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Can I substitute Greek yogurt for cream cheese in cheesecake?

Quick Answer

Yes, you can substitute Greek yogurt for cream cheese in cheesecake recipes. Greek yogurt has a thick, creamy texture similar to cream cheese that makes it a suitable replacement. However, there are some important considerations when substituting Greek yogurt for cream cheese:

  • Use strained Greek yogurt for the best results. The thicker consistency will be closer to cream cheese.
  • Since Greek yogurt contains less fat than cream cheese, the cheesecake may have a lighter texture. Add cream or mascarpone cheese to make it richer.
  • Greek yogurt is tangier than cream cheese. Balance out the flavor by adding more sugar or vanilla extract.
  • You may need to use more Greek yogurt than cream cheese to account for the higher moisture content. Start with a 1:1 substitution and adjust as needed.
  • The protein content in Greek yogurt can cause graininess. Blend it first to smooth it out.

With the right adjustments, Greek yogurt cheesecakes can be just as smooth, rich, and decadent as those made with regular cream cheese. The substitution adds a nice tangy flavor and reduces overall calories and fat.

Explaining the Differences Between Greek Yogurt and Cream Cheese

To understand how to substitute Greek yogurt for cream cheese in cheesecake, it helps to first look at what makes these two ingredients different:

Fat Content

Cream cheese is much higher in fat than Greek yogurt. Regular full-fat cream cheese contains about 34-35% fat. On the other hand, whole milk Greek yogurt contains around 10% fat. This lower fat content is one reason why Greek yogurt is considered a healthier swap for certain recipes. However, the fat in cream cheese contributes to the rich, creamy texture you expect in cheesecake. To compensate when using lower-fat Greek yogurt, you may need to add other higher-fat dairy like sour cream, heavy cream, or mascarpone cheese.

Moisture Content

Greek yogurt contains more moisture than cream cheese – around 80% compared to the 50% found in cream cheese. This extra moisture content can make it difficult to achieve the dense texture associated with cheesecake when solely using Greek yogurt. Luckily there are a couple tricks to remove excess moisture from Greek yogurt before baking it into cheesecake:

  • Strain the yogurt through a cheesecloth overnight to thicken it up.
  • Combine the Greek yogurt with cream cheese in a ratio that yields the moisture content you need.

Texture

Cream cheese is smooth and creamy when whipped. Meanwhile, Greek yogurt has a thicker, more spoonable texture. Blending the Greek yogurt well prior to adding it to the cheesecake batter helps improve its smoothness. Still, there will likely be a detectable difference in texture when replacing all the cream cheese with yogurt. Combining the two may help achieve a better end result.

Flavor

Greek yogurt and cream cheese have noticeably different flavors. Cream cheese offers a relatively mild, fresh dairy flavor. Greek yogurt is tangier due to the live cultures used to make it. The tanginess intensifies when Greek yogurt is strained to remove more whey and liquid. With cheesecake, this tangy flavor from the yogurt needs to be balanced out somehow. You can add more sugar or vanilla extract to achieve a sweeter flavor profile that counteracts the tartness.

Key Considerations When Substituting Greek Yogurt for Cream Cheese

Here are some important tips to keep in mind when using Greek yogurt in place of cream cheese for cheesecake:

Use Strained Greek Yogurt

Straining the yogurt is one of the most effective ways to mimic the dense texture of cream cheese. To strain, line a sieve or colander with cheesecloth. Add Greek yogurt and allow the liquid whey to drain out in the refrigerator overnight. The longer it’s strained, the thicker it becomes as moisture is removed.

Strained Greek yogurt has a smooth, spreadable texture much closer to cream cheese than plain Greek yogurt straight from the container. For best results, look for Greek yogurts that are pre-strained, like Labneh.

Adjust Fat Content

To make up for the lower fat content of Greek yogurt, you’ll need to increase the fat through other ingredients. Heavy cream, sour cream, mascarpone, cream cheese, and butter are all excellent options. This introduces the creamy richness needed in cheesecake that you don’t quite get with Greek yogurt alone.

A common cheesecake recipe trick is to use a blend of cream cheese and sour cream. Follow the same concept with Greek yogurt. Mixing it with higher-fat dairy creates a balanced base for cheesecake.

Supplement With Cream Cheese

For the ideal texture and flavor, your best bet is to use a combination of cream cheese and Greek yogurt. This allows you to keep the rich taste and density that comes from cream cheese while still benefiting from the enhanced protein and reduced fat of Greek yogurt. Generally, a 1:1 ratio ofcream cheese to Greek yogurt is a safe starting point. But you may need to adjust the quantities depending on the ingredients and desired consistency.

Remove Excess Moisture

Use straining, mixing, and resting techniques to release as much liquid from the yogurt as possible. This prevents your cheesecake from turning out runny.

After straining the yogurt, let it sit overnight in the fridge to allow any remaining moisture to settle out. The next day, carefully pour off any liquid on top before using it in your cheesecake batter.

You can also mix in a couple tablespoons of flour or cornstarch with the yogurt to absorb excess moisture and help prevent watering.

Blend Well

Puree or process the Greek yogurt first before adding other cheesecake ingredients. This improves smoothness and reduces the grainy texture that yogurt’s high protein content can cause. For silkier results, you may also pass the blended yogurt mixture through a fine mesh strainer after mixing everything together.

Balance the Flavor

Factor in the tangy flavor of Greek yogurt when adjusting sugar and other flavorings in your cheesecake recipe. Start by adding at least 1-2 tablespoons more sugar or honey than the recipe calls for if using all yogurt. Up the vanilla as well to mask tartness. You can always add more sweetener and spices as needed after tasting the finished cheesecake batter. The acidic taste should mellow significantly upon baking.

Simple Recipe Substituting Greek Yogurt for Cream Cheese

This easy baked cheesecake recipe demonstrates how to successfully use Greek yogurt in place of some of the cream cheese.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups strained Greek yogurt
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 prepared graham cracker crust

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare 6-inch graham cracker crust according to package instructions.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together Greek yogurt, cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla until smooth and creamy.
  3. Mix in eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.
  4. Pour cheesecake batter into prepared crust.
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes until center is almost set. Turn off oven and let cheesecake rest in oven another 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before refrigerating overnight.

This simple baked cheesecake uses a 1:1 ratio of Greek yogurt to cream cheese. The bit of lemon brightens up the tanginess from the yogurt. Feel free to adjust the flavorings to your tastes. For an ultra-creamy version, use 2 packages of cream cheese and just 1 cup strained yogurt.

Tips for Perfect Greek Yogurt Cheesecake

Follow these helpful tips for getting the best results when making cheesecake with Greek yogurt:

  • Mix in some cream cheese, sour cream, or mascarpone to improve richness.
  • Let the cheesecake bake low and slow to prevent cracks on the top.
  • Chill overnight in the refrigerator so flavors can fully develop.
  • Top with fruit sauce or compote to balance tart yogurt flavors.
  • Use full-fat Greek yogurt for a creamier texture.
  • Blend ingredients well before baking to prevent graininess.
  • Add a touch more sugar and vanilla to account for Greek yogurt’s tang.

The ideal Greek yogurt to cream cheese ratio depends on the specific brands used. You may need to experiment to get the perfect consistency and taste. No matter what, allow time for the cheesecake to chill completely so it sets up before slicing and serving.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about substituting Greek yogurt for cream cheese in cheesecake:

Does Greek yogurt make cheesecake healthier?

Yes, Greek yogurt can make cheesecake a bit healthier due to its higher protein content and lower fat content compared to regular cream cheese. Just be mindful of any other ingredients you add like heavy cream or sugar. Straining the yogurt also removes some of the beneficial probiotics.

Can I use regular yogurt instead of Greek yogurt?

Regular yogurt doesn’t work as well because it has a thinner, more liquid-like consistency. Greek yogurt is thicker and more similar to cream cheese. Make sure to use plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt.

How long does Greek yogurt cheesecake last in the fridge?

Properly stored homemade cheesecake made with yogurt will last 5-7 days refrigerated. Cover tightly and keep away from fresh produce which emits ethylene gas that can affect texture and taste.

Should I make any recipe adjustments?

When substituting all or mostly Greek yogurt, you may need to add more eggs, sugar, flour or cornstarch to account for moisture and flavor differences. Every recipe varies, so adjust yours as needed based on texture and taste after mixing up the batter.

What kind of crust works best?

A graham cracker crust is classic, adding just the right hint of sweetness. Shortbread, chocolate wafer, ginger snap, and nut-based crusts also pair well with the tangy yogurt flavor.

The Takeaway

It’s definitely possible to use Greek yogurt in place of some or all the cream cheese in cheesecake recipes. For best results, make sure to strain excess moisture from the yogurt, supplement with higher-fat dairy, blend well, and balance tangy flavors. While not an exact match, Greek yogurt adds a tasty twist to classic cheesecake when used properly. Experiment with different yogurt brands and ratios to find your perfect creamy, rich, and delicious healthier cheesecake.