Posted by Stephanie Simpson on
Navigating the yogurt aisle can feel like a losing battle, one that forces you to call into question your very identity as an individual (or, given the predominance of pastel packaging, your identity as a woman).
Should I be the healthy type, choosing the yogurt that boasts bucketloads of that latest superfood? Or should I be the romantic, and pick up a container of seductively satin strawberrilicious swirl? Which would go better in that cake I wanted to bake? And should I really be getting a lifetime’s supply of fibre from a rainbow-hued dairy product?
Fortunately, we — men and women alike — need not choose because there’s a yogurt that does it all, without imposing on us artificial body-lotion flavours, omega-probiotic-flax-nugget fads, or identity crises.
Unsweetened, unflavoured, unadulterated, plain yogurt. Simple? Yes. Boring? Anything but.
When it comes to yogurt, here are five easy reasons why you should keep it simple and pick plain!
Though undoubtedly well-meaning when it was first commercialized in the 20th century, flavoured yogurts can now contain ingredient lists so complex one may need more than a dictionary to decipher their meaning. In addition to the heavy dose of sweeteners, these yogurts can contain thickeners, artificial and natural flavourings (and natural may not mean what you think it does), food dyes, and the latest fad ingredients, healthy or not. Exceptions abound, of course, but overall: not awesome.
Plain yogurt, on the other hand, is a more humble thing: the combination of wholesome dairy and body-friendly bacteria that, together, make for a treat that’s low in lactose and high in protein, vitamins and minerals. Fad-free, plain yogurt has been consumed over the millennia as the food of gods, the mortal’s elixir, the hippie’s dream.
Imposters do exist, though, so check your ingredients list — the most basic yogurt contains just real milk or cream and a few bacteria (these guys are standards) — and you’ll be doing just fine. Better yet, get googling and learn how to make your own!
And this time, the options revolve around a simple question: Do you want to skip the saturated fat or indulge in as much as your body can take? Offered in many more “percent-fat” options than flavoured versions, plain yogurt caters to the whole spectrum, meaning you can have precisely the level of richness you’re looking for (just yesterday, I saw plain offered in percents of 0, 1, 2, 3, 3.9, 6 and beyond!). Just make sure to check the ingredient list before buying, since some super-low-fat varieties are pumped up with not-so-tasty thickening agents like gelatin.
When you pick plain yogurt, you’ve automatically expanded your culinary options a billion-fold (or thereabouts). Because plain yogurt isn’t just a treat, it’s an ingredient to be added to all kinds of dishes. Go plain and you can, with the same container of yogurt:
- Roll out savoury flatbreads
- Top off tasty granola
- Churn out homemade frozen yogurt
- Cool down a spicy curry
- Round out a breakfast of tasty pancakes
And that’s just a start! Yogurt makes a great base for baking and cooking, and typically substitutes well whenever you’re short on buttermilk or sour cream. No big deal, plain yogurt, no big deal.
In my part of the world, plain yogurt can be found in larger-than-standard sizes that are offered at cheaper per-unit prices than the flavoured varieties. Of course, the savings won’t be worth it if you’re not going to use it all up, but once you see all of the opportunities you have to incorporate plain yogurt into your cooking and baking, you’ll go through it no problem.
If organic’s not your go-to for dairy, it’s worth detouring in your grocery store to check out their selection of organic yogurt. Where I shop, larger containers are always a great deal, both for me and the happy cows supplying the store!
If flavoured yogurt is your thing, plain yogurt is the place to start. A blank canvas of tasty, plain yogurt gives you room to experiment with your flavours while maintaining creative control over what makes it into your bowl. Adding more expensive ingredients will, of course, make the cost of your yogurt go up, but then there’s something to be said for having fruity yogurt over fruit-flavoured yogurt, right? Seasonal or frozen fruits should (in theory, at least) provide the tastiest and least expensive options.
To help get you started flavouring your own yogurt, I’m passing along two simple recipes that make for awesome, fruit-filled results. Stir a few big spoonfuls of either one into your yogurt and life will be good. For more ways to make your morning yogurt extra-tasty, try:
- Drizzling your yogurt with honey
- Adding a dash or two of a pure extract, like vanilla
- Stirring in a couple spoonfuls of a prepared fruit syrup or sauce that’s high on fruit and low on other stuff
- Taking inspiration from the recipes below and bubbling or blending together your own syrup or sauce of fresh fruit, a bit of sweetener and whatever tasty additions you can think of
- Topping the whole thing off with granola, toasted nuts, or fresh fruit!
So there we have it, team: five reasons why plain yogurt is where it’s at! Grab a container, or make your own (google away, friends!), and be sure to share your greatest creations.
Now onto the recipes!
Adapted from Bon Appetit
Makes roughly 1 1/2 tasty cups
Note: I’ve chosen the sauce below because it’s super-simple. Looking for something a little snazzier? Try this delicious-sounding citrus-and-spice-infused blueberry sauce!
2 1/2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen (unthawed)
1/3 cup granulated sugar*
1/3 cup water
1/2 a fresh lemon
In a small saucepan, combine 1.5 cups of blueberries and all of the water and sugar.
Simmer over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the blueberries burst, about 10 minutes.
Sitr in the remaining 1 cup of blueberries and continue simmering until the new berries burst and the sauce coats the back of a spoon, about 8 minutes more.
Remove the sauce from heat, stir in the juice of half a lemon, and let cool.
Spoon three big spoonfuls of the cooled sauce over a 1/2 cup (or so) of plain yogurt.
*Next time, I’ll swap in a natural sugar, like honey or agave nectar, to boost the health factor of this sauce. If you want to do the same, omit the sugar and add 1-2 tbsp honey at the same time you start cooking the berries and water. As the sauce cooks, taste it and increase the quantity of sweetner as you see fit!
Adapted from Gourmet
Makes roughly 1 1/2 tasty cups
3 ripe mangoes
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp granulated sugar*
Water, as needed
Cut mangoes into little cubes, discarding the peels and pits. (Not sure how to cut a mango? Follow these handy instructions!)
In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine the mango pieces, lime juice and sugar.
Process or blend the ingredients together until smooth, scraping down the side of the bowl/blender as necessary.
Thin the sauce with water, 1 tbsp at a time, until it’s reached the consistency you’re after (I used 2 tbsp of water).
Spoon three big spoonfuls of the sauce over a 1/2 cup (or so) of plain yogurt.
*Again, I’ll swap the sugar for honey or agave next time around!