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Aug 18, 2011 08:11 AM

Is "Greek" yogurt special?

I've noticed that Greek style yogurt has become very popular (duh! Better than the nasty yoplait to which they add gelatin to get any texture.)
As a happy result some national brands are selling individual "Greek" yogurt cups for a great price but I hesitated to buy them. Is Greek yogurt really just less watery (or whey-y) regular yogurt? I've drained plain yogurt in the fridge to acheive the same result and it was pretty good. Is there some subtle technique or flavor I'm gonna miss out on if I don't get the high-end stuff?

(sometimes I enjoy yoplait)

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  1. To be honest, it's amusing to me that Greek or Greek style yoghurt has become THE way of signifying strained yoghurt, which is actually used in numerous countries.

    I don't buy it myself as I like to make my own yoghurt and it's cheap to strain that through muslin to make thick, delicious strained yoghurt. No nationality specified ;)

    8 Replies
    1. re: Muchlove

      True enough so why is runny yogurt so desirable? I can be the only one who grew up in it...
      Then again drinkable yogurt is delicious....

      1. re: iheartcooking

        I don't think it's the consistency/thickness that makes a yoghurt desirable or not. Rather it's the taste. Mediterranean style yoghurt tends to be thicker and at the same time quite sour in taste. Whereas drinkable yoghurts and other types tend to have quite a smooth mellow taste hence why people like them quite a lot.

      2. re: Muchlove

        I had to restrain myself from starting one of those "I hate it when..." threads about how obnoxious I find the term "Greek" yogurt when strained yogurt is so ubiquitous throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and arguably more important to non-Greek cuisine. Calling strained yogurt "Greek" is an unnecessarily exclusive term for an ingredient that brings together Lebanese, Syrians, Turks, Israelis and Persians alike.

        1. re: JungMann

          Sorry to everyone I offended, that's the commonly used term so I use it... If I were to start calling it strained yogurt there might be confusion. "Greek Style" is used a lot to describe Mediterranean, I think it's just a matter of using a shorter word to be honest. Never understood why people get so worked up over nomenclature. I know where yogurt comes from, I never assumed it was all Greek, and o don't really mind dumbing down the labels of my food to make it more accessible to Americans. If they eat it who cares? Drives the price down for the rest of us.

          On the other hand I could start a rant on what passes for Chinese food these days...

          1. re: iheartcooking

            You will always find someone who twists things into something offensive to them. You have to walk on eggshells these days. It is as offensive as the viewer wants it to be.

            1. re: flinta

              I am generally in agreement with you, but when an ad agency takes a traditional foodstuff enjoyed by millions of people around the world and gives it a spiffy, new ethnocentric name to appeal to American consumers, that is pretty obnoxious.

                1. re: JungMann

                  Yes I see your point. But at the same time, it is not always so sinister. Making a reference to a certain culture to describe the product is just that, a way to describe a product. Different countries have different styles of making the same product. Do people complain when we see 2 loaves of bread, plain white loaves, but one is "French" and one is "Italian". It is just a way to distinguish a product.

                  If the product in question is represented as Greek style, and is in fact that style, what is the problem. The masses of consumers are not that bright. And not too cultured. So calling a thick yogurt Greek style is not exactly meant for the more enlightened few. It simplifies and generalizes for ease. Most advertising insults the intelligence, are you not used to that? I think I am!

        2. Yes, it is kind of silly that "greek yogurt" is such a fad now, and is so expensive. As Muchlove said, it's quite easy to make one's own yogurt.

          Use a gallon of whole (or at least 2%) milk. Skim doesn't set well. Bring it up to scalding temperature (this is traditional, but is probably just a formality with unopened pasteurized milk), cover it in a non-reactive bowl and let it cool in the oven until it's about 100 degrees, then whisk in a cup or so of your favorite plain yogurt. It will set up in a few hours to overnight.

          The Lebanese have also been preserving milk this way for centuries, and call it "laban". For "lebne", or strained yogurt, they add a bit of salt and strain through muslin cloth, hanging the curds over a bowl to let the whey drip out. (The whey is quite nutritious, by the way - I'm sure the "greek yogurt" producers don't throw it out!) The process is so easy, it's a shame to buy it in outrageously-priced plastic cups instead of making it yourself.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Amahl2442

            Actualy, Labne is slightly different than yogurt, as it uses different bacterial cultures and different fermentation temperatures to make a similar product. Labne is strained from Kefir not yogurt.

            Also, i just want to note that by the time you strain out all the excess whey from your standard plain yogurt, the volume you are left with makes the pre-strained yogurt or "greek" yogurt on the market a very comparable price. It might be ever so slightly cheaper if you dont strain it much, but for me its not worth the extra effort to do it myself.

            1. re: julseydesign

              I've never heard of labneh being anything more than strained laban. One could certainly make labneh from kefir, but I imagine you'd have to mature it longer, resulting in a more sour cheese, or it would yield too much liquid to solid.

          2. I love this question! Because I buy commercial Greek yogurt every week; sometimes twice a week and while I could certainly make my own, I'm very happy I don't need to.
            Why it took years to enjoy commercially made Greek yogurt at home is beyond me but I'm thrilled that I can buy it and buy it in any brand I want. Is Greek yogurt special in terms of taste, price, usage. Why yes it is.

            3 Replies
            1. re: HillJ

              'Greek' yoghurt is essential in Indian cooking as it has a high fat content, and won't separate like other types. But as pointed out above it's 'Greek style', but to be honest, there isn't a better substitute. At least in the UK that is widely available ( supermarkets).

              1. re: pj26

                Actually although strained yoghurt is used for some dishes in India, it is certainly not used in all. I remember reading somewhere that two of the reasons for the difference in Indian yoghurt compared to yoghurt elsewhere is the milk used and also the different bacteria in the yoghurt. Good desi yoghurt, especially the kind I have eaten in Punjabi friends houses, seems to be thick and creamy even before straining. And remember that in India, the cream scooped off the top of the yoghurt (made from unhomogenised milk) is set aside and churned to make butter!

                1. re: Muchlove

                  SOrry - you are right, I should have said, when required, high fat yoghurt is used in Indian (not every single Indian dish!). And of course I am making massive generalisations when referring to 'Indian' food as the regional variations are so vast. But I think you know what I mean!! (I'll stop rambling now...)

            2. It's certainly all the rage these days. In addition to the nice tang, what I find "special" about it is the high protein content and relatively lower sugar content (assuming it's plain, unflavoured). Because of this, it's my perfect breakfast, as it keeps me full until lunch. Regular yogurt doesn't have the same effect on me.

              1 Reply
              1. re: topbanana

                I am diabetic--regular yogurt has too many carbs for me, but apparently, a lot of carbs are in the whey. I don't use the whey when I make my yogurt, for that reason, but the dogs enjoy it.

              2. I just used a Fage yogurt/sour cream mixture for the first time to make caramelized onion dip last weekend. I'm sold.

                3 Replies
                1. re: laliz

                  Been using it as sour cream/buttermilk subs in a lot of applications and I've enjoyed the results a lot. Some flavors like vanilla or honey are nice to use, but I'd just as soon use my own honey or vanilla.

                  1. re: iheartcooking

                    Curious about using it as a buttermilk sub--do you dilute thick yogurt with milk first? I tried this in my pancakes, and it was still too thick.

                  2. re: laliz

                    Fage is still the best, IMO, and even the 2% is really creamy, while the full fat version is a spiritual experience sort of like eating the cream top off of a freshly opened Stonyfield's plain cream top. Because I'm diabetic, the higher protien, lower lactose is a great meal for me.