Greek yogurt—yogurt that’s strained to drain out liquid whey, resulting in a thicker, creamier probiotic dairy treat—has become especially popular in the past few years. But as it tends to be expensive or relatively hard to find (mostly through independent purveyors or specialty food shops, which we can’t always go out of our way to visit), commercialized brands have jumped at the opportunity to peddle a similar version. What many of them offer is not Greek yogurt per se, but Greek-style yogurt, which gets its thickness not from straining but from added thickeners, and/or may contain stabilizers, milk powders, preservatives, or other additives. Marketed in a similar fashion as the real thing, and potentially also labeled as “Greek yogurt” in some countries (e.g. in the U.S.) given the lack of regulations on the use of the said label outside the U.K., it’s a misleading way to ride on real Greek yogurt’s trendiness—but its accessibility and and cheaper price put it at an advantage. Among three Greek-style brands available at the supermarket, who does it best?
Elle & Vire
Elle & Vire’s doesn’t stray too far from regular yogurt, being on the runny, pourable side—though it is a smidge thicker with a prepackaged (specifically, Snack Brand) pudding-like character, loosely holding its shape on a spoon. Notably, this French brand’s version is the smoothest of the lot, giving a slight greasy feel on the lips and ending with the slightest bit of tannin on the tongue. Though unsweetened, it still carries a whisper of sweetness (of the sort you naturally get with milk) that blends in with its equally mellow sourness. And though watery at the onset, a milky fattiness emerges toward the end, contributing to the illusion of creaminess and making for an overall profile comparable to a watered-down sour cream.
Sweetness: 1/5 | Tang: 2/5 | Creaminess: 4/5 | Thickness: 3/5
Nestlé’s take carries a level of thickness and pudding-like character similar to Elle & Vire, but lacks the silkiness of the former brand and ends with a tannic feel that’s just a touch stronger. This plain variant in their “Greek flavored” line comes sweetened, and though more sugary than we’d like, it’s still relatively balanced for commercialized yogurt (many of which tend to be saccharine). Though still not as potent as true Greek yogurt, the flavor does display a good dose of dairy, with notes of caramelized milk and a milky fattiness coming through, supported by a mid-level yogurt-y tang.
Sweetness: 3/5 | Tang: 3.5/5 | Creaminess: 3.5/5 | Thickness: 3.5/5
Pascual carries an even stronger pudding-like semblance of thickness to it, holding its shape with a slight jiggliness (somewhat like panna cotta) on a spoon. But it’s light and airy as it dissolves on the tongue, with a whippiness that makes it comparable to diplomat cream, plus a chalky feel toward the end (that we don’t particularly mind). Its plain Greek-style variant is also sweetened and comes on the relatively sweet with less creaminess, but you get a more lemony tang here that distinctly resembles that of Dutchmill brand yogurt drinks.
Sweetness: 4/5 | Tang: 3.5/5 | Creaminess: 3/5 | Thickness: 3/5
The Verdict: Nestlé
All three brands remain within the realm of natural yogurt in terms of thickness and tanginess. Still, the good display of dairy and balance of sweet, tangy, and creamy makes Nestlé an enjoyable treat; and though we prefer to control the sweetness on our yogurt, Nestlé’s pre-sweetened nature make it a great on-the-go snack. Pascual, being sweeter and airier, works great as a somewhat-light dessert; and Elle and Vire, being unsweetened and relatively smooth, comes in handy as a lighter stand-in for sour cream or mayonnaise in certain applications (ideally, those that don’t require heating—e.g. for last-minute dolloping on tacos or binding together a macaroni salad).