Published April 1, 2009. From Cook's Country.
What’s the key to great strawberry yogurt? Surprise—strawberries!
Low-fat yogurt far outsells full-fat and nonfat versions in American supermarkets. In the last year, more strawberry yogurts have been introduced to the market than any other flavor, according to the market research firm Mintel. To see which low-fat strawberry yogurt was best, we rounded up eight national brands and called our tasters to the table.
Many in the test kitchen had high hopes for a popular (and relatively expensive) Greek-style yogurt. Greek-style yogurt is strained to remove the whey, making it thicker and tangier than American-style yogurts. (The whey contains a lot of lactose, the natural sugar in dairy products.) But our tasters either loved or hated this yogurt’s denser texture and stronger flavor.
Our winning low-fat strawberry yogurt comes from an industry giant. While it didn’t elicit the high scores of the Greek-style yogurt, it didn’t receive any low scores either, and it scored at or near the top for tang, texture, and, notably, its “solid” and “real” strawberry flavor. This was the key to our tasting, as our tasters’ preferences tracked closely to berry flavor (ahead of tang or texture). Our winner lists strawberries second (after milk) in its ingredients; by law, ingredients are listed on labels in order of amounts. By comparison, the yogurts that list sugar second (ahead of berries) lacked potent berry flavor. And our lowest-rated brand contains no strawberries at all—just artificial strawberry flavor.
Every brand we tested, save one, contains at least two of the following stabilizers: cornstarch, pectin, tapioca, kosher gelatin, xanthan gum, or bean gums. While the type of stabilizers used didn’t fully correspond with our textural preferences, none of the brands that we recommend contains kosher gelatin. One brand uses just a single stabilizer (pectin) and does list strawberries second on the ingredient list; nonetheless, it finished second to last in our rankings in part because tasters disliked its “loose,” “watery” texture.
When shopping for strawberry yogurt, look for brands that list strawberries ahead of sugar—the more strawberries, the more strawberry flavor. If you like its strong tang and thick texture, Greek-style yogurt is an excellent choice; otherwise we have two top picks.