I have never been a big fan of sour cream or cream cheese. I have recently been playing with straining yogurt into yogurt cheese to emulate the thicker spreads. It is soft, spreadable, and easy to flavor. I love the tart taste of plain yogurt, and the nutritional stats are far better for you. A dollop of low-fat yogurt cheese (2 tablespoons) contains half a gram of fat and 25 calories, while an equal amount of cream cheese contains 10 grams of fat and 100 calories and sour cream contains 5 grams of fat and 50 calories. You can find yogurt cheese in Middle Eastern markets, called laban or labana, but all you need is a strainer or some cheesecloth or a dishtowel.
I have seen recipes for creamy salad dressings that use yogurt cheese, or another option would be to mince herbs and mix in garlic powder for a garlic and herb spread. Mix in the juice of half a lime for the perfect amount of tang for a sour cream alternative. Take it the decadent route and use it as the perfect substitute for cream cheese and sour cream in New York style cheesecake. I have included an idea for a delicious sweet yogurt fruit dip at the bottom of this post.
Yogurt Cheese (makes 1 cup)
- 2 cups plain low-fat yogurt
- Cheesecloth, paper coffee filter, or dishcloth
- Strainer or colander
- Bowl to catch whey
Line a strainer or small colander with cheesecloth, coffee filter, or a thin dishcloth. I use a fine mesh strainer without the additional layer. Set this contraption over a deep container or bowl (so that the whey can strain out the bottom without touching the yogurt). Spoon the yogurt into the strainer and cover tightly with plastic wrap or a plastic bag and refrigerate until it has a cream cheese texture and about 1 cup of liquid has been released (minimum 10 hours to a maximum of 2 days).
Transfer the spreadable yogurt cheese into a clean container. The whey is the leftover liquid and can be added to smoothies. The yogurt cheese will keep in the refrigerator in a closed container for about 1 week.
For the sweet yogurt dip, mix 1 recipe-worth of the strained yogurt (1 cup), 2 tablespoons honey, and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. I skewered some cut up fruit onto bamboo skewers for dipping.