Easy Yogurt Cream Cheese


Yogurt “cheese” really isn’t cheese at all.  It’s simply yogurt that has been thickened into a soft, cream cheese-like consistency…and it’s delightful on your morning bagel or in recipes calling for cream cheese or sour cream.

Although I have used fat-free and 2% yogurt to make this creamy spread, I prefer whole milk yogurt for a smooth, fresh taste reminiscent of mascarpone.  For years, I never actually bought whole milk yogurt.  I drank skim milk growing up so whole milk seemed so full of, well, fat.  But if you look at the nutritional comparison between sour cream or cream cheese and yogurt–even full fat yogurt–yogurt is still the winner by a mile.  Plus, it offers a healthy dose of calcium and protein.

For sure, I still buy sour cream and cream cheese on occasion. But for the sake of easy substitutions, this is just a handy recipe to have in your kitchen tool box.  I always have yogurt on hand–but often do not have sour cream or cream cheese–so this simple technique has saved me a trip to the grocery store on more than one occasion.

Starting with a quart-size (32-ounce) container is ideal when making yogurt cheese.  As for yield, a good estimate is that every one cup of yogurt will produce one-third to one-half a cup of yogurt cheese. The amount of liquid lost in the process–and, ultimately, how thick the resulting cheese is–depends on how long the yogurt drains.  When starting with Greek yogurt, less liquid will drain out as some of the whey has already been removed. Feel free to make this easy recipe in any proportion, depending on how much cheese you’d like in the end.

Easy Yogurt Cream Cheese
Yields approximately 1 cup.
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  1. 3 cups yogurt (I prefer Stonyfield Organic's whole milk yogurt although non-fat or 2% will work. Greek yogurt may be used; less liquid will drain out)
  1. If you have a fine-mesh strainer, you may add the yogurt without lining it first.  If using a colander, line it with a piece soft cotton fabric (I like to use an old, thin--clean!--t-shirt that I've cut into a rag; seven or eight layers of cheesecloth may be used instead).  Place the strainer or colander over a bowl or pot, and then scoop the yogurt into the strainer or cloth-lined colander. Make sure the bottom of the strainer doesn't touch the liquid in the bowl as it drains out.
  2. Place in the refrigerator, and let the yogurt drain overnight or at least 8 to 12 hours.  You may cover with plastic wrap, but this is not critical.  The longer the yogurt strains, the thicker it will become.  I like the end result to be really thick and typically let the yogurt drain for two days. You may use it at anytime, even while still draining.
  3. When the yogurt has reached the desired level of thickness, remove it from the strainer and store in a jar or other airtight container in the refrigerator.
  4. The liquid whey that has drained into the bowl may be discarded, or it can be used as a substitute for buttermilk, milk, or water in bread, muffin, or cake recipes.  It's quite nutritious.
  5. The cheese will keep for about a week and may be used just like cream cheese or even sour cream. Avoid beating the yogurt cheese too vigorously as it may break down.
  1. If you wish to use the yogurt cheese in a savory recipe, you may stir 1 teaspoon of kosher salt into every three cups of yogurt prior to straining.
The Fountain Avenue Kitchen http://fountainavenuekitchen.com/
Beyond Bagels… more ways to enjoy yogurt “cream cheese”:

  • Make an herbed cheese by mixing in fresh or dried herbs, minced garlic, pepper flakes, etc.
  • Use it as a base for tzatziki sauce.
  • Try it in this recipe for Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes
  • …Or this recipe for Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese
  • Dollop on baked potatoes, chili, and other soups or spicy recipes for a luscious alternative to sour cream.
  • Make Yogurt Cheese Balls (Labneh Makbus) by straining until the yogurt (mixed with 1 teaspoon salt per 3 cups of yogurt) is very thick.  Then roll a tablespoon at a time into smooth, round balls, and chill until firm.  Once the balls are firm and slightly dried out, place them in an airtight jar and cover with olive oil.  Enjoy with olives and/or fresh pita bread.
  • Enjoy as extra-thick Greek yogurt mixed with fruit, a drizzle of maple syrup–or all by itself!


If you have a fine-mesh sieve, there is no need to line it with cloth as is necessary with a colander.


When I make yogurt cream cheese with whole milk yogurt, I don’t add a thing to it.  If using non-fat or 2% yogurt, I like to add a bit of honey or maple syrup.

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  1. Krissie

    Thank-you so much for this recipe…I had some friends who moved back to their home country and never got their recipe, which sounds surprisingly close to your recipe!
    Also thank-you for going into such detail with tips on how to make it and ideas to make it different when desired!

  2. Trudy

    Ann, I ADORE your blog; I’ve told you before that your ideas are healthy AND delicious! I have a thin athletic teenager who I need to fill up with healthy calories. Unfortunately, he’s lactose intolerant so I make him yogurt from Lactaid milk for parfaits and smoothies. I just asked him if he would like me to try your cream cheese recipe. His response was “Of course! I always eat cream cheese when it’s offered, despite the intestinal distress it will cause. I can turn down pizza, but not cream cheese!”

    1. Ann

      What a terrific comment, Trudy…thank you! Because most of the lactose-containing whey is strained out in this process–and the result is more of the protein component, or casein–your son might find that he can eat this with less distress compared to many other dairy products…at least I hope so. I’d love to hear how it goes!

      1. Trudy

        He should be fine because I’ll make it with my homemade Lactaid yogurt. I found if I made Greek style yogurt by heating it longer he could eat it but it became really tangy, then he added something to sweeten it up, negating some of its “healthiness”.

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