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Nonfat Greek Yogurt
We tasted eight nationally available supermarket plain-flavor nonfat Greek yogurts, sampling them in two blind tastings, first plain and then in Greek-style tzatziki sauce.
Published Mar. 1, 2016. Appears in Cook's Illustrated May/June 2011, America's Test Kitchen TV Season 12: Beef Kebabs and Spanakopita
What You Need To Know
When we’re eating nonfat yogurt, we go for Greek; its characteristically thick, creamy texture helps fool us into thinking we’re enjoying a far richer dairy product. But choose the wrong brand and the result can be disappointingly sour, harsh, and thin. To find the very best, we sampled eight nationally available supermarket nonfat Greek yogurts. We held two blind tastings, first scooping them straight out of the cartons and then preparing them in tzatziki, a bright, tangy Greek sauce featuring shredded cucumbers, garlic, and dill.
As a group, these yogurts tasted distinctly tangier and more sour than their full-fat counterparts. This is because they lack the mild counterbalance afforded by milkfat. Our tasters awarded these samples marks that were lower overall than the scores given to whole-milk Greek yogurts in a separate blind tasting. (Our conclusion: We really prefer the full-fat versions.)
That said, some nonfat yogurts stood out as acceptably rich and creamy, even with zero fat. Our favorite turned out to be from the same brand whose whole-milk version we preferred: Fage. Fage Total 0% wowed our tasters with its “full,” “pleasant” dairy flavor and “rich and creamy” texture—“like what Greek yogurt should be.”
We had an independent laboratory measure each yogurt’s titratable acidity, a measure of its sourness, and the top-ranked nonfat yogurt had the least titratable acidity at 1.36 percent—which, notably, is close to the acidity in our favorite whole-milk yogurt. Unlike a few of the whole-milk Greek yogurts we tasted, none of the nonfat yogurts in our lineup added thickeners and stabilizers to achieve their texture (of the two that did so in our full-fat tasting, one brand does not make nonfat Greek yogurt, while the other’s nonfat Greek is not widely available and so was not included in this tasting). Nevertheless, some had much thicker, denser textures than others. Our lower-ranked yogurts were much looser than our preferred brands.
Similar to our preferences when it came to full-fat Greek yogurt, a rich, thick texture was key for nonfat Greek yogurt, and that ideal was met by Fage Total 0%. As one taster raved, “I love this yogurt. It’s impossible that this is nonfat.”
Everything We Tested
“Rich-tasting! Hard to believe it’s nonfat,” agreed our tasters, who appreciated its “superthick” texture; “milky,” “luscious” flavor; and “mild tang.” This yogurt was “not nearly as sharp as some others” when tasted plain and had a “clean finish.” In tzatziki, tasters appreciated the “good thick consistency” that “wouldn’t run out of a sandwich,” lending the sauce a “creamy” texture with a “rich, sharp finish.” One summed it up: “I’d put this on just about anything.”
“Smooth” and “wicked creamy,” with a “pillowy,” “light, aerated texture” and a moderately “tangy” taste, this yogurt did well in tzatziki sauce. Tasters appreciated its “nice balance of tang, creaminess, and texture. Not too sour, not bland.” One taster called it “One of my favorites.”
With the highest level of measured acidity and the most protein per cup in our lineup, this yogurt was “very tangy—I like that!” while retaining its “slightly sweet, creamy, very yogurty” flavor, which earned it average scores for likability. It was a little “loose” in tzatziki sauce but “thick and glossy” straight out of the carton. Some complained of a “starchy, drying finish.”
This yogurt has a unique profile created by adding buttermilk cultures to the yogurt, supposedly for a milder, less-tart taste, according to the company. Our tasters disagreed, finding it “Tang Central!” “Wow! Makes you pucker.” They also complained of a slightly too-loose texture. But most appreciated that it was “very very very creamy,” with one taster noting, “I would eat this if I had to eat nonfat.”
Recommended with reservations
“A bit too tart,” “sour,” and “tang-forward,” this yogurt was “silky in texture but a little thinner than I want,” with a “glossy” “loose meringue” appearance, “like regular plain yogurt.” One taster described it as “rich, but not as rich as I prefer. Feels like it’s missing something.” In tzatziki sauce, while it was “acceptable,” “the yogurt disappears” with its “lean texture.”
In tzatziki sauce, this organic yogurt tasted “distinctly acidic” and “a little lean, but with a buttery flavor.” It was “smooth,” with “good thickness, but a bit mouth-coating.” Tasted plain, it was “quite sour” and “very tangy,” with a slightly “chalky” aftertaste and a texture that was “thick, heavy.”
“Sharply acidic,” this yogurt is “very thick, but with no fatty, creamy unctuous taste.” “With an almost whipped consistency” and a slightly “goaty,” “barnyardy” flavor, it got a mixed reception. In tzatziki sauce, it was “bright but a little thin-tasting; the dairy flavor doesn’t linger.” As one taster put it: “No creaminess, but lots of tang.”
“Loose, with a metallic edge,” this yogurt was “fluffy, glossy, and tangy, with a chalky aftertaste” and seemed “like regular plain, not Greek.” “Watery” and “so tangy and tart,” it was “very sour” and “very drying.” As one taster put it: “Nothing great about it, nothing really wrong. Just tang-forward.” However, it performed better in tzatziki sauce, with tasters remarking on its “well-balanced,” “nice tang” and “smooth and light” texture.
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