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Experiment: What’s The BEST Greek Yogurt Substitution?

Greek yogurt is an amazingly versatile ingredient, but there are many reasons why you might need a substitution for it.

Maybe you want to make a delicious recipe ASAP but you have no Greek yogurt in the fridge.

Or, maybe you need a dairy-free alternative.

Or, maybe you just absolutely despise Greek yogurt and have vowed to never consume it ever again.

There’s a good chance that you’re just like me and you’re simply curious to find out what a good substitution would be.

I’m not here to judge! Whatever your reason for seeking out a Greek yogurt substitution is, I’ve put together an experiment to figure out exactly which ingredients make the best alternatives.

I baked 8 different batches of two-ingredient bagels (self-rising flour mixed with yogurt or a yogurt alternative) to figure out exactly which option makes the best Greek yogurt substitute for baking.

Yogurt substitution experiment

What is Greek Yogurt?

Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt

First off, I should explain what Greek yogurt actually is. To a lot of people, it’s simply yogurt with lots of protein, but it’s important we understand what it actually is.

Both Greek yogurt and regular yogurt are made with the same ingredients, but the straining process turns them into completely different products.

Whey and other liquids are strained out of Greek style yogurt, which results in a much thicker strained yogurt with a tangy flavor.

Since so much is strained out, more milk is required to make the same volume of Greek yogurt, which is why you end up with much more protein in Greek yogurt.

And, like regular yogurt, there are varying amounts of fat you’ll find in Greek yogurt. Some people opt for whole milk Greek yogurt, but for this experiment, I went with plain nonfat Greek yogurt. Since I focus on lots of low-calorie recipes around here, I often use the nonfat version.

Why Bake With Greek Yogurt?

Buffalo chicken pasta bake with greek yogurt topping

Before we explore the best Greek yogurt substitutes for recipes, I should address why we use Greek yogurt in baking.

When it comes to healthy baking, few ingredients are as versatile as Greek yogurt.

Whether you want it to be the star of a dessert like in a parfait, add creaminess to a pasta dish, or create delicious bread from scratch, there’s not much that Greek yogurt can’t do.

One of the most common uses of Greek yogurt is in creating a high-protein baked good with plenty of moisture. If you don’t want to mess with yeast or wait for the dough to rise, using Greek yogurt eliminates that need.

Sure, the results aren’t quite as light and airy as when yeast is involved, but it makes for a delicious result with added protein to boot.

I don’t really like the taste of Greek yogurt, but I use it a ton in my recipes to create a quick-rise dough. I’ve used it for protein bagels, protein pizza, protein tortillas, and even soft pretzels!

2 Ingredient Dough Baking Experiment

For this experiment, I decided that the easiest way to go about it would be to whip up a batch of 2 ingredient bagels.

2-ingredient bagels are made by mixing together equal parts of self-rising flour and Greek yogurt to create a high-protein dough, then forming that dough into bagels.

Most recipes you’ll come across utilize 1 cup of Greek yogurt and 1 cup of flavor to make measuring super easy, but the ratios can be easily adjusted.

Greek yogurt dough ball

The dough is a bit dense since there is no yeast involved, but it can be easily kneaded and shaped to create a very wide assortment of baked goods.

Greek yogurt bagels were made popular by Weight Watchers many years ago, and this trick of using Greek yogurt to create no-rise recipes has become a staple for many people. In fact, in many of my own healthy recipes on this blog, I use Greek yogurt dough (it’s actually the main technique used in my Savory Protein Powder Recipe Book).

The 2-Ingredient Bagel Recipe Used

You can adjust the ratios as needed, but for this recipe, I decided to make 2 small bagels for each batch.

  • 90g Greek yogurt (or substitution)
  • 90g Self-Rising Flour

Mix the ingredients together until dough forms, then shape into 2 small bagels.

Greek yogurt bagel dough

Lightly brush the tops of the bagels with an egg wash, then add any seasoning you’d like.

Air fry at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes, or bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Note: you won’t get great color from the oven, so I actually added the bagels to the air fryer for 1-2 minutes after baking in the oven to give them that brown color on top, but broiling would also work!

As a baseline, here is what the Greek yogurt bagels look like:

Greek yogurt bagels

The bagels have great chew and a very pleasing crumb. While they aren’t quite as delicious as authentic bagels, they are really darn close!

These bagels are on the smaller side (you can easily scale the recipe to make larger bagels) and each bagel contains 175 calories, 0g fat, 34g carbs, and 9g protein.

Let’s see how the substitutions worked out…

Regular Yogurt

A very common replacement for Greek yogurt is regular yogurt, so I decided to give Yoplait yogurt a test.

My store did not have any plain yogurt, so I did have to use vanilla in this case even though that would not have been my preferred yogurt.

The Dough

Once I mixed the two ingredients together, the resulting dough was extremely wet and sticky.

Yogurt dough

Regular yogurt is much thinner than Greek yogurt, so it’s no surprise that the dough was much looser.

In fact, if you try to form the bagels as-is, you’ll find it nearly impossible. However, by sprinkling more flour over the top of the dough, you’re able to form it.

Yoplait bagel dough

As you can see, I was able to shape the dough into bagels, but they were still extremely soft and delicate.

If you are to use regular yogurt in recipes, just be aware that it’s going to be much wetter overall, so extra flour will be required.

The Baked Result

Once baked, the yogurt bagels actually held together quite well.

Yoplait bagels

Since I used vanilla yogurt, my bagels were obviously quite sweet. But even with plain yogurt, your bagels are going to be sweeter and milder than Greek yogurt because you’ll be missing that tartness that Greek yogurt provides.

Texturally, these bagels resemble biscuits more than they do bagels. They are delicate and almost buttery, but they lack the chew that you expect from bagels.

Nutrition Comparison

Greek yogurt bagel: 175 calories, 0g fat, 34g carbs, 9g protein

Plain yogurt bagel: 170 calories, 0g fat, 35g carbs, 6g protein

Is regular yogurt a good substitute for Greek yogurt?

Regular yogurt can definitely work as a Greek yogurt substitute in an emergency, but it isn’t recommended.

Since yogurt is much thinner than Greek yogurt, you’ll want to use less of it in recipes, or compensate by adding a bit more flour to avoid a very sticky result.

Yogurt will lead to a more delicate texture than Greek yogurt, but it will work in a pinch.

Plant-Based Yogurt (Coconut Yogurt)

There are lots of different plant-based yogurt options out there (soy milk, almond milk, etc) but I opted for coconut milk yogurt. Generally speaking, they will all work pretty similarly!

The Dough

Much like the regular yogurt example above, this vegan yogurt is very thin, resulting in a sticky dough.

Coconut yogurt dough

Luckily, it’s easy to remedy this by adding extra flour over the top of the dough.

The dough is very light and delicate, but I was still able to form bagels from it:

Coconut milk bagels

Since the dough is so light, you can’t knead it the same way you would Greek yogurt dough, but you’re still able to shape bagels out of it.

The Baked Result

Whenever it comes to plant-based foods, I’m always worried that there is going to be a very “Earthy” flavor. In this case, that was not the result at all!

In fact, these bagels were delicious. There was absolutely no coconut cream flavor whatsoever.

Coconut milk yogurt bagels

The flavor of these plant-based bagels actually reminds me of authentic bagels, and they have a decent chew to them overall.

The bagel is definitely a bit breadier than a true bagel, but as a Greek yogurt substitute, it actually worked quite well.

Nutrition Comparison

Greek yogurt bagel: 175 calories, 0g fat, 34g carbs, 9g protein

Coconut yogurt bagel: 175 calories, 1.5g fat, 34g carbs, 5g protein

Is plant-based yogurt a good substitute for Greek yogurt?

Yes, plant-based yogurt works quite well as a Greek yogurt substitute!

Since dairy-free yogurt tends to be thinner than Greek yogurt, you’ll want to use slightly less of it in your recipes to avoid your dough becoming too sticky.

But, flavor-wise, it works quite well.

The obvious downside is the lack of protein, but if you’re strictly after good flavor, this is a great option.

High-Protein Plant-Based Yogurt

The downside to using dairy-free yogurt alternatives is that they have very little protein, and that takes away a lot of the appeal of making Greek yogurt dough.

Luckily for us, brands like Kite Hill make high-protein plant-based yogurt!

This yogurt that I used is an almond milk base with soy protein added, which results in a thicker consistency that’s much closer to Greek yogurt.

This same company also sells vegan Greek yogurt, which I have to imagine is a very similar product.

The Dough

This high-protein yogurt is thicker than regular plant-based yogurt, but it is still not quite as thick as regular Greek yogurt, so the resulting dough was a little bit sticky.

Vegan yogurt dough

However, this is a huge improvement over the regular coconut milk yogurt example above, as I was actually able to form this into a ball of dough.

Kneading this vegan bagel dough into ropes was quite easy, too.

Dairy free protein bagels

It was clear that these bagels would be a bit more delicate than the Greek yogurt version as the dough was not perfectly holding together once formed. But, it didn’t seem detrimental.

The Baked Result

Once baked, these vegan bagels came together pretty well.

vegan protein bagels

The bagel is more delicate than the regular version, and the plant-based protein definitely adds a unique flavor to these bagels. The flavor is not overpowering, but it’s noticeably different than the original dough.

Once sliced and used to make a breakfast sandwich, that flavor is masked pretty well.

Nutrition Comparison

Greek yogurt bagel: 175 calories, 0g fat, 34g carbs, 9g protein

Plant-based protein bagel: 185 calories, 2g fat, 33g carbs, 8g protein

Is high-protein plant-based yogurt a good substitute for Greek yogurt?

If you need a solid dairy-free alternative, it’s a great option!

While there is definitely a subtle flavor from the plant-based protein, if you’re in need of a dairy-free option that actually contains protein, this works very well.

Ricotta Cheese

For this experiment, I decided to use “part skim” ricotta cheese, which is a lower-fat version of ricotta. Since the original recipe uses nonfat plain Greek yogurt, I wanted to stay as similar to that as possible.

The Dough

Ricotta cheese contains noticeably less moisture than yogurt, so it should come as no surprise that it leads to a very dry dough.

Ricotta cheese dough

The dough is not too dry to the point where you can’t work with it, but you can feel that it is much denser than it should be.

Ricotta cheese bagel dough

You can turn this dough into bagels no problem, but how do they actually turn out?

The Baked Result

Based on looks alone, you might think that ricotta cheese works quite well as a replacement:

Ricotta cheese bagels

But, looks aren’t everything.

The ricotta cheese definitely holds these bagels together and creates a decent bagel texture, but it is far too dry.

If you add a spread to this bagel, it’s certainly edible. Without any kind of spread or topping, I find these too dry to enjoy.

Nutrition Comparison

Greek yogurt bagel: 175 calories, 0g fat, 34g carbs, 9g protein

Ricotta cheese bagel: 210 calories, 4g fat, 34g carbs, 10g protein

Is ricotta cheese a good substitute for Greek yogurt?

Ricotta cheese is not a great substitute for Greek yogurt.

In a bizarre emergency situation where you only have ricotta cheese available, you can make it work. But since ricotta contains less moisture than yogurt, your results are going to be much drier.

Sour Cream

Sour cream has a very similar flavor to Greek yogurt, and they are often used as replacements for each other as toppings. But how will it work in baking?

I decided to use light sour cream for this experiment to be as similar to nonfat Greek yogurt as possible. This is a low-fat version since my store does not carry a completely fat-free version, but any variation will have a very similar creamy texture.

The Dough

Once mixed together, the sour cream creates dough that is very similar to the Greek yogurt dough.

Sour cream dough

In fact, if I didn’t know any better, I would not be able to tell the difference.

Once broken up and formed into ropes, the dough also created bagels that very much resemble the Greek yogurt version.

Sour cream bagels

The dough is dense enough to knead, but not so dense that the dough is falling apart.

Naturally, I had very high hopes for the sour cream once these went into the oven.

The Baked Result

You can’t always judge a book by its cover, but in this case, you can tell how well the sour cream works:

Sour cream bagels

The bagels were nice and fluffy, yet still chewy enough to resemble bagels.

Sour cream definitely resulted in a slightly breadier texture than Greek yogurt, but this is definitely one of the best substitutions I’ve found! In terms of flavor, since sour cream is tart/sour, it is very similar to Greek yogurt.

Nutrition Comparison

Greek yogurt bagel: 175 calories, 0g fat, 34g carbs, 9g protein

Sour cream bagel: 210 calories, 5g fat, 35g carbs, 6g protein

Is sour cream a good substitute for Greek yogurt?

Yes! Sour cream is an excellent substitute for Greek yogurt in your recipes.

While you’ll be missing out on extra protein in your recipes, and the calories are slightly higher, the flavor and texture are incredibly similar.

Cottage Cheese

When I bought cottage cheese for this experiment, I had no idea what to expect. Having not worked with cottage cheese very often, I figured that the curds would result in a strange, lumpy dough.

Cottage cheese curds

I had no idea if I was supposed to blend this up first, but I decided to just mix it exactly as-is and see what happens.

The Dough

I was fully expecting this dough to be chunky from the cottage cheese curds, but to my surprise, it all mixed together very well.

Using just a silicone spatula, I was able to mix up the dough without any sort of blending.

Cottage cheese dough

Yes, you can see small pieces of the curds in the dough, but it’s not nearly as egregious as I feared.

This dough ended up being very similar to Greek yogurt dough, but it definitely felt a bit denser.

Cottage cheese bagel dough

Even though it was dense, I was able to form bagels without any issues.

Since I could still see some small curds within the dough, I was not sure how noticeable they would be once baked. When I popped these bagels into the oven, I was fully expecting a “cheesy” bagel to be the result.

The Baked Result

Once baked, you don’t notice any curds in these bagels at all. In fact, these ended up being the fluffiest, prettiest bagels of any substitution I tried!

Cottage cheese bagels

You don’t taste any cheese in these bagels at all; in fact, these have an incredibly mild flavor, almost like white bread.

In a blind taste test, I do think you’d still be able to notice a tiny difference due to the Greek yogurt contributing a subtle tartness, but these are surprisingly close.

The texture of these finished bagels was nearly perfect, and it’d be tough to tell the difference between these bagels and the Greek yogurt version. These end up slightly fluffier, almost muffin-like, but I very much enjoyed that.

Nutrition Comparison

Greek yogurt bagel: 175 calories, 0g fat, 34g carbs, 9g protein

Cottage cheese bagel: 180 calories, 0g fat, 34g carbs, 10g protein

Is cottage cheese a good substitute for Greek yogurt?

Cottage cheese is a fantastic substitute for Greek yogurt.

While the curds of cottage cheese may lead to some mixing difficulties, the end result will be nearly identical to what Greek yogurt produces.

Since cottage cheese is also packed with protein, this makes it the best substitute for Greek yogurt, in my opinion.

Cream Cheese

I used whipped cream cheese for this experiment to help with the mixability, but when measured by weight, you should get the same results from regular cream cheese.

The Dough

Even though the cream cheese was whipped, that did not save this dough from becoming incredibly dense.

Cream cheese dough

Once you mix it up, you can tell that it will be very difficult to form without it completely falling apart on you. Clearly, cream cheese contains much less moisture than yogurt.

Cream cheese bagels

You can tell by the photo above that it was very difficult to form this dough into bagels, and the dough did not hold together very well due to the lack of moisture.

The Baked Result

Not surprisingly, these bagels turned out very dry and crumbly.

Cream cheese bagels

I was able to slice the bagel, and it actually looks decent, but it was very crumbly. Once you bit into this cream cheese bagel, it basically just falls apart.

And while cream cheese and bagels typically go hand-in-hand, the cream cheese created a very unique flavor for these bagels. In fact, since the cream cheese was baked, it reminded me a bit of cheesecake, since that’s how my mind recognizes baked cream cheese in most cases.

Nutrition Comparison

Greek yogurt bagel: 180 calories, 0g fat, 34g carbs, 9g protein

Cream cheese bagel: 255 calories, 7g fat, 39g carbs, 9g protein

Is cream cheese a good substitute for Greek yogurt?

No, cream cheese does not work well as a substitute for Greek yogurt.

Cream cheese does not contain much moisture, so it will lead to baked goods that are far too dry when used as a 1:1 replacement.

Plus, if you’re in search of a low-calorie alternative, cream cheese will add a fair amount of extra calories to your recipes.

Conclusion: What are the best Greek yogurt substitutes?

While this experiment should give you a great starting point for picking a replacement for Greek yogurt, it’s not always going to be a direct 1:1 replacement.

Much like making protein powder substitutions, there are many variables involved when it comes to baking, so there may be other adjustments required.

That being said, if you want a great replacement for Greek yogurt, my votes for the best Greek yogurt substitutes are sour cream and cottage cheese.

Best greek yogurt substitutions

Sour cream resulted in my favorite bagel, but it also comes with less protein than Greek yogurt. If you want a solid replacement that is still high in protein, cottage cheese works very well!

If you’re looking for a plant-based option, I found that both the regular coconut milk yogurt and high-protein yogurt worked pretty well.

Coconut yogurt bagel closeup

In terms of flavor, I really enjoyed the coconut milk yogurt version, but the dough was very difficult to form. And of course, it contains no protein.

The high-protein dairy-free yogurt worked great as a replacement for Greek yogurt. While I didn’t totally love the flavor, if you need a plant-based option that still has protein, it’s a solid choice.

Of course, there are other ingredients you can potentially use that I didn’t mention in this experiment, too.

Depending on the recipe, you may want to use something like butter or heavy cream as a substitute, but those ingredients wouldn’t have worked in this experiment because the consistencies are very different.

If you have any other alternatives you love that you think I should give a try, let me know in a comment below!

Niki

Thursday 8th of December 2022

What about Skyr? :)

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