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What is the difference between kefir and yogurt?

Although kefir and yogurt are both cultured dairy products packed with probiotics and protein, there are a few key differences that differentiate one from the other.

Yogurt is made from the bacterial fermentation of milk—there are numerous types of yogurts with varying fat content. According to the FDA, yogurt must contain “live and active” cultures, including Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles. There are as many brands and types of yogurts now as you can possibly imagine, including the thicker, unsweetened Greek yogurt that’s popular (think Fage and Chobani), not to mention Icelandic-style (Siggi’s), Australian (Noosa), and Bulgarian (Trimona). Yogurt is easy to make at home and if you’re sick of the store-bought flavors you can easily add a number of additions like jam, granola, fruit, and nuts.

kefir and kefir grains


Kefir is a tangy, fermented drink made at room temperature by the fermentation of lactose (it’s thinner and more sour than traditional yogurt). Kefir grains form the basis of all kefir drinks—they are similar to curds and can be used to create kefir in any kind of milk. You can use milk substitutes such as soy or rice milk, or any sugary liquid like coconut water and fruit juice. Kefir grains are a living yeast/bacterial fermentation and contain many strains of beneficial bacteria and yeast that can contribute to a healthy gut. You can easily buy organic kefir at the grocery store, but it’s fairly make your own homemade kefir (from grains that you can order online, or even better, grains shared by a kefir-loving friend). Kefir grains require constant care though, but you can slow down the fermentation process by keeping them in the refrigerator.

Active Organic Milk Kefir Grains, $11.99 on Amazon

Use these fresh kefir grains to make your own probiotic drink at home.
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Whether you’re trying kefir for the first time or learning how to incorporate yogurt and kefir into your daily regime, these recipes will help you add in some much-needed probiotics and deliciousness that improve and enhance every dish.

Rye Berry Salad with Herbed Kefir Dressing

Rye Berry Salad with Herbed Kefir Dressing recipe

Jennifer Davick

Kefir is a great tangy base for salad dressing, and just as good drizzled over a hearty grain salad as over greens. Get the Rye Berry Salad with Herbed Kefir Dressing recipe.

Yogurt Dipping Sauce with Lemon and Basil


This is a healthy dip that is a great match for fresh vegetables. The freshly squeezed lemon juice, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper, and basil are mixed with plain low-fat yogurt for a refreshing dip that you can easily adapt with fresh herbs and spices of your choice. Get our Yogurt Dipping Sauce with Lemon and Basil recipe.

Milk Kefir

Light Orange Bean

This is a simple, step-by-step recipe for making kefir at home. Start with hydrated milk kefir grains and use the milk of your choice (cow, goat, sheep, raw, or unpasteurized) and then, with a little patience, you’ll have some homemade kefir in as little as 24 hours. Get the Milk Kefir recipe.

Yogurt Trifle with Pomegranate, Pear, and Dates


This is a major step up from your usual breakfast parfait. The trifle features pears, Medjool dates, honey, and pomegranate seeds, layered elegantly in a small glass for the perfect presentation. Get our Yogurt Trifle with Pomegranate, Pear, and Dates recipe.

Fluffy Kefir Pancakes

Gastro Senses

The tangy kefir gives these pancakes a light fluffiness and they’re even better if you add in nuts, fresh fruit, or chocolate chips. Make a big batch and freeze them for an individual, self-serve breakfast when you’re in a hurry. Get the Fluffy Kefir Pancakes recipe.

Spicy Yogurt Chicken

The plain yogurt in this chicken marinade makes for a moist chicken kebab that tastes better the longer you leave it sitting. Lemon juice, ginger, paprika, garlic, freshly ground black pepper, cumin, and cayenne pack a powerful kick. Get our Spicy Yogurt Chicken recipe.

Coconut Kefir

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If you’re looking to explore kefir even further, try this recipe for coconut kefir made with fresh coconut. You can also substitute coconut milk (or coconut water if you have the right kefir starter). Get the Coconut Kefir recipe.

Salted Lassi with Cumin and Mint

A savory Indian yogurt drink made from whole-milk yogurt, fresh mint leaves, whole cumin seeds, salt, and sparkling water, this is a fantastic way to end a meal. It’s as refreshing as it is simple to make. Get our Salted Lassi with Cumin and Mint recipe.

Chilled Avocado, Cucumber, and Kefir Soup

chilled avocado cucumber kefir soup

Lauren Volo

Light, bright, fresh, and refreshing, this uplifting chilled soup is just the thing for summer, but can be a bright spot in the colder months too when you need a little culinary pick-me-up. Get the Chilled Avocado, Cucumber, and Kefir Soup recipe.

Related Video: The 10 Worst Yogurts You Can Buy, Based on Sugar Content

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Caitlin M. O'Shaughnessy is a New York City–based food writer and editor at Penguin who has worked on and recipe-tested several cookbooks. She is currently in search of NYC’s best ramen, and is one of the few people who admit to disliking brunch.
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