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. Melodie

    I love using whey for baking bread. . .especially wheat. The whey makes the wheat bread rise better and become softer.

  2. sweettoothduo

    I substitute Lyle’s golden syrup or brown rice syrup for corn syrup. I don’t like the taste of honey. This looks amazing. I keep eyeing my ice cream maker and this is reason enough to get it out!

    Oh, good idea – I LOVE Lyle’s! Next time that’s what I’m using. And you need to get out your ice cream maker for sure, considering we’ll be posting three ice cream blogs the next 3 days… PJH

  3. Quinn

    That looks amazing! But will it make the yogurt *taste* like Greek yogurt? I don’t like how tangy it is, so i generally avoid it. If it will give me thick, creamy yogurt without that extra tang, I’m all over it!

    Quinn, I’ve never noticed that Greek yogurt is extra tangy – maybe it seems like it, because it has less liquid? This tastes a tiny bit tangy – you know it’s made from yogurt, not cream. And like you, I don’t really like a lot of sourness in my yogurt. But I think this is really tasty, and am betting you’d find it so, too. PJH

  4. jsgmitchell

    This looks great! I just made a mango mojito frozen yogurt the other day. I used greek yogurt, pureed mangos, minced fresh mint and a splash of rum. I used a bit of agave nectar for the sweetener, but didn’t need much because my mangos were extra ripe. I think I am going to try a dark chocolate cherry frozen yogurt today.

    Oh, my! Doesn’t that sound good. I love it when your fruit is so sweet you barely need any extra sugar. And yes, I do believe that thick, Greek-style yogurt makes a difference in your frozen yogurt. Enjoy your chocolate-cherry! PJH

  5. AprilMcGel

    We don’t do white sugar in our home. Could I use fruit sweetener in place of the sugar? If I add fruit, should I cook it down a bit first or is fresh ok?

    Sorry, April, haven’t tested with fruit sweetener. I’d guess the answer is yes – I’m assuming agave, or something similar? Substitute for both the sugar and the corn syrup; 1/2 cup should be fine. If you add fruit, fresh is fine; but frozen should be defrosted and drained of its juice, if it accumulates. Enjoy – PJH

  6. tracyd

    I always love your recipes. Do you have a favorite ice cream maker to recommend? We’re still using an old-fashioned ice-and-salt model, which is a bit more work than I’d prefer, but I haven’t been happy with some of the inexpensive countertop models because it seems like the frozen bowls get warm before the ice cream is frozen. If you have one you like, I’d love to hear about it!

    Tracy, we’ve settled on the Cuisinart ice cream maker, and have been enjoying it for several years now in the test kitchen. Haven’t had any trouble with the bowl warming up too quickly; and at $49.95, it’s a lot less expensive than some of those $200-$300 models… I recommend it highly. PJH

  7. sandra Alicante

    Mmmmm. Nice and hot here, so this has got my mouth watering.
    I have a whole book on Frozen yogurts that I bought while on holiday in Florida years ago (others take Mickey back, I take cook books!) Peanut butter, banana and chocolate is a great one!

  8. afdurkin

    “But you can still feel virtuous about the high-quality dairy (and calcium) you’re enjoying.”

    I admit I have not read all the comments so not sure if anyone else pointed this out but the bit about calcium is not quite accurate. Calcium is water soluble so while consuming low-fat or non-fat dairy products means you are getting more calcium as compared with full fat, if you drain away the water… the calcium goes with it.

    Thanks for the ideas and directions on frozen yogurt! I’ll have to dig out our ice cream machine and make room in the freezer 🙂

    Well, not all of the calcium disappears, apparently – since the whey is drained from milk to make cheese, yet cheese is very high in calcium… So there’s something more here than meets the eye, I guess. Thanks for pointing this out – maybe some of our nutritionally savvy readers can chime in? PJH

  9. LoveVT

    PJ, I agree. I bought mine last year, so my grandchildren visiting could make ice cream. They loved it. Even the youngest made it at four years old. So I bought two more and sent them home with each family.

    Really is easy – and kids have fun deciding on their own flavors and add-ins… PJH

  10. mdeatherage

    “Drizzled with vanilla bean crush.” I swear, the picture on the home page looks to me like mashed potatoes with gravy.

    Now I want potatoes. 🙁

    Go for it – mashed potatoes for dinner, frozen yogurt for dessert! 🙂 PJH

  11. afdurkin

    “Well, not all of the calcium disappears, apparently – since the whey is drained from milk to make cheese, yet cheese is very high in calcium… So there’s something more here than meets the eye, I guess. Thanks for pointing this out – maybe some of our nutritionally savvy readers can chime in? PJH”

    Oh yeah… hadn’t really thought of that. I stand corrected but now I want to know why 😉

  12. afdurkin

    My logic on calcium was completely flawed! It is apparently bound to casein (milk protein) and lower fat milk has more protein molecules… thus more calcium even when strained. That will teach me to try and correct something before actually getting the facts – what a smart*$% I can be sometimes 😉 Sorry!!!

    No worries. We love the input we get from our readers; none of us can know everything. “It takes a village” to figure out whether you lose the calcium when you drain yogurt! You prompted me to go online and do some research, and I found out a lot about protein and minerals, but not calcium – so thanks for coming up with the answer. Cheers- PJH

  13. Suzy A

    I’d love if you would provide some soy options if possible, since my one year old daughter has a milk protein allergy 🙁 (Huge frown from someone who loves to cook and bake!)

    Suzy, I’d try this with soy yogurt – I’ve never used it so don’t know how it would drain, but it’s certainly worth a try. PJH


    I eat yogurt with berries and high fiber cereal every morning for breakfast. I would love to try this for a frozen breakfast treat! Do you know how to calculate the calories in the strained yogurt??

    Sorry, I don’t; a bit of everything drains away with the whey, but not sure how much calorie-wise… You could start with purchased Greek-style yogurt, which would give you an exact calorie count. PJH

  15. ebenezer94

    I find that the tanginess of the finished product when you make your own Greek style yogurt by draining regular yogurt GREATLY depends on the yogurt you start with. I find a lot of yogurts make a finished product that’s just too overpoweringly tangy for my taste. The best I’ve found for this is Trader Joe’s organic. Trader Joe’s regular (not organic) is not nearly as good for this use, in my experience, nor is Nancy’s. (I have my suspicions that Trader Joe’s non-organic yogurt is Nancy’s with a TJs label.)

    The recipe looks delish, but it’s a long time until summer here in the Pacific Northwest. 🙂

    It’s actually seeming like summer might get to Vermont… sometime! What a long, cold season it’s been. Best of luck as your days warm and get longer, and your fruit ripens – I envy you your wonderful fruits! Enjoy – and thanks for the info. about TJ’s yogurt. PJH

  16. davidssa

    I am very excited about this recipe! I have an exceedingly picky three year old who loves homemade wheat bread and loves ice cream, and if I can boost the nutrition on both, hurray! I have a question: can I freeze the whey if I’m not making wheat bread that day? Do I need to, or will it keep? And if I do, am I going to lose its nutritional value? Thanks so much!

    Oh, and PJ, do you have a favorite brand of plain yogurt? I tend to buy what’s on sale, but since I am usually make smoothies, it doesn’t matter. I suppose it could, here…

    David, you can certainly freeze whey; it shouldn’t affect it in any way. And yogurt – we have plenty of local Vermont brands that are good, but of national brands, I’d go with Stonyfield… PJH

  17. ehand7

    I’ve been freezing the whey from draining yogurt for years. It seems to make bread rise better than plain water. Do you save the water from boiling potatoes?–same results.

  18. milkwithknives

    Oh, BOY, is it time for the ice cream machine again? I went a little nuts with ours last summer making sorbet, frozen yogurt and buttermilk sherbet. My favorite by far is a couple of peaches buzzed up in the blender (no need to peel) with some brown sugar and cinnamon. Churn up with plain yogurt and stand back as I mow through it at record speed. Can you believe I never even thought to try vanilla or vanilla bean? That’s first up this time for sure. Oh, also, I was always perfectly happy using Dannon low fat plain. Tastes good and nice texture. Hooray, PJ! I’m looking forward to the next post!

    And one final ice cream post tomorrow – Chocolate Decadence. Oooh-la-la! And I’m totally trying the peach fro-yo you describe… PJH

  19. ldrag

    If I don’t have a fancy Wave, what is the best technique for draining the yogurt?

    Cheesecloth would be your best bet – you can get it anywhere they sell canning supplies, such as a hardware store. Just spoon the yogurt onto a piece of cheesecloth, gather it into a ball, and suspend it over a bowl, in the fridge; it’ll drain just fine. PJH

  20. sheeba

    I just finished making this. It came out great! It was slightly tangy (which I don’t mind), very sweet for my taste and very full of vanilla flavor. I used full fat yogurt since that’s all I had, drained it overnight with cheesecloth, used 1 tb corn syrup (not sure I needed it at all since I was using full fat yogurt), organic cane sugar, real vanilla bean and 3tsp extract.

    The only thing I would change to suit my personal taste is to reduce the amount of sugar since I don’t like real sweet anything…which is one of the main reasons I bought an ice cream maker…the other being the ability to use local, organic grass fed dairy, pastured eggs, etc.

    Does anyone have a good chocolate frozen yogurt recipe? Or any tips on replicating Stoneyfield’s Chocolate Minty Chip frozen yogurt? It’s my very favorite although it’s way too sweet for me. Looks difficult given the long ingredient list they use to compensate for using non fat milk.

  21. mjgraham5423

    I have found that when making my own yogurt, it is not tangy just after finishing but increases in “tanginess” as the yogurt ages. So I suggest if you don’t want tangy frozen yogurt, give making homemade yogurt a try and follow up immediately with the frozen recipe.

    Excellent suggestion – thanks. PJH

  22. skater

    Good Morning!

    As too your comment about ‘real’ Greek Yogurt having a extra tangy taste, take it from a Greek who’s been eating it for over half a century, it does. My favorite yogurt is DANA. Columbo is also good. I purchase mine at a middle eastern store. Dana also makes a yogurt spread, that is like cream cheese. Sorry, I’m blanking out on the name. I have never tried to make homemade myself, but a “little old lady” told me if I wanted it extra tangy to just leave it on the counter top longer. She makes her’s on the stove top, no fancy machine, but then she makes her own filo dough ……..

  23. augustinablair

    Re: calcium/nutrition

    While there may be more calcium in lower fat milk products, we need the high fat content in order to absorb it. For folks who are “afraid” of saturated fats from unprocessed animal sources, I recommend checking out the Weston A Price Foundation’s literature —

    For folks who can’t do milk, rather than trying heavily processed nutrient draining soy alternatives, try coconut milk or coconut cream (do not use lowfat coconut milk). You can use a 1qt Tetrapak from any Asian grocery store (avoid canned). If you want to do yogurt for the probiotic health benefits, here’s a blog post I found on making yogurt from coconut milk:

    Cultures for Health — sells a non-dairy yogurt starter for use with alternative “milks” –
    This is wonderful and very useful information. We receive a lot of calls about alternative milk yogurt-making. This should be very helpful to many, thank you! ~Amy

  24. wingboy

    It’s great March weather here in the Great Pacific Northwet. It’s Memorial Day weekend, and I have a fire going.

    So, what do I do but freeze up a batch of frozen yoghurt using Greek-style yoghurt. Boy, did the frozen yoghurt turn out yoghurt-y! Good, but very tangy.

    I guess yogurt must vary a lot more in tanginess than I thought. I’d say add more sugar next time – to taste. That should solve it. We’re finally having warm weather here – wish it could travel “backward” and come your way… from Northeasy to Northwet? PJH

  25. Pauline

    Made this with 2 cups of 2% Greek Yogurt and used real vanilla bean and 2 tsp vanilla extract. Really good! Thanks

    Glad you enjoyed it, Pauline – spread the word, frozen yogurt is EASY. PJH

  26. wingboy

    I made another batch. I added a cup of heavy cream to my non-fat greek-style yoghurt. That tempered the tangy-ness nicely. (non fat plus high fat cancel each other out, right?)

    Zounds, what an idea! I’d say you’ve made non-high fat frozen yogurt… 🙂 PJH

  27. roxysmydog

    I made this yesterday and sampled last night. I make my own yogurt so I used that. The milk I get comes straight from the farm and my yogurt tends to be on the very tangy side. I can’t eat it straight but my husband enjoys it. Well the ice cream turned out a bit too tangy for my taste buds and I could only eat a little bit in one sitting (which is better for me anyways, right? 🙂 My husband on the other hand is just raving about it. He is enjoying another bowl right now. I’ll definitely be making some more again (too bad it takes a whole qt of milk for me). I think I would enjoy it more with some fresh strawberry jam mixed in. Yum!

    I used the whey to make some beautiful burger buns (which are a staple here). They sure turned out beautiful and were the best so far. I even used mostly wheat flour in them. Perfect. I have plenty of whey left for the rest of my bread making this week.

    Thanks for sharing – it’s good to hear from folks who make good use of their leftover whey… PJH

  28. Maria in NJ

    I just made this but used agave sugar instead of granulated…used one very ripe banana and 2 strawberries and Fage Greek yogurt…it looks fantastic…

    did anyone come up with chocolate yogurt recipe yet???

  29. Margy

    I drain my yogurt through 2 layers of coffee filters in a strainer. The strained yogurt peels right off. Coffee filters can sometimes be obtained more easily than cheesecloth.

    Good idea, Margy – I haven’t quite hit on the right combination of strainer/filters, but if you can get one to fit the other, it does work well. PJH

  30. Mary.B

    Oh my goodness. I just used this recipe as a base to churn up the most amazing chocolate frozen yogurt.

    I made a batch of homemade yogurt, and drained it overnight. 32 oz. to start with, 16 oz. after draining overnight! I will use the whey to bake bread today.

    I whirled some sugar in the attachment for my immersion blender, to make it super fine. I then whisked 6 T. of cocoa powder in, along with a pinch of sea salt. Then added the yogurt and vanilla. I stirred in about 1 T. of Kahlua; not only because coffee enhances chocolate flavor, but also because the alcohol keeps the yogurt from getting rock hard when frozen. It was a little lumpy, so I smoothed it out with the immerson blender. (next time I’ll probably save some trouble and do everything in the food processor)

    The result is fabulous! It is intensely chocolately, not too sweet, and smooth as silk. Thank you for the inspiration, and another great recipe!

  31. 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

  32. 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

  33. 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

  34. 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

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