While most people think of yogurt as a breakfast staple or a healthy snack, they’d be shocked to know it actually makes a great addition to many dishes, both savory and sweet.
The end result of using yogurt in a dish is tastier than you might think, but it all boils down to knowing how to cook it properly.
Yogurt is made with dairy, so it tends to curdle when heated up. As a result, it doesn’t make for an appetizing side dish. But when mixed in with other ingredients, yogurt is a complete game changer.
The Proper Way to Cook Yogurt
Before you start cooking, make sure you have the right type of yogurt on hand. First things first – make sure that the yogurt you are using isn’t non-fat. If you’re trying to cut calories, this isn’t the way to go.
Non-fat yogurt tends to have a higher protein to fat ratio than yogurts with the full amount of fat. As a result, they are easier to break and curdle when cooked.
Curdling happens when the proteins in the yogurt heat up. When you have fat, however, it protects the proteins from the heat and thus keeps it from curdling. Obviously, a non-fat yogurt isn’t going to be able to do this and you will end up with undesirable results.
Aside from making sure you’re using only full-fat yogurt, you also want to make sure that the yogurt you are using hasn’t been recently taken out of your fridge.
As a matter of fact, the best time to use yogurt to cook is when it has been left sitting out for a bit and is room temperature. Room temperature yogurt won’t curdle as easily as yogurt that has been kept in the fridge.
Those who are especially talented in the kitchen may also want to consider tempering their yogurt. This can be done by adding some of the hot liquid that you’re cooking with into your yogurt.
This helps by making sure your yogurt doesn’t get shocked by the temperature change when you throw it into your pan. Again, this is also why it is important to make sure you use yogurt at room temperature when cooking with it.
If you want to make sure that your yogurt cooks as smoothly as possible, add in a bit of flour or cornstarch to it to keep it from curdling up. Stir the cornstarch or flour into the yogurt before adding it into the rest of your ingredients to prevent it from getting lumpy.
This is especially helpful if you have no other option but to use low-fat yogurt as it will prevent the yogurt from burning up so quickly.
Be careful when adding in the flour or cornstarch as if you add too much you could create a thick sauce. The ideal amount of cornstarch or flour to use would be about a half or 1 teaspoon per cup of yogurt.
Temperature is incredibly important when it comes to cooking with yogurt. If you want specifics, yogurt tends to curdle at about 200 degrees F. Be sure to have your stove on the lowest setting possible so that your yogurt can cook slowly without curdling.
The last thing you want to do is accidentally boil your yogurt, so keep an eye on temperature when cooking to ensure your yogurt doesn’t curdle.
Although you can use yogurt in many dishes, try to stay away from dishes that use too much acid in them. Acid will curdle your yogurt in the same way that heat would by deteriorating the proteins in it.
How to Fix Curdled Yogurt
Not everyone is prepared beforehand on how to use yogurt correctly when cooking. As a result, they may end up making some severe mistakes that leave you with a dish that has curdled yogurt in it. If this has happened to you, you may be feeling defeated and ready to give up.
But before you do, rest assured that there are some ways for you to redeem yourself. The first thing you want to do when you start noticing the curds in your dish from the yogurt is to try and whisk them away.
Try and dissolve the curdles as much as you can and if this doesn’t work, worst case scenario you end up having to scoop out the curds yourself.
After scooping out the curds, add in some more yogurt and flour or cornstarch, whisking the mixture along the way. This should help make the texture of your dish much creamier. You can repeat the steps until you have the end result that you want.
Eating Curdled Yogurt
Although it might not be ideal, sometimes you may not want to go through the trouble of fixing your dish and will end up leaving the curds in. The question is – are curds safe to eat?
For the most part, the answer is yes. If the yogurt is fresh but curdles from the heat, it is still safe to eat. The texture and even the taste in your dish might be different, but it won’t do you any harm.
On the other hand, eating yogurt that has curdled as a result of being expired will not be safe to eat. If the yogurt has been left in the fridge long past its expiration date, we don’t recommend you use it to cook. Again, checking the expiration date is vital as it can be telling of whether or not the yogurt is safe to eat.
If you notice that the yogurt in your fridge isn’t due to expire for a few days but has a yellow liquid sitting on top of it, don’t panic. This is what is known as the whey. This is a natural separation and doesn’t necessarily mean that your yogurt is bad.
Smell it to make sure, and if the smell is fine, then your yogurt should be safe to use. All you need to do is stir it up to get the creamy texture back into your yogurt.
Using Yogurt Substitutes
If you are not a fan of cooking with yogurt and are looking for a different ingredient to use, you’re in luck – there are several options you have to choose from. Things such as sour cream, buttermilk, or even cottage cheese are ideal yogurt substitutes when you want to make a creamy dish.
The only issue here is that the taste is different for all of these ingredients, which means your dish will also end up tasting differently than it would have if you had used yogurt.
On the other hand, yogurt can also be used as a substitute for other ingredients. Mayonnaise for example is just one of the many ingredients that can be substituted with yogurt. You can use it in things such as tuna or egg salad or even potato and pasta salad.
Cream cheese and sour cream are other ingredients that can be easily substituted with yogurt. In fact, yogurt is a great alternative to cream cheese when used in baking. In fact, you can even substitute butter for yogurt when baking for a much healthier alternative.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.