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Health Benefits of Matsoni, Georgian Yogurt

Health Benefits of Matsoni, Georgian Yogurt

Health Benefits of Matsoni, Georgian Yogurt


Dave Jobes, Ph.D.

I first got exposed to the delicious matsoni yogurt while touring through the Republic of Georgia, a small Eastern European country (~5M people) nestled on the coast of the Black Sea on the east and also not far from the Caspian Sea to the west. The Georgian culture dates back thousands of years and during that time, they’ve come up with some wonderful foods! Matsoni is definitely one of my favorites. It’s delicious, easy to make, and most Georgians will adamantly tell you it is the secret to a long, healthy life, so what’s not to love?

What is Matsoni?


Matsoni is a traditional yogurt found in both Georgia and its neighbor Armenia, where it is called ‘matsun’. In Japan, it is called “Caspian Sea Yogurt”, so clearly is enjoyed by many societies around the world, including a growing audience here in the US.  

There are variations in the live cultures used to make matsoni/matsun, but the process is essentially the same, as well as the health benefits. You’ll find matsoni throughout Georgia, at restaurants, local food stands and even at your hotel…it truly is a staple of the diet there! While delicious on its own (especially if you like a light tart flavor), most people will add honey, nuts, berries, granola, and/or fruits to the yogurt, so the potential flavor combinations are immense.

How do you make it?

Thankfully, there are many sources of the starter yogurt culture, and here and here are a couple of places for you to try. The recipe itself is very straightforward:

1)    ¼ cup Matsoni starter culture of your choice

2)    1 quart of pasteurized whole milk (organic and non-GMO is best!)

3)    Add the matsoni starter culture and milk into a suitable-sized glass bowl (some people use a mason jar) and briskly whisk until they are thoroughly mixed. Be sure to whisk around the edges of the bowl to ensure everything is properly mixed

4)    Lightly cover with cheese cloth or a very loose lid to allow the CO2 to escape, and let it sit out at room temperature. Do not place it in direct sunlight but do find a nice, warm spot for it to ferment

5)    Begin checking it at about the 12-hour mark, but it is possible it will take a full 18-24 hours, depending on the culture and the temperature of your room

6)    The matsoni should take on a gelatinous consistency; in other words, it should move as a single mass when you tilt it (just like yogurt!)

7)    Once it reaches that stage move it to the fridge to stop the fermentation process

8)    Set aside ¼ cup to serve as your next starter culture (you can keep it in the fridge until needed)

That’s it, and the beauty is that you can make matsoni at room temperature, so really anyone can do it anywhere. As stated in step 8, be sure to save a little of the yogurt that you make, as it becomes the next matsoni starter culture for future matsoni. If stored properly (refrigerated), you can make matsoni essentially indefinitely, without having to buy another starter culture. How’s that for a cost-effective treat! 

Health Benefits

The Georgian people swear by its health benefits but what does the science say? Like with most things in life, there is no definitive health study that has been conducted with matsoni but there have been analyses of the bacterial and yeast cultures found within matsoni, which do have real health benefits. You’ll find a good range of Lactobacillus and Streptococcus bacteria and plenty of different yeast strains like Saccharomyces and Kluyveromyces in matsoni cultures (Bokulich et al., 2015; Quero et al., 2014). These bacteria and yeast form the foundation for beneficial probiotic effects, to help create a beneficial environment in your gut for better digestion as well as immune system health. So, you’ll not only love making (it’s a fun activity to do with your kids) and eating matsoni, you’ll be doing your gut some good too!


1)    Bokulich et al. (2015). Microbial biogeography of the transnational fermented milk matsoni: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25998810

2)    Quero et al. (2014). Microbiological, physico-chemical, nutritional and sensory characterization of traditional Matsoni: selection and use of autochthonous multiple strain cultures to extent its shelf-life. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24290642