Vanilla yogurt is a dairy product flavored with natural or artificial vanilla flavoring. Like most other yogurts, vanilla yogurt is generally made from cow's milk, but it can also be made from other types of milk, like goat's milk, sheep's milk, and buffalo milk. This type of yogurt can be lightly sweetened and flavored like vanilla, or it can be a notably sweet product that is similar to an ice cream dessert. It is normally served either refrigerated or frozen, most often in single-serving cups, squeezable pouches, or large, multi-serving plastic containers.
Yogurt is made by fermenting milk using a bacterial culture. Once the milk is fermented, other flavoring agents, like sugar and vanilla, are added to the yogurt. Vanilla yogurt is often prepared so it contains live bacteria, which are thought to improve digestion, but some yogurt is pasteurized, which kills the potentially healthy bacteria but gives the yogurt a longer shelf life. Vanilla yogurt is often eaten with toppings, normally fresh or dried fruit, nuts, or crumbles of sweet treats like cookies or breakfast cereal. Some vanilla yogurt products also contain milk or cream, which softens the texture of the yogurt.
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Vanilla yogurt can be flavored with real vanilla, or with synthetic vanilla flavoring. Real vanilla comes from the vanilla bean, which is a seed pod that grows on a type of orchid. Vanilla usually goes into yogurt in the form of vanilla extract. Yogurts that use the actual vanilla bean for flavoring are usually peppered with telltale flecks that indicate the presence of vanilla bean material in the yogurt. Synthetic vanilla flavoring is called vanillin, and it is usually extracted from the tar that comes from certain types of wood.
Many varieties of yogurt products are flavored with vanilla. Vanilla-flavored yogurt powder can also be used to make a sweet coating for snacks like dried fruit and nuts. Candy coating with powdered yogurt turns out similar to an ordinary candied shell, but the yogurt coating is usually softer and thicker than candy coating. The most common types of vanilla coated snacks are almonds, but peanuts, cherries, and raisins are also common vanilla yogurt-coated snacks.
Some people freeze their vanilla yogurt before they eat it. In retail establishments, it is usually a sweet dessert that resembles soft serve ice cream. Most frozen yogurts are not simply frozen yogurt, but a blend of yogurt with an ice cream base that sweetens the frozen treat and makes it creamier.