In a classic ’60s TV commercial, a wife asks her husband, “What was wrong with the chicken?” He answers simply, “It’s not steak.”
For years, frozen yogurt has had a similar problem. It’s not ice cream. It doesn’t have the same creamy texture and mouthfeel. Or in trying to mask the lack of fatty richness, it goes overboard with sweetness.
But trying to get frozen yogurt right is a noble cause. Making a satisfying frozen treat with fewer calories, less fat and—more important—less saturated fat than ice cream has been the holy grail of many companies. Some have come close, making frozen yogurts that aren’t bad when you want something cold, creamy and sweet without going crazy caloriewise and fatwise. But ultimately, at least for us, they still leave us craving ice cream. Finally, we think, Häagen-Dazs has gotten it right.
They make a total of seven frozen yogurt flavors, but the ones that work best for us are their dulce de leche and tart natural. Interestingly, they succeed in very different ways.
Dulce de leche is a milk-based sauce popular throughout Latin and South America. Sweetened milk is heated very slowly to create a flavor close to caramel. It is also the basis for many classic sweets and desserts. In describing its own version, Häagen-Dazs says, “luscious caramel low fat frozen yogurt is swirled through with thick ribbons of golden caramel.”
Perhaps it’s the rich caramel flavor that adds to the creaminess, and maybe their designers have gotten closer to mimicking full fat texture. Whatever the case, this is the first frozen yogurt that doesn’t make us miss ice cream. And it does it with just 2.5 grams of total fat and 2 grams of saturated fat per 1/2 cup serving. Compare that to 17 or so grams of total fat and 10 grams of saturated fat in their ice cream. Even their vaunted new line of five ice cream [with just five ingredients per flavor and "surprisingly less fat"] clocks in at 11 grams of total fat, 7 grams saturated fat.
Tart natural—not ice cream and proud of it
Häagen-Dazs’s tart natural frozen yogurt takes a completely different approach. You don’t miss ice cream because it’s not trying to be ice cream. Sure, it’s sold in the freezer case right next to the ice cream, but it has the refreshing brightness of, well, yogurt. Imagine tart, tangy plain Greek yogurt, only colder and more solid. And it’s even a little skinnier than the dulce de leche, with the same 2.5 grams of total fat per serving, but a mere 1 gram of saturated fat.
You may not want to gobble it down plain, but it makes a perfect blank canvas for desserts. For a recent dinner, we served it with blueberries and sliced fresh peaches. A perfect, light finish to the meal, satisfying and not overly sweet. I can see lots of fresh fruits working well with its tartness—various berries, nectarines, mango… I can also see sprinkling slivered almonds or chopped, salted pistachios over it and drizzling on just a little bit of honey.
So tell ice cream you need to take a little break and see some other frozen treats. Then pick up the frozen yogurts that won’t make you miss it.