Delicious Ways to Use Yogurt as a Savory Sauce

This creamy, tangy treat isn’t just for breakfast anymore.

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Posted in , Apr 21, 2021

Tzadziki, savory yogurt dipping sauce

Yogurt is a beloved staple of the breakfast table—tangy, creamy, rich in protein, calcium and digestion-supporting probiotics. I generally think of sweet flavors when I think about yogurt for breakfast—granola, fresh fruit, a drizzle of honey.

But lately, I’ve been experimenting with yogurt as a savory sauce to accompany meats, vegetables and salads. There are so many varieties of thick, delectably creamy yogurts at the grocery store—including one made from sheep milk I am particularly fond of—that it’s been a long-lasting experiment in flavor and texture.

Plain yogurt is a base for sauces in many culinary cultures, including Greek, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines. Yogurt’s unique flavor profile—with its slight acidity to cut through fats, its cooling dairy to offset spicy ingredients—works well with a nearly endless variety of ingredients to transform ordinary dishes. Here are some examples:

Tzatziki is a staple sauce of Greek and other southern European cuisines, as well as the Middle East. A thick Greek yogurt base is stirred together with strained minced or grated cucumber, lemon juice, garlic salt and fresh herbs like dill, mint or parsley. 

Tzatziki is traditionally drizzled onto pita sandwiches like gyros or souvlaki. It is also delicious used as a dip for crudités, vegetables or potato chips. Spoon tzatziki over grilled meats or pan-fried meat patties for a delectably cooling shot of flavor.

Raita is an Indian yogurt sauce flavored with spices like cumin, mustard seed or curry leaves and chopped veggies like cucumber, green onions, tomatoes or peppers. It can be eaten as a palate cleanser between bites, stirred into savory soups or drizzled over rice or meat dishes.

Yogurt can be used to tenderize roasted meats as well as make sauces like gravies. The Israeli-born chef Yotam Ottolenghi uses yogurt as a marinade on roasted chicken before whisking spiced yogurt into his pan drippings to make a flavorful gravy.

Other flavorings pair beautifully with yogurt to elevate savory dishes. Tahini, the sesame paste that stars in hummus, is delicious swirled into yogurt sauces. And citrus zest or a juice like lemon or lime amplifies yogurt’s acidic quality.

If your imagination and taste buds haven’t been fired up yet, consider this—yogurt is a healthful alternative to heavy dairy ingredients like sour cream. Think salad dressings, baked goods—the possibilities are virtually limitless!

How do you use yogurt in your savory cooking?

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