How To Drain Yogurt (Pos Na Straggisete To Yaourti)

Greek recipes calling for yogurt, such as Tzatziki, invariably call for Greek-style yogurt, which means that the yogurt has been drained of its liquid whey. But you can easily drain American yogurt to use in Greek recipes, and if you start with a high quality, whole milk yogurt such as Brown Cow, you will have excellent results. In fact, although drained Brown Cow doesn’t quite match up to the creaminess of the award-winning Fage yogurt, it’s head and shoulders above the “Greek Gods” yogurt which has lately appeared at my grocery store.

You will need a bowl, a colander, some cheesecloth, and of course, yogurt.

Equipment to drain yogurt for greek recipes.

Place the colander in the bowl, and line the colander with cheesecloth. I generally cut off a length that will cover the colander with some hang-over, then I open it up completely and fold it in quarters: in half crosswise and then in half lengthwise.

How to drain yogurt for greek recipes

Dump the yogurt into the cheesecloth-lined colander. (Not to be totally obsessive or anything, but because a little tiny bit of the yogurt is going to be absorbed into the cheesecloth, and because Brown Cow is a cream-on-top style of yogurt, I usually remove the cream layer, then dump in the yogurt, and finally put the cream layer on top where it won’t sink into the cheesecloth.)

Put yogurt in cheesecloth to drain for greek recipes.

Flip the loose ends of the cheesecloth up to cover the yogurt and then place the whole set-up in the refrigerator, for a few hours or overnight. If it’s winter and you don’t heat your house much, you can leave it on the countertop. (I bet that sentence sounds really strange to people in northern climes.)

Refrigerate yogurt to drain it for greek recipes.

You’ll find that as the whey drains out, the volume of yogurt will shrink by about one-half.

Drained yogurt with whey

I did mention that as long as you start with good quality yogurt you’ll get excellent results, right? Okay then, let’s talk money. I can buy a large container of Brown Cow for less than I pay for a small container of Fage. After I drain the Brown Cow, I’m left with roughly the same quantity of yogurt as in a small container of Fage. But I paid less for it and I also get the bonus of one-and-a-half or so cups of whey, which I can use in bread baking.


  1. Comment by maria verivaki

    and to add to the savings, it’s probably not imported, comes form local produce, and is transported over fewer kilometres, making it more environmentally friendly

    maria verivaki’s last blog post..Gourmet BLT

  2. Comment by Ivy

    Nice step by step tutorial. Didn’t know that you can use the whey for bread baking.

  3. Comment by dubaibilly

    OK, so does that leave the yoghurt really creamy like Greek yoghurt is? Does it alter the fat content? I like 10% Fage or Total but when we occasionally get them here in Dubai they cost the earth. Local yoghurt is a bit sharp tasting, so will your method alter that?

    Cheers Lulu


    dubaibilly’s last blog post..Images of Skopelos

  4. Comment by Lulu

    Good point, Maria, I hadn’t thought of that.

    I use it to replace the water, Ivy. It gives a nice flavor, just a bit of tartness.

  5. Comment by Lulu

    DB, draining the liquid causes the fat content to be a higher percentage of the remaining mass (as I know I do not need to explain to you!) so it does seem creamier. As for the sharpness, I’m not sure. If the whey is more acidic than the solids, draining should have the effect of lessening the sharpness, but for all I know the situation could be just the reverse. I do know that generally when adding cream to an acidic sauce, the cream has the effect of dulling one’s perception of the acidity. My point being that when you increase the fat percentage by draining the whey, it could be that the perceived sharpness of taste would be lessened.

    I’ll be interested to hear your observations if you do try this on the local yogurt.

  6. Comment by Peter G

    Nice tutorial Lulu. It’s a great idea to use a local yogurt and experiment this way.

    Peter G’s last blog post..Halvas

  7. Comment by Lulu

    Thanks, Peter!

  8. Comment by Paula

    My husband loves yogurt prepared this way. We call it “yogurt cheese” and just love it! Here in the state’s, Nancy’s brand yogurt makes great yogurt cheese!

    Paula’s last blog post..Chillin’ With My Chili

  9. Comment by Lulu

    Hi Paula! I haven’t tried Nancy’s because at my store they only carry the nonfat version. I’ll keep in mind that it’s a good brand though! I love yogurt cheese too! I drain it longer than I do for tzatziki and sometimes I mix herbs into it to make a cheese spread. Do you have anything special you do with it?

  10. Comment by Bellini Valli

    This is “100 Mile Diet” yogurt for sure. I have wanted to try Balkan yogurt and see if it is similar to the Greek yogurt…I will have to see:D

    Bellini Valli’s last blog post..Mixed Green Salad with Beets and Pecans – "Out, Out Damn Spot"

  11. Comment by Lulu

    Val, some of the best yogurt I remember having was an imported Bulgarian kosher yogurt. But that was many years ago, long before I’d had Greek yogurt, so my yogurt education hadn’t even really begun. :-)

  12. Comment by Peter

    I’ve just come back from being spoiled with strained Greek yogurt everywhere. In Greece, strained yogurt is the norm, rather than the exception.

    I don’t get how people can be lazy to strain their own yogurt…strainer/fridge/ovrnight = strained Greek yogurt!

    Good step by step, Lulu!

    Peter’s last blog post..Gone Fishing

  13. Comment by Laurie Constantino

    You can’t go wrong in straining yogurt. I used to use cheesecloth for it, but then I got sick of hunting it down in the store. Now I strain the yogurt through a paper towel and it works just fine. Cheaper too!

    Laurie Constantino’s last blog post..Summer Tomatoes in Greece with Historical Information and Recipe for Strapatsada (Greek Scrambled Eggs and Tomatoes)

  14. Comment by Lulu

    Paper towel, eh? I’ll have to keep that in mind.

  15. Comment by Lulu

    Well, Peter, I’ve been guilty of doing that myself, due to lack of planning. But ever since I found that even an hour or so of straining makes a huge difference, I don’t think I’ve eaten unstrained yogurt.

  16. Comment by manju

    Great tutorial! Drained yogurt is our substitute for sour cream, and with a little sweetness added and gently whipped, we use it instead of whipped cream to top desserts. My method is not nearly so civilized as yours, though — I use a paper coffee filter!

    manju’s last blog post..Gl├╝hwein

  17. Comment by Lulu

    manju, I use yogurt instead of sour cream too. Now that I’ve gotten used to it, sour cream actually seems too rich. You’ve got a great idea about the desserts that I hadn’t thought of. I’ll have to try that!

  18. Comment by Yogurt Maker

    Thanks for the idea I will give it a try :)

    Yogurt Maker’s last blog post..Deni 5600 1 Quart Electric Yogurt Maker

  19. Comment by Irene

    I was looking for information about the whey that comes from drained yogurt and I found your website, very nice. I drain my yogurt in a coffee filter. I use the yogurt to make Knorr sinach dip.

  20. Comment by kefir

    This is exactly what i was looking for. what a great post. I’ve been trying to look for a guide that was kind of home made and im so glad i found this post :)

  21. Comment by M

    you can use a clean, thin cotton kitchen towel too…it’s what i do, works great every time.

  22. Comment by florida

    Draining should have the effect of lessening the sharpness, but for all I know the situation could be just the reverse.

  23. Comment by Joni

    when I was a child my mother used to make something called Lubben and it was a Lebanese cheese thing. Is this the same thing.

  24. Comment by Cindy

    I’ve had great results draining yogurt with unbleached basket-style coffee filters lining a colander. I started doing that to make healthier cheesecake, before Greek yogurt entered my consciousness.

  25. Comment by brad

    I’ve made quite a bit of tzatziki over the years. I’ve been using dannon plain for so long that I forgot why. I screwed recently and got a local brand that was slightly less expensive and only got about three tablespoons of whey out of it after two hours. I read the ingredients and there it was….. pectin. Damn.

    Is it possible to strain plain yogurt containing pectin? I’ve googled it with no clear answer. I despise the taste of unstrained yogurt tzatziki. In my searching I did however discover mention of using strained yogurt for cooking since it does not curdle under heat. I never knew that. fantastic.

  26. Pingback by Best greek yogurt | Best greek yogurt

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  27. Comment by Dovid

    With regards to the sharpness in the Dubai yogurt, could this be similar to off flavors that can develop from what the cattle were fed (cows produce garlicky milk after eating wild garlic tops)?

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