Tips & Techniques

Make Genius, Creamy, Scoopable Frozen Yogurt in 3 Ingredients (and 20 Minutes) Flat

July  5, 2017

With Genius Recipes correspondent Kristen off in a dark, cookie-filled cave somewhere finishing up the Genius Desserts cookbook manuscript, we're re-running our best ever Genius summer desserts. Wish her luck! And make this fro-yo.

Remember when frozen yogurt was just a sweet, low-fat ice cream substitute that we all resented? (The carob chips probably weren’t helping.)

To be fair, we didn’t know what we wanted our frozen yogurt to be—yet. In digging deeper into our national relationship with froyo, one of the earliest mentions I found was from 1978, when The Country Gentleman advised, “In desserts, the tartness (lactic acid) [of yogurt] can be overcome with honey or fruit.”

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It took Pinkberry’s world takeover* in 2005** to help us realize how much we love—really, really love—frozen yogurt that actually tastes like yogurt.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

That bright, undeniably yogurt-y flavor should have been our first clue. Because, as it turns out, making tart, sweet, creamy, soul-rebirthing-on-a-hot-day frozen yogurt at home is literally as simple as sticking yogurt in an ice cream maker, along with a little salt and a little more sugar.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

You can eat it like soft serve (like Pinkberry) straightaway, but even if you pack it up in the freezer, it will stay creamy and scoopable, not icy or grainy—particularly if you use this formula, developed and stress-tested by Max Falkowitz, self-identifying ice cream whisperer, executive digital editor at Saveur, and co-author of the forthcoming Dumpling Galaxy Cookbook.***

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Top Comment:
“So, I'm experimenting with frozen yogurt for my dog. I'd like to avoid the added sugar but I want the end result to be scoopable, which my first attempt definitely was not. It is edible, and my pup loves it, but it froze rock solid like a block of ice and I have to chip it out instead of scoop it. I used plain Greek yogurt, a little honey, and some mashed up mango. Nothing precise by any means, but now I know I need an actual recipe... and guidance. :-)”
— mayingling

But how? Why don’t you need to make a custard base or outsmart ice crystals with doses of invert sugars and starches, like homemade ice cream recipes typically do?

It illustrates one of the most elegant heuristics about sorbet.
Max Falkowitz

For one thing, think of frozen yogurt more like a sorbet than an ice cream, as Falkowitz and pastry chefs do: “It illustrates one of the most elegant heuristics about sorbet (and frozen yogurt, despite the dairy, behaves basically like sorbet): You want about 4 parts liquid to 1 part sugar by volume for something scoopable,” he wrote to me. After looking up heuristics, I agreed.

That said, frozen yogurt still holds onto a lot of richness in the form of dairy fat, so it’s creamier than sorbet, too. I might even say it has a balance between sparkly-crisp and milky-comforting similar to my signature ice cream float from second grade—lemon-lime soda over scoops of cookies & cream—but I don’t expect you to agree with me.

But the real genius is this: Once you realize that you can put yogurt in the ice cream maker, you can do anything you want! When she first reported on this technique last summer, our own Sarah Jampel flavored hers with Nutella and sprinkled raspberries and chocolate bits on top. Falkowitz developed these six other kinds, including a bizarre and delicious version with dry white wine. Cécile from the blog Royal Chill recently sent me a recipe for her chocolate version, which I also found very easy to eat.

To pre-empt your questions: Don’t substitute non-fat yogurt (or don’t say I didn’t warn you). Yes, you can use Greek yogurt, but you might want to cut it with a little liquid to keep it from being too creamy, like in the white wine version linked above. Yes, you can play around with different sweeteners and mix-ins and infusions (Max's tips are here). If you don’t have an ice cream maker, do the things that people tell you to do. But also, did you know they cost approximately $50 and will do the stirring for you?

Photo by James Ransom

And yes, once you can get going, you can call yourself a frozen yogurt machine. Just not world’s first frozen yogurt robot—I’m afraid that’s taken.

*There are now Pinkberry stores in 21 countries, including Venezuela and Bahrain.

**Note that this 2007 New York Times Pinkberry exposé was reported by Jennifer Steinhauer, just a couple years before she was writing about Salmon Moqueca and other weeknight diatribes for us!

***Falkowitz would want you to know that he credits Ethan Frisch, his former co-writer of the Scooped ice cream column, with the recipe on Serious Eats, and that he further tested and popularized it, and developed many variations. “Ethan's a legitimate 100% genius, in the kitchen and out of it, and when he's not doing NGO work in Afghanistan and Syria he's cooking beautiful elaborate meals in tiny kitchens,” Falkowitz says.

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]. Thank you to my favorite froyo-cake-sourdough-cat internet personality Sarah Jampel for this one.

Photos by Bobbi Lin and James Ransom

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • mayingling
  • witloof
  • Tina Davis
    Tina Davis
  • shy
  • amysarah
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


mayingling September 13, 2019
So, I'm experimenting with frozen yogurt for my dog. I'd like to avoid the added sugar but I want the end result to be scoopable, which my first attempt definitely was not. It is edible, and my pup loves it, but it froze rock solid like a block of ice and I have to chip it out instead of scoop it. I used plain Greek yogurt, a little honey, and some mashed up mango. Nothing precise by any means, but now I know I need an actual recipe... and guidance. :-)
witloof July 5, 2017
Too creamy? Is that actually a thing? I make this with Fage 2% in my Cuisinart and it's wonderful.
Tina D. August 28, 2016
I tried this with the ice cream maker attachment to my kitchen aid mixer. After an hour of churning it was still a liquid, so I gave up. I used full fat greek yogurt. Not sure what I did wrong.
shy August 16, 2016
shy August 16, 2016
amysarah August 7, 2016
Doing the yearly summer plum tart dinner soon (it's a thing.) Was going to make honey vanilla ice cream to go with - but now thinking about this instead. Adding a little vanilla is a no-brainer...but have you ever made it with honey instead of sugar? No doubt it would taste good, just wondering about the creamy texture - any reason to think it would effect that? Also, any idea how much honey in place of the sugar?
Jennifer G. August 1, 2016
Can the Greek yogurt be low-fat or should that also be full fat?
Katherine July 27, 2016
I unfortunately have metabolic syndrome, which makes both fat and sugar problematic. Is there any way to come up with an equally and delicious edible product with either reduced sugar, substitute sugar (or combination), or fat free yogurt? I can experiment but I'd rather have someone who has experimented and save myself some horrible product. thanks.
mela July 27, 2016
Julie Rosso in Great Good Food uses plain nonfat yogurt in several frozen yogurt desserts. It's an old book, so more sugar than this recipe, which I reduce. She mixes the yogurt with fruit and often a related liqueur. The strawberry is heaven, the raspberry is pretty great. (The book's still available from amazon resellers.) So while you might have to experiment with quantities of sugar or substitutes, you can rest assured that nonfat yogurt is fine.
Katherine July 28, 2016
Thank you. I'll check it out. I had a recipe that was so lacking in sugar and fat that it was like a chunk of ice.
mela July 28, 2016
The sugar is what keeps it soft in the freezer. Alcohol does that too, though I don't know to what extent. If you click through to the Falkowitz article (the one with the several frozen yogurt flavours) he says you can make it without any sugar at all. But then it's very soft, and it does in fact freeze like a rock if you decide to store it in the freezer for a while.

Your best option may be minimal sugar, and made in small quantities so you can eat it right after making it. As the fresh fruit flavours are best then too, it's about the furthest thing I can imagine from suffering.
Katherine July 29, 2016
Thanks, just got the book on Amazon for one cent.
Ronni M. July 25, 2016
Can you substitute a lactose-free type of yogurt in these recipes? Coconut, almond based etc.?
Lili S. July 24, 2016
How much chocolate was added to the chocolate yogurt ice cream. ....I couldn't figure it out and I would like to try that one also
suziqcu July 25, 2016
100 grams of good chocolate(de bon chocolat noir) and 2 tablespoons (cuillères à soupe) cocoa powder.
Royal C. July 27, 2016
That's it, thanks for translating :-) I just posted the full recipe in english in the comment below
mela July 24, 2016
The google translation for the French chocolate yogurt is a hoot. I.e., 'yoghurt pots in Ruins' for Grecque/Greek yogurt. I was stumped by 'cocoa powder soup' until finally deciding 'soup' referred back to the size of the spoon.
Royal C. July 27, 2016
Hi ! Here is the translation in english of the yougurt and chocolate ice cream for those who need it :-)
100 g of dark chocolate, 300 g of Greek yogurt, 90 g of sugar, 1 pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons of sugar free cocoa, 50 g of crea... you just need to mix everything together with the melted chocolate. My full recipe in french is on my blog, feel free to come at this link and post a comment to ask me to translate if anything is unclear !
Amy W. July 24, 2016
Has anyone tried this in a vintage (as in the same era as carob chips), Donvier ice cream maker?
mela July 24, 2016
Yes. I've been doing this for twenty years in my Donvier, ever since Julie Rosso published Great Good Food - in 1993. She used non-fat yogurt frozen with berries and liqueurs. I usually use one or two percent yogurt with good results.
I thought no frozen yogurt ideas could be better than Rosso's, as a matter of fact, but am definitely going to try Falkowitz's mango, and his white wine yogurts. They sound fantastic.
kerry.mossler July 24, 2016
Do you know if this will work in an old-fashioned ice cream maker?
suziqcu July 23, 2016
Thanks to David Lebovitz and others I add my choice of vodka or flavored liqueurs to keep ice crystals from forming. I also squeeze in a little fresh lemon juice for a little zing. You can also strain regular full fat yogurt if you don't have greek. I almost always toss in sliced frozen cherries or other stone fruits while mixing. SO delicious and easy!
Jan July 21, 2016
What percent is full-fat yogurt? I'm in Canada, and none of the yogurt is labeled as such...
Kristen M. July 21, 2016
I believe it's 4%—does that match what you have in Canada?
Jan July 21, 2016
Thanks, that helps a lot! We do have some that hover around there :)