What’s the Difference Between Greek Yogurt and Regular Yogurt?

Greek yogurt
Photo Credit: Susan Brooks-Dammann

March 21, 2021

By Geraldine Campbell

It’s difficult to imagine a time when the dairy aisle at your grocery store didn’t have a gazillion different brands of Greek yogurt. It’s everywhere and in everything. But what is it exactly? And what’s the difference between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt? Let’s take a look.

What’s the Difference Between Greek Yogurt and Regular Yogurt?

To understand the difference, it’s helpful to understand how yogurt is made. It’s a relatively simple process with four basic steps. (If you want you can make your own yogurt at home!)

  1. Scald the milk. This denatures the proteins so you don’t get curds.
  2. Cool the milk. The temperature has to be low enough not to kill the good bacteria.
  3. Add active cultures. The two most common strains of bacteria used are: Lactobacillus bulgaricus (L. bulgaricus) and Streptococcus thermophilus (S. thermophilus)
  4. Ferment the mixture.  The live cultures ferment the milk sugars into lactic acid, giving yogurt its distinctive texture and flavor.

The process is the same for regular yogurt and Greek yogurt, but Greek yogurt adds an additional step to strain out the whey. This makes for a thicker and creamer yogurt that’s also higher in protein. In fact, Greek yogurt usually contains 2-3 times the protein of regular yogurt. It also tends to have fewer carbs and it contains one of the lowest amounts of lactose in all dairy products. In other words, if you can’t tolerate dairy, Greek yogurt may be worth a try.

So, Is Greek Yogurt Better for You?

It’s really a matter of personal preference. Some people love the thickness of the Greek stuff, or are looking for ways to increase their protein intake or limit their carbs. For others, it’s just too creamy.

Whichever you choose, the most important thing is to look for an option that’s low in sugar and free of additives or artificial flavors. We also recommend full-fat yogurt that’s made with whole milk. It has more nutrients than low-fat yogurt or nonfat yogurt and, typically, when manufacturers remove flavorful fat, they replace it with added sugar.

What to Know About Skyr, Kefir, and Non-Dairy Yogurt

Of course, there are other yogurt choices out there: There’s also kefir, a tangy drinkable yogurt, Icelandic skyr, and a whole slew of non-dairy yogurts.

Kefir is higher in fat than regular or Greek yogurt, and contains more types of bacteria. Skyr is even thicker than Greek yogurt, and even higher in protein, but less tangy. Some categorize skyr as a cheese, but you’ll usually find it in the yogurt section.

And then there are non-dairy yogurts. These plant-based alternatives made from coconut, almonds, cashews, oats, and more typically contain less protein than regular yogurt and they often contain a lot of added sugars. Fortunately, there are brands that are low in sugar. Here are our favorites.