A cultured approach to healthy cooking
It's a go-to snack and a great source of calcium, but yogurt also lends itself to a variety of recipes, from soup to cake. Got yogurt? Then get cooking with it!
Fermenting food is an age-old tradition that, as of late, has come back into fashion. While many forms of cultured dairy products have been produced for centuries all over the world, yogurt is by far the most common. Whether eaten as a snack or stirred into a recipe, yogurt is favoured for its creamy texture, pleasant tang, and prolonged shelf life, all thanks to the fermentation process. To top it all off, yogurt is also considered a superfood with a myriad of benefits to our health and well-being.
Yogurt’s positive impact on digestive health, maintenance of a strong immune system, and abundance of vitamins and minerals is well recognized. Fermentation may help to increase the nutritive value of foods by enhancing the body’s absorption of proteins, minerals, and vitamins, such as calcium and B vitamins.
To obtain the most from your yogurt, make sure to choose a brand that specifies it contains live and active bacterial cultures. It is also a good idea to eat yogurt daily to ensure a constant supply of good bacteria in your digestive system. For many, the culturing process also makes dairy yogurt easier to digest than milk, thus sometimes allowing those with a protein allergy or lactose intolerance to enjoy yogurt without upset.
In cooking and baking, yogurt is surprisingly versatile. It can add a creaminess and mild tart flavour to almost any dish. Take note that heating or freezing a probiotic yogurt will reduce the amount of beneficial bacteria. However, probiotic yogurt will nonetheless provide the nutrients and byproducts needed for healthy micro-organism reproduction already present in your body.
Think beyond the breakfast bowl and explore how this humble ingredient can add a fresh spin to many of your favourite dishes.
Heating things up
Depending on the type and fat content of the dairy yogurt you use, it may curdle or split when added directly to a hot dish. If stirring into a soup or stew, whisk a little cornstarch or flour into the yogurt before adding it to help maintain a creamy texture. Also, when cooking with yogurt, ensure it has no added gelatin, thickeners, or artificial sweeteners, as these might also cause adverse reactions when heated.
Crash course in culture
What was once a simple dairy product has now expanded to include a much broader array of yogurts made from different dairy and non-dairy milks. Here are some yogurt varieties to keep in mind the next time you are strolling down the refrigerated aisle.
|Type of yogurt||Choose it||Use it|
|Cow’s milk||The most common milk used for yogurt preparations can be found in a number of different styles such as Balkan (or set), Swiss (or stirred), and Greek. Cow’s milk yogurt is considered to be a rich source of both protein and calcium.||Stir into soups and sauces to add richness. Use in place of, or in conjunction with, sour cream or mayonnaise in salads, dressings, and dips. Replace some of the butter or fat in baked goods with Greek-style yogurt for a nutritious boost. Use plain or sweetened with a little honey as a topping for sweet or savoury dishes. Use as a creamy base for blended drinks.|
|Goat’s milk||With a slightly sweet and mild tangy taste, goat’s milk yogurt contains more vitamin A, B1, and calcium than yogurt made with cow’s milk. It may also be a better alternative for people who are lactose intolerant, as it is slightly lower in lactase.||Strain goat’s milk yogurt overnight and stir in fresh chopped herbs for a delicious spread. Stir into marinades, dips, and dressings. Use as a garnish on sweet and savoury dishes to add a creamy finishing touch.|
|Sheep’s milk||Generally higher in fat than cow’s milk yogurt, yogurt made of sheep’s milk has almost twice the protein and calcium. The fat in sheep’s milk is also lower in saturated fat compared to other milk types. Usually producing a thicker yogurt, it is also a good source of zinc, magnesium, and folic acid. Sheep yogurt might also be a good alternative for people with lactose intolerance.||Due to its higher fat content, sheep’s milk yogurt is less likely to break when stirred into warm soups, stews, and sauces or baked at high temperatures compared with other dairy milk yogurts. Substitute some of the fat in pancake batter and baked goods with this yogurt without sacrificing moisture and richness. Sheep yogurt is also indulgent topped with fruit as a snack.|
|Almond||Made from cultured almond milk, almond yogurt will often contain sweeteners and thickening agents to produce a product with a better mouth feel. Almond yogurt is frequently fortified with calcium, is a good source of vitamin E, and often delivers a good dose of fibre.||Its slight sweetness works well in smoothies, or as a topping for fresh fruit or desserts. To beat the summer heat, stir a couple of tablespoons into bowls of chilled tomato soups and garnish with toasted slivered almonds and chopped chives.|
|Soy||A good choice for those not eating dairy, research has shown that soy yogurts have the potential to help those with diabetes or high blood pressure. While a good source of plant protein and calcium, soy yogurt often has sugar added to support the fermentation process.||Soy yogurt lends itself well to numerous hot and cold preparations such as sauces, dips, dressings, and baked goods. Try draining soy yogurt overnight in a cheesecloth-lined sieve and then blending to taste with a little agave and fruit. Freeze in popsicle moulds or an ice cream machine to enjoy a cool dairy-free treat.|
|Coconut||While higher in fat than its counterparts, coconut yogurt contains a high percentage of beneficial fats shown to aid in reducing cholesterol levels. Coconut yogurt also contains high levels of calcium—upward of 30 percent daily recommended intake per serving, depending on the brand.||Coconut’s sweet tropical flavour makes this yogurt an ideal addition or accompaniment to dishes that include fruit. It adds a tropical nuance to dips and sauces, and is delicious drizzled over caramelized pineapple with a sprinkle of dark chocolate shavings for a quick, sweet tooth-satisfying dessert.|