Kickoff to summer: frozen yogurt

Although summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21, I’ve always considered Memorial Day the real kickoff to the season.

Having put away the fleece (at last) and resurrected the outdoor furniture from its winter hideaway in the cellar, I’m ready to kick back on the deck, throw some burgers on the grill, and soak up some rays.

More than ready, after the challenging season we’ve just experienced here in northern New England. Record-breaking snowfall this winter was followed by a “spring” that offered very little in the way of sunshine, LOTS in the way of rain.

Read: dirt roads turned into mud baths, and spring flowers going from colorful to drooping and rusty brown within the space of a day or so.

So far, we’ve had 3 days of sunshine this month. We’re more than due for some good weather this Memorial Day weekend – are you listening, Mother Nature?

Summer’s heat would be very welcome right about now. As would summer’s cold: ice cream.

While there’s no real ice cream season in New England (more ice cream is consumed in New England, per capita, than in any other region of the country, according to Wikipedia), nothing beats sitting at a picnic table in the last golden glow of a hot summer day, alternating licks of smooth ice cream with bites of crunchy cone.

And ice cream doesn’t have to mean a $3.50 cone at your local stand. Or artificial flavors, guar gum, or any of the other ingredients typically found in the average supermarket ice cream.

It’s easy to make your own ice cream – or frozen yogurt, which is far removed from what you’d buy at the store. Tangy-sweet and super-creamy, it can be flavored to taste with vanilla (of course), other flavors (butter rum? maple?), or with your favorite fruits.

Despite appearances (and mouth-feel) to the contrary, the following frozen yogurt is made with low-fat yogurt. The secret? Draining it to make thick, Greek-style yogurt before adding the sugar and flavors, and freezing.

Sure, it won’t be as low-fat as the original yogurt, since the fats have been concentrated into a smaller volume. But you can still feel virtuous about the high-quality dairy (and calcium) you’re enjoying.

Let’s start with the yogurt. You can make your own; or use store-bought yogurt. The key, though, is to thicken it by draining away the whey.

The yogurt on the left is just as it comes from the carton; pretty thin. On the right, yogurt that’s been drained – Greek-style, in other words.

Can you purchase Greek-style yogurt, and skip the draining?

Sure. But it can get pretty pricey. Let me show you an initial investment that really pays off, if you love yogurt – for cooking or baking, as a stand-in for sour cream in dips and spreads, or for just plain eating.

Meet the Wave. This yogurt strainer has been one of my favorite kitchen tools for years.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

•The Wave takes regular plain yogurt – anything from full-cream to nonfat – and makes it thick, creamy, and spreadable, in just 24 hours or less.
•I can scoop an entire 32-ounce container of yogurt into the Wave at once. (It does mound over the top a bit, as you can see above; but it quickly settles enough to snap on the lid.)
•The Wave’s completely hands-off, as well as mess-free – no sodden, ripped coffee filters; no dripping cheesecloth bags.
•It’s a handy storage container; yogurt continues to thicken as it stands – even when you add chopped cukes to make tzatziki.
•When you’re done with it, the Wave rinses clean easily in hot, soapy water.

Here’s the Wave about an hour after adding 32 ounces of yogurt.

Ready for its cover. Place in the fridge, and check back the next day.

Zounds! Look how thick it is already.

Any difference between starting with low-fat vs. nonfat yogurt? That’s the whey from low-fat yogurt on the left, nonfat on the right – there’s more liquid in nonfat.

So, here’s the result, 24 hours later: 32 ounces of low-fat yogurt translates to 1 1/2 cups of liquid, and about 2 cups of thick, Greek-style yogurt.

What can you do with the liquid? Bake some bread, using it in place of water. Whey is full of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

So, you’ve got your 2 cups of thickened yogurt; let’s freeze it.

First: make sure the bucket of your ice cream maker is thoroughly frozen. It’s a good idea to stick it in the freezer at the same time you put your yogurt in the fridge to drain; both will be ready to go the next day.

Mix 2 cups (1 pint, 16 ounces) drained yogurt or Greek-style (thick) yogurt with 1/2 cup sugar. Your best choice here is superfine Baker’s Special sugar; it’ll dissolve quickly in the yogurt. Use granulated sugar if you like; just be sure to stir it in thoroughly.

Add 2 to 3 teaspoons vanilla extract; I’m using Vanilla Bean Crush here, as the flecks of seed and pod are a nice visual.

Next, stir in 2 tablespoons light corn syrup or honey. This liquid sweetener will help smooth the yogurt’s texture.

Spoon the yogurt into the bucket of your ice cream maker.

Freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. You’ll see it start to thicken almost immediately.

Creamy, smooth, thick…

Let the machine go until the yogurt’s as thick as you like – 20 to 30 minutes is the norm for most machines.

Serve frozen yogurt immediately, if you like; here I’ve drizzled it with additional Vanilla Bean Crush.

You can also transfer the frozen yogurt to a storage container, and place it in the freezer for several hours, if you prefer harder ice cream. It’ll eventually become rock hard, but never fear; about 10 to 15 minutes at room temperature makes it nicely scoopable again.

Strawberry sundae, anyone?

And for you non-fans of corn syrup – I made this version with honey. Plus I added 2 tablespoons spiced rum, which helps keep frozen yogurt a bit softer and creamier than it would otherwise be. Drizzle with honey for a can’t-resist treat.

Oh, one last note: you might be tempted to start with a flavored yogurt. Say, vanilla, or lemon, or maple. But I’ve found there’s something about flavored yogurts that prevent them from draining and thickening as nicely as plain yogurt. My advice: start with plain, and flavor to taste.

Interested in more ice cream recipes? Check out Strawberry Sorbet, Sorbet Two Ways, Coconut Ice Cream, Mocha Madness, Chocolate Decadence, and Pineapple-Coconut Gelato.

Read, make, and review (please) our recipe for Frozen Vanilla Yogurt.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!


  1. Reneé Slazinski

    Yum! Is there a way to turn this into chocolate?
    Would it be as simple as adding cocoa powder and some mix-ins?

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Chocolate fro-yo, yum! You can try adding 2-3 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the base mixture, but you might enjoy the flavor better if you add some melted chocolate instead. Start by adding about 2-3 ounces of melted chocolate, and reduce the sugar slightly until it’s as sweet as you like. You’ll want to hold back up to 1/4 cup if you use milk chocolate. Enjoy! Kye@KAF

  2. anderuel

    Okay, so I saw this post yesterday on Facebook and I decided I had to try this. On my way to the store, I was pretty sure I was going to just get Greek yogurt to save some time. Once I got there, though, the only offerings in the larger size were full fat and non-fat. I was pretty sure my hubby and I didn’t need the full fat, so I went with no fat, expecting it to be fairly watery. It was, so I drained it in cheesecloth set in a strainer overnight. Because the Greek Gods brand comes in smaller containers, I ended up with less than 2 cups, so I adjusted accordingly. I used a little less Baker’s Sugar (1/3 c), the same amount of honey, 2.5 tsp of vanilla and 1.5 tbsp of rum. I really like rum, and my favorite is Sailor Jerry’s, which has spice, caramel and cherry notes in it. This non-fat frozen yogurt (finished up at 10 am!) is yum, yum, yum! We are eating it now, for brunch. lol!
    Way to take the recipe and make it yours with what you had on hand. Happy yogurting! ~ MaryJane

  3. vjcollins

    My favorite frozen yogurt flavor: chocolate with oreo. Yum-o!! Tell me about the measuring cup that allows you to see the measurement from the top!! How cool is that?!

    Greenville, SC

    We no longer sell those cups, Valerie, but I believe they’re made by Oxo – you should be able to find them at most kitchenware stores. PJH

  4. bmaysstock

    So, here is a real poser about the Wave. I bought my first one about 3 months ago, and I love, love ,love it. I used it to make yogurt cheese from the home made yogurt that I have made for many years with total success, using my YoGourmet Yogurt Machine. I put it in the dishwasher before the first use and into the dishwasher (Top rung only) each time I use it. I have never had a problem with it.

    Then, I bought a second one from, because in making frozen yogurt, you often need the entire 1/2 gallon of yogurt to drain before making the frozen yogurt. This way, I have split the 1/2 gallon of freshly made yogurt after it has cooled overnight in the fridge. I followed the instructions to the letter and went to get the waves the next day to use the Greek yogurt. One was fine as usual. The other smelled really rancid and looked terrible. Of course, I threw the whole thing away. I cleaned the two waves out very well and then sent them through the dishwasher (top rung). When they came out, the Wave netting that had the spoiled yogurt in it was badly discolored, so I threw it out and bought a new one.

    It came a few days ago, so I put both the original Wave (that was fine) and the brand new one into the dishwasher. I made a new 1/2 gallon of yogurt, set it to cool in the fridge overnight and this morning divided the 1/2 gallon of new yogurt into the two units. Each was cleaned the same way, each was set up by me, and of course everything in the kitchen was very clean. Each went into the fridge at the same time.
    This evening, I went to combine the Greek yogurt with ingredients to make a frozen yogurt, and when I opened them, after only a few hours, one was fine and the other was spoiled, just like the one I wrote about above.

    Please share some insight with me about what could be causing this. Everything was the same, all cleanliness precautions were the same, the yogurt came from the same batch- one scoop to one box, then one to the other until the 1/2 gallon of yogurt had been divided evenly.
    What could be causing this? I am ready to give up! Please help.
    Hi Barbara. I am so sorry for the trouble you have experienced with this product. We did discover that there was a defective issue with the straining screen and that it was causing the problems you are describing with your yogurt. The company has replaced this batch with our warehouse, but I can’t be sure that Amazon is aware of the problem and has taken measures to remedy it with the company. The best advice I can give you is to notify Amazon so they can replace their inventory and replace your yogurt maker. This product is currently on backorder with us, so I unfortunately can’t have you order one from us right away.
    I hope this is helpful. Please contact us again if we can be of more assistance. ~Amy


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