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Mar 1, 2008 08:40 AM

Can O% Fat Yogurt , Actually be Yogurt?

I heard Michael Pollan at his Toronto lecture imply that it wasn't.
What do the Chowhounds say?

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  1. Michael Pollan (and I) may not *accept* fat free yogurt as being "yogurt", but the product is simply the result of bacteria acting on milk. I've never seen anything that says the amount or absence of fat has anything to do with it.

    22 Replies
    1. re: Gualtier Malde

      Gualtier Malde, if I may ask, why do you (and Michael Pollan) not consider it yogurt; isn't it just made with skim milk? I'm not being a smarty--this is a sincere question. Thanks,


      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Oof. Please delete the first sentence up to the comma - I was trying to be glib.

        Whole milk yogurt is yogurt and skim milk yogurt is yogurt.

        But if a recipe says "milk" with no modifier, doesn't it mean "whole milk", as when a recipe says "egg" and means "large egg"? If I see "yogurt" in a tzatziki recipe I assume that it is whole milk yogurt. I was guessing that Michael Pollin felt that way, too. Maybe others...

        1. re: Gualtier Malde

          Try the total or fage 0% and get back to me . . . it's yogurt
          or seven stars organic fat free, if you don't like the greek style yogs
          (and it's not fat-free but-added-sugar, which I could guess is a problem Pollan and I would both see)

          1. re: pitu

            Fage 0%--I just happen to have some in the fridge so I checked--contains "Grade A Pasturized Skimmed Milk, Live Active Yogurt Cultures." But the Fage label doesn't tell you what's in the skimmed milk. I also happen to be reading Pollan right now and his comment on low fat milk is, "To make dairy products low fat, it's not enough to remove the fat. You then have to go to great lengths to preserve the body or creamy texture by working in all kinds of food additives. In the case of low-fat or skim milk, that usually means adding powdered milk. But powdered milk contains oxidized cholesterol, which scientists believe is much worse for your arteries than ordinary cholesterol, so food makers sometimes compensate by adding antioxicants, further complicating what had been a simple one-ingredient whole food." So Pollan's issue isn't with added sugar, it's with the milk from which fat-free yogurt is made. So be it. I love the Fage. Tastes like yogurt to me.

            1. re: JoanN

              So, there are all kinds of food additives in Fage 0% even though the label only says "Grade A Pasturized Skimmed Milk, Live Active Yogurt Cultures"? They don't have to list the additives?

              (I'm also reading IDOF, but haven't gotten to that part yet, apparently...)


              1. re: JoanN

                I've never heard of that before. Does he point to any other places to read up on this practice?

                1. re: ccbweb

                  There aren't many footnotes in the text and that particular paragraph does not have a reference. But there are 22-1/2 pages of sources at the back of the book that he says "supplied me with facts or contributed to my thinking." One of the titles listed is "The Untold Story of Milk" by Ronald Schmid published by New Trends Publishing Inc. 2007. Perhaps there?

                  1. re: ccbweb

                    It's actually a widely accepted belief in certain nutrition circles (non-mainstream). I believe Sally Fallon and Paul Pitchford are supporters of full-fat. I'm definitely sure that Pitchford says that if you eat dairy, it should be full-fat. However, he's not big into dairy to begin with.

                  2. re: JoanN

                    wow - super interesting, thx JoanN
                    although I can't believe this applies to the organic small farmer lowfat yogs I buy (Seven Stars biodynamic, certified org, blah blah etc)
                    Their site says they don't add thickeners, so it must be possible if not the common practice

                    they have this to say: "Until recently, yogurt probably changed little over the centuries. Although the USDA still defines yogurt as milk cultured with Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, modern yogurt manufacturers have been busy "improving" yogurt by adding fillers, thickeners, flavorings, and an ever increasing list of additional bacterial cultures. Here, at Seven Stars Farm, we strive to bring to you something more natural, something that the ancient Turks would have recognized and appreciated a great mix of tradition and modern craftsmanship."

                  3. re: pitu

                    When making tzatziki I drain the yogurt in a fine sieve (used to be sold for making "yogurt cheese" but now no longer on the market). The draining approximates the Greek style and so far I have not actually bought the product.

                    One important thing that I don't see emphasized enough in this context: For draining yogurt the fat percentage doesn't matter but the yogurt should not contain gelatin or tapioca or such, or it will just sit there.

                    1. re: Gualtier Malde

                      i don't know which sieve you're using that was discontinued, but the donvier wave strainer is still on the market, and it's a nifty little gadget.

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        I've used cone coffee filters with good results. But I still prefer Fage Total 0% to strained Dannon or Stonyfield: Fage is smoother and less sour.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          Right. I had forgotten the Donvier. Mine was an old sieve called "perfection" or something. Round plastic cone with plastic mesh. They had to be handled carefully but didn't cost much. After an initial offering, Graham Kerr's picture turned up on the box because he recommended "yogurt cheese". If/when mine breaks I'll get the Donvier and be glad it's available.

                          1. re: Gualtier Malde

                            i had a feeling that might have been it. i have the cone as well. i picked up 2 of them as an impulse buy at bed bath & beyond one day back in the 90's before yogurt cheese became trendy. one broke [the mesh ripped away from the plastic], so i went looking for a replacement...no luck. for YEARS, every time i was in one of their stores i would ask if they carried the item, and every salesperson looked at me as though i was on crack. i finally discovered the donvier a few years ago, and i like it much better. larger capacity, comes with a lid to keep it covered while draining, plus its own container to collect the strained liquid - and you can use it to store the finished product. definitely worth 15 bucks, imo.

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              $15 bucks! Outrageous ghg.
                              My Scottish grandmum just strains it through a pair of her old pantyhose.................Washed lol

                              1. re: fruglescot

                                As a retired cheesemaker, I still prefer good thin, cheap, unbleached cotton muslin. I line my trusty s.s. colander with muslin and sit it over a bowl with the yoghurt to be drained. I place a plate on top. The whey, by the way, is wonderful stuff. It's a great hair rinse, skin refresher, and marinade ingredient, to name a few uses. By the way.. I wash the muslin in the laundry, then boil it a few minutes before using.. mostly just to keep it from imparting a detergent flavor.

                                1. re: fromagina

                                  ANOTHER WHEY!
                                  If you are talking about the run off. I drink it. Has a butter milk taste to me I never thought it might have other uses.

                                  1. re: fruglescot

                                    Delicious stuff! I'll marinate thawed frozen meat in whey, either seasoned or plain, and it seems to tenderize it nicely. The enzymes in whey get those seasonings into the meat. Those same enzymes soften chapped skin. When I made cheese (goat cheese) I had gallons of whey. I fed it to dogs, chickens, and pigs and still I had plenty left over to dump a gallon into my bath.. nice! Save up your whey and make panir cheese with it. Bring a gallon of milk to the roll just before a boil, then pour in 2 cups of whey. If the milk doesn't form curds right away, add some lemon juice or vinegar.. about 1/4 cup.. then strain it through the muslin. You can sprinkle seasonings on the curds.. like salt and pepper and chile flakes and garlic, or dill weed, salt and pepper, and minced onions, etc. While the curds are still hot, twist them into a ball in the muslin. The whey that's left over is really delicious! Save some of that for your next batch of panir.. a good, cheap, non-melting cheese. You get a pound from a gallon of milk.

                                    1. re: fromagina

                                      Thank you. I 've been tossing the whey. I don't get much at a time, can it be frozen and used?

                                      1. re: Gualtier Malde

                                        Yes, it can be frozen and used, if you like. I use whey in soup, in addition to stock.

                                2. re: fruglescot


                                  i used to like cheesecloth for this, but you can only re-use it so many times...and it's a nuisance to keep it taut over the container. i love my strainer, especially because the lid keeps it covered so well while draining. plus, the thing is dishwasher safe & practically indestructible.

                                  besides, i don't wear pantyhose..and from what i hear they're not cheap these days anyway! ;)

                                3. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  You have spoken truth, Grasshopper, but disregarded the Prime Directive of our leader: the Great and Disheveled Alton: "Do not use monotaskers!" The old strainer fit in a 2 Cup measuring cup and a bit of polyfilm was great for a cover.

                                  My experience was the same as yours, though. When the cheap little strainer pair disappeared it became an "ungadget" in the best 1984 tradition.

                  4. What was the context of this implication? How did he imply that it isn't yogurt?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ccbweb

                      RIGHT TO THE SOURCE
                      I will email the 'provocative implicator himself' and see if he will put the statement in context. In the meantime we will sit back and watch the yogurt or pseudo yogurt eaters duke it out..

                    2. Of course it can be yogurt- horrible, horrible yogurt.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: John Manzo

                        don't know but....
                        i will say that 99% of the time a full fat product or even a low fat product works for me but Fat Free eh. without at least a touch of fat it's missing something either some texture or flavor or both sometimes

                      2. Yes, Yogurt is defined by having active cultures, not by fat content. Of course, it won't taste as creamy and delicious if it's non-fat. But it's technically yogurt so long as it has active cultures.