What Is Greek Yogurt Cheese?

Cynde Gregory

Rich, creamy, and slightly exotic tasting, Greek yogurt cheese is rapidly replacing fat and calorie-laden sour cream and cream cheese in kitchens across the country. Home cooks have been making yogurt cheese for decades, but beginning with Greek yogurt streamlines the process and results in a cheese that is creamy, silky, and mind-bogglingly yummy. Greek yogurt cheese is simple yogurt that has been strained of all excess liquid until it reaches the consistency of cream cheese.

Greek yogurt cheese contains milk and yogurt.
Greek yogurt cheese contains milk and yogurt.

While die-hard kitchen magicians might insist that the best Greek yogurt cheese begins with homemade Greek yogurt, a very serviceable version is much easier to make from a commercial brand. The wise cook looks for yogurts that don’t include gelatin, pectin, milk solids, or other ingredients meant to bulk up the yogurt. There should be nothing in the ingredients list other than milk and yogurt.

Greek yogurt cheese can be served on crackers with caviar.
Greek yogurt cheese can be served on crackers with caviar.

Different cooks prefer different methods for straining out as much liquid as possible. Some like a muslin bag that can be suspended over a bowl that will catch the whey. Others drape cheesecloth over a bowl. Muslin is more tightly woven and may take longer but will lose less of the yogurt overall. Some cooks prefer the ease of a coffee filter or double layer of paper towel if only a small amount of cheese is required.

The clever, and somewhat daring, cook might let the Greek yogurt cheese sit at room temperature for up to 12 hours. More cautious cooks prefer to let the cheese form under refrigeration. The second method is probably not necessary from a health angle as yogurt itself is created over low heat and teams with healthy bacteria. Cooks who just aren’t comfortable leaving dairy out that long should plan a few extra hours for their cheese to fully form.

Once done, there are a myriad of uses for Greek yogurt cheese. The perfect light lunch plate showcases a dollop of the cheese dripped with high-quality, first cold-pressing olive oil, along with hummus, pita, and olives. A few slices of cucumber and tomato add color and crunch and contribute to the vitamin and fiber count.

A little finely minced garlic and a splash of hot sauce turns the cheese into the perfect appetizer spread for crackers or little toasts. Leave out the hot sauce and squeeze a lemon instead to create the perfect yummy featherbed to cradle a little caviar or a curled-up shrimp.

Thinning the cheese just a tad with yogurt, sour cream, or mayo makes a great base for a veggie dip. Carrots, celery sticks, and other crunchy vegetables will be happy to nosedive in, especially if the dip offers some herbal notes as well. Basil, cilantro, and thyme are all possibilities. Curry is another way to go.

Caviar canapés with Greek yogurt and basil.
Caviar canapés with Greek yogurt and basil.

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