This is the Real Greek Yogurt

Greek Yogurt 1

See that layer of skin on the surface of the yogurt? That’s what I’m talking about. Since I’m here to clarify what a real Mediterranean diet is, I am taking the opportunity to explain what a real Greek yogurt is.

Of course for a few years now everyone knows what Greek yogurt is. Right? It’s that thick, strained yogurt that has lot more protein than regular yogurt. Right? Wrong.

Actually it was most likely called Greek, because a Greek company known as Fage was one of the first companies to bring this type of strained yogurt to the U.S. initially directly from Greece and called it Greek yogurt.

This yogurt is basically yogurt that has been strained numerous times getting rid of much of the whey and resulting in a creamy consistency. From then we know the story. Other companies started making their own Greek yogurt, either the right way by straining it or the wrong way by adding thickeners.

Then the flavors were added in, blueberry, lemon meringue and the list goes on and on.

So here is what real Greek yogurt is: the most common form and the most traditional yogurt in Greece is regular full-fat sheep’s milk yogurt. It is usually made in those ceramic containers with the layer of skin on top (see photo above). This yogurt is creamy, rich and yes even more tart than the “Greek” yogurt. Which is why it was often served with a bit of honey and some bread. This combination was often served as breakfast or as a light evening meal.

The strained yogurt we all know as Greek yogurt, also was present, it was known as “bag” (sakoulas) yogurt because it was strained in muslin bags. It was more of a luxury item and made when there was too much milk left over.

Nutritionally it appears that regular sheep’s milk yogurt is superior according to data from Preventative Medicine and Nutrition Clinic of the University of Crete. Let’s not forget that whey is actually a source of vitamins and minerals. Check this post for more information on that.

Strained yogurt (AKA Greek yogurt) is great, but sheep’s milk yogurt has many benefits that should not be overlooked. As my grandpa used to say “if the yogurt doesn’t have the whey in it, then it’s not yogurt” and he lived to be 102.

Photo by ©Elena Paravantes

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  1. Interesting article. I have your cookbook, and I noticed that you use 2% Greek yogurt for snacks. Can I assume that although not as nutritious as whole milk sheep’s yogurt, you think this is okay to keep saturated fat intake down?

  2. Hi Elana,

    I came across your web here! Nice pics, great stuff you share with us!!

    Since you are writing about yogurt with layer of skin, do you know how we can find them in London’s market?

    The majority of yogurts are very commercial and I cannot find these masterpieces.

    Thanks in advance

  3. Hello,
    Regarding Yogurt,
    I understand that the Euro community has given FETA a protected status, 20% goat and 80% sheeps milk. Just like we can’t call Champagne, champagne in California because it’s not from Champagme, France, I believe we can’t call Feta, Feta because its not from Greece,….Is this true? and Greek Yogurt? Any such parameters?

  4. Sheep’s milk Greek yoghurt is the most delicious product!!!!!
    I am a Dairy Engineer and 3rd generation from a cheesemaking family. I believe very much in this product and having deep knowledge in the production process, we are planning to launch this delicious product in the market in a modern way.
    More news in the coming months………….

  5. So, I guess I’m a bit confused: is Fage a Greek yogurt, or is it some Americanized version of Greek yogurt? This is actually quite important to me, as I love that stuff. I alter between Fage and “The Greek Gods” plain yogurt. I eat the stuff basically every day for breakfast. Is this OK?

  6. It’s simply yoghurt you find everywhere in the Balkans (Albania,Macedonia,Kosovo,Bulgaria) not simply in Greece and it does not differ much of that made in Albania for example and we call it yoghurt not Albanian yoghurt. In fact is quite simple to make it in home conditions with full fat milk (cow, milk or goat).It does not come as dense as industrial ones but still delicious.

  7. Just yesterday I was wondering if what we (Americans) know as Greek Yogurt is actually what you would find in Greece. Knowing that European eating habits tend to be different then ours, I didn’t think so. You confirmed my suspicions that Greek Yogurt in Greece is actually a full-fat version and that all of the Greek Yogurt on the market here is “Americanized” to be low-fat or non-fat to fit our fat phobias. They don’t use low/non fat yogurt in France either. The goat’s milk makes sense as I believe that goat’s milk is more common in Greece as opposed to cow’s. I think that most authentic Greek Feta is also made with goat’s milk.

    I am a Greek-American myself, it’s nice that i have discovered your site. I think that I am going to take a little look around.

    1. Thank you Elizabeth.
      Yes, this Greek yogurt terminology is a bit misleading, but just really means stained yogurt. The most common traditional yogurt here is made from sheep’s milk, there some goat but it is seasonal and not as common.

    2. Goat’s milk yogurt is very runny, you can strain it but doesn’t match sheeps yogurt. The ultimate is sheep and goat yogurt 50/50 or 60/40. After eating it for some time (my neighbour has sheeps and goats and makes his own feta and yogurt) i simply could not eat those store bought stuff, even here in Greece. They tasted bland. The one by my neighbour is probably the best one i ate, if you strain it enough you can make tzatziki with it.

  8. Great post Elena!

    In your opinion, what’s the best brand of store bought greek yogurt (Trader Joe’s brand, Fage, Stonefield etc.)?

  9. That is the yogurt, the Greek one I new, the one I eat and enjoy, every time I am in Greece !!!

  10. You can find sheep’s milk yogurt in many health food stores, in Los Angeles you can find it at Sprout’s and Trader Joes. It does have that extra zing to it. In Greece it is the norm, nothing will ever taste the same outside of Greece! Yogurt with honey and fresh figs! Magical.

  11. I remember eating yogurt during my vacation in Greece – it was delicious! Unfortunately in Poland it’s rather impossible to find a sheep’s milk yogurt, and the “Greek yogruts’ avaiable have thickeners in them.

    1. You can try making your own strained yogurt, by taking regular yogurt and straining it. Take a strainer, line it with a cheesecloth, and place the strainer over a bowl, place regular yogurt in it and let it sit for 3 hours at least.