Inside Our Food

Frozen Yogurt: How It’s Made

Frozen yogurt is seen more and more as a sweet and delicious alternative for ice cream. But how is frozen yogurt made and how is it different from ice cream?

Origins of frozen yogurt

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

Frozen yogurt’s entry in the dessert market, however, failed for a long time. People thought it tasted too much like normal yogurt.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 yogurt?

In essence, what goes into frozen yogurt is fairly simple. Generally, the recipe contains only a few key ingredients - noted this may vary between brands or specific products:2

  • milk solids
  • milk fat
  • (usually) yogurt 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 kinds of flavours can include fruit, fruit extracts,  cocoa, vanilla, sugars, and spices. 

How is frozen yogurt made?

Step 1. Processing

The base ingredient of frozen yogurt is pasteurized milk, to which live yogurt 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, also ensuring all ingredients are well blended.1

Step 2. Pasteurising the milk

Pasteurization involves quickly heating up 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 yogurt cultures are added into the batch. In general, around 1% of the batch should consist of yogurt culture. When that’s ready, the mixture is stored for four hours in aging 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 yogurt is then made by fermenting the other two thirds of the milk. Once both are combined, colour and taste are added. Lastly, the frozen yogurt 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 yogurt mix, to give it the light and creamy texture it is known for.5 

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

Does frozen yogurt 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 yogurts. As a result, the number of bacteria in frozen yogurt is usually lower than that in the yogurt it was made from.

On the other hand, the amount of probiotic cultures depends on the yogurt that was used before the frozen yogurt was made in the first place. In that case, some frozen yogurts may actually be better sources of probiotics than some regular yogurts. 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 yogurt 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 yogurt needs sugar

In the 70s, the inventors of frozen yogurt 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 But next to the flavouring benefit, adding sugar to yogurt is also required before freezing because it actually prevents large ice crystals from forming. The sugar will ensure that the yogurt keeps its creamy texture when it’s frozen.2 Because of this, frozen yogurt actually contains a lot more sugar than most regular refrigerated yogurts.2  The extra sweetness and smooth texture, in combination with a lower calorie-amount than most ice creams, eventually made “froyo” a popular alternative to ice cream.

Did you know about the differences between regular and frozen yogurt and how frozen yogurt is made?? Let us know in the comments below!

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