In the United States, the most popular yogurt tends to be flavors like strawberry or vanilla. Then there are the more inventive flavors, like brownie, key lime pie, s’mores, or strawberry cheesecake. If there’s a dessert you like, you can probably find a yogurt named after it.
Unfortunately, sweetened yogurts can be high in added sugar, often containing over 10 grams of sugar per single serving. That’s about half of your daily recommended max of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams of added sugar a day for women, or 36 grams for men.
That’s why experts recommend sticking to unsweetened, unflavored yogurt. You can flavor it at home with your favorite fruit, low-sugar cereal, or crunchy nuts and seeds. (Here are other tips to reduce your sugar intake without feeling deprived.)
But if this doesn’t sound exciting enough, you can take inspiration from how yogurt is eaten all around the world.
The Thick, Savory, Cheesy Yogurts
Many countries enjoy a yogurt that has a texture like curd cheese or cream cheese, and the flavor goes well with savory ingredients. Check out these savory cheeses:
Labneh in the Middle East is thick and often drizzled with herbs and olive oil. It tends to be used as a dip or spread, so you can find it as part of a mezze platter, or a brunch spread, along with olives, hummus, and other dips.
Ayib in Ethiopia has a slightly cottage cheese-like texture and is used to cool down the famous spicy stews (similar to how sour cream is used on chili in the U.S.).
Quark in Germany is like a soft, curd-like cheese and can be used as toppings for a number of dishes. One common preparation is to mix quark with onions and herbs to top boiled potatoes.
You may be able to find some of these yogurt variations in U.S. grocery stores, especially specialty stores, but you could also mimic them using plain, unsweetened, ultra thick, Greek-style yogurt.
The Drinkable Yogurts
Many parts of the world prefer to drink their yogurt instead of eat it from a bowl. Drinkable yogurt is either thinned out with water, or it’s more just like a cultured milk. There are too many versions of drinkable yogurt around the world to name them all, but two major examples include:
Ayran in Turkey is a frothy, slightly salty, and very popular drink that is enjoyed on hot afternoons to rehydrate and cool off. You can replicate it by combining a 50-50 mix of plain yogurt and water, along with a pinch of salt.
Kefir in Russia and Eastern Europe is probably the most famous drinkable yogurt in the United States. This beverage is slightly carbonated, and it’s made by adding kefir grains to cow or goat milk. “Kefir grains” is a bit of a misnomer: They’re not actually grains, but instead just colonies of yeast and good bacteria to ferment the drink. You can bake with kefir, cook with it, add it to smoothies, or drink it straight.
The Spoonable Yogurts
If cheesy yogurt or drinkable yogurt sounds too “out there” for you, these yogurt preparations may be more up your alley:
Viili from Finland (and Scandinavia in general) is on the thin side, but it’s slightly gelatinous, so it’s perfect for eating with a spoon. Like in the U.S., this yogurt is typically eaten from a bowl with fresh fruit and nuts.
Swiss yogurt (yes, from Switzerland) is stirred instead of strained, as Greek yogurt is. This makes it thinner and creamier than the Greek stuff. It also has a more mild flavor, less tangy than other yogurts. Yogurt in Switzerland is often eaten with muesli—a cold cereal made from rolled oats, nuts, seeds, fruit, and other grains. It's like granola, but with way less sugar and oil.
Even if you can’t get your hands on these exact products in your nearby grocery store, many of them can be replicated using plain and unsweetened yogurt. You’ll feel so cultured trying these yogurt ideas from around the world (get it?).
Want more yogurt inspo?