(Not) Recipes

No-Churn Yogurt Pops—Like Eating Ice Cream for Breakfast!

August  9, 2017

Let’s get one thing out of the way. This frozen yogurt is not the soft, swirled, birthday cake-flavored frozen yogurt that you mound with mochi, leaving a mochi trail on your walk to the register.

This is yogurt, frozen—unchurned, unfazed, ready to exceed all your expectations.

Breakfast or dessert? Who cares! Photo by Julia Gartland

A couple of summers ago, Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen wondered why breakfast popsicles aren’t a thing and I still haven’t thought of a good answer except: They should be! She takes Greek yogurt, adds simple syrup, then swirls the mixture with jammy blackberries in popsicle molds. No machine necessary. Even the molds can be replaced with paper cups.

That simple syrup, though? I couldn’t help but wonder if we could do without. But it’s complicated.

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Sugar isn’t just for sweetness—it’s also for consistency. When making a frozen, dairy-based dessert, there are a couple ways to disrupt the ice crystals to create a creamy texture. One is to churn, which incorporates air. Another is to add sugar, which, when dissolved, convinces some of the water molecules to resist freezing.

I tested two unsweetened frozen yogurt pops—nonfat and full-fat—to get a sense of the icy spectrum. The former was icy as heck. But the latter was surprisingly creamy—and tart enough for me to call breakfast, with no added sugar. Instead of disrupting the ice crystals, you'll lower the number of them by using strained, full-fat yogurt. Fat will make the frozen yogurt smoother and creamier, and less water means fewer ice crystals. (While sweetened yogurt will be creamier, the unsweetened version works, too!)

Let's make breakfast popsicles a thing.
Deb Perelman

Attack the lists below in the same way you would a froyo toppings bar—mixing and matching and taking none of it too seriously—for breakfast, dessert, or, you know, summer. I'll walk you through...

I've also listed my own personal favorite combinations for morning goodness and sweeter treats, to help get you started.

The rules

  • Add at least one of the variations: 1) a sweetener, 2) a mix-in, 3) a layer, or 4) a coat. (If you’re feeling crazy, add all of them!)
  • Mix the yogurt with a sweetener and/or mix-in. Drop a dollop of yogurt (a tablespoon-sized cookie scoop works well here) in the bottom of a small paper cup. Add a thin amount of your layer, followed by another dollop of yogurt. Repeat until you fill the cup. Freeze for about 30 minutes, until you can lodge a wooden popsicle stick in the center. Continue to freeze until completely frozen, at least 2 hours. When you’re ready to eat, snip the side of the cup with scissors and peel the paper away.
  • Pour the coat on a plate and gently roll around the yogurt pop. Eat! Preferably in the sunshine.
  • 3/4 cup plain, whole-milk Greek yogurt will yield about 3 pops, depending your variation.

The Nearly Endless Choices

For every 3/4 cup Greek yogurt, choose...

1 sweetener:

  • 1/4 cup simple syrup (click the recipe below for instructions on how to make and customize simple syrup)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup citrus syrup
  • 1/4 cup herbal syrup
  • 1/4 cup coffee or tea syrup
  • 1/4 cup ginger syrup

1 mix-in:

  • 1/4 cup fruit purée
  • 1/4 cup jam or citrus curd
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa or matcha powder
  • 1/4 cup nut or seed butter, like peanut, almond, or tahini (choose something runny, so that you can fully mix it into the yogurt without leaving pockets)
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
  • 1/4 cup Grape Nuts or other crunchy cereal
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon or rum

1 layer:

  • Fruit purée
  • Jam
  • Honey
  • Cracker or cookie crumbs
  • Chocolate sauce
  • Nut or seed butter, like peanut, almond, or tahini
  • Chocolate or candy bar chunks

1 coat:

  • Toasted oats
  • Cracker or cookie crumbs
  • Toasted, chopped nuts or seeds
  • Toasted wheat germ
  • Toasted coconut flakes
  • Melted chocolate (to drizzle or dunk)
  • Crushed cereal

Breakfast Pop Starter Pack

Raspberry-ginger-white chocolate; coffee-cocoa-pretzel; matcha-granola-raspberry; almond butter-honey-blackberry-graham. Photo by Julia Gartland
  • Honey layer + toasted wheat germ coat
  • Maple syrup sweetener + Grape Nuts mix-in
  • Honey sweetener + almond butter mix-in + blackberry jam layers + graham cracker coat (pictured rightmost above)
  • Coffee sweetener + tahini mix-in + toasted sesame seed coat
  • Green tea syrup sweetener + matcha mix-in + raspberry jam layer + granola layer (pictured above, second from right)

Dessert Pop sTARTER pACK

  • Simple syrup sweetener + almond butter mix-in + chocolate sauce layers + toasted coconut coat
  • Coffee syrup sweetener + cocoa powder mix-in + crushed pretzel coat (pictured above, second from left)
  • Lemon syrup sweetener + lemon curd mix-in + graham cracker layers
  • Simple syrup sweetener + bourbon mix-in + Nilla wafers layers + rainbow sprinkle coat
  • Ginger syrup sweetener + raspberry purée mix-in + white chocolate chunk layers + white chocolate drizzle (pictured above, leftmost)

If you'd rather follow a recipe than make it up as you go, we've got a few more frozen pops you can call breakfast (or dessert):

Okay but back to the froyo-froyo: What are your favorite toppings? Mochi? Almond roca? Tell us in the comments below.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Cara
  • Melinda Rubin
    Melinda Rubin
  • Cassandra Brecht
    Cassandra Brecht
Emma was the food editor at Food52. She created the award-winning column, Big Little Recipes, and turned it into a cookbook in 2021. These days, she's a senior editor at Bon Appétit, leading digital cooking coverage. Say hello on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.


Cara August 18, 2017
Could these be made with coconut milk based yogurts?
Melinda R. August 13, 2017
If you choose to churn the frozen yogurt, can you achieve the texture of soft-serve without added sugar?
Cassandra B. August 10, 2017
I'm down with this mission . . .