Frozen Yogurt is a type of dairy ice cream in which all or some of the milk and cream is replaced with yogurt. I go over 3 different approaches in this post. I will start with the simplest recipe and then show you some interesting and tasty variations, discussing the tradeoffs of each.
The first thing you should understand is that the frozen yogurt you make at home isn’t going to taste like what you may be used to buying at chain frozen yogurt shops, at the mall. Those guys have spent years perfecting a frozen yogurt that tastes as little like yogurt, and as much like bland soft-serve ice cream as possible. Of the processed franken-foods one can consume in a mall, commercial frozen yogurt has always seemed to me one of the strangest. Kind of a cold, white foam acting as a delivery system for fat and lots of sugar (or NutraSweet). I don’t think it is a coincidence that you are expected to load on the junk food mix-ins.
The recipes presented here will have a pronounced tang and tartness. They are going to taste like yogurt. If you don’t enjoy eating regular, non-frozen yogurt, you wont enjoy these recipes. For something that approximates mall frozen yogurt (but is IMHO, much better) use this simple vanilla ice cream recipe and replace the 3 cups of cream with 2 3/4 cups of cream and 1/4 cup yogurt. Eat it right out of your ice cream maker, once its finished freezing.
Some of these recipes include vanilla beans or extract. Vanilla complements and enhances most other flavors, however feel free to reduce or eliminate it entirely as your creative spirit directs you.
Use the highest quality, freshest yogurt you can. If possible make your own. It is easy as can be and yogurt makers can be found for peanuts on eBay, garage sales, thrift stores etc… For grocery store purchased yogurt I use and love Seven Stars brand, but I’m not sure how national the distribution for it is. Nancy’s is a good alternative.
Always use a yogurt with live cultures because whatever additional health benefit frozen yogurt can provide over ice cream, comes from these good guy bacteria. From what I have read freezing does not kill bacteria cultures in yogurt, it just makes them dormant and warming them up again when you eat them, reactivates them. Always check the For Sale By Date on a yogurt container, as freshness does effect the amount of live cultures you end up with, not to mention the taste.
Greek Frozen Yogurt
Greek Yogurt has become increasingly popular over the last year or so and has a number of advantages for home frozen yogurt making. It is essentially pre-strained yogurt that as a result has much less water and a higher fat content than regular yogurt. Both excellent attributes for a making creamy, non-icy, frozen desserts. You can substitute it in any of these recipes, and I encourage you to do so if you choose to use low or non-fat yogurt.
You can make your own Greek style or strained yogurt (and the Bauer recipe below call for you to do this) by straining some of the water out of yogurt through cheese cloth or coffee filters for 6 to 8 hours. This is really easy to do. Place a colander in bowl. Line the colander with cheese cloth or coffee filters. Pour a quart of yogurt on top, cover with cling wrap, refrigerate and come back in 6 to 8 hours. As with Greek, strained yogurt can be substituted in any recipe below.
By the way if you strain yogurt long enough (12 -24 hours) you end up with a cream cheese like consistency and hence yogurt cheese, which makes a very tasty, healthy substitute for butter or cheese, especially when made with low or non-fat yogurt. It can be used plain or flavored with herbs, nuts , nut oils etc.. If you try nothing else from this post, I urge to try this, you will probably become slightly addicted to it.
I chose these 3 recipes because they all produce excellent but very different results. Unfortunately all of them freeze hard after more than a few hours in the freezer.
So from simplest to most elaborate…
David Lebovitz’s Frozen Yogurt Base
As pure and simple as can be.
Makes 1 pint or 4 servings.
- 1 1/2 cups (360 g) of plain whole milk yogurt
- 1/2 cup (200 g) of sugar
- Mix together until sugar is completed dissolved and refrigerate for an hour.
- Freeze in your ice cream maker as per manufacturers instructions.
- Serve from your ice cream maker or with less than 4 hours of additional freezing in your freezer.
David’s original recipe is from his book The Perfect Scoop and is for a vanilla version that is the same as above, but includes 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract per pint. The original recipe is for a quart and I have simply halved the ingredient amounts.
Use Powdered Sugar
I found a simple but interesting variation on this recipe, Nancy’s Yogurt Gelato, that is almost identical but uses 1/3 cup of powdered sugar instead of the 1/2 cup table sugar above. The powdered sugar should dissolve into the yogurt completely with very little effort. I tried to find some kind of sweetness equivalency formula for powdered vs table sugar (how much powdered sugar to use for the equivalent sweetness of one teaspoon of table sugar) on the internet but could not. If anyone knows, please post it in the comments below! Another feature of powdered sugar that makes it especially interesting here, is that it can contain up to 3% corn starch. This is included to absorb moisture and thus help keep the fine sugar powder a fine powder. Corn (and tapioca) starch is commonly used in ice cream recipes (including the very good Jeni Bauer Frozen Yogurt recipe below) to absorb water and produce a creamier, less icy dessert. So using powdered sugar may actually kill two birds with one stone, ensure the sugar is well incorporated into yogurt and result in a creamier dessert.
Low Fat Frozen Yogurt
Use low fat or non-fat yogurt. Though this will cut the calories, it will result in a noticeably icier dessert. Also, though I am not an expert on this by any means, using a non-fat yogurt may result in what you eat actually being more high glycemic than either the low or full fat versions. The presence of the fat potentially slowing down your bodies processing of the dessert’s sugars. It goes without saying if you have been diagnosed as diabetic or pre-diabetic, you should not be making and eating anything on this website.
Greek or Strained Yogurt.
As I mentioned above you can you substitute Greek or strained yogurts for regular yogurt in this recipe and you will end up with a creamier, richer dessert, especially if you wish to use non-fat yogurt.
More Ways to Increase Creaminess and Scoopability
Like most homemade frozen desserts, frozen yogurt is best eaten right out of your ice cream maker or with less than 4 hours of additional freezing in your freezer. Here are some suggestions for increasing creaminess and long term softness.
- Add more fat. Use whole milk Greek yogurt and add 1/2 cup of cream.
- Replace an 1/8 cup of the table sugar with 1/8 cup of corn syrup.
One of these can be tried with any of the variations above.
- Add 1/2 tablespoon of vodka.
- Add 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Dissolve first in 2 tablespoons of milk or some of the yogurts whey before mixing in.
Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook Version
I liked this recipe for its use of unflavored gelatin to improve the resulting texture and the addition of milk to soften the yogurt taste for those who might find the Lebovitz recipe to much of a good thing. This opening quote from the recipe says it all.
Recipes for homemade frozen yogurt often result in an icy slab with a grainy texture from the sugar and an overly tangy flavor from the yogurt from the namesake ingredient.
I was very surprised how well this turned out. I used Fage low-fat Greek Yogurt and Organic Valley Grass Fed Milk and we ate it after about 3 hours in the freezer. The texture was excellent; firm and smooth and I liked the softer, but still very dominant yogurt taste. I am definitely going to be experimenting more with gelatin as an additive. We served this at a dinner party and everyone loved it. In a funny coincidence, the host brought out the latest addition of the Joy of Cooking to show me how many ice cream recipes there were in it and I discovered that the frozen yogurt recipe included, was almost identical to this one.
BTW our host threw together a simple peach coulis that complimented the yogurt beautifully. The following is enough for 4 servings.
2 firm peaches cored and sliced thinly, and a tablespoon each of sugar, butter and lemon juice. Combine over a low heat and cook until soft and starting to brown. A splash of brandy or other alcohol is a nice addition. He used some limoncello.
Ingredients for 1 pint
- 1 Cup plain low-fat yogurt
- 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
- 7/8 cup whole milk
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 3/8 cup of sugar
- Strain the yogurt in a fine mesh strainer over a measuring cup in your refrigerator, until 1/4 cup of liquid has been released. Should take about an hour.
- Sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup of milk in a small bowl until it softens, about 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile scrape out the seeds from the vanilla bean. Video how here.
- Combine with the remaining milk and sugar in a small saucepan and heat over a medium heat, stirring until mixture is steaming and sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat.
- Add the gelatin/milk to the mixture and stir until completely dissolved. Discard the vanilla bean.
- Cool the mixture to room temperature over a bowl of ice water or in a refrigerator and combine with the yogurt. Cooling before mixing ensures that the yogurt cultures are not killed by the heat.
- Pre-chill the combined mixture as needed by your ice cream maker. Read more on this here.
- Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker as per manufacturers instructions.
- Serve or harden in your freezer for 2 – 4 hours. Cling wrap pressed onto the surface of the yogurt will remove air and prevent freezer burn.
Jeni Bauer’s Frozen Yogurt Base
Furthest afield from our purist recipe, this one is really a kind of yogurt flavor version of Jeni’s basic ice cream recipe. Regular readers of my site know that I am a big fan of Ms. Bauer’s recipes for home ice cream makers. I probably use her cookbook more than any other. This recipe has the highest fat content, and the yogurt is used a co-equal flavor with everything else going on in the recipe. You end up with delicious and complex dairy/yogurt flavor. Alas the few times I have made it its final texture was not as good as her straight ice cream base and it freezes harder than her ice creams. This could well be my own fault as I used greek yogurt as opposed to strained. If eaten with 4 hours or less in your freezer you will not be disappointed.
Ingredients for 1 Pint
- 2 Cups of plain low-fat yogurt
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon corn or tapioca starch
- 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of cream cheese
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1/8 cup light corn syrup
6 to 8 Hours Ahead of Churning
- Pour the yogurt into a fine wire mesh sieve that is lined with two layers of cheese cloth, set in a bowl.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in your refrigerator for 6 to 8 hours.
- Mix about 3 tablespoons of milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl or jar until smooth, set aside.
- Whisk cream cheese in a medium size bowl until soft and smooth. Or alternatively use my blender method of combining everything. You must have a blender with a jar big enough to comfortably hold the quantity of mix your are making. In that case drop the cream cheese in the bottom of the blender.
Cook the Mix
Combine the remaining milk, cream, sugar and corn syrup in a heavy bottomed saucepan or pot. During the cooking process use a spatula to keep stirring the mixture so that it doesn’t stick and burn on the bottom of your pot especially at in the corners. If you use the same pot every time you make ice cream you will get a good feel for how much you need to do this and what temperature to set your burner at.
Bring to a rolling boil, and boil for 4 minutes.
Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the corn starch mix. You will have to re-mix it before adding it.
Return the mixture to the your burner and cook for about a minute until slightly thickened. You want to be able to run your finger long the back of your spatula and leave a trail that doesn’t immediately fill in. Remove from heat.
At this point, even though this isn’t in the original recipe, I would suggest you cool the mix to room temperature or slightly warmer so that when you combine it with the yogurt you don’t end up killing the active cultures in the yogurt. Fill a large bowl with ice water and place your saucepan in it. It will only take a few a minutes of stirring to get the temperature down.
If you used a bowl, gradually whisk the tepid or cool mix into the cream cheese until smooth. Then add the yogurt and combine well. If you are using a blender, add the mix to it, cover, and blend together with the cream cheese. Turn it off, add the yogurt, cover and blend until smooth, maybe 20 – 30 seconds.
Pre-chill as needed.
Jeni’s standard method is to pour the mixture into a Zip-Loc bag and immerse it in an ice water bath for about 30 minutes. This works quite well, but its a bit messy. You can also read my post on alternatives.
Freeze the mix in your ice cream maker as per manufacturer’s instructions.
Freeze in appropriately sized freezer containers. Press a piece of cling wrap into the top of the ice cream first to remove air bubbles.
yogurt, sugar / 1 pint
Mix Prep Time: 30 min
Freeze Time: 30 min
Total Time: 1 hour