For me, the thick, linger-on-your-palate goodness of yogurt in smoothies is only surpassed by the upset stomach that I usually get when I indulge in dairy. As such, the quest to find a substitute for yogurt in smoothies for this lactose-intolerant guy usually leads me down the culinary rabbit hole.
And with good reason.
Yogurt in a smoothie turns what amounts to a glass of fruit juice into a quick meal substitute. For avid runners, busy business execs, and busy food bloggers – ahem – few meal replacement options pack the natural nutritional punch and flavor that a smoothie does.
Why Do People Put Yogurt in Smoothies, Anyway?
If you’re reading this article, I assume that you’re looking for a substitute for yogurt in smoothies. To address this dilemma, I think it’s best to talk about why people put yogurt in smoothies in the first place.
A few reasons exist for using yogurt in a smoothie. The main reasons are texture, nutritional value and flavor.
First of all, yogurt has the unique ability to make a smoothie thick and creamy. You either love or hate the texture of yogurt. But it works exceedingly well in smoothies. By adding a few scoops of yogurt or a yogurt substitute, you can a smoothie more filling and satisfying.
Secondly, yogurt is high in protein. Since we are talking about replacing yogurt, it’s important to touch on protein content. For those who are vegan, this is especially important to pay attention to, because plant based protein is not as plentiful as animal based protein and dairy. So when substituting, it’s important to keep in mind that you are potentially losing some protein content.
Third, yogurt has probiotics that are helpful to the gut. A lot of buzz has occurred over the benefits of yogurt. And probably the most remarkable and beneficial thing about yogurt is the beneficial bacteria. The live cultures can improve your gut microbiome.
Lastly, yogurt adds a subtle fruity, tangy flavor to smoothies. Aside from yogurt adding a healthy boost, when blended in with fruit, it adds a unique flavor.
Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s talk about why you thicken a smoothie and add nutritional value without yogurt.
Why Go The Non Dairy Route?
The question isn’t as rudimentary as it seems. If you’re lactose intolerant, your search for a yogurt substitute is motivated by you trying to avoid an adverse reaction after you drink a smoothie.
Lactose Intolerance or Allergy
It’s important here to mention that being lactose intolerant doesn’t necessarily mean you’re allergic to milk and dairy. According to Dr. Aliza Solomon, “In lactose intolerance, it’s usually because you lack the enzyme – lactate – to digest this milk sugar.”
In light of this intolerance, how a smoothie tastes comes second to your ability to digest the sugar in milk and dairy. For you, it’s more important to replace the creamy texture and nutritional value of yogurt with something a little more friendly to your tummy.
You Ran Out of Yogurt
If, on the other hand, you pride yourself on being a world-class foodie, finding a substitute for yogurt in a smoothie offers you a chance to broaden your culinary horizons (or saves you in a pinch when you run out of yogurt).
For you, it isn’t a matter of avoiding the proverbial forbidden fruit, but rather, it’s a matter of taste. Finally, if you adhere to a plant-based diet, you want to thicken a smoothie without yogurt because it’s all about being kinder to your animal friends.
Finding a Good Substitute for Yogurt in Smoothies
The trick for satisfying the parties in all camps lies in finding yogurt substitutes that replicate the nutritional value of Greek yogurt, as well as its creamy, slightly tangy taste. Being animal-friendly is important, too.
One-hundred-forty-six (or so) of those calories come from Greek yogurt. I’m using Greek yogurt as an example here out of convenience. I’ve heard anecdotally that this is the yogurt of preference for smoothies. (I know. Very scientific.)
Some of this has to do with taste. Some of it has to do with the thickness of Greek yogurt. It’s like putting ice cream in your smoothie, only the ice cream has a bit more street cred.
This type of yogurt contributes:
▪ about 20 grams of protein
▪ almost 4 grams of fat
▪ nearly 20% calcium
▪ and 43% vitamin B12
It also has a handful of other nutritional niceties, like riboflavin, vitamin A, zinc, potassium, and phosphorus. To bring the same nutritional value to your smoothie, whatever yogurt substitute you use should have at least some of the same nutrients that yogurt has.
Fortunately for the person seeking out an alternative to yogurt in smoothies, the options are plentiful.
And here we go! Here are four ideas for how to make a smoothie without yogurt.
Four Ingredients You Can Use as a Substitute for Yogurt in Smoothies
1. Plant-Based Yogurt Substitutes
Good options for texture (coconut cream works great!)
I’m going to start this list with the most obvious yogurt substitute. I suggest that you trade out your dairy yogurt for plant-based yogurt (otherwise known as “dairy free yogurt”). In principle, these yogurts have a similar consistency, so you can check off the box for “adding thickness to your smoothie.”
Another great option to thicken a smoothie without yogurt is coconut cream. You can find canned coconut cream at the grocery store next to coconut milk. Really either option of coconut cream or coconut milk will serve you well in making your smoothie more creamy.
Good options for protein
Plant-based milk (and yogurt) can also have a good amount of protein. According to Live Kindly, pea protein plant milk and soy milk top the list for the plant milk with the most protein. Plant milks become yogurt in the same way that dairy-based yogurt does: plenty of active live cultures added to the mix.
Naturally, people want the maximum amount of protein they can get from their morning smoothie. In order for your smoothie to satisfy this nutritional requirement, you need to know the right amount of protein for you.
According to Dr. Josh Axe, “In general, if you just want to have health and longevity, doing about 50% of your body weight in grams of protein per day is what you want.”
Plant milks satisfy this requirement in varying degrees. Depending on the brand, pea protein milk can contain up to 8 grams of protein per cup, and it tastes a great deal like dairy milk.
Soy milk contains up to 20 grams of protein per cup, so it’s closer in protein value to Greek yogurt. You can find yogurt made from both of these types of plant milk in the stores, though availability may vary depending on where you live.
My favorite plant based option
Personally, my favorite kind of plant milk is coconut. It doesn’t have anywhere near the amount of protein that soy and pea milks do, but it is delicious, kind of like a pina colada is delicious, so there’s that…
Coconut yogurt tastes most excellent with all manner of frozen fruit, too, making it a logical smoothie addition.
Incidentally, coconut cream is also a good yogurt substitute in terms of consistency, maybe the best. Its creamy texture and delicious flavor wins hands down in this category, though it is high in fat.
2. Nut Butters
Nut butters, with their creamy texture, high fiber content, and plant-based protein, are also a great option for those who fall into the vegan or lactose intolerant categories.
Peanut butter as a yogurt substitute
This option stokes a bit of nostalgia in the heart for people who grew up eating foods like peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Peanut butter and banana smoothies taste sublime, and peanut butter tops the list for the most protein in a nut butter at 8 grams per serving.
Additionally, if it’s protein plus some omega 3 fatty acids you’d like, opt for walnut butter. While it has less protein than peanut butter, it still comes with about 5 grams per serving.
The other advantage to using nut butters in your smoothies is that they add a dose of healthy, plant-based fats into your diet, as well as vitamin E and the mineral magnesium, according to Healthline.
A ton of other options
You don’t have to stop there. Taking a quick stroll down the peanut butter isle at the store, you might come across other good options like almond butter, cashew butter, even hemp butter!
3. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds come to us from the Mayans. “Chia” means “strength” in the Mayan language. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/chia-seeds
This is apropos if you need a quick calorie and nutritional boost before your workout. A chia seed-filled smoothie keeps you fueled. Twenty-eight grams of chia seeds contain nearly 140 calories.
Nutritional value of chia seeds
Like nut butters, chia seeds also fill a smoothie with some healthy fats, omega 3’s, and plenty of fiber. Although these little beads of goodness contain fiber, most of the calories in chia seeds come from the fats in the seeds.
For being so small, chia seeds bring a lot of nutritional value to your favorite smoothie recipe. Adding chia seeds to your morning smoothie turns your smoothie into a mineral supplement. Iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and copper are among the minerals that chia seeds introduce into your daily diet.
Chia as a thickening agent
Additionally, if you’ve ever made a chia seed pudding, then you know how much thickening power chia seeds have. As far as replacing the thickness of yogurt in smoothies, this yogurt substitute counts as one of the best options in that regard.
Positive health benefits
Finally, your health will thank you if you toss a few chia seeds into your smoothie. Studies show that chia seeds positively impact blood sugar levels. Blood pressure improves, too.
To ensure the best experience with chia seeds in your smoothie, soak the seeds first. And if you don’t have any chia seeds on hand, there are alternatives to chia seeds as well.
Who says that your morning oatmeal needs to be cooked. As it turns out, rolled oats amp up the thickness in a smoothie like nobody’s business. This fiber-filled wonder tastes great, too.
Adding oatmeal to your smoothie gives you all the nutritional value that overnight oats do but in a form that’s easier to carry to the gym with you. A cupful of oats in your smoothie introduces nutrients like potassium, zinc, and selenium to your smoothie.
By their nature, they also bring a creamy thickness to your smoothie, particularly if you soak the oats for a few minutes before adding smoothie ingredients like frozen fruit, bananas, and plant milk.