Inside Our Food

Frozen Yoghurt: How It’s Made

Frozen yoghurt is a sweet and delicious alternative to ice cream. But how is frozen yoghurt made, and how is it different from ice cream?

Origins of frozen yogurt

The first references to yoghurt and its health-boosting properties date back to 6000 BCE in Indian Ayurvedic scripts.7 Yet despite yoghurt being a crowd favourite for millennia, frozen yoghurt only came out as a first experiment in the 1970s. 

Frozen yoghurt’s entry into the dessert market, however, failed for a long time. People thought it tasted too much like regular yoghurt.1 After manufacturers spent more time experimenting, the dessert version we know today was eventually discovered. Since then, the popular dessert has been reinvented through a spectrum of flavours, now finding a place in the mainstream sweet market.

What ingredients are in frozen yoghurt?

In essence, what goes into frozen yoghurt is fairly simple.

Generally, the recipe contains only a few key ingredients, though this may vary between brands or specific products.2

In a typical frozen yoghurt, you'll probably find:

  • milk solids
  • milk fat
  • (usually) yoghurt cultures: lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus
  • Sugar or sweetener

Sweeteners, flavourings and colourings can then be added in many combinations to diversify tastes of the frozen yogurt dessert.3 Additional flavours can include fruit, fruit extracts,  cocoa, vanilla, sugars, and spices. 

How is frozen yoghurt made?

Step 1. Processing

The base ingredient of frozen yoghurt is pasteurized milk, to which live yoghurt cultures are added. Each ingredient is measured precisely and is added in a specific order according to the recipe. The mixture is gradually heated until it reaches 49°C to help it retain a smooth consistency, and ensuring all ingredients are well blended.1

Step 2. Pasteurising the milk

Pasteurization involves quickly heating the mix to a specific temperature (usually around 79°C) and then quickly reducing the temperature again (to about 4°C). This simple process is needed to make sure no pathogenic bacteria survive while the finished product is preserved and flavours are enhanced.1

Step 3. Culturing and cooling

When the mixture (now at 32°C) is nice and smooth, the yoghurt cultures are added to the batch. Around 1% of the batch should generally consist of yoghurt culture. When ready, the mixture is stored for four hours in ageing tanks inside coolers.1

Step 4. Flavouring, colouring and freezing

Now, the mixture is combined with one-third of the milk, sugar and stabilizers.5 The yoghurt is then made by fermenting the other two-thirds of the milk. Once both are combined, colour and taste are added. Lastly, the frozen yoghurt mix goes through a heat exchanger that will cool the mix. This is where the initial freezing takes place. The machine will inject air into the yoghurt mix to give it the light and creamy texture it is known for.5 

After this process, the frozen yoghurt is ready to be packed, sold and enjoyed!

Does frozen yoghurt still contain probiotics?

Even though the base ingredient of frozen yogurt is pasteurized milk to which live yogurt cultures are added, not all frozen yogurt contains the same amount of probiotic cultures compared to regular yogurt.4

This difference can be caused by the potential for small amounts of live bacterial cultures not surviving the flash-freezing technique used in the production of frozen yoghurts. As a result, the number of bacteria in frozen yoghurt is usually lower than that in the yoghurt it was made from.

On the other hand, the amount of probiotic cultures depends on the yoghurt that was used before the frozen yoghurt was made in the first place. In that case, some frozen yoghurts may actually be better sources of probiotics than some regular yoghurts. When a frozen yogurt does contain “live cultures” (often indicated on the food label) they have the same health benefits as regular yogurt, depending on the amount present.10

The National Yogurt Association has standardized for live active cultures that frozen yoghurt needs a minimum of 10 million cultures per gram at the time of manufacture. Regular yogurt however, is required to hold a live culture quantity of 100 million cultures per gram.8

Why frozen yoghurt needs sugar

In the 70s, the inventors of frozen yoghurt didn’t initially add high quantities of sugar.1 This resulted in a dessert that was far less sweet than what you would find today, with a less creamy and smooth texture.2 As well as the flavouring benefit, adding sugar to yoghurt is required before freezing because it prevents large ice crystals from forming. The sugar will ensure that the yoghurt keeps its creamy texture when frozen.2 Because of this, frozen yoghurt actually contains a lot more sugar than most regular refrigerated yoghurt.2  The extra sweetness and smooth texture, in combination with a lower calorie content than most ice creams, eventually made “froyo” a popular alternative to ice cream.

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