While I've never particularly enjoyed a giant bowl of yogurt first thing in the morning, I always have some in my fridge: yogurt is one of the most versatile ingredients a home cook can use to elevate a meal. There are so many varieties: briny sheep’s yogurt, thick and creamy strained yogurt, funky fermented kefir. All are equally delicious, but honestly, I just make sure I never run out of inexpensive, full-fat cow’s milk yogurt. It’s my indispensable staple to quickly add richness, tang, and brightness to all types of cooking, from appetizers to desserts.
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Here are some of my favorite ways to integrate yogurt into day-to-day cooking:
Make the best simple salad dressing
My personal contribution towards banishing store-bought dressing from existence: a spoonful of yogurt enriches vinaigrettes, adding texture and tang to any salad.
I frequently turn to a dressing of lemon juice, salt, olive oil, white pepper, and yogurt — it elevates a simple salad of fresh greens and adds zest to heartier salads with grilled chicken, poached salmon, or nice canned tuna. Don’t worry about perfectly emulsifying the dressing, either. I love the look and taste of beads of olive oil strewn throughout citrusy seasoned yogurt.
Whip up two-ingredient appetizers
When I want to a quick snack, or to impress guests with an appetizer spread, I rely on thick salted yogurt drizzled with olive oil and a few herbs or spices. This makes for an excellent dip for crudités, or a phenomenal creamy spread for crusty bread.
Enhance soups and stews
Whether mixed in while cooking or added as a last minute garnish, yogurt adds a rich brightness to all sorts of soups, stews, and braises. A dollop, perhaps thinned out with olive oil or seasoned with finely chopped herbs and citrus zest, is the perfect counterpart to anything from a sweet root vegetable soup to a hefty meat stew.
Marinade everything in it
For a powerful marinade, I blend yogurt with whole garlic cloves, fistfuls of fresh herbs, plenty of olive oil, ground black peppercorn, and salt.
Before searing, grilling, or broiling, I’ll rub this mix inside whole fish, cover filets of chicken in it, or let cuts of lamb soak it up. The salty and herbaceous yogurt penetrates into proteins, amplifying flavor and moisture.
Make sure to set some of this marinade aside to serve later as an intense condiment to the finished dish or any side vegetables. The following morning, finish it off atop fried eggs and crispy potatoes.
Put it on cake
Whatever you regularly bake, try subbing yogurt in for other liquids or dairy. Cakes, muffins, and even chocolate chip cookies benefit from this twist. To compensate for different moisture levels, some experimentation may be needed, but I find that yogurt adds tang and cuts through the richness of many sweet dishes.
To top off any scones, cakes, or cookies, make an incredibly simple icing using strained yogurt, confectioner’s sugar, and lemon juice.
And if you just don’t like baking or are pressed for time, sweeten strained yogurt with honey and serve it alongside seasonal fruit or berries. This is a reliably simple and elegant dessert (or breakfast). Take it up a notch by folding in lemon zest, a drop of vanilla extract, crushed fennel seeds, or toasted sesame oil.