It’s no surprise that Greek yogurt continues to gain popularity for its nutrition and versatility in menu applications. With more consumers purchasing Greek yogurt on the retail side, it has set the stage for increased mainstream acceptance of foodservice dishes featuring Greek yogurt. Yogurt has always been most closely associated with breakfast in the U.S., but now it’s moving into more savory applications in appetizers and entrees and being incorporated into desserts. From perfect parfaits to signature spreads, dressings, marinades and more, yogurt, especially thick, protein-rich Greek yogurt, is appearing in dishes everywhere.

Yogurt remains a mainstay for signature breakfast items like parfaits and smoothies, but has also gained popularity for its versatility in savory menu applications. Many chefs are using Greek yogurt as a lower-fat ingredient without sacrificing the flavor of their signature dishes, especially as more customers are requesting options that have a “better-for-you” spin. Greek yogurt can be used as a substitute for higher-fat ingredients and Dannon Oikos nonfat plain Greek yogurt has 80% less fat than sour cream, mayonnaise and cream cheese when used in recipes.1

“Yogurt is a great versatile ingredient to have on hand,” said Michael Symon, a James Beard Award–winning chef, restaurateur, television personality and author, in addition to being a Dannon® Oikos® spokesperson. “I’ve been cooking with Greek yogurt for years and I grew up with it. I use it in everything from classic Greek dips to flavorful marinades and dressings. Greek yogurt has a rich mouthfeel, and it brings tartness and acidity to a dish for a more complex flavor. One of my favorite dishes is roasted lamb with mint and cucumber yogurt, but it really can be paired with just about anything.”

From marinating and tenderizing proteins, to blending with fresh herbs to finish a dish, yogurt is now being used in just about every type of cuisine and meal part. Mediterranean and Middle Eastern inspired chefs have been using yogurt as a key ingredient for generations. In fact, ethnic dips, such as baba ganoush and tzatziki, ranked among the top-five trendiest appetizers in the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2014 Culinary Forecast. The importance of yogurt is evident in so many cuisines as chefs from all backgrounds are using it in marinades, dips, spreads, dressings, sauces, fillings, relishes and desserts.

Restaurant operators are also using yogurt to enhance the flavor profiles of desserts. Since the tartness and acidity of Greek yogurt can add another dimension to traditional desserts, chefs are getting creative and developing new versions of the classics like Greek yogurt cheesecake, sorbet and panna cotta.

In addition to breakfast smoothies, beverages like lassis and milkshakes are getting a modern update with Greek yogurt to provide additional nutrients and to elevate the creamy, rich texture.

Since Greek yogurt has been strained to remove the whey, it has a creamy, thick texture and rich flavor.  Less whey also means these strained Greek yogurts have less lactose2 and more protein3 than regular lowfat yogurt.

According to the Hudson Institute, a nonpartisan policy research organization, restaurant chains that are growing their better-for-you/ lower-calorie menu options have exhibited greater same-store sales, traffic and total servings gains4. However, offering healthy menu options is not just about cutting fat and calories; chefs should also be adding nutrient-rich ingredients that contribute to their guests’ balanced diets and healthier lifestyles. By using Greek yogurt in menu applications, foodservice operators are able to combine the need for better-for-you options with the taste of “indulgence.” While many restaurants that offered lighter dishes used to tuck them away in a corner of the menu like an afterthought, today they are putting the smarter choices front and center. For example, several leading restaurants have increased their lower-calorie options to satisfy the growing demand.

Whether looking to elevate dressings and sandwich spreads, add a creamy touch to soups and sauces, or create inventive new dishes, Greek yogurt has become a back-of-house essential. Yogurt has gone beyond breakfast, as chefs everywhere are turning to yogurt as a key ingredient to enhance flavor, boost nutrition and add a creamy, decadent feel.

  1. Based on USDA database, Dec. 2011
  2. Contains 33% less lactose than Dannon regular nonfat yogurt: Dannon® Oikos® Plain Greek Nonfat Yogurt: 6g lactose; Dannon® Plain Nonfat Yogurt: 9g lactose per 5.3 oz.
  3. Contains 14% more of the DV of protein (7g) than regular lowfat yogurt. Dannon® Oikos® Greek Nonfat yogurt: 12g [24% DV] protein. Regular Lowfat Yogurt: 5g [10%DV] protein per 5.3 oz.
  4. “Better-For-You Foods: An Opportunity to Improve Public Health and Increase Food Industry Profits,” Hudson Institute