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The great yogurt experiment

“Did something in the refrigerator explode?” my roommate asked me as she stood in front of the open fridge door.

“Oh, no, that’s just my yogurt experiment,” I told her.

Yogurt experiment

About a month ago MelPo left this comment on my Voskos yogurt entry:

Did you know you can make any yogurt thick–like the so-called greek yogurts that are so popular now? It’s just strained yogurt.

I do it by putting a couple of coffee filters in a colander over a bowl–dump the contents of a big yogurt (my fave is seven stars, but any kind, any flavor will work) into the filters. Then fold the tops of the filters over the top of the yogurt and put the whole bowl into the fridge overnight. The next day, take it out and dump the watery stuff from the bowl and open up the coffee filters and enjoy your thick yummy yogurt.

If you want it even thicker you can weight the top with something fairly light–like a can of soup or something and the resulting yogurt will be a cream-cheese consistency. It makes a delicious pie.

Intrigued, I decided I should try this. I got out a cup of vanilla flavored Dannon Light ‘N Fit yogurt, put it in a coffee filter set over a plastic cup, and stuck it in the fridge to freak my roommate out. When I checked it an hour later, the coffee filter was totally soaked, so I had to take it out and add two more filters to the contraption. The next day, it looked like this:

Yogurt experiment

I tasted a spoonful of the strained yogurt, and it was a bit thicker than when I started, but it still wasn’t as thick as Fage yogurt. I looked in the cup, and at least two tablespoons of water had been strained out. Perhaps this experiment would go better if I started with a thicker type of yogurt to begin with. I dunno. I just know that I’m going to let the professionals handle the yogurt straining in the future.

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22 Comments

Lori • December 8, 2009 at 12:00 pm

I find you have to let the strained yogurt sit at least overnight to drain enough water.

Strained yogurt is thicker, but it is not the same as greek style (at least I don’t think so). Fage is both thick and fluffy at the same time.

Strained yogurt is actually a great base for yogurt cheese. Let it sit overnight, then mix herbs and such into it. It becomes spreadable that way.

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Quix • December 8, 2009 at 12:38 pm

I really like the greek yogurt for the protein content, not just the texture. If yoplait could put in the 15 or so grams of protein, I’d be all over it. :)

I’ve always wondered about this and am glad you tried it though! Thanks for being a guinea pig…

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liz • December 8, 2009 at 12:52 pm

You have to use plain yogurt, without any gelatin or starch added…they somehow affect the yogurt’s ability to separate (I think I read that in Cooks Illustrated).

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fembot • December 8, 2009 at 1:13 pm

I have to say, liquid has the potential to really gross me out. The idea that there are a few extra tablespoons of cloudy water hangin’ out in my Yoplait is making the vom rise in my throat.

It’s just like when people say they mix milk and water to make their oatmeal…I just can’t get my mind around it. Blech!

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Leigh Ann • December 8, 2009 at 1:55 pm

The liquid is called whey, and it’s really good for you. It contains high quality protein, and essential amino acids. Some studies show it is beneficial for leaner body mass and better muscle development. Stonyfield Yogurt, one of the leading yogurt manufacturers in the United States, states that “the appearance of whey is actually a good sign, indicating that the beneficial cultures are alive and active.” Stir in back in, if you’re just eating the yogurt. Of course, if you’re trying to make yogurt cheese, then you have to strain it out. But otherwise, eat it! It’s good for you.

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Stephanie • December 8, 2009 at 2:41 pm

The Arabs strain their yogurt overnight in cheesecloth which results in a thick cream cheese consistency called labneh. It’s then drizzled with a little olive oil and used as a dip for pita bread. You can also sprinkle some zataar spice over it. Serve it with mint tea and it’s absolutely delish.

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Mindy • December 8, 2009 at 3:40 pm

In my experience, this has only worked with plain yogurt. I have used plain nonfat and strained it overnight with cheese cloth through a screen-type strainer. I then used it like cream cheese to make a veggie dip or spread with herbs. Yummy!

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Debbi • December 8, 2009 at 4:04 pm

I find it works best with plain yogurt, as well. And the longer it sits, the thicker it gets. I only use one coffee filter, but I put the filter in a strainer and set that over a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap (for odor protection more than anything else) and then forget about it until the next day.

I like to mix mine with a bit of jam. Microwave the jam for 30 seconds or so; it mixes better that way.

And if you really get ambitious, start making your own. I’ve been having fun with milk and cultures and rennet, oh my, making cottage cheese, yogurt and mozzarella. And butter. And I use the whey in place of the liquid called for in bread recipes. Mmmmm.

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Nancy • December 8, 2009 at 4:35 pm

I haven’t read through all the previous comments so this might be redundant but here is the key:

you must use PLAIN yogurt.

Re-try and report back?

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Linda • December 8, 2009 at 7:52 pm

That’s how us greeks make Tzatziki. You strain the yoghurt the night before (I always hang mine in a muslim cloth over the sink) and then add salt, pepper, garlic and cucumber the next day :) Well done on your experiment.

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PJ • December 8, 2009 at 10:00 pm

I actually bought an official yogurt strainer (seriously!). It is square plastic cube, with a metal mesh-like V-shaped strainer inside, and a plastic lid. I have made homemade yogurt, which tends to be thinner than the stuff in the stores (as I’m not using thickeners. You can get greek yogurt starter, too!). Just dump it in there. The next day much of the liquid is strained out. After a few days it is definitely cream-cheese like. The thing is at today’s prices it’s cheaper to just buy cream cheese! But if you want healthier, making your own yogurt from good ingredients is a nice thing. We use extracts and sweetzfree in place of sweetener and fruit.

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Deanna - The Unnatural Mother • December 8, 2009 at 11:04 pm

You crack me up – why I come here daily!

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theantijared • December 9, 2009 at 12:18 am

I find that I would rather spend the $4-$6 dollars than putting a science fair project in my refrigerator.

People already think I am weird.

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Elizabeth • December 9, 2009 at 6:56 am

I also enjoy making my own yogurt. I bought a Salton yogurt incubator for $15, and the resulting yogurt is absolutely delicious. I’m hooked on the stuff. I do strain it for about 2 hours with a coffee filter in a colander. I like to stir fruit and a bit of granola into it and have it for breakfast.

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eschie • December 9, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Plain Yogurt! The sweetened “stuff” has so much other junk in it, that it won’t strain properly. I strain my non-fat plain in a coffee filter in a mesh strainer overnight and add a diced apple that I’ve microwaved to soften, cinnamon, a drizzle of agave and a sprinkle of walnuts. YUMMY!!

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Jen • December 9, 2009 at 12:59 pm

You have to use yogurt without any thickeners (the brand you used has both gelatin and starch.) Unfortunately, most light and nonfat yogurts (especially the main stream brands) have added thickeners because otherwise they would be runny or the liquid would separate out of them (which means they are trying to stop exactly what you are trying to do.) I’ve had much luck with organic and “all natural” type yogurts. They usually have as their ingredients only milk and bacteria.

I live in Canada, where Fage yogurt is sadly unavailable, so straining is my only choice!

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Stephanie • December 9, 2009 at 1:44 pm

I’ve been doing this lately with my plain yogurt and really like it… did discover that if the yogurt you start with has gelatin in it, it won’t strain that well, if at all as Jen points out…and had a really funky texture (to me, anyway.)

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Lydia • December 10, 2009 at 1:38 am

@Leigh Ann – Yep, you are right.

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Lydia • December 10, 2009 at 1:43 am

I learned this trick in Bulgaria, where yogurt is very popular. (They even have their own strain — Bulgaricus? maybe). Anyway, as someone already wrote, putting the more watery yogurt into cheescloth and tying a string around it, hanging it like a little bag over the sink overnight, allows the yogurt to dry out, and my friend used this firmer yogurt with a Ranch seasoning packet to make an excellent dip for cucumbers and such. Much better than gloppy, fattening mayonnaise.

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Sarah • December 10, 2009 at 9:50 pm

I take plain yogurt and put it over coffee filters in my strainer over a bowl in the fridge overnight. Then i use the resulting thickened yogurt in lieu of mayonnaise and sour cream for making spinach dip. It is so yummy and you can eat so much more of it then!!!!

I also use the yogurt for making certain types of salads, particularly tuna and potato.

Yogurt is seroiusly awesome!!

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v'ron • December 10, 2009 at 11:35 pm

Been awhile since I checked in, but yes! I bought the yogurt strainers and they work like a charm. I also use the whey in pancakes, because I usually don’t have buttermilk around, but I want that touch of sour that buttermilk gives pancakes.

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Jodee • December 15, 2009 at 10:29 am

It’s best not to start off with a yogurt that does not have thickeners in them. The Yogurt you used does use thickeners.

Do not use a yogurt that contains thickeners such as modified starch, gelatin or gums.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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