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Get Saucy with Yogurt

When you think of yogurt, what comes to mind? Words like, fruity, smooth, creamy, and sweet. Perhaps visions of smoothies or parfaits dance through you head. Some of us health minded folks might think the health benefit of probiotics, as mentioned in this previous post by my colleague, Kristin. I highly doubt anyone's first thought is "delicious and healthy sauces!" but hopefully after reading this, you will!

While yogurt is a relative newcomer to the United States, many cultures have relied on yogurt for centuries-not just as a low-fat, nutritious snack, but for its bright, tart contrast to rich foods.

Most prevalent in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, yogurt has been a staple in these cultures for thousands of years. Us Americans have only known this creamy treat since roughly the 1970s when it was introduced in sweetened, frozen form. But we have since embraced it. Per capita, yogurt consumption has increased more than 400 percent during the past 30 years- wow! Also, yogurt is the fastest growing segment in the dairy food category. Various types, textures, and fat content levels of yogurt products line the shelves of the dairy case these days. Becoming a very popular lunchbox item or mid afternoon snack, this food just got more versatile with its ability to be made into a dish accompaniment-yogurt sauce!

In Turkish cuisine yogurt can be found in everything from soups and dips to salads and kababs. You know the famous cucumber laden tzatziki sauce that covers all Greek foods. And in Israel's signature shwarma is accompanied by a yogurt and hummus topping! So it's on the coat tails of these cuisine that we explore the healthy options of using yogurt as a sauce.

Using cream sauces and mayonnaise based toppings for flavor can add extra fat, calories and inches to your waistline! Yogurt, especially Greek yogurt, will lower the fat of your dishes while increasing the protein and calcium content-it's a win-win! Here are a couple recipes for light, creamy sauces to flavor your next summer entrée!


Chicken with Yogurt Marinade


  • 6 boneless chicken breasts, lightly pounded
  • 1 5.3 ounce Plain Greek Nonfat Yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp. fruited or plain balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. minced rosemary
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • Oil for grill


  1. Pre-heat grill 10-15 minutes. Lightly oil grill.
  2. In a bowl combine yogurt, vinegar, Dijon, rosemary, salt and pepper. Add chicken and toss to coat. Let stand 25-30 minutes.
  3. Cook chicken on a preheated oiled grill 3-4 minutes per side. Serve with rosemary garnish over grilled or roasted vegetables.
  4. Tip: Lemon or orange juice can replace the vinegar for a citrus flavor.

Cilantro Garlic Yogurt Sauce


  • 1 1/2 cups plain whole-milk Greek-style yogurt
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne


Stir together all ingredients with 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste), then chill, covered, at least 30 minutes (for flavors to blend). Bring to room temperature before serving.


Adapted from Food and Nutrition March/April 2014.