Will Yogurt Curdle in A Slow Cooker?
Yes, yogurt will eventually split or separate in a slow cooker, as the heat inside the pot will eventually reach the desired cooking temperature, albeit very slowly. There is no guarantee that leaving yogurt in the slow cooker will produce the thick consistency that you want, so it would be best to try another method for reducing the curdling of yogurt during cooking.
How to Prevent It?
Native culinary practitioners suggest adding an egg or starch to the yogurt before cooking, so a binding effect and the separation of the yogurt, or curdling, can be avoided. However, these fixes’ results are often inconsistent, and you might end up with grainy sauce if it doesn’t work. For more consistent results, follow these tips:
- Never cook with frozen or cool yogurt. The best yogurt for cooking is room temperature yogurt. This means you have to bring your yogurt out minutes before needed so that the yogurt warms to room temperature before you combine it with very hot liquid.
Not everyone has the patience for this method, so there is an alternate method, too. Since we need warmer yogurt, you can scoop your cup’s contents into a bowl and then slowly add hot water from what you are cooking to the bowl. Use a whisk to integrate the hot water into the yogurt gently.
Avoid using too much water, as this can result in yogurt splitting. Use small amounts of hot water until you can get the yogurt to warm properly without splitting. When the yogurt is finally room temperature, that’s the right time to add it to your slow cooker or whatever pot you have going on the gas range. This process is called tempering, and it should work, especially if your yogurt is very cold and will surely split the moment it boils in the dish.
- The next step is ingenious and should work for many kinds of dishes. Instead of buying low-fat or non-fat yogurt, buy the yogurt with the highest dairy fat content you can find. You’ve already made a healthy substitution in your recipe by using yogurt, so you shouldn’t be worried anymore. Yogurt, whatever fat content it has, is healthy for the body.
This technique works because the fat in the yogurt acts as a protective envelope around the yogurt proteins. When there is more buffer or protection for the milk proteins, they are not all denatured quickly, and the yogurt stays intact. The denaturing effect of heat on dairy protein causes the yogurt to split in the first place. With more fat, this can be reduced greatly.
- And finally, we have the starch method – if you care to try it. Add one tsp. of cornstarch to the yogurt and combine it before adding to the dish. Before you do this, reduce all the acidic components of your dish (though this isn’t always possible) to further reduce the chance of curdling.
Picture from Janine from Mililani, Hawaii, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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