What’s the difference between regular and Greek yogurt?

Dear Friends,

I hope you know that I’m writing this blog for you and your families as much as I am writing it for me and my family! Many of the topics that come up here are ones that come up in my life, whether it’s a question that I have or one that a friend has asked. (By the way, that’s often the way I come up with an idea for a new post, so keep your questions coming!)

Earlier this week my husband asked me what the difference is between Greek and regular yogurt. I’ve had both (in fact, there’s some Greek yogurt in my refrigerator right now), but the best answer I could come up with is that Greek yogurt has more protein and a thicker consistency than regular yogurt. But then I was stuck.

Yoplait greek yogurt

Why these differences? Is it the kind of milk that’s used? The bacterial cultures? Something in the recipe or the processing? Are there other differences?

So I did some digging.

It turns out that both Greek and regular yogurts start out with the same ingredients – milk and bacterial cultures. In fact, both types of yogurt even use the same bacterial cultures (Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, if you were wondering).

The bacteria ferment the lactose (milk sugar) in the milk and produce lactic acid. Different strains of bacteria have slightly different fermentation processes, and have slightly different fermentation products, but the end result is primarily lactic acid. So some strains of bacteria might produce a fermented yogurt that is more acidic, or more bitter, or more sour.

(PS, think of a strain of bacteria like a breed of dog. The bacteria is still Streptococcus thermophilus, just like all dogs are Canis familiaris, but some dogs are golden retreivers and some are Chihuahuas. Bacteria have similar breeds, or strains.)

After fermentation, the liquid whey is strained off the solid yogurt. Regular yogurt is strained twice, so there is still some liquid left in the end product. Greek yogurt is strained three times, so most of the liquid is removed. This is what gives Greek yogurt its’ thicker consistency and stronger flavors compared to regular yogurt.

Because Greek yogurt is more “concentrated,” it has more protein than regular yogurt. The protein is left behind in the solid yogurt during the straining process. The whey contains most of the sodium, carbohydrates, and calcium, so Greek yogurts are lower in these nutrients than their regular counterparts.

In fact, so much volume is lost during the extra straining step that it typically takes 4 cups of raw milk to get 1 cup of Greek yogurt, while it only takes 1 cup of raw milk to get 1 cup of regular yogurt.

Here is a comparison of the nutritional value of Dannon strawberry yogurts.

Nutritional Information Dannon Fruit-on-the-Bottom Dannon Oikos (Greek)
Size 170 g 150 g
Calories 150 160
Total fat 1.5 g 4.5 g
Cholesterol 5 mg 15 mg
Sodium 110 mg 55 mg
Potassium 290 mg 170 mg
Total Carbohydrates 28 g 18 g
Dietary Fiber < 1 g 0 g
Sugars 26 g 17 g
Protein 6 g 11 g
Calcium 25% DV 15% DV

Here’s a refresher on how to read a nutrition label.

(It’s pretty difficult to find the same flavors, in “regular” or “fat-free” from the same brand!)

While I love that Greek yogurt is higher in protein than regular yogurt, I’m not crazy about the flavor of plain Greek yogurt. It’s too sour for my tastes. (I’m not really crazy about plain regular yogurt, either.) I think the flavored varieties, on the other hand, are pretty awesome.

Have you tried Greek yogurt before? Will you try it now? Let me know how you like it!

Marybeth

Large animal veterinarian, cattle farmer, pet owner, grocery buyer.
  • farmnwife

    Thank you for the info. I don’t eat much yogurt because of the sugar but if I do it is greek yogurt.

    • AgriCultured

      Yogurt does have a lot of sugar, especially the flavored ones. How does the plain flavor stack up in sugar for you?

  • Kerry

    The only time I tried Greek yogurt (plain) was when I needed some plain yogurt for a recipe and the store didn’t have any standard plain yogurt. I’ve encountered the issue frequently since the popularity of Greek seems to have skyrocketed and I generally have to hunt around to different stores if I want non-Greek plain yogurt. The recipe turned out sweeter and with a different consistency with Greek yogurt than when using the standard yogurt. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I was used to nor what I was expecting. I can’t say I don’t like it as a product, but I do tend to be annoyed by it as it’s been displacing ingredients to which I’ve become habituated.

    • AgriCultured

      It seems like the yogurt section in our grocery store has expanded like crazy recently! We only used to be able to get regular yogurt, and now most of brands have a Greek option as well. I have heard that Greek yogurt is great to cook with, but I haven’t tried it yet. I’m glad to hear your experiences… maybe recipes need a little bit of tweaking when substituting Greek yogurt for regular yogurt or other ingredients.

  • Carla Schenk

    Thanks, I had wondered about the differences! I’ve never tried Greek.

    • AgriCultured

      Carla, give it a try! I think you’ll like it.

  • Dani Vello

    I love greek yogurt, I never really liked regular yogurt! I also really need the protein. I usually buy plan and add a little something to it. I’ve added honey and cinnamon, or just plain cinnamon. I’ve added maple syrup. I’ve added fruit and I have added jam. :) And now I know the difference between regular and greek! Thanks. :)

    • AgriCultured

      I love the higher protein content in Greek yogurt! I have tried getting plain and “doctoring” it at home, but it just seems like too much work some days! I know this is making me sound really lazy, but it’s just so much easier to only have to pop open the top of a single-serving container. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/julia.bohn3 Julia Bohn

    One of my favorite snacks is a cup of the Greek & a cup of raspberries with a stevia packet. I also use the Greek as a sour cream substitute. Fage has the best consistency.

    • Marybeth

      That sounds great! I’ve not tried Stevia yet, but have heard some good things about it. I’ll have to check it out.

  • [email protected]

    my greek yogurt- and all the greek yogurt I have EVER seen has no fat in it. just wanted to point that out since in the chart above it says it has 4.5g of fat (vs 1.5 in regualr yogurt) which is simply not the case from my experience.

  • kim

    I just tried greek yogurt for the first time and the first bite was bitter (i got blueberry flavored, but i took some yogurt off the top). I still cannot decide if I will like it. or if i will buy it. greek yogurt seems to be more expensive. idk yet