April 8, 2014 at 4:19 PM ET
File this under “trends that took way too long”: Yogurt is taking a savory turn—at last.
Curious passersby have been crowding around a new shop called Sohha Savory Yogurt in New York City's Chelsea Market. The specialty? Tangy, Middle Eastern-style strained yogurt with seasonings like zaatar (a mix of thyme, sumac and olive oil) or Everything Bagel, made with pine nuts, poppy seeds, sesame, garlic and onion. The company’s slogan: “Yogurt doesn’t have to be sweet."
Sohha’s founder Angela Fout started selling the yogurt—made with hormone-free milk from sustainable farms and no added sugars or preservatives—at farmers’ markets around New York State last summer. At her new Chelsea Market shop, she's serving the yogurt (similar to Lebanese labneh) with the savory toppings in to-go cups or on pita sandwiches, which also come layered with fresh herbs, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes or other local farm-grown ingredients.
Fout says many customers who spot the shop with its "Savory Yogurt" sign are initially confused. “At first they don't understand savory [yogurt],” says Fout. “But when they see the fresh vegetables and pita, they get the concept.”
Sohha's mix-ins can be ordered online, but for now, the yogurt is only sold in the New York area.
Meanwhile, starting this spring, Blue Hill Yogurt—a new line that debuted in Whole Foods stores in the Northeast this past fall—is launching in 100 of the chain’s stores in 12 states. The yogurts are spiked not with the usual syrupy fruit but with ingredients like tomato, beet, carrot, parsnip or butternut squash. The brainchild of famed chef Dan Barber and the team behind the Blue Hill restaurants in Manhattan and Pocantico Hills, New York, the yogurt is made with milk from grass-fed cows at small family-owned farms.
The national sandwich-shop chain Pret a Manger has also started experimenting with savory yogurt: This spring, two new sandwiches—Coronation Curried Chicken and Spiced Indian Chickpea—come with a curry yogurt sauce flavored with curry powder, cayenne, mango chutney and lemon.
For those who want to experiment with savory yogurt at home, it couldn't be easier. Just mix plain yogurt (ideally Greek or strained) with herbs, spices, or even just a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Then layer it on a sandwich or—better yet—eat it straight off the spoon.