In countries that surround the Mediterranean Sea, plain yogurt is on the table at every meal, often paired with sweet and savory foods. One of the most popular ways to eat yogurt is combined with fresh dill and cucumber to make tzatziki sauce, a topping for grilled meats. Yogurt is also used to make traditional soups, drinks, and even desserts. It’s no surprise that the yogurt style of choice in this region is Greek yogurt, which is yogurt that has been strained to remove some of the liquid to create a thicker, creamier yogurt.
In India, yogurt is often eaten to temper the heat of spicy flavors and soothe the palate. It appears as a key ingredient in traditional dishes like curry; lassi, a smoothie-like beverage; kadhi, a yogurt-based stew; and raita, a condiment served at most meals made from full-fat yogurt that’s been combined with spices, herbs, fruits and/or vegetables.
People that live in the Middle East eat yogurt regularly and often combined it with savory flavors. Here they make labneh, a yogurt dish that has a rich texture similar to whipped cream cheese. Labneh serves a tasty base for herbs, spices, lemon juice, and olive oil and is typically used as a spread, topping or dip.
The French are known to use yogurt in baking, specifically a cake called the “gateau au yaourt,” which means yogurt cake. This simple cake is comparable to a coffee cake and is baked for everyday occasions, as well as special events like a child’s first birthday.
While people in other countries favor plain yogurt made with whole milk, those in the United States often prefer sweetened, fruited, and flavored yogurt products found on grocery store shelves. We may incorporate yogurt into recipes too, but yogurt is most frequently eaten straight from a single-serve cup, as part of yogurt parfait with fruit, granola, and nuts, or in smoothies. Shopping for yogurt can also be tricky as many varieties contain added sugar. Always read labels to find the brands with minimal or no added sugar and sweeten it a touch yourself with a little honey or fresh fruit.
As you can see, this beloved dairy food has a long history and with ties to many traditional dishes that shape the unique cultures where they are served.