Since the domestication of cows, we’ve used their milk to create some of the most beloved foods in the world, from cheese to ice cream. Centuries of experimentation with milk have born a diverse variety of products and cooking techniques, one of them being frozen yogurt.
Yogurt is a milk product with an interesting composition that involves the addition of bacteria cultures known as lactobacillus.
Frozen yogurt combines powdered milk, milk fat, bacterial culture, sweetener, and flavoring to sit in aging containers before being frozen and run through a soft serve machine.
Frozen yogurt has a tanginess and a smoother, softer consistency than ice cream. It also has a lower fat content and a lower lactose content, making frozen yogurt a healthier dessert option.
Over the past decades, frozen yogurt has become a major trend, with thousands of shops popping up.
If you’re looking for a dreamy frozen dessert that benefits your health, check out my list of the best frozen yogurt shops in America.
Originating in L.A.in 2007, Menchie’s has become the world’s largest frozen yogurt franchise with over 500 locations in 16 countries.
Menchie’s operates as a 100% customizable yogurt shop where customers serve themselves, choosing from an array of different yogurt flavors, toppings, and sauces.
An homage to its roots, Menchie’s uses California-certified fresh cow milk for all its yogurts, other than some vegan offerings. They also offer various healthy options like non-fat, low carb, and dairy-free flavors.
Their flavors are seemingly endless, with new and seasonal additions constantly arriving.
My favorite flavor at Menchie’s is their vegan fudge chocolate because it reminded me of the fudge-sickles of my youth.
Featured in Newsweek, Entrepreneur, and Orange County Business Journal, Yogurtland is another California-born self-serve yogurt chain.
Founded by Phillip Chang in 2006, Yogurtland has grown to over 250 locations around the U.S. and abroad. They’re one of the first yogurt shops to offer self-service.
Yogurtland has a long list of sorbets, dairy-free, and milk-based frozen yogurt to combine with your choice of fruit, nuts, candy, and sauces.
You pay by the weight. I liked that they offer plain frozen yogurt, which is basically a frozen form of the tart yogurt that you’d eat for breakfast with fruit.
I combined plain with peanut butter yogurt and topped it with strawberries, blueberries, and chopped almonds.
Yogurtology is a small frozen yogurt franchise with locations in Florida and Arizona.
They’re committed to providing yogurt made with all-natural ingredients. They are a self-serve establishment with a unique guided order system to create a customizable sundae.
At Yogurtology, you start with a bottom ingredient like a brownie or waffle cone bites, then add the frozen yogurt flavors of your choice, followed by solid toppings and then sauces, which they call “sloppings.”
I’m a fan of the decadent dessert bottoms. My favorite way to eat ice cream or soft serve is in a waffle cone, so I happily lined the bottom of my cup with fresh waffle bites. I got to have my cone without the drippy mess.
A clever nod to the 80s Molly Ringwald cult classic, 16 Handles is a New York native yogurt shop.
Korean American Solomon Choi opened the first location in 2008 in the East Village to citywide acclaim. 16 Handles maintains its popularity as New York’s best self-serve frozen yogurt shop.
True to its name, 16 Handles offers a rotating menu of 16 frozen yogurt flavors along with various baked desserts, toppings, and sauces.
There are vegan yogurts, non-fat sorbets, no sugar added, and artisanal soft serve ice cream options.
My favorite New York City dessert is a slice of New York-style cheesecake, and 16 Handles partnered with one of New York’s most iconic cheesecake institutions, Juniors.
They offer artisanal Junior’s NY cheesecake soft serve ice cream. I topped it with strawberries and strawberry sauce for the ultimate New York frozen yogurt experience.
Yogurt Mountain is a national self-serve frozen yogurt franchise with 40 locations around the U.S.
Yogurt Mountain has 48 yogurt flavors that cover all dietary preference bases. Their friendly and sunny shops make for a fun atmosphere to create a unique frozen yogurt creation.
You just grab a cup, fill it with as many frozen yogurts as you like, and head to their long candy, topping, and sauce bar before weighing your creation at the cash register.
I combined coconut milk and chocolate yogurt with shredded coconut, almonds, and hot fudge for an Almond Joy-themed sundae.
Peachwave is a self-serve frozen yogurt and gelato shop founded on the premise of fostering healthier lifestyles.
They tote their small-batch frozen yogurt and gelato as having half the calories as competing brands, using fresh milk and whole ingredients.
Peachwave is a hybrid self-serve yogurt shop, giving customers the option to create sundaes or choose yogurt and toppings for employees to transform into milkshakes, smoothies, or floats.
They use Dole brand dairy-free frozen yogurts in addition to their household brands. They have created over 130 yogurt and gelato flavors since its opening in 2009.
My favorite yogurt flavor at Peachwave is the Chocolate Turtle, with caramel, chocolate, and pecan.
Yogurtini is a small franchise of self-serve yogurt bars with 17 locations in the U.S. and abroad.
They offer pastel-colored interiors with a modern and clean design. They ensure that every franchise is locally owned, so each shop caters to the specific neighborhood and tastes of the local community.
Their stores have a rotating menu of 10-16 frozen yogurt, gelato, sorbet, and ice cream flavors to top with candy, cookies, sauces, fruit, nuts, and cereal.
I appreciate the local vibe and how Yogurtini often partners with other local purveyors to create unique yogurt flavors.
For instance, the Colorado franchise partnered with the state-famous Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory so that customers can pair a frozen yogurt with a selection of truffles, candied apples, and chocolate-covered desserts.
Golden Spoon is a Southern California native yogurt shop with a fully customizable menu and full-service format.
They have various locations across the west, offering a friendly and polished atmosphere with high-quality yogurt, toppings, and cones.
Like a traditional ice cream shop, all toppings, containers, and cones lie behind a glass case with a list of the day’s yogurts to choose from. They have dairy-free, sugar-free, and fat-free yogurt and gelato.
I was delighted to see mochi as a topping at Golden Spoon. I loved their low-fat coffee yogurt drizzled with Nutella.
A Dallas-born yogurt shop, Yumilicious has been lauded by Dallas Observer, D Magazine, and Best of Texas for their contemporary and creative takes on frozen yogurt.
They have expanded to 10 locations around Texas, each with a whimsical and fashionable storefront, with bright colors and hip, modern furniture.
They offer self-serve and a more diverse menu with products like tapioca bubble teas, smoothies, and yogurt cakes.
They offer a slew of unique fusion yogurts, which they call tarts. Taking inspiration from their southern neighbors, Yumilicious has a ton of Mexican-inspired flavors like chamoyada, mango habanero, and avocado.
The avocado was my favorite, with an unparalleled creamy texture.
Let’s Yo is a New Jersey-based self-serve frozen yogurt shop with three locations in Montclair, Marlboro, and Hamilton.
Their uber-modern interior is lined with dozens of soft serve machines, topping dispensers, and self-checkouts replete with scales and tablets.
You’re in complete control of every part of the frozen yogurt experience at Let’s Yo! Their yogurt options include dairy-free, fat-free, sugar, free, and Tart yogurt.
I liked the topping dispensers, which are unique apparatus that promotes the utmost hygienic practices.
I was there on a summery day and chose a tropical theme, with a mix of Hawaiian pineapple and Island Banana topped with shredded coconut and peanuts.
Founded in 2008 in Oklahoma City, Orange Leaf is a bright and colorful frozen yogurt shop with 80 delicious proprietary flavors and over 100 locations around the U.S.
Their bright orange interior has a self-service format plus a full-service counter where employees craft shakes, smoothies, cakes, and healthy smoothie bowls.
Employees will even mix your favorite toppings into your choice of frozen yogurt flavors.
My favorite products at Orange Leaf were their shakes, which combined frozen yogurt and whole toppings like brownies, peanut butter cups, cheesecake, and Oreos.
If you want a healthier “shake,” choose from their yogurt-based fruit smoothies.
Sweet Frog started as a family-owned pioneering self-serve yogurt shop in Richmond, Virginia in 2009.
It was the first of its kind in Virginia, taking inspiration from the west coast yogurt craze. Its popularity launched a rapid and successful expansion. Today there are over 300 Sweet Frog locations around the U.S.
They pride themselves on being a family-friendly god-fearing franchise with strong values and high-quality yogurts.
They had an endless selection of decadent flavors that made me nostalgic for my childhood, like s’mores, strawberry shortcakes, and rice crispy treats.
I ended up choosing the ultimate Southern treat, Mississippi Mud Pie yogurt.
Another Texas yogurt chain, Monster Yogurt is a family-friendly monster-themed self-serve yogurt shop with two locations in Dallas.
Monster Yogurt caters to kids and adults alike, with a playground called the Monster Cave and free WiFi.
The bright green interior has over 80 yogurt flavors along with gelato, custard, Italian ice, sorbets, and frozen fruit slushes to adorn with over 75 different toppings.
They’re also one of the only establishments on my list that’s green-certified and committed to healthy eating and a healthy planet.
I went for a classic vanilla yogurt with peanut butter chips, toffee, and caramel sauce.
Yogen Fruz sounds like a German translation of frozen yogurt, but it’s actually a combination of the words: yogurt, fruit, frozen, and fresh.
One of the oldest yogurt chains in the world, Yogen Fruz started as a mall food-court stand in 1986 in Toronto, Canada.
Two brothers came up with a novel concept of combining all-natural frozen yogurt with fresh fruit to create a guilt-free dessert.
Today, it’s a commonplace, but Yogen Fruz is one of the oldest household names among yogurt shops.
They offer countless healthy all-natural flavors, fruit blends, smoothies, and teas. I enjoyed their red velvet cake yogurt as well as their Nutella flavor.
Originating as one of many yogurt shops during the early 2000s west coast yogurt craze, Pinkberry opened in 2005 in California.
They specialize in tart yogurt, an even healthier version of frozen yogurt with less sugar, fat, and lactose.
They also have proprietary vegan yogurt made with coconut milk and a line of sweet frozen yogurt flavors.
I loved their globally inspired flavors like Limoncello and Matcha Tea. In my opinion, the passion fruit worked especially well as a tart flavor.
I was most enamored of their dairy-free yogurt. Coconut milk, lemon crème, and strawberry were my favorite flavors.
Standing for “The Country’s Best Yogurt,” TCBY is perhaps the most well-known yogurt franchise in America, with over 40 years in the business.
They have over 250 locations worldwide and have come up with the healthiest versions of frozen yogurt on the market.
Their menus are categorized by health categories like fat-free, super fro yo, dairy-free, and sugar-free. They also have a full section of house-made, low-fat ice cream.
TCBY was the only yogurt shop around when I was growing up. I’ll always have a soft spot for their peanut butter yogurt with chocolate chips.
U-Swirl is a self-serve frozen yogurt bar with 12 locations around the U.S.
Their shops have cheerful, bubbly décor and user-friendly self-serve formats. They offer multiple varieties of gelato, tart yogurt, sweet yogurt, fat-free, and sugar-free yogurt.
They’ve recently created a raw cookie dough bar for a much more decadent dessert experience. You can combine a scoop of cookie dough with a swirl of yogurt.
I stuck with the healthy yogurt options and enjoyed a mix of tart pomegranate raspberry and non-fat chocoholic yogurt with fresh raspberries and toasted pecans.