Difference between Kefir and Yogurt

Updated on February 24, 2018

These pair of dairy products has won the hearts of millions of people all over the world. Most of them believe that there is hardly any difference between them. Among fans of fermented milk products there are those who enjoy yogurt but don’t like kefir at all and vice versa. So what is the difference between kefir and yogurt and is it so crucial? You will find the answer to this question as well as many new facts about cultured dairy products below.


Kefir is a fermented dairy product made of milk by adding cauliflower-like looking kefir grains (grains here mean special yeast or bacteria). Nowadays kefir has spread worldwide as a drink made of cow’s milk, but traditionally this drink belongs to the Caucasus Mountain region and there it was made not only with cow’s milk, but also using sheep’s or goat’s milk.

Kefir has quite a thick texture and tart taste that is a common thing for all cultured dairy products. The aftertaste may have a touch of yeast flavor. In comparison to yogurt, kefir tastes significantly less milky, but more sour.

The composition of kefir greatly depends on the type of milk used for its production, but it is all quite low in calories and contain minerals, vitamins and essential amino acids along with CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). Another valuable component of kefir is probiotic bacteria which are considered to be extremely beneficial to human health, helping to maintain the healthy microflora of the digestive tract and improving overall immunity.

Another important feature of kefir is that it is low in lactose – as it is broken down to lactic acid and bacteria, therefore it can be consumed by lactose intolerant people. Also the kefiran polysaccharides that can be found in kefir have been proved to decrease flatulence in people with lactose intolerance. It is a reason why kefir is not only harmless, but extremely beneficial to these people.

Kefir is made of mesophilic cultures, i.e. it should be stored at room temperature when being prepared. At home it can be prepared by adding grains or powdered kefir starter to milk, stirring thoroughly and keeping it at room temperature up to 24 hours, depending on your preferred version of the product.

The number of beneficial bacteria types in kefir is impressive: more than a dozen, three times more than in typical yogurt. The fat percentage in kefir may differ according to the type of milk and processing used,  but usually it varies from 1% to 5%.

Kefir beverage can be sold either plain or with flavors and sweeteners.


Yogurt is a cultured dairy product made by the process of milk bacterial fermentation. As a result of this fermentation lactose is transformed into lactic acid which acts on milk protein. As a result yogurt possesses new qualities in comparison to milk: a significantly thicker texture, a bit sourer taste and different nutritional value. The most popular type of milk for making yogurt is cow’s milk.

To make yogurt the milk should first be heated, but not boiled and then cooled to about 45 °C (113 °F); after that the bacteria is added and the mixture is kept warmed to this temperature for about 4 to 8 hours to enable the fermentation process.

Just like kefir, yogurt is rich in micro- and macronutrients, especially in protein, calcium and B-group vitamins – just like milk. But unlike milk, yogurt is low in lactose and together with kefir can be consumed by people with lactose intolerance. Yogurt may have different percentages of fat, depending on the qualities of milk used for its production, and may vary from low-fat (less than 1.5%) to about 10% in so-called “Greek” yogurt.

Just like kefir, yogurt is claimed to be extremely beneficial to the digestive tract and overall health. It is sold in packs, may have a natural taste or be flavored and sweetened or have a layer of fruit jam added. Sometimes producers add starch, pectin or gelatin to make the product thicker, but natural yogurt has this texture anyway with the correct fermentation.

Yogurt can also be cultured at home using milk and powdered fermentation bacteria. As these bacteria need a bit higher than room temperature to ferment milk, special yogurt makers are available. They maintain a 40-45 °C temperature that is ideal for obtaining a thick and nice yogurt in 8 hours.

While kefir is most often sold without flavors or sweeteners added, most popular yogurt products at supermarkets contain a lot of sugar, which may turn it from a healthy dairy product into a high calorie dessert.

Kefir vs Yogurt

What’s the difference between kefir and yogurt? The main one is their consistency.

Kefir is most often served as a beverage; it is thick, but in general has a thin consistency and can be drunk from a glass, or mixed with muesli, granola or fruit. Yogurt is traditionally eaten with a spoon. Nevertheless, today different producers offer a wide range of yogurts in plastic bottles that look exactly like kefir, maybe tasting a bit less tart. Similarly there can be kefir that is too thick and requires a spoon to eat it. In many dishes kefir can be easily substituted by yogurt and vice versa.

Both kefir and yogurt are rich in protein, calcium and B vitamins. Both are low in lactose and may be plain or flavored and sweetened.

A serious difference is that sweetened and flavored kefir is more an exception than a rule. Therefore if you need a healthier option choose a natural product: either kefir or yogurt, otherwise you’ll get a dessert instead of a healthy snack.

Kefir has a more prominent sour taste than yogurt; perhaps that is the reason why it is significantly less popular. Yogurt is milder and resembles milk a lot more.

Another difference is that kefir is much easier to make at home: it doesn’t require any additional device to maintain a special temperature for a long time. All you need for kefir is milk and bacteria for fermentation. With yogurt it’s a bit more complicated; you need a yogurt maker or a multi-cooker with “yogurt” mode or manual settings.

One more thing to compare is the types of beneficial bacteria contained in yogurt and kefir. Both these foods are a great source of probiotics (from bacteria and yeast) and give great health benefits, as probiotics are a natural part of the intestinal flora. They stimulate the immune system and normalize the digestion process. But kefir contains a lot more types of probiotic cultures in comparison to yogurt. Dozens of them are used for kefir production and only a few of them (usually two or three) for yogurt.

Is it so important? Probiotic cultures bring great benefits to the digestive tract. Research shows that probiotics can help in preventing allergic reactions and constipation; also they have a soothing action for inflammatory bowel disease.

But whatever you choose: yogurt, kefir or both of them make sure it doesn’t contain starch, added sugar or artificial thickeners. Stick to plain versions and mix them with natural fruits, berries or cereals to have a healthy snack.

Comparison Chart

A beverageUsually eaten with a spoon
Has a bit more sour tasteHas a bit more milky taste
Contains more varieties of probiotic bacteriaContains less varieties of probiotic bacteria
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