In the steamy heat of New York in June, a tub of yogurt might as well be dinner on its own, but if you're willing to be a hair more ambitious, yogurt's one of the most versatile ingredients you can hold onto in your kitchen. Leaping from sweet to savory in a single bound, marinating meat and topping grilled vegetables, yogurt more than earns its place as a kitchen mainstay, whether you're buying the plain stuff, something fancy, or making it yourself.
What can you do with all that yogurt? Let me count the ways.
Put it On Every Damn Thing You Grill
Whether you're grilling eggplant, cabbage (trust), or lamb, pretty much everything that comes off the grill can use some acidity and creaminess to wake up all the smoke and char. A smear of yogurt, done up with some lemon and herbs for good measure, is as easy a sauce as they come. If you're willing to go a little further, make some yogurt relish for burgers with chunks of feta, tomato, and cucumber.
While we're at it, make a double batch of that yogurt sauce, because it has more work to do. In my kitchen, a mix of Greek yogurt or labne, some funky, oniony asafoetida, lemon juice, and dill are both salad dressing and roasted vegetable topper. Try mixing yogurt with curry powder and spoon it over lentil soup, or toss in some cumin and drizzle it over eggplant and chickpeas. Need a bulk recipe to keep around? This minty, cumin-inflected yogurt sauce is as all-purpose as they come.
Yogurt blended with salt and, well, anything is an instant marinade, adding tang and moisture to every meat you can pair it with. Chicken takes especially well to the yogurt marinade treatment, provided you don't let the meat sit in that yogurt for too long (five hours is your sweet spot). Try it with simple kebabs or go all-out with a tikka masala that's almost certainly better than your Indian restaurant's.
Stir it Into Soups and Grains
Yogurt takes beautifully to puréed soups, both cold and hot—the latter works just fine if you incorporate the yogurt at the end and stay gentle with your heat to prevent curdling. We're especially fond of this springy asparagus and ramp soup, a good template for all your yogurt soups. If you're short on fresh produce, remember that in many Indian kitchens, curd rice—a dish of little more than yogurt stirred into cooked rice with some spices—is as comforting and wonderful as mac and cheese.
Bake it Into Cake
Yogurt is cake magic: all the ease of mixing an oil-based cake plus the sophisticated richness of a creamed butter version, plus some twang to keep that sweetness in check. It does wonders in this gluten-free cake, adding a nice lactic edge to tangy grapefruit. Or you can go more homey with a cinnamon-apple cake that folds in that other baking wunderkind: applesauce.
Or Freeze It
This is not some sickeningly sweet mall chain fro-yo: this is real-deal, honest frozen yogurt made of nothing but yogurt and sugar, the easiest recipe you can stick in your ice cream churn and one of the most rewarding. Once you get a taste of the good stuff, you won't go back. From there you can feed your new homemade fro-yo addiction with blackberry, raspberry, orange, and mango iterations.
And Don't Forget Smoothies
And of course there are smoothies. Creamy avocado-mango ones, or jammy persimmon lassi, or more dessert-like banana Nutella versions. Yogurt effortlessly adds protein, acidity, body, and creaminess to the blender—everything you want in a smoothie. Don't think they have to be sweet, either; this savory spiced Indian chaas blends in cumin, cilantro, and green chili for a stomach-settling sip that puts all those probiotics to good use.