a bowl and top it off with Greek yoghurt. No need to add sugar, even for my children who usually tuck into this when they come back from school.

I like to use this for breaking my fast in the afternoon because it doesn’t require much thinking or preparation time (and because I love mangoes!)

You can use berries which are lower in carbs if you can get them. I’ve seen some tired-looking strawberries on sale here and you may be able to get blueberries and raspberries depending on where you live.
I don’t recommend canned fruit which is typically full of added sugar.

I have done the same with bananas in the past but I find that bananas are too sweet for me these days.
You may enjoy this variant if you eat bananas.
You can also throw in some uncooked rolled oats (old fashioned oats) and some chopped nuts in addition to the fruit. This combination is very filling.

Yoghurt and nuts

mixed nuts
Yoghurt and nuts are a filling combination

Greek yoghurt and roasted groundnuts (peanuts) make a great snack. This has replaced the combination of regular yoghurt and cashew nuts which I used to eat which has a higher carb content and was more fattening (for me anyway). Cashew nuts are also more expensive than groundnuts and harder to find.

Greek yoghurt dressing

Greek yoghurt is a great replacement for mayonnaise which in most cases is full of soyabean oil. Soyabean oil is not particularly good for your health.

Salad dressings are not difficult to make and these ones are no exception.

Salad dressing recipe

Makes approx. 1 cup of dressing

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly.

Ranch-style dressing recipe

Makes approx 1 1/4 cups of dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon (Dijon) mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

To make a buttermilk substitute add ¼ tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to ¼ cup whole liquid milk and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
Put everything into a bowl and mix thoroughly.

These 2 dressings are great for salad, vegetable dips and also go really nicely with meat and fish.

Greek yoghurt in all it’s creamy goodness, one of my favourite foods.
If you’ve made yours, how did it turn out? Did you have any problems? Please comment and let me know.

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