I personally taste-tested a variety of yogurt substitutes to find the best one for curries. Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or want a swap that fits your diet, I’ve got the answers.
Crème fraîche, sour cream, or heavy cream are the best substitute for yogurt in terms of flavor and consistency. For vegan-friendly options, try homemade cashew cream or pureed silken tofu with a squeeze of lemon to introduce some tanginess.
I made small batches of chicken curry to test out several different yogurt substitutes.
Yogurt is a popular ingredient in Indian curries. It adds a delightful creaminess to curries and also helps mellow out the bold spices, giving you a more balanced flavor. Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:
|Other types of yogurt||e.g soy yogurt||10/10|
|Heavy Cream||Lacks yogurt’s tangy kick||9/10|
|Crème Fraîche||Has about 30% fat content||10/10|
|Cashew Cream||Vegan and easy to make||9/10|
|Sour Cream||Matches yogurts flavor||8/10|
|Buttermilk||Lower in fat||8/10|
|Coconut Milk||Vegan, sweeter flavor||8/10|
|Pureed Silken Tofu||Low-fat and vegan||7/10|
Other types of yogurt
This might seem like a very obvious suggestion, but I couldn’t leave it out.
Whatever type of yogurt your recipe calls for you can swap it for a different type of yogurt. Plain yogurt is usually used in curries, but Greek yogurt or any plant-based yogurt will be fine.
Just avoid sweetened or flavored yogurts!
How to Substitute: Replace yogurt in a 1:1 ratio with another type of yogurt.
Heavy cream is a popular ingredient in pasta dishes and desserts, but did you know it’s a great substitute for yogurt too?
Its high-fat content makes it exceptionally rich and creamy, so it’s ideal for tempering the spices in your curries. The high-fat also means you don’t have to worry about your curry curdling, even if you add the cream too early.
The only issue I had with heavy cream was it didn’t offer the characteristic tang of yogurt. To fill this gap, I added a spritz of lemon juice. It’s a simple trick that’ll brighten up your curry in the same way yogurt does.
How to Substitute: Replace yogurt in a 1:1 ratio with heavy cream.
Crème fraîche is a French dairy product made by allowing cream to naturally ferment. This process makes crème fraîche thick and creamy like yogurt and it also means this substitute has a tangy kick.
Because it’s made from cream, crème fraîche also has a high-fat content and won’t curdle. But there is a downside to this, and it’s to do with your waist! Both crème fraîche and heavy cream are loaded with calories and definitely not diet-friendly.
How to Substitute: Replace yogurt in a 1:1 ratio with crème fraîche.
Some curry recipes already use coconut milk instead of yogurt, so this is a no-brainer substitute. It’s rich and creamy just like yogurt. But instead of a tangy kick, it has a lightly sweet, nutty flavor that helps offset a bold, spicy curry. Did I mention that it’s vegan?
Another thing I love about coconut milk is the fact it’s sold in cans, which means you can keep them in your cupboards until you need them without worrying about them going off. And you get more room in your fridge.
Pro-tip: if you want to bring the coconut milk closer in flavor to a yogurt base, add a dash of lime juice or a dollop of tamarind paste.
How to Substitute: Replace yogurt in a 1:1 ratio with coconut milk.
Another vegan substitute for yogurt is cashew cream. Cashews are inherently creamy, and blitzing them with a bit of water creates a silky mixture that works like yogurt when added to curries.
My go-to recipe from the Minimalist Baker recommends using equal parts of cashew nuts and water. But if you prefer a lighter alternative, you can reduce the amount of cashews to half the amount of water.
The only problem I encountered with cashew cream is its neutral flavor. But like with heavy cream, you can simply add a spritz of lemon juice to get some tang.
How to Substitute: Replace yogurt in a 1:1 ratio with cashew cream.
Craving that zesty zing but ran out of yogurt? Sour cream has you covered. Its tangy flavor mirrors the tang of yogurt almost to a tee.
The biggest difference with sour cream is that it’s thicker and richer than yogurt. I added slightly less to my curry than I would normally with yogurt to counteract this, but you can also thin out the sour cream with water or milk.
And a fun fact about sour cream: did you know that just like yogurt, sour cream gets its tang from good bacteria?
How to Substitute: Replace yogurt in with 3/4 the amount of sour cream.
Buttermilk is typically used for baking and making pancakes, but you can also use it to replace yogurt in curries.
It matches yogurt’s signature sharp tang perfectly, and as a bonus, it has a lower fat content than previously mentioned dairy-based alternatives, which is great if you’re cutting back on calories. But because of the lower fat, buttermilk can curdle when cooked over high heat. So I recommend adding it to your curry just before serving.
Pro tip: You can make your own buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to a cup of regular milk and letting it sit for 10 minutes.
How to Substitute: Replace yogurt in a 1:1 ratio with buttermilk.
Pureed Silken Tofu
Looking for a low-fat vegan alternative to yogurt? You can’t go wrong with silken tofu.
It may sound odd, but silken tofu has a high water content, so it transforms into a smooth, creamy mixture when blended which can temper the heat of your curry. It has a mild soy flavor, but with all the spices in my curry, I didn’t even notice it.
Like with some of the previous substitutes, silken tofu lacks yogurt’s characteristic tang. But you know how to fix that by now (with a squeeze of lemon juice)!
Pro tip: Make sure to stick with silken tofu for that perfect creamy blend; firmer varieties won’t work here.
How to Substitute: Replace yogurt in a 1:1 ratio with pureed silken tofu.
Substitute To Avoid
The one dairy product I would recommend avoiding is milk or any kind of plant-based milk. Milk is too thin to work in the place of yogurt and it’s not creamy enough to have much of an effect on the heat level in the curry.
Best Substitute For Yogurt In Curry + 1 To Avoid
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 cup crème fraîche
- 1 cup cashew cream
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup pureed silken tofu
- Cook your meal according to the recipe.
- Add your chosen yogurt substitutes at the appropriate cooking time.
- Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.