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Explore Yogurt's Savory Side With These Recipes

Here & Now resident chef Kathy Gunst enjoys yogurt as a breakfast dish with granola and fruit. She also likes it as a dessert, perhaps drizzled with maple syrup, coconut and more fruit. But as she tells host Robin Young, yogurt also has endless savory possibilities.

She brings us a recipe for Greek Yogurt with Lemon Vinaigrette, as well as her recipes for labneh (strained yogurt), Zucchini-Yogurt-Mint Fritters with a Yogurt-Cucumber-Mint Sauce and Roasted Carrots with Ras el Hanout and a Yogurt-Tahini-Lemon Dressing. She also shares some additional yogurt ideas.

Greek Yogurt with Lemon Vinaigrette

Excerpted from Yogurt Culture, © 2015 by Cheryl Sternman Rule. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

Cheryl’s Note: A bold pool of lemon vinaigrette adds a sunny hue to a bowl of yogurt, creating a dip with two colors, two textures, and two flavors. I ate a version of it in the morning at a small Israeli inn called Pausa.

Makes 2 1/4 cups dip


2 cups plain Greek yogurt, preferably whole-milk

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 tablespoon pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry skillet

1/4 teaspoon za’atar, or a few leaves fresh parsley, chopped*

Warm whole-wheat pita triangles, for serving


MAKE. In a large bowl, beat the yogurt until light and smooth. Scrape it into a shallow, wide serving bowl and smooth with the back of a spoon to create a wide indentation. In a small bowl or liquid measur¬ing cup, whisk the oil and lemon juice until emulsified; season well with salt and pepper. Pour the vinaigrette over the yogurt so it floods the indentation. Sprinkle with the pine nuts and za’atar or parsley. Taste, adding a bit more salt, if desired. Serve with warm pita.

*Za’atar is a type of wild thyme often mixed with sumac (a brick-red, sour spice), salt, and sesame seeds. Look for it in Middle Eastern markets.


Kathy’s Note: When you drain plain whole milk yogurt over a layer of cheesecloth in your refrigerator for 24 hours or more the result is thickened yogurt, much like Greek yogurt. The whey, the thin liquid that drains out of the yogurt and into the bottom of the bowl, can be used for baking, added to salad dressings and more. This labneh is delicious on its own or used in any of the yogurt recipes here.

Makes about 2 cups.


2 cups plain whole milk yogurt without preservatives


Line a double layer of cheesecloth into a fine meshed strained and set over a large bowl. Add the yogurt, cover and place in the refrigerator; let the yogurt drain for about 24 to 40 hours. Carefully remove the labneh from the cheesecloth and season to taste.

Yogurt-Cucumber-Mint Sauce

Kathy’s Note: This simple sauce is reminiscent of the Indian sauce, raita. It’s a very cooling sauce, particularly when served with spicy foods. Serve with grilled seafood, chicken, or beef or with the Zucchini-Yogurt Fritters. You can also serve the sauce as a dip with raw vegetables— such as fennel, carrots, celery, radishes, etc.

Makes about 1 cup.


1 cup plain whole milk yogurt or labneh, see above

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1 medium cucumber, shredded, about 1 cup*

1/4 cup finely chopped scallions

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Dash hot pepper sauce

*If you have time, place the grated cucumbers in a small meshed strainer set over a bowl and let the juices drip out for about an hour.


Mix the yogurt with the mint, cucumber, scallions, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Taste for seasoning. Chill until ready to serve. Don’t make more than an hour or so before serving.

Zucchini-Yogurt-Mint Fritters

Kathy’s Note: You can make the batter several hours ahead of time; cover and refrigerate until ready to cook. Serve with lemon wedges and the Yogurt-Cucumber-Mint Sauce or the Yogurt-Tahini Sauce.

Makes about 14 two-inch fritters.


2 medium-large zucchini, about 20 ounces, grated

1 large egg, whisked

3 scallions, finely chopped

2 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1/3 cup plain whole milk yogurt, Greek yogurt, or labneh (see above)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

About 1 to 1 1/2 cups flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Safflower or canola oil for cooking

Lemon wedges for serving

Yogurt-Tahini Sauce, Yogurt-Cucumber-Mint Sauce or Labneh, for serving (recipes above)

In a large bowl mix the zucchini, egg, scallions, parsley, mint, yogurt, and baking powder. Add 1 cup of the flour and stir to create a batter. If the zucchini was watery and the batter looks thin add an additional few tablespoon of flour. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat a large heavy skillet (cast iron is ideal) over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to thoroughly coat the skillet. Add a large heaping tablespoon of batter to the pan to create a 2-inch fritter. Repeat being careful not to crowd the skillet. Cook each fritter about 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked through. Test one to make sure it’s cooked all the way through. Serve hot with lemon wedges and the sauce of your choice.

Roasted Carrots with Ras el Hanout and Honey with a Yogurt-Tahini-Lemon Dressing

Kathy’s Note: Look for fresh carrots at farmer’s markets, and try to find different varieties. The Yogurt-Tahini Sauce can be made several hour ahead of time; cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperate before serving.

Serves 4


1 pound carrots (orange, red and/or yellow varieties), peeled and ends trimmed

1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon Ras el Hanout (a North African spice blend) or za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice blend) or ground cumin

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

About 2 tablespoons honey

The Yogurt-Tahini Sauce

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt or labneh (see above)

2 1/2 tablespoons tahini

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut carrots down the middle lengthwise so you have long strips. If the carrots are small, trim and leave whole. Place the carrots in a shallow roasting pan or on a large cookie sheet with sides and toss with the oil and ras el hanout (or za’atar or cumin), salt and pepper. Roast on the middle shelf for 15 minutes. Raise heat to 400 degrees. Drizzle on the honey and roast another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the carrots are just tender (not limp) and glazed. Serve with the sauce hot or at room temperature.

Make sauce: in a small bowl, place the chopped garlic in a small bowl, sprinkle on salt and crush using the back of a spoon to make a paste. Add the pepper, yogurt, tahini, lemon juice and zest, mint and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Additional Yogurt Ideas from Kathy Gunst

  • Spread Greek yogurt or labneh on salmon, shrimp, or chicken and roast or grill for a yogurt crust. You can make an herbed yogurt crust by mixing plain yogurt with ground cumin, pepper, a touch of cayenne and sea salt.
  • Make a yogurt parfait: layer plain or vanilla yogurt with granola, berries or sliced fruit and repeat
  • Use yogurt as a topping for waffles or pancakes instead of butter
  • Use yogurt or yogurt mixed with fresh herbs as a quick, healthy dip for raw vegetables or cooked shrimp Add yogurt to vinaigrettes and salad dressings for a creamy texture and flavor
  • Add yogurt to smoothies – add yogurt, fresh fruit, and a touch of fruit juice and blend.
  • Use yogurt as a topping for cold or hot soups.
  • Use yogurt in marinades – it will tenderize meat and poultry and add a good, tangy flavor.
  • Substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream in baking, and dips.
  • Serve Greek yogurt with roasted beets cut into thick slices and top with toasted pistachios or walnuts.
  • Sauté greens – chard, kale, spinach or a combination of all three— and top with Greek yogurt or labneh sprinkled with the spice mixture za’atar.


Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Cheryl Sternman Rule's Greek Yogurt with Lemon Vinaigrette. (Copyright © 2015 by Ellen Silverman Photography, Inc.)
Cheryl Sternman Rule's Greek Yogurt with Lemon Vinaigrette. (Copyright © 2015 by Ellen Silverman Photography, Inc.)
When you drain plain whole milk yogurt over a layer of cheesecloth in your refrigerator for 24 hours or more the result is thickened yogurt, much like Greek yogurt. (Kathy Gunst)
When you drain plain whole milk yogurt over a layer of cheesecloth in your refrigerator for 24 hours or more the result is thickened yogurt, much like Greek yogurt. (Kathy Gunst)
Kathy Gunst's Zucchini-Yogurt-Mint Fritters. (Kathy Gunst)
Kathy Gunst's Zucchini-Yogurt-Mint Fritters. (Kathy Gunst)

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