I'm making a recipe for tandoori chicken, and it told me to "drain" 1 cup plain yogurt "for 15 minutes in a fine sieve or cheesecloth." I did as it asked and absolutely nothing happened, yogurt did not move through the cloth. I'm using yoplait, which I know and it's pretty thick—but wondering if anyone knows what it was expecting to happen and what the result for the marinade might be.


1 Answer 1


Often, yogurt will drain away excess liquid in that length of time, thickening the yogurt. If left to drain overnight, a lot of yogurts will drain away a huge quantity of whey (yogurt water), some yogurts will hardly release any. If your yogurt didn't release whey, that just means that it was good and thick to begin with. That's great, but don't assume that your next container of yogurt will be the same way, even if you get the same brand. If you drain yogurt and it releases whey it will be a lot thicker than it was before you drained it, making the resulting marinade thicker in the bargain.

In the US, that's the major difference between Greek yogurt and "regular" yogurt like Yoplait original. Greek yogurt is thicker because it has been strained. "Real" Greek yogurt may also use different cultures, I don't know, but in this country the difference between Greek and "regular" is straining.

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  • It really seems like commercial yogurt in the US isn't thick in quite the same way - it seems really smooth and well-set, still with plenty of water in it, just not water that can separate. I'm not sure it's the same as well drained more traditional yogurt.
    – Cascabel
    Apr 12, 2014 at 6:31
  • I'm sure a lot of brands use additives, Yoplait Original may or may not, I'm not sure. But it will release whey if left to strain, making it very much like good Greek yogurt. That's what I have used to make Tzatziki.
    – Jolenealaska
    Apr 12, 2014 at 6:36
  • Ahh, that explains it! This site is awesome, thank you for your well-written and thorough response. Seems from the question you linked it may have been possible to get some drain if I'd stirred the yogurt beforehand. And now I'm dreaming of making homemade greek yogurt...
    – moushi
    Apr 12, 2014 at 7:23
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    @moushi It helps some to stir first, especially for a short drain. But since yours didn't drain at all, it probably didn't have a lot of excess liquid anyway. Have you ever noticed liquid sitting on the top of a carton of yogurt? That's the same stuff. To approximate Greek yogurt, let it strain overnight.
    – Jolenealaska
    Apr 12, 2014 at 7:54
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    The process by which liquid is excluded from yogurt is called syneresis: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syneresis_%28chemistry%29 Gelatin, xanthan or vegetable gums are somethimes added to yogurt to minimize that liquid separation. Apr 12, 2014 at 10:33

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