History & Culture

Types Of Yogurt Around The World

Yogurt as well as other fermented milks like kefir or kumis, have been part of our culture for ages. They are ingredients in many traditional recipes, can be a practical snack and a staple breakfast food, and they might have even been one of the first solid foods many of us had when we were babies. Yet you might not know that yogurt has ancient roots, dating back to 5,000 B.C.E., or that there are many different types of yogurts around the world.

Dairy is believed to have been introduced to the human diet between 10,000 and 5,000 B.C.E.2 Because milk conservation was a challenge back in the day, people eventually discovered that under certain conditions, milk would turn thicker and acidic, but would also be preserved for  longer.2 However, it took millennia to learn more about the processes behind this transformation: In the 1800s, Louis Pasteur discovered the culprits responsible for milk fermentation process: microorganisms.4

Fun Fact: You might think that yogurt and fermented milks are the same, but they're actually different! There are some strict regulations around what can be classified in the EU as yogurt.

Different Types of Yogurt In Cultures Around The World

Today, yogurt is well defined as a product made from fermenting cow’s milk with specific bacteria cultures.5 Different regions of the world use various milk sources and cultures, and fermented milks have become a part of traditional and cultural heritage. Here are some examples:

Russia: Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk, like liquid yogurt, lightly textured and slightly carbonated. It can even contain a little bit of alcohol, which is naturally generated during the fermentation process. This fermented drink has been consumed in Russia and Central Asia for centuries before spreading to other parts of the world. Kefir is made by adding kefir grains (a mix of bacteria and yeast) to cow’s, ewe’s, goat’s or buffalo’s milk and traditionally it was fermented in goatskin bags!6

Greece: Straggisto

Originally made from strained sheep’s milk, the famous Greek type yogurt now has many different processes to obtain its thick texture and smooth consistency. In one of the processes, milk is strained to remove the whey and concentrate the protein. Straggisto is mostly used as the base for tzatziki dip and sometimes as a dessert, topped with honey or sour-cherry syrup.7

South Africa: Amasi

Amasi is prepared by fermenting unpasteurized cow’s milk in a calabash by Zulu and Tsonga communities. The empty calabash is used as a bottle or container, and to prevent undesirable microorganisms it is smoked before adding the milk. During fermentation, the milk separates into “amasi”, a thick textured part which tastes like cottage cheese; and “umlaza”, a watery substance used in African cuisine.8

Central Asia and China: Kumis

Legend says that Kumis was developed by Kazakh steppe nomadic tribes. Kumis is produced from the fermentation of mare’s milk with a liquid starter, and it can contain low levels of alcohol.8 Traditionally, kumis is sipped out of small, bowl-shaped cups. It is typically offered to guests on arrival, as a hospitality gesture.9

China: Nai Lao

Nai lao, also called “imperial yogurt”, is a traditional Chinese preparation of cow milk fermented with rice wine. Nuts, raisins and sugar are also sometimes added. The result is a mild, smooth textured product eaten as a treat or dessert.

India: Lassi

Lassi is a yogurt-based beverage that can be either sweet or savoury. The savoury lassi drink is made by blending yogurt, water and spices (traditionally cumin or cardamom) and the sweet lassi has added sugar or fruit. They are often homemade, chilled and served with almost every meal.10

Lebanon: Laban

Laban is the Arabic version of yogurt and has been part of Arab culture for centuries. It is usually made by straining fermented milk and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Laban can be either served in a bowl or as a cool drink in a glass. It is often used in sauces, or prepared in a refreshing drink, with salt and mint.

Iceland: Skyr

Skyr is an Icelandic form of yogurt with a consistency similar to fresh sour milk cheese. The legend says that Skyr was brought to Iceland by the Vikings. It is generally prepared using a bit of old skyr from a previous batch as a starter in fresh milk. Skyr is used in a hræringur, the Icelandic dish of skyr and porridge. Skyr can be served with jam or fruit for a dessert, as a sauce for fish for dinner, or with cereals for breakfast.

Turkey: Ayran

Yogurt plays a very important role in Turkey’s national cuisine, particularly in savoury dishes. Ayran is a yogurt drink made by diluting yogurt with ice-cold water. Occasionally salt, pepper and other seasonings, such as mint, lime juice and diced cucumber can be added for a more refreshing flare.

Does your culture have a unique way of eating yogurt? Let us know in the comments below!

Related articles

Most viewed

Earth First

The Brazil Nut | How It’s Grown

Molly Melvin

At first glance, the Brazil nut seems little more than an oversized, overpriced nut you pass in the…

History & Culture

La Tomatina Festival | A Photo-Essay

Cait Mack

Each year on the last Wednesday of August, crowds descend on the sleepy mediaeval town of Buñol in…

The Future

Can Fisheries Ever Be Sustainable? | Ask The Expert

Oliver Fredriksson,Dr. Ray Hilborn

The narrative around the sustainability of fisheries is often characterised by alarming statistics…

Human Stories

The Indian Farmers Battling Climate Change With 10,000-year-old Emmer Wheat

Sanket Jain

Across India, farmers have been reporting major losses at the hands of recurring climate disasters.…

Inside Our Food

How is Salt Made?

Lottie Bingham

Salt is used across industries and cultures, and has held an important place in society for over…

Earth First

Himalayan Pink Salt: Healthier or Hoax?

Lottie Bingham

Numerous sources tout the many and varied health benefits of Himalayan Pink Salt – but is…

History & Culture

Underground Mushroom Farms | A Photo-Essay

Eloise Adler

47 million years ago, when the sea covered the north of France, limestone banks started to form in…

Human Stories

Imported Organic Food | Do They Meet EU Organic Standards?

Kevin Thellmann,Michael Bregler

How much of the organic food supply in the EU is imported? Are the high European standards for…

Human Stories

Tomatoes in Italy: The Social Cost of Production

Silvia Lazzaris

Tomatoes are a staple ingredient in many homes across Europe, but the story of how they reach your…

Inside Our Food

Instant Noodles | How Are They Made?

Madhura Rao

You’ve probably had instant noodles when you're too lazy to cook up a warm meal, but do you…

Earth First

Foraging in The Modern World: Rediscovering an Ancient Practice

Andrei Mihail

Have you ever tasted the sweetness of wild strawberries freshly picked from the forest? The…

Earth First

Food Fraud | When Does Food Become Criminal?

Luke Cridland

The modern consumer wants to know about the food they’re buying - is it organic, is it vegan,…

Keep updated with the latest news about your food with our newsletter

Follow Us