Strained yogurt, also known as Greek yogurt or thick yogurt, is incredibly easy to make and doesn’t require a ton of labor. It makes a lusciously thick yogurt that is creamy and delicious. You can use it as-is, or incorporate it into dishes, and even use it as a substitute for cream on top of desserts.
You can use homemade yogurt or store-bought yogurt to make a thick strained yogurt like this. You will be proud of yourself after straining yogurt and you will be amazed at how delicious it tastes. It is so good that you will want to use it in any way you can. And it is super easy to make!
We love our homemade Greek yogurt with a drizzle of olive oil and some chili flakes on it. One of the best mezzes! You can spread it on a slice of bread and enjoy. Everything you make with strained yogurt goes up to the next level. One of our all time favorite meze is made with strained yogurt and feta cheese called Turkish haydari.
And you can use it in all the recipes with yogurt including ayran drink. You end up with a unique taste that is addictive!
So strained yogurt in Turkish cuisine is known as the advanced or concentrated form of regular yoghurt. It is more special and the dishes taste even better when they are made with it. Turkish eggs would be a great example for these dishes.
What is strained yogurt?
Strained yogurt or Turkish süzme yoğurt is the yogurt that you have after removing its whey. So we will be explaining how to strain yogurt here, rather than giving a yogurt recipe from scratch.
Strained or drained yogurt is also known as Greek yogurt around the world. So Greek yogurt has exactly the same meaning with these words. Okay but how is Greek yogurt or strained yogurt different from regular yogurt?
The main difference is the structure. While regular yogurt is thinner (because of the whey inside it) and pourable as you see in the picture above, strained yogurt is very thick and concentrated, so it is spreadable.
This thick yogurt can even be called yogurt cheese due to its solid and spreadable structure. But it has nothing to do with cheese, it is still yogurt with a more concentrated flavor.
The second difference is the taste. The liquid called whey is removed from yogurt as it drips in a bowl, so this thick yogurt has a denser and richer taste. We sometimes mix the yogurt with a little salt after it is strained and then keep it in the refrigerator. It gets more on the savory side with the addition of salt.
There is also “Greek style yogurt” at UK and US markets. We must honestly say that they are waaay thinner than the original one. You can buy one and use it to make your own thick Greek yogurt at home.
Strained yogurt is a staple in Turkish cuisine and it is considered to be a tradition in many households. Many homes even have special yogurt straining bags, yogurt kesesi, made from a similar material to cheesecloth (picture above).
Yogurt is poured in this bag (kese) and it is hung somewhere high. A bowl is placed below it so that the whey drips into it. They don't even put it in the fridge. The yogurt comes out is really thick and tastes a bit sour, in a pleasant way.
Why do we strain it?
- It is a great solution to thicken watery homemade yogurt. It also works when the yogurt you buy from the store is too runny.
- Homemade strained yogurt is much better compared to store-bought yogurt that is not as thick as it should be. Also, some Greek yogurt brands might contain thickeners like gelatin or pectin. So it is better to make it at home.
- The taste is amazing! After the whey is removed, the taste of yogurt gets denser and richer.
About the Ingredients
Plain yogurt: It is the main ingredient that you need for this DIY Greek yogurt. You can use whole, low fat, or no-fat yogurt. It has to be regular plain yogurt. Here in the UK, we use Greek style yogurt we buy from Aldi.
“Plain yogurt” has one meaning. It is any yogurt that doesn’t contain any sweeteners, extracts, or fruit pieces – any type of flavoring ingredient really.
A pinch of salt: can be added and mainly functions as a flavoring ingredient. This is optional and you can skip it especially if you are planning to use your thick yogurt in smoothies or breakfast fruit parfait.
Besides yogurt and salt (if you want to use), you need some equipment. And, there is really no need to buy a Greek yogurt strainer. You need the following: A fine mesh strainer or a colander, a bowl larger than these and a muslin. You don't have a muslin, don't worry. You can also use a cheesecloth, nut bag, thick paper towels or even paper coffee filter!
How To Make It
This is the best tutorial on how to make Greek yogurt at home! Let’s learn how to make it now.
- Prepare the equipment: Place the strainer over a large bowl and make sure that the bottom of the strainer doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Place the muslin, cheesecloth or nut bag into the strainer. We used a baby muslin here because that was what we had on hand.
- Pour the yogurt on the muslin. Sprinkle salt over it if you are not going to use it for desserts or smoothies.
- Fold the overhanging sides to the center or make a loose bundle. Optionally, you can add a weight (like a mortar) on the bundle or bag – this will speed the process just a bit.
- Allow the yogurt to drip: Place the bowl and the yogurt folded in muslin in the strainer together into the fridge. The whey (excess liquid) will separate from the yogurt slowly.
When making Greek yogurt (creamy thick yogurt), you will need to let the yogurt sit for roughly 8-10 hours. You see how it looks after 8 hours in the pictures above.
And, if you want to make labneh or yogurt cheese(super thick yogurt), allow it to sit for 24-48 hours. This might change depending on the yogurt you use. So check it after 8 hours and decide whether to continue or not.
It is thick enough for us and all the whey is removed after 8 hours. But check yours and if it still has some whey when you mix with a spoon, let it sit there for another 2 hours.
- Store your drained yogurt: Place the yogurt inside a clean (and preferably sterilized) glass jar. You can keep it inside the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks! Use it to make a delicious artichoke dipping sauce or yogurt coleslaw recipe.
- Do not squeeze the bags to speed up the process. If you don’t yet know how to use a cheesecloth to strain yogurt (or other types of yogurt straining bags), the key is patience. The whey will slowly separate.
- You don't have to tie the ends or weigh it down. This will help the process, but won't save you a ton of time.
- If you don't have a muslin or cheesecloth, you can use a few pieces of thick paper towel. Choose the thickest type of paper towel you can find to ensure it doesn’t fall apart from being soaked in liquid for hours. We would recommend maybe using two layers if your paper towel isn’t as thick.
- Also, you can use a basket-style coffee filter – it will fit better into the strainer. You only need one layer, but you may need multiple filters depending on the size of your batch. Cover the top of yogurt either with plastic wrap or paper towel before putting it in the fridge.
- Strain the yogurt overnight (or 7-8 hours) if you are planning on using it in smoothies.
- The longer you strain yogurt, the thicker it will get. This way you can easily control the consistency by checking it every few hours.
- Don’t use any salt if you are planning to use it on desserts or in smoothies.
- If you want to use store-bought regular yogurt, read its label and make sure whether it contains any Greek yogurt thickeners. Even regular yogurt might use modified starch as a thickening agent. These thickeners will make it hard to get the desired result. So try to find the yogurt without thickeners.
- You can use the whey removed from yogurt in baking as a substitute for milk, yogurt or water, especially for breads like no yeast bread loaf and yeast dinner rolls.
When using yogurt in cooking, Greek yogurt works easier than regular yogurt. This is because the heat will easily turn regular yogurt into curdled yogurt.
This thick yogurt can be used in many traditional Turkish dishes. The most popular ones are: manti, iskender kebab, cacik, or tzatziki and yogurt soup. Basically, it can be used in almost all the dishes where you use regular yogurt. You might just need to mix it with a little water before using it in some dishes though.
You can also substitute sour cream and cream cheese for thick strained yogurt. And, it can substitute the mayonnaise in recipes like no mayo deviled eggs, pasta salad without mayo, and even a simple low fat coleslaw with yogurt.
Labneh vs. Greek Yogurt
We hear the same question over and over: Is labneh the same as Greek yogurt? Well, there aren’t many differences between labneh and Greek yogurt.
Basically, labneh has a much thicker texture compared to that of Greek yogurt because it has been strained for much longer (meaning more whey has been removed).
Labneh is also called yogurt cheese and is essentially a super thick yogurt. It is often shaped in mini balls and stored in a jar with olive oil.
We should also note that there is a type of cheese called "labne" in Turkey and it is not the same as this one. It is often used as a substitute for mascarpone.
Frequently Asked Questions
8-10 hours would be enough to make thick Greek yogurt. If you want a much thicker yogurt known as labneh, you need 24-48 hours. These are average numbers and this might change depending on how much whey a yogurt contains.
The liquid in Greek yogurt that separates is called whey. Use it when making breads. Whey helps make them softer. You can also use it as a fertilizer for the soil so that your plants grow better.
No, it doesn’t. The protein content of Greek yogurt is actually twice as much compared to regular yogurt.
You can definitely freeze whey for up to six months! Simply place it in an airtight container and freeze.
As always: If you make this recipe, let us know what you think by rating it and leaving a comment below. And post a pic on Instagram too—tag @give_recipe so we can see!
Strained Yogurt (Thick Yogurt)
It's very easy to make your strained yogurt at home using a simple strainer, a bowl and a muslin.
- Prep Time: 8 hours
- Total Time: 8 hours
- Yield: 1
- Category: Side Dish
- Method: Straining
- Cuisine: Turkish
4 cups plain yogurt (whole, low fat or no fat)
¼ teaspoon salt, optional
- A large bowl
- A strainer or a colander
- A nut bag or cheesecloth or muslin
- Put the strainer over a large bowl. The bottom of the strainer shouldn’t be touching the bottom of the bowl.
Place the nut bag in the strainer. Pour yogurt into it. (Alternatively, line the strainer with two layers of cheesecloth or muslin, pour yogurt over them and bring the sides of the layers together and make a bundle.)
Place a weight like a mortar on the bag or bundle. This will help the straining process.
Put them together in the refrigerator and let them sit there overnight. Yogurt will drip its excessive liquid into the bowl. To make a creamy strained yogurt, also known as Greek yogurt, let it sit in the refrigerator. for 8-10 hours. To make super thick yogurt, also known as labneh or yogurt cheese, let it sit for 24-48 hours.
Store it in a jar or another container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.
- Don’t try to squeeze the bag or bundle in which you put the yogurt. It has to drip the excessive liquid, so it needs time.
The bag or bundle doesn’t have to be tied.
If you don't have a muslin or cheesecloth, you can use a few pieces of thick paper towel. Choose the thickest type of paper towel you can find to ensure it doesn’t fall apart from being soaked in liquid for hours. We would recommend maybe using two layers if your paper towel isn’t as thick.
Also, you can use a basket-style coffee filter – it will fit better into the strainer. You only need one layer, but you may need multiple filters depending on the size of your batch. Cover the top of yogurt either with plastic wrap or paper towel before putting it in the fridge.
Strain it overnight if you are planning to use it in smoothies.
The longer you strain, the thicker it gets. So you can check and stop straining when you are happy with the thickness.
If you are planning to use store-bought yogurt, read its label and make sure it doesn’t have modified corn starch as a thickener. It is hard to strain it because the liquid won’t separate.
You get about 1 cup of thick yogurt from 4 cups of regular yogurt but this might change depending on the brand and how runny the regular yogurt you are using is.
- Serving Size:
- Calories: 598
- Sugar: 45.7 g
- Sodium: 1032.2 mg
- Fat: 31.9 g
- Carbohydrates: 45.7 g
- Protein: 34 g
- Cholesterol: 127.4 mg
Keywords: homemade greek yogurt, strained yogurt