If you’re like me, you’re in an on-again, off-again relationship with yogurt. It’s obviously great, but the decision fatigue can be dizzying. Some brands celebrate zero percent fat. Others celebrate tons and tons of fat. Some are corporate, and therefore we distrust them. Some are not corporate, and therefore we distrust them.
For me, what is yogurt even supposed to be?
After a brief investigation, I’ve resolved that yogurt is a people-pleaser. Finding your right match is all about identifying your needs. Here are some considerations about trending styles and brands for the next time you have an identity crisis in an aisle:
You like things low-frills and power-packed.
The skyrs hail from Iceland. Like Greek yogurts, skyrs could through an additional straining process that removes whey and water. Because of the filtration, some skyrs require four times as much milk as our traditional stateside yogurts do. What results is a thick gel, a bit glossier than you’d see in a Greek yogurt.
You need to fuel up.
Siggi’s manages to keep its sugar count below four grams per cup, and its plain variety uses skim milk, yet it all fills you up. (Many Icelandic skyrs are made with artificial sweeteners—which, like, isn’t great.) With 17 grams of protein per cup, Siggi’s provides the perfect sustenance for a morning on which you just need to…well, sustain. Siggi’s is having a bit of a moment. You can pick up a cup at most Starbucks.
You need to fuel up…but you already ate something else.
Norr looks a whole lot like Siggi’s. They also get their milk from upstate New York, and obsess over minimalist branding. Somehow Norr manages to carve away 10 more calories than Siggi’s does from its plain, making it a low 90 calories. Consider Norr to be the even more minimal version of Siggi’s—the subtle difference between a thin font and a light font.
Traditional yogurt has failed to inspire you.
Sheep’s milk yogurts can taste richer and sweeter than yogurts made from cattle. Sheep’s milk is homogenized so the cream doesn’t separate. Because it often yields a creamier taste, sheep’s milk has long been used in cheeses.
Generally speaking, sheep’s milk yogurt might be your yogurt if you’ve been looking for an alternative. If you have lactose-related intolerances, you might consider switching. There are subtle differences that could sit easier in your system—or help things move through it!
You’re looking to love yogurt again, not to diet.
Of all the yogurts studied, Aris was the only that came with multiple recommendations from strangers in the aisle with me. The creamy sheep’s milk yogurt is described as “Greek style,” likely because it has a bit more texture—but more likely because the company also makes hummus. Aris is unabashedly fatty, with 20 grams of fat and 12 grams of saturated fat per eight ounces. Its protein count is relatively low, with only three grams per serving.
In the grand scheme of things, Aris is a small brand. It’s served in farmers markets across Southern California, as well as larger retailers like Gelson’s.
You like the finer things in yogurt.
Bellwether is one of the nation’s first sheep dairies. Its cheeses can be found in some of the country’s best restaurants, and its yogurt can be found in your refrigerator if you so desire.
Although the company boasts more protein ounce-for-ounce in its sheep’s milk than in cow’s milk, its six-ounce cup only has 10 grams of protein. Bellwether is a great option if you want to ease into sheep’s milk yogurt, classily.
Yogurt is working for you. You just want to stay ahead of the curve.
Traditional (European) yogurt is not strained like skyrs or Greek yogurts. More water sticks around, so it’s thinner. If you’re feeling a bit stuck with Yoplait, but still appreciate its general vibe, you might look into the ways in which your cow’s milk yogurts are created.
You’ve always wanted the cream to rise to the top.
Brown Cow is about as traditional as a yogurt can be in this day and age. The dairy was established over 40 years ago, with a single brown cow named Lily.
The yogurt is made without artificial sweeteners and it’s non-GMO. Whole milk will carry a load of saturated fat. The plain variety manages to keep sugars low at six grams per serving.
You prefer yogurt remains (organic) yogurt.
Maple Hill is best known for 100 percent organic grass-fed cattle. The organic milk is said to yield more omega-3 fatty acids and fewer omega-6 acids. Plain, whole milk yogurt from Maple Hill carries nine grams of sugar and six grams of protein per five ounces of yogurt. This is more sugar and less protein than skyrs.
Saint Benoit Creamery
You want to hear it straight from the cow’s mouth.
Saint Benoit says its yogurt is made of two things: milk and cultures. The milk goes through such minimal processing, its taste might change season to season. The company says some seasons lead to a “yellow, buttery color.” The simple yogurt contrasts with its ambitious glass bottling. Since 2004, the company has prevented the discarding of over two million plastic cups.
Go Greek if you want your yogurt to do more work for you.
In 2007, Greek yogurt accounted for a mere one percent of the U.S. yogurt market. Now, it’s well over half of what we consume. Like the skyrs, Greek yogurt goes through a straining process to remove whey and water. Greek yogurt tends to result in a more sour taste and a thicker, more textured blend altogether.
They yield a lot more protein and probiotics per spoonful than traditional yogurts.
You’re going Greek for the benefits.
Wallaby, as you may guess from its kangaroo logo, is also from Australia. The yogurt (oddly enough, no “h” for them), lives up to the hype with protein, carrying 21 grams per serving, which is the most of any on this list. It manages to do so with only seven grams of sugar.
Wallaby also makes nonfat yogurts and traditional non-Greek yogurts. If you want that protein, be careful not to grab the traditional by mistake. Their labels look quite similar.
You want something tried and true.
The Voskos brand attributes its recipes to grandmothers back in Greece. It claims to be the first company to make Greek yogurt in the United States.
Voskos is definitely true Greek yogurt in its high fat count—60 percent of your daily saturated fat intake. If you’re trying out a new recipe, Voskos is probably a reliable choice. It’s a healthy substitute for sour cream or mayonnaise.
You’re in this whole yoghurt thing for the fun.
Noosa is not exactly Greek, but it’s thick and creamy and made of whole milk. It’s Aussie-style, (hence “yoghurt”), and it’s headquartered in Colorado. The brand is mostly known for sweet flavors and chocolatey granola add-ins. The plain variety carries 15 grams of sugar, and that’s with no honey added whatsoever. This Greek yogurt is for the sweet tooth, and that’s OK! Like most Greek varieties, most Noosa products are made with whole milk.
Just as they’ve taken over your coffee shop, nut-like creams have taken over the yogurt aisle in recent years as well. The nuts tend to deliver low levels of fat, without the type of digestive disruption you might feel from cow’s milk. They are lighter and contain less protein than most all others. Also worth noting: There’s not much calcium here.
Kite Hill (Almond)
You’re looking for the lifestyle of dairy, without the dairy.
The rise of the almond has been partially fueled by brands like Kite Hill, which makes traditional yogurts, Greek yogurts, cheeses, spreads, and raviolis all from plant-based materials.
The plain yogurt is made with five grams of real cane sugar, like that in a real, glass bottle Coke, but obviously much less. (There’s a completely unsweetened version too if you prefer no sugar). Otherwise, things are pretty basic here: six grams of protein, and 13 grams of fat. This won’t pack that much of a punch in your day, but it’s a great alternative if you don’t eat animal products.
Forager Project (Cashew)
You want to innovate with your yogurt.
Welcome to Cashewgurt! Forager Project claims cashew milk makes for a thicker, richer blend than almond milk. With that, there’s less sugar too. One cup of the plain cashew stuff contains about one gram of sugar, similar to a low-fat skyr. Protein, as might be expected, falls by the wayside with only three grams per cup, but you could always add plant-based substitutes to your yogurt if you’re looking for more.
You’re in this aisle for probiotics, and you’ll pay anything. Any questions?
Made by GT Living Foods, the same people behind the popular kombucha, CocoYo is a living, (breathing?) yogurt made from coconut milk. The California company says the coconut meat comes all the way from Thailand.
Its protein and sugar counts are both low—one gram each in the pure variety. The real story here are the probiotics. Within the confines of some jars, there can be upward of a trillion. Serving sizes are small, but pack a punch. You can get 25 billion probiotics per spoonful. For that reason, a jar of CocoYo can cost you upward of $25.
Header image courtesy of Olexandr Panchenko/Shutterstock.