Can you freeze yogurt and eat it like ice cream?

In this article, we will answer the question “Can you freeze yogurt and eat it like ice cream?”, and how to freeze yogurt?

Can you freeze yogurt and eat it like ice cream?

Yes, you can freeze yogurt but it does not remain smooth enough to be eaten like ice cream after freezing. Yogurt becomes rock hard after freezing and cannot be scooped like ice cream unless allowed to soften for a couple of hours in the fridge or on the counter. If you want to enjoy yogurt-like ice cream, make frozen yogurt at home and use your favorite fruits for flavoring it. Homemade frozen yogurt will not be similar to the ones produced industrially, thus the production of frozen yogurts resembles closely the processing of ice cream, they are commonly manufactured in ice cream factories (1).

The effects of freezing on yogurt

Yogurt can be refrigerated in an air-tight container for 1-2 weeks at 40°F (4°C). You can also freeze the yogurt and extend its shelf-life up to 1-2 months. The active bacteria content and the texture of the yogurt should be considered before you pack it away for freezing. The frozen yogurt environment is not optimum for survival of bacteria. The freezing process of the mix may cause a loss of ¹⁄₂ to 1 log cycle in viable counts (2). However, in recent years probiotic organisms such as Bifidobacterium spp. and L. acidophilus have been successfully added in frozen yogurt. Frozen yogurt has been used as a carrier of probiotic organisms, enabling  the organisms to maintain their viability in low pH and low storage temperature (−29°C) (1). 

Do live and active bacteria survive freezing?

As per the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines, yogurt must contain milk and at least two specific strains of bacteria — Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Some yogurt manufacturers may go a mile ahead and add another train of bacteria such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria (3).

These live and active cultures are known to the general public as probiotics. Regular consumption of probiotic-rich foods like yogurt boosts immunity, improves gut health, and lowers blood cholesterol levels. A minimum bacterial count of 107 cfu of Bifidobacterium/ml in fresh dairy products is recommended (2).

Most of the probiotics thrive at a temperature range of  98°F (37°C) and below 130°F (54°C) and do not last longer than a few weeks in the freezer. Some studies have shown that the probiotics in the yogurt go dormant during freezing and wake up again once the yogurt is thawed.

Besides, the fluctuation in temperature, causing ice crystal formation during the 6 to 12-mo shelf-life, may rupture bacterial cells and reduce viability. The concentration of sweeteners in the product inhibits growth of yogurt bacteria. Bifidobacteria are sensitive to oxygen and acid, conditions found in frozen yogurt. All this makes frozen yogurt unfavorable for bacteria (2).

Textural changes 

The textural difference between frozen and fresh yogurt is pretty obvious. That happens because of the low freezing rate of a conventional home freezer and lack of air incorporation during the freezing process. Freezing tends to make the yogurt thinner or gritty. In addition to this, freezing destroys the protein structures due to which the yogurt releases the previously protein-bound water after thawing. 

Taking all these factors into consideration, we can say that frozen and thawed yogurt is best used in a smoothie or baking instead of sauces.

The microstructure of frozen yogurt produced industrially is generally similar to that of ice cream, because the process is similar (2). In addition, the ingredients used for ice cream manufacture are also convenient for frozen yogurt production, including hydrocolloids, emulsifiers, sweeteners, solid nonfat fortifiers, and fat replacers. The major effect of stabilizers on frozen dairy desserts reflects their ability to control the recrystallization and heat shock phenomena caused by temperature fluctuations during the hardening and storage steps. Moreover, hydrocolloids increase viscosity of the mix and improve shape retention and melting behavior of the product (4).

How to freeze yogurt?

Check for added stabilizers 

It is tested and proven that yogurt that contains added stabilizers freezes best. So, opt for yogurt with added stabilizer if you intend to eat frozen yogurt straight out of its container.

For better results, use an ice cream machine, which resembles the industrial process of making frozen yogurt. Battering the yogurt during freezing will incorporate air and decrease ice crystals size, while improving the texture (1).

The most common stabilizers added to yogurt include pectin (a fruit fiber), xanthan gum (a sugar), and gelatin (a protein). These stabilizers lend strength to the yogurt gel and prevent whey separation. Whey protein products such sweet whey powder and whey protein concentrates are also used in frozen dairy products due to their substantial functional properties, such as solubility, water binding and foaming ability Moreover, whey proteins may improve texture and prevent graining caused by casein clotting phenomena during fermentation of the mix (4).

If you opted for a yogurt that does not contain any stabilizers, just give it a good stir before freezing it. This should prevent whey separation. 

How to thaw yogurt? 

You can defrost your yogurt on the counter or at room temperature but this does not mean you should. The best and safest way to thaw frozen yogurt is by leaving it overnight in the fridge. 

Defrosting in the fridge ensures that the bacteria are not given favorable temperatures for even the slightest of growth. Although it is not recommended, you can let your frozen yogurt thaw on the counter for 2 hours if you are pressed for time.

However, you must avoid defrosting your frozen yogurt on the counter if it was made using raw milk. Because raw milk is a common vehicle for the transmission of E.coli.

The expiry date is not a reliable way to tell if the yogurt is fit for consumption or not. You must inspect the smell and texture of the yogurt to decide whether it should be discarded or not.

What is frozen yogurt and how is it made?

Frozen yogurt is a sweet and tangy yogurt-based dessert that has a smooth ice cream-like texture. Frozen yogurt is served in cups or cones and is topped with fruit, cookies, and chocolate chips. Frozen yogurt is a complex fermented frozen dairy dessert that combines the physical characteristics of ice cream with the sensory and nutritional properties of fermented milk products. Frozen yogurt can be regarded as a healthy alternative to ice cream for people suffering from obesity, cardiovascular diseases and lactose intolerance due to its low fat content (the fat percentage of regular frozen yogurt ranges from 3.5% to 6%) and reduced lactose concentration, which strictly depends on the kind and duration of fermentative step (4).

The 3 main ingredients of frozen yogurt are milk (liquid or powdered), yogurt cultures (such as Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus), and sugar (table sugar or agave nectar, etc). 

Commercially produced frozen yogurt is added with a variety of flavorings and stabilizers for an improved texture and flavor.

Nutrients in frozen yogurt 

The following table compares the nutritional profile of 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of regular, whole-milk frozen yogurt and 3.5 ounces of nonfat frozen yogurt, with no toppings or flavorings, according to the USDA.

Regular Frozen Yogurt Low-fat Frozen Yogurt 
Calories 127 kcal 136 kcal 
Fat 3.6 g 0.57 g 
Proteins 3 g 3.41 g 
Carbs 21.6 g 25 g 
Fiber 0 g 0 g
Calcium 10% of the RDI158 mg, 10% of the RDI 
Vitamin A 6% of the RDI0% of the RDI
Iron 3% of the RDI0% of the RDI
Vitamin C 1% of the RDI0% of the RDI

Other FAQs about Yogurt that you may be interested in.

Does Yogurt go bad?

Can you get sick from eating expired yogurt?

How long can yogurt stay out of the fridge?


In this article, we answered the question “Can you freeze yogurt and eat it like ice cream?”, and how to freeze yogurt?


  1. Chandan, Ramesh C. An overview of yogurt production and composition. Yogurt in health and disease prevention, 2017, 31-47. 
  2. Davidson, R. H., et al. Probiotic culture survival and implications in fermented frozen yogurt characteristics. J dairy sci, 2000, 83, 666-673.  
  3. Yogurt. The Nutrition Source, 2022. University of Harvard.
  4. Soukoulis, Christos, and Constantina Tzia. Impact of the acidification process, hydrocolloids and protein fortifiers on the physical and sensory properties of frozen yogurt. Int J Dairy Technol, 2008, 61, 170-177.