Heavy cream is rich, delicious, and great to cook with, but let's be real, it's not always what we want as the star of the kitchen show. It turns out that Greek yogurt, long a versatile fridge staple, is also excellent when called in to sub for heavy cream. Some minor flavor differences aside, you can easily work this healthy go-to into recipes originally calling for cream.

So, why the yogurt substitute? Heavy cream lends creaminess and flavor to sweet and savory dishes—along with 44 grams of fat and 28 grams of saturated fat per cup. With only 22 grams of fat and 28 grams of saturated fat per cup, a Greek yogurt substitution for cream cuts the fat in half. When cooking with yogurt instead of cream, you can easily do a 1-to-1 substitution, and the thickness of Greek yogurt, as well as the lower fat content, will achieve only a subtle difference in your final product.

Subbing in Greek yogurt for the next bake sale

Heavy cream makes baked goods especially rich, while the high-fat content helps make everything from fresh bread to brownies and cakes tender. Substituting heavy whipping cream for Greek yogurt works well, with two minor differences. You'll get a somewhat tangier flavor in your final product, and because of the reduced fat content, your baked goods will be somewhat less tender but denser (hm, sounds like a delicious change-up). Be sure to substitute full-fat Greek yogurt rather than low-fat or fat-free Greek yogurt for best results.

Keep in mind that when cooking with yogurt, it must be thinned with milk to the same consistency as heavy cream, or your resulting batters and doughs will be too stiff. Mix Greek yogurt with whole milk to achieve a heavy cream consistency, which will also contribute some of the richness and fat of the milk to the recipe. When making desserts such as cheesecake, substitute no more than half of the heavy whipping cream with Greek yogurt to avoid altering the finished product beyond recognition.

Simple steps for using Greek yogurt in sauces

Greek yogurt also cuts the fat without sacrificing creaminess or color in cream-based sauces. Butter and Parmesan cheese in Alfredo sauce, for example, pack on plentiful calories, but you can easily lighten things up—using yogurt instead of cream in sauces is simple. Pro tip: This works particularly well if your Greek yogurt is room temperature.

  1. Deglaze the pan you've already used for sauteing meats or vegetables, with liquids such as wine and/or broth.
  2. Simmer to reduce the mixture by half. 
  3. Remove the pan from the heat. Heat tends to cause the whey in Greek yogurt to separate irreversibly from the yogurt, particularly at high heat in soups and sauces.
  4. Stir in a dollop of Greek yogurt to make a creamy, rich pan sauce to drizzle over your main course. Even better, this method also works great when making creamy curry sauces. 

Working Greek yogurt into dressing and marinades

Creamy options, like blue cheese dressing, get a healthy twist when you substitute heavy cream with Greek yogurt. Additionally, Greek yogurt can replace the mayonnaise and sour cream that are standard in any ranch dressing recipe. The tangy flavor in Greek yogurt also has an effect similar to the buttermilk commonly used for dressing. Just use a little milk or buttermilk to thin your Greek yogurt—you want to ensure the dressing's consistency makes it possible to still pour it over your salad.

When it come to marinades, heavy cream and milk come into play to help tenderize meat while also making it moist and flavorful. Greek yogurt offers the same benefits as other dairy-based marinade ingredients, with a bonus—its thickness actually better adheres to the meat. This is especially advantageous when you're planning to follow the marinade with any kind of breading.

Yep, you can substitute heavy cream in soup with Greek yogurt

A dose of Greek yogurt turns broth-based soups—creamy tomato basil, butternut squash or broccoli-cheese—into rich, creamy soups just as well as heavy cream. As with pan sauces,when you substitute heavy cream with Greek yogurt in hot soups, this requires a bit of care to prevent curdling. Temper the Greek yogurt, following the same technique for tempering eggs.

  1. Stir Greek yogurt and cornstarch in a bowl until smooth, mixing at a rate of 1 Tbsp cornstarch for every 1 cup of yogurt. 
  2. Add 1 Tbsp of the hot liquid from the soup and stir until thoroughly combined.
  3. Continue mixing the hot soup liquid into the Greek yogurt mixture, 1 Tbsp at a time, until the yogurt reaches the same temperature as the soup pot. 
  4. Pour the yogurt mixture gradually into the hot soup, while stirring constantly. This slow process fully incorporates the yogurt into the soup without clumps of separated yogurt rising to the surface.

And voila. From soup to nuts, the already-versatile Greek yogurt just got a whole slew of new ways to earn its shelf space in your fridge, while your tasty dressings, marinades, and baked goods have never been tangier.

About the Author

Amelia Allonsy

A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.