When it comes to yogurt, it's time to start thinking beyond those little plastic containers you grab for breakfast. This creamy high protein, low-fat food is one of the most versatile dairy products in your fridge. From French toast to facial masks to making your puppy's fur shine (yes, really!), it's got more uses than a handyman in a fixer-upper. Here are 53 surprising food, beauty and home uses for yogurt.
Food Uses for Yogurt
1. Fluff up waffles
It's the secret behind the extraordinary chocolate waffles that chef Guillermo Pernot serves at Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar in Philadelphia.
2. Smear it on fish
A coating of yogurt and herbs gives baked salmon a crispy, tasty crust.
3. Stir it into alfredo sauce
If you're making an alfredo sauce, try using Greek yogurt. Even if you use the full-fat version, ounce for ounce it still only has about a quarter of the calories as heavy cream.
4. Make a creamy marinara sauce
Boost the protein content of a basic tomato sauce and give it a creamier texture by adding a few spoonfuls of plain yogurt—an especially helpful tactic if you're trying to sneak nutrients into a picky kid's diet.
Stir yogurt into stovetop mac and cheese.
6. Crisp up rice
New Orleans chef Alon Shaya creates a gorgeous golden crust on Persian rice, called Tah Dig, thanks to a combination of yogurt, saffron and water.
7. Make a creamy filling for stuffed vegetables
Shaya fills heirloom tomatoes with a combination of couscous, veggies and yogurt. The moisture from the yogurt makes the filling taste like a deliciously smooth risotto.
8. Cool down with chilled soup
For an easy chilled yogurt soup, Shaya thins out the yogurt with a little bit of milk, then adds fresh cilantro, diced cucumbers and fresh ground black pepper. Drizzle a little extra-virgin olive oil on top before serving.
9. Make roasted vegetable spread
For a quick and healthy appetizer or snack, whip up a mixture of fire-roasted eggplant with red pepper, onion, yogurt, herbs and olive oil served on flatbread. This dish is a favorite at chef Marc Vidal's Boqueria in New York City.
10. Throw together a cheater's onion dip
In a pinch, food writer Alessandra Bulow makes onion dip by stirring three-quarters of a packet of onion soup mix into a large container of low-fat Greek yogurt. Top with caramelized onions if desired, serve with crudité and this will become your new go-to party dip.
11. Blend creamy, low-fat salad dressing
Shaya likes to start by stirring some freshly grated garlic cloves into plain yogurt. Then he whisks in extra-virgin olive oil, lime juice and fresh dill. Modify the ingredients to your taste, then toss with your salad ingredients.
12. Swirl into hot soup
Make tomato or mushroom soup ultra creamy the low-calorie way.
13. Pull together frozen yogurt pops
For a simple frozen yogurt pop that makes a great snack, Shaya says: mix vanilla yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit, pour it into molds and freeze.
14. Add zing to a fried egg sandwich
Shaya likes to serve a fried egg between two slices of rye bread slathered with yogurt, za'atar (ground dried herbs like thyme, oregano, marjoram, or a combination), toasted sesame seeds, sumac, salt, cilantro and shaved red onion.
15. Flavor with cardamom
Roast figs and serve them with cardamom yogurt for a satisfying and healthy dessert from Indian food blogger Richa Gupta.
16. Create a lemony crust for baked chicken
The tang of lemon and the parmesan Panko coating makes Libbie Summers's Lemon Yogurt Crispy Baked Chicken irresistible.
17. Blend a creamy cocktail
Mitch Einhorn from Chicago's Lush Wine & Spirits shares his Gin Cucumber Mint Lassi: In a blender, blend ½ cup plain Greek yogurt, ½ ounce honey, ½ ounce fresh lime juice, 5 fresh mint leaves, ¼ peeled and diced cucumber, pinch of salt, 2 ounces of gin, a cup of ice and a spritz of tonic or soda water. Garnish with a mint leaf or cucumber slice.
18. Make tzatziki
Shaya's easy recipe: In a food processor or blender, combine 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 seedless cucumber (peeled and diced), 1 clove garlic, 1 teaspoon fresh dill, salt and pepper to taste. Process until well mixed. Serve chilled. Great as a dip or served over grilled meats.
19. Thicken into homemade labneh
A perfect dip for pita bread, labneh is easy to make, says Shaya. Simply place thick Bulgarian yogurt and a dash or two of salt in a cheesecloth-lined strainer over a bowl. Allow it to sit overnight to release its whey. The remaining mixture will be thick. Stir some extra-virgin olive oil and sea salt into the thickened yogurt for an irresistible dip.
20. Whip up an avocado smoothie
Yogurt enthusiast K.D. Gates, founder and CEO of Celsaderm, combines 1 cup plain or vanilla low-fat yogurt with ½ avocado, ½ cup strawberries, ½ cup blueberries, ½cup of low-fat milk, 2 teaspoon hone, and 1 to 2 ice cubes. Blend well until smooth.
21. Spice up Mexican cheese dip
Pair this yummy dip with tortilla chips for a snack time fiesta.
If you have a dehydrator, turn yogurt into coconut yogurt drops: Mix 2 cups yogurt with ¼ cup shredded coconut. Drop by teaspoon onto a dehydrator tray lined with parchment or Paraflexx sheet. Dehydrate overnight at 135°F.
23. Make a smoothie bowl
In a blender, add yogurt and frozen fruit. Blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl and top with fresh fruit, nuts, chia seeds and flaked coconut.
24. Layer a parfait
Skip the whipped cream and add layers for your favorite fruits, chocolate chips, candies and nuts. Or go savory with chopped cucumbers, chilled grains and flaky sea salt.
25. Prep an overnight muesli
Mix 1 cup muesli with 1 cup of yogurt. Refrigerate overnight in a jar. Serve with honey, nut butter and fresh fruit.
Yogurt is the secret to food stylist's Alli Simpson's perfectly moist banana bread. It's the best banana bread the TODAY Food team has ever tasted! Yogurt also makes this poppy seed and orange breakfast cake lovely and moist.
27. Coat French toast
To make a low fat alternative to traditional French toast, Shaya suggests substituting 6 ounces of yogurt and 2 ounces of water for 1 cup of milk, and 2 egg whites for each whole egg.
28. Sub for cream cheese
Yogurt cheese is creamy like regular cream cheese but with a touch of tartness. To make yogurt cheese, place two cups of yogurt in a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Allow to sit overnight. In the morning you'll have about one cup of delicious, spreadable yogurt cheese. For extra flavor, Shaya likes to add some chopped fruits, berries, olives, pimento, chives, dill or other herbs.
29. Marinate chicken
The lactic acid in yogurt helps to tenderize the chicken. Shaya likes to rub chicken thighs with yogurt and yellow curry powder before grilling. But don't stop with the thighs! Wings and chicken breasts also benefit from the daity. In Indian cuisine, poultry is marinated in yogurt for tandoori cooking.
30. Soften scrambled eggs
To soften and brighten up scrambled eggs, Shaya whips in a dollop of yogurt before frying.
31. Replace mayo
Yogurt is a healthy, tasty alternative to mayonnaise. It works well in stuffed eggs, potato salad, chicken salad and tuna salad. Not only does it contain fewer calories and less fat, yogurt has a characteristic tang that contrasts well with the richness of these dishes.
32. Skip the sour cream
"I love using yogurt instead of sour cream on taco night or when I make fried potato pancakes or latkes," says Shaya.
Cut back on oil in your recipes by substituting half the amount of oil with three-quarters the amount of yogurt. So, if your recipe calls for 1 cup of oil, try replacing half that oil with ¾ cup of yogurt.
34. Swap in for butter
Try replacing half the butter with half as much yogurt. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup butter, try using ½ cup butter and ¼ cup yogurt instead.
35. Substitute for egg
When baking, try replacing 1 egg with ¼ cup yogurt.
36. Top bruschetta
For a light and delicious appetizer, Shaya tops grilled bread with yogurt, fresh figs, honey and mint.
37. Make frozen yogurt bark
Frozen Yogurt Bark with Strawberries, Chocolate and Nuts: Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread the yogurt in an even layer, about 1/4 to 1/3-inch thick. Top with chopped strawberries, chocolate and pistachios. Freeze until firm. Break into shards and keep frozen until ready to serve.
38. Top burgers, the Greek way
Put down the ketchup! Up your juicy lamb burgers with a yogurt, cucumber and cumin relish.
39. Fluff up cinnamon rolls
Yogurt makes the dough ultra moist.
40. Whip up fast "raw" chocolate chip cookie dough
Try TODAY Food contributing writer Vidya Rao's genius idea for replicating the sweet treat: Combine Greek yogurt, ground cinnamon, maple syrup and peanut butter and chocolate chips. Trust us, it's awesome and truly tastes like the real thing.
41. Make more yogurt
Running low on yogurt, but have lots of milk? In a bowl, add a dollop of yogurt, pour some milk and refrigerate.
Beauty Uses for Yogurt
42. Improve skin clarity
The lactic acid in yogurt is an alpha-hydroxyl acid. When used daily, it may result in improved skin clarity. Apply to the face, throat and chest as a mask, then rinse off after 15 to 20 minutes, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Mary Lupo.
43. Give yourself an anti-aging facial
Amal Elbahnasawy of ARTISANskin uses this combo: In a small bowl, mix ¼ teaspoon French Green Clay, ¼ teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon yogurt. Apply and rinse off with a warm wash cloth after 10 to 15 minutes, or until dry.)
44. Soothe psoriasis
K.D. Gates, Founder & CEO of Celsaderm, advises to slather ½ cup of plain yogurt over the affected areas and leave on the skin for 30 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water.
45. Substitute for hair conditioner
Vitamins B5 and D, which are both in yogurt, are linked to healthy hair and follicles, according to New Orleans dermatologist Dr. Mary Lupo. To condition hair, use Greek yogurt instead of your regular conditioner. Rub it on, then rinse off after 3 minutes. For a soothing scalp massage, rub Greek yogurt onto the scalp. Rinse with lukewarm water after 3 minutes.
46. Whip up an exfoliating mask
Nutritionist Stella Metsovas of The Village Way likes to make a whey mask by mixing yogurt whey (the water that surfaces at the top of yogurt) with a little ground oatmeal or almond. Apply the mixture to the face, neck and chest. Wash off after 10 minutes, or when dry.
47. Relieve sunburn
Yogurt contains zinc which soothes sunburned skin and helps relieves itchiness. Apply in a thick layer, then wash it off after 20 minutes, advises Dr. Lupo.
48. Mix up a body scrub
"Sugar is always a nice exfoliate," says Dr. Lupo. "Mix it with yogurt for an effective body scrub. Massage using a circular motion, then rinse."
49. Fight acne
The antibacterial and anti-fungal properties of yogurt can help fight acne, according to Dr. Lupo. Apply the yogurt to the skin, allow it to sit for 30 minutes and then wash it off with lukewarm water.
50. Mix up a nourishing hair mask
This delicious sounding tip for curly hair comes from ChauniquaMajor.com: Mix 1 cup Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons organic virgin coconut oil, 2 tablespoons organic honey, 2 dashes of cinnamon (Um, yum!). Apply liberally to hair, focusing on the ends. Sit under hair steamer or apply hot towel for 25 minutes. Rinse with cold water and style.
Household Uses for Yogurt
51. Polish brass
Rub plain yogurt onto tarnished brass. As the yogurt dries, its lactic acid dissolves the tarnish. Rinse off the dried yogurt with water. Dry and buff to a shine using a soft cloth.
52. Make edible finger paint
Mix a couple drops of food coloring with some plain yogurt for finger paints that your little ones can safely put in their mouths.
53. Give your dog a shiny coat
Here's a smart tip from Libbie Summers.com: After washing your dog as usual, coat the fur with a layer of yogurt. (About 3 cups for a large dog.) Massage it into the coat and allow to stay on for 5 minutes. Rinse and pat dry.
This post was originally published on June 7, 2016.