Feb. 10, 2013 at 11:41 AM ET
No longer just for Mediterranean restaurants or health food junkies, Greek yogurt has gone mainstream in just a few years. According to a recent story in NPR, food industry analysts predict this year’s Greek yogurt sales will total around $1.5 billion (up from $60 million last year). Take a stroll down the dairy aisle of your supermarket and you’ll find multiple brands of the creamy white stuff – both flavored and non-flavored.
Why the sudden love for this dairy product? Many people prefer Greek yogurt for its high protein, tangy flavor and thick texture. Not to mention the fact that Greek yogurt tends to have much less sugar than conventional yogurt. What might surprise you is its versatility.
You can use Greek yogurt in so many sweet and savory recipes, way beyond the typical fruit-granola parfaits (although those are delicious). And if you opt for low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt, you can make many of your favorite dishes much healthier.
Here are some of my favorite ways to cook with plain Greek yogurt.
Add up to 1 cup of Greek yogurt to your favorite fruit smoothie to add protein and creaminess. (I usually add a tablespoon of honey to cut the yogurt’s tartness.)
Sour Cream Stand-In
Top your tacos and chili with low-fat Greek yogurt, and no one will miss the sour cream. Seriously. It also works well in guacamole!
Creamy Salad Dressings and Dips
If you like ranch, onion, Greek goddess or other creamy dressings and dips, simply substitute Greek yogurt for part of all of the sour cream or mayonnaise.
Tangy yogurt-based sauces are a nice way to cut the richness of proteins like salmon, lamb or chicken wings. Add lemon juice and shredded cucumbers for a tzatziki-style sauce, or stir in a spoonful of Dijon mustard along with some lemon juice and zest.
You might be skeptical, but Greek yogurt really can stand in for mayonnaise in deli salads. Egg salad, potato salad and tuna salad are all great vehicles for Greek yogurt and you’ll cut much of the fat!
Pinkberry, the popular frozen yogurt chain, has spread across the country like wildfire (and spawned many knock-offs). You can get the addictively tart frozen treat at home (and for much less money) by simply freezing Greek yogurt with buttermilk and a few other ingredients in an ice cream maker.
Who ever has buttermilk on hand when they need it? Not me! Instead, I use low-fat Greek yogurt in many baked goods, especially quick breads like banana or pumpkin. It works well when making biscuits too.
Love creamy pastas? Add Greek yogurt instead of cream or cream cheese. If the yogurt is a bit too thick to coat the noodles evenly, just thin it with a little pasta water.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.