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How to Make Yogurt Biscuits Without a Recipe

by • May 5, 2014 77 Comments

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Here at Food52, we love recipes -- but do we always use them? Of course not. Because once you realize you don't always need a recipe, you'll make your favorite dishes a lot more often.

Today: Food52's Provisions Editor, Posie Harwood, teaches us how to make light, fluffy biscuits without butter or oil -- and without a recipe -- in under 20 minutes.

Adult breakfasts are fraught with anxiety: Should I eat a responsible bowl of Greek yogurt, or can I just have a plate of warm, flaky biscuits? I am here to tell you that you can have both, all at once. 

Classic biscuits require some technique (cutting in cold butter) and foresight (actually having cold butter). My rendition is simpler. You likely have the ingredients at hand: Do you have flour? Salt? Yogurt? Give yourself a mental high five -- you’ve got biscuits! The only skill this yogurt version requires is stirring. Can you stir? Great. You’re ready to bake. 

Yogurt won’t give you the same flakiness as butter, but if you use a delicate touch, your biscuits will steam up into airy, light mounds. Aim for a “wet mess” of a dough, like in Shirley Corriher’s Genius recipe. Yogurt also gives these biscuits a slight tang -- the perfect foil for add-ins like cheese and spices. Or, as I see it, a reason to eat cheese for breakfast.

More: Get extra points by starting with homemade yogurt.

Once I discovered how easy and fast it was to make these, I started having biscuits a lot. You can wake up, mix the dough in your pajamas, and bake them while you shower. Take all that butter you didn’t put in the biscuits, slather it on top, and eat them immediately. 

Ready? Let’s begin.

How to Make Yogurt Biscuits Without a Recipe

How to Make Yogurt Biscuits

1. First, preheat your oven to 400° F. Fill a large mixing bowl with as much flour as you want biscuits. All-purpose works well, but if you want more delicate biscuits, add in some pastry flour. Feel free to use whole wheat, or spelt, or any alternative -- just make sure that at least half of your flour is AP, or your biscuits will be too dense.

Add a generous pinch of both salt and baking powder; if you're making a very large batch, add a second pinch of each. If you fancy dry add-ins, like black pepper, paprika, or other spices, add those now. Stir everything together.

2. Next up: liquids. Add a large dollop of yogurt to your flour mixture and stir it in. Any kind of plain yogurt is fine -- Greek, whole milk, sheep’s milk, and non-fat all work beautifully. Keep adding yogurt and stirring until your mixture starts to look crumbly, but is still dry. Then slowly add some milk, stirring as you go. Stop when the mixture starts to come together and is wet, but not loose like pancake batter. Use whatever milk you have on hand -- skim, whole, buttermilk -- it’s your biscuit party!

More: If you have leftover yogurt, here are six dinners to make with it.

3. If you’re getting wild and flavoring your biscuits, stir in your add-ins now. Shredded cheddar cheese and sliced scallions are nice, or grated Parmesan and chives. Love bacon? There’s no one stopping you (in fact, I’m encouraging you). Crumble that up and toss it on in.

If you want sweet biscuits, just dial down the salt and add a heaping spoonful of sugar to your flour. Cinnamon sugar biscuits, coconut-cardamom biscuits, dried cherry and pistachio biscuits -- the kitchen is your oyster.

4. Lightly flour a surface, and turn your dough out on it. Gently fold the dough onto itself a few times, then press it together into a flattened ball. If your dough is too dry, add a little more milk. Too wet and sticky? Add some flour. (Way too wet? No worries -- call them drop biscuits and skip the next step. Just spoon heaps of dough onto your parchment-lined baking sheet and proceed.)

5. Once you’ve kneaded it together, use a rolling pin to make a flat disk. The thicker the dough, the higher and bigger it’ll be. Cut it into rounds using a biscuit cutter (a glass or empty can works well, too).

6. Place your beautiful biscuits onto a parchment-lined sheet, sprinkle them with coarse sea salt -- or infused salt, or dried herbs -- and bake them for about 12 to 15 minutes. Bigger biscuits take longer, but start checking around 10 minutes and take them out once they’re golden brown on the top.

Congratulations, you are now a top-notch baker. Your prize is warm biscuits for dinner. 

What do you like in your biscuits? Share your tips for the very best combinations in the comments below!

We're looking for contributors! Email [email protected] and tell us the dish you could make in your sleep, without a recipe. Check out what we've already covered.

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: baking, how to & diy, biscuits, yogurt, breakfast

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Comments (77)

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about 1 month ago Tahira

Just tried them! Turned out to be super gorgeous! Read the recipe 1 hour back and now I have these in front of me! In the beginning I wad wondering that there should be measurements specially for baking powder ratio - but the images were supet helpful in determining the texture. I put in thyme, spring onion and cheddar. For spiced, I added roasted and then crushed cumin seeds, and boy was that a smart move!! It smells adorable - reminds me of Popeyes buns but healthier and more flavoursome. I also added some red chili powder, black pepper and salt and it needed nothing more. At one point I really wanted to crack an egg in it but I fought that urge. Maybe next time I might do that and it could be softer from inside. I wouldnt call these biscuits - they are more like yogurt buns. Have them with your tea and relax! :) Thanks again : )

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about 1 month ago karmaya

i have some cultured cocnut milk - it has same consistency as yogurt, so when the recipe mentions "sweet" biscuits i'm thinking why not use this "yogurt" plus chopped dried cherries and maybe pistachios, (and sugar ISO salt) - what do you think?

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about 1 month ago Annie

Can you use flavored yogurt instead of plain? I guess they'd be more of a "desserty" type biscuit, and was wondering if it works just as well.

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about 1 month ago Posie Harwood

I've never tried this! But I think you could, just add less sugar (maybe only a teaspoon) and I'd choose some sweet add-ins like dried fruit or a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar to complement the yogurt.

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about 1 month ago Annie

Thanks! I'm going to try it. I have some yummy Noosa strawberry-rhubarb yogurt, and I may throw in a bit of unsweetened coconut.

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about 1 month ago Annie

And I will also definitely be trying the savory version, as well!

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3 months ago Tammy44

The+biscuits+I+grew+up+with+were+simple.....+2+cups+self+rising+flour,+1+cup+buttermilk+(I+use+low+fat)+and+1/4+cup+vegetable+oil.+++The+key+is+to+not+over+work+the+dough.++I+have+also+been+told+you+don't+need+the+oil,+just+buttermilk+and+flour+is+what+the+mennonite+family+in+this+area+uses.++I'm+sure+greek+yogurt+is+a+worth+substitute+for+low+fat+greek+yogurt.++BTW+-+Buttermilk+is+better+the+older+it+is+so+go+past+the+expiration+date,+it's+okay.+++

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3 months ago Carolanne Fry

Mine turned out all gummy, I baked for almost 20 minutes & they were small

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11 months ago yomabes

Any suggestions/advice for using kefir please?

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11 months ago Posie Harwood

I'd say go for it -- the rule of thumb I'd adhere to is texture: if you use something more liquid-y like kefir, then you'll need less milk to get to the right texture. Just add a little at a time to your flour mixture until you reach that "wet mess" (moist but still crumbly) point. Depending on the thickness of the kefir, you may need a little milk. Hope that helps!

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10 months ago yomabes

Wonderful! The biscuits with kefir turned out crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. I added a few dribbles of cream, shredded Gruyere and lots of chopped scallions. Thank you so much for sharing this!

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about 1 year ago Scribbles

I'm definitely going to give these a try! My luck with biscuits has been so-so but with all the gorgeous veggies I get in Western NC it's nice to have a biscuit or cornbread to how with - it's time to try biscuits again!

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about 1 year ago lleello

If you are in NC, try making biscuit with White Lily Flour. I get much better result with that than with AP flour/cake flour

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about 1 year ago Dru Marks

Posie, these are amazing...and so easy. I am a traditional flaky biscuit kinda guy, but these are really incredible. I love the different texture...hovering halfway between my Grandma's biscuits and a lovely dinner roll. I made mine with plain yogurt and buttermilk, and the tangy taste really reminded me of a yeast roll. Delicious. Thanks for this!

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about 1 year ago gia b.

For those worried about printing the recipe .... there is so little to it, how about writing it down with a pen/pencil on paper? .... you can add notes on your own versions as you go along. PS. My entire batch disappeared with breakfast and lunch!

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about 1 year ago Nimuae

Indeed! :c) I think with the advent of computers, tablets and smart phones, many folks forget about the manual method of keeping notes ~

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about 1 year ago virginia

I just made these & eat some, they were good, I did use self rising flour instead of AP so I didn't need to add baking powder & salt. I will make them again

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about 1 year ago gia b.

Super, duper ... I added a bit of baking powder and did the cheese and escallions...
So easy and perfect for my non recipe personality. They were crunchy on top and light and airy inside! Will try other variations.

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about 1 year ago Mayra

Just made a small batch, half AP flour, half oat flour, homemade low-fat yogurt, fried garlic bits. They came out of the oven pretty and tasty! I've prepared myself to follow the flour/liquid/baking powder ratio you mentioned in a comment, but the best guides were your instructions and photos! Thank you so much for them!

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about 1 year ago Posie Harwood

umm fried garlic bits -- you just took this to an entirely new, more awesome level. can't wait to try that!

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about 1 year ago marty

As a biscuit lover I've been on a quest to find a more healthy and great tasting recipe. This is it. Mine also didn't rise well but next time I will roll them a little thicker and add more baking powder. Love the taste and texture. Sort of a cross between a biscuit and english muffin. Thanks.

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about 1 year ago Jane Eskay Waldmann

I think it would be easier with a recipe with exact measurements on this one!

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about 1 year ago Bobbi

Oh, my. Oh, my, my, my. So easy, no fat -- except the butter I slathered on them. And the cheese that I added to the second batch. I want to eat them until I am tired. I love the lack of a recipe too b/c that's how I cook! Wow. I love yogurt, I love biscuits, I love this easy recipe. I did them as drop biscuits b/c I couldn't be bothered to roll them out, and my kids are devouring the few that are left.

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about 1 year ago lizykat

well, mine are in the oven now, not looking so good and needing way more than time mentioned.... I will try again based on all the positive comments noted here. hope springs eternal :)

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about 1 year ago sharontesche

These were very simple to make and I love not having to follow a recipe. However, they were not flaky, no Fat except what was in our full fat milk home made yogurt. My grandmother and mother made great biscuits without a recipe and so do I. Flour, baking powder, salt, cold Crisco and milk and a light hand. I would encourage everyone to try Julia Child's recipe from her BAKING WITH JULIA cookbook. After you've done that for five or six times, it's easy to remember.

I scored some beautiful tomatoes and shelled butter beans this afternoon and headed home to cook dinner; we will have these with biscuits tonight, the ones I will make with Crisco.

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about 1 year ago Sarah Cohan

I made these for tomorrow and they're in the freezer, but the other day I took one out and baked it as a test. It didn't rise AT ALL. Did I not use enough baking powder? I think my batch made approximately 15-18 2" square biscuits, with a good amount of cheese added. I probably used 1/2tsp bp.

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about 1 year ago Posie Harwood

Sorry to hear that! The first things that I'd think of would be trying more baking powder -- what you used should be fine, but perhaps more would do the trick (also, check to make sure it isn't too old, that can affect the end result as well). Also, over mixing or overworking can stop them from being airy, especially with the yogurt which makes the dough more dense to begin with. When you roll them into a ball, make sure to be very gentle with the dough and fold it over itself rather than pressing down too hard. I hope some of that helps!

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about 1 year ago Crispini

Oh, yes! I read this and immediately headed into the kitchen. I made them with all purpose GF flour, added in shreds of some English cheese studded with chives. Mix, cut, bake, slice, butter...heaven! Thanks so much for reminding me of the simple pleasure of biscuits on a rainy morning.

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about 1 year ago laura

did your AP GF flour have guar gum or xanthum gum in it? or baking powder? I have some in the oven right now...but I added the gums AND baking powder AND baking soda. They look good, but i don't know how they;ll taste!

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about 1 year ago Posie Harwood

Laura -- hope yours turned out well! I've used GF flour without any gums and added a pinch of baking powder. I've also used a GF flour mix that had guar gum, baking powder, and baking soda -- both versions turned out pretty well! Without gums the biscuits were a bit more dense.

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about 1 year ago Michelle

I understand that this is a 'no-recipe' recipe, but you really need to have a PRINT button so that people like me, who rely on a desk top computer, can print this out so that when we do have the time to try it, we can have the instructions at hand. After reading some other comments here, I'm sure I speak for others as well. Thanks !

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about 1 year ago Nimuae

Try copying it into your windows program, then print from that

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about 1 year ago Nimuae

Sorry, meant to say copy and paste into your office program, then print.