Among these cultured denizens of the dairy case, it's Greek yogurt that's getting lots of attention. "There's been a lot of marketing with the Greek yogurts. And people like the thick texture of the Greek variety," says registered dietitian Sarah Krieger, an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson. "If you're using Greek yogurt in cooking, basically you can use it anywhere that sour cream is used." Subbing Greek yogurt for sour cream in many recipes cuts calories and sodium, while delivering more protein. "If you're making a cold soup that uses sour cream, I would swap it out for nonfat Greek yogurt," she says. "You're getting more nutrition with the Greek yogurt."
Its acidity also works well as a marinade for meats and poultry, and is great for baked fish or chicken. If you're using it instead of mayonnaise, you're actually using less fat and you're adding a little bit of protein and a little bit of calcium. Some chefs like to spread yogurt on whitefish, then mixes dried herbs with breadcrumbs or panko to sprinkle atop before baking.
"It makes an excellent marinade and goes well with vegetables, eggs, meat, poultry, cheese and grains," writes Der Haroutunian, whose book boasts 200-plus recipes, including a garlic sauce (yogurt mixed with a crushed garlic clove, finely chopped green onion, a bit of salt and dried mint) for serving atop fried — we like grilled — slices of zucchini or eggplant.
Greek yogurt, like regular yogurt, can be temperamental in the presence of heat. If you're using it in cooking, it will curdle if you cook it over high heat, says Krieger, who suggests using low heat or stirring Greek yogurt into sauces at the end of cooking for texture and creaminess. Because yogurt is acidic, use a nonreactive dish when marinating foods or storing yogurt. Plain Greek yogurt's thickness also works for dips, on spicy foods , baked potatoes and adds another flavor dimension to some condiments.
"Regular yogurt has more whey, that is more of the liquid where most of the lactose — also known as the carbohydrate — is found," says Krieger. "So when the whey is removed, you're left with a higher concentration of protein. That's why you'll see more protein in nonfat Greek yogurt than of the same amount of regular nonfat."
Yet another reason to give tart, thick, creamy Greek yogurt a role to play in your culinary creations.