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What is Matsoni?

By N. Kalu
Updated May 16, 2024
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Matsoni is a fermented milk product which consists of macrobiotic bacteria. It is especially popular in Georgian and Armenian cuisines, but has also expanded to North America and Japan. This product is well noted for its excellent health benefits, such as replenishing good bacteria in the body and promoting healthy digestion.

In Armenia and Georgia matsoni, also referred to as matson or matsoon, is used to make a variety of nourishing soups and dishes. One well-known Georgian dish made with matsoni is called khachapuri, or Georgian cheese bread. This recipe calls for a significant amount of the yogurt, along with other dairy products such as eggs, butter, cream cheese, and mozzarella cheese. The bread is made using whole wheat flour, baking powder, and salt.

Many North American enthusiasts of matsoni are also those who enjoy making their own yogurt at home. Creating matsoni from scratch is a relatively simple process. One half of a cup (118 milliliters) of fresh raw milk or pasteurized milk is heated to 160 degrees Fahrenheit or more (71 degrees Celsius or more). The milk is allowed to cool to room temperature. Next, half a teaspoon (4.8 grams) of matsoni starter is added. The mixture is then left alone for at least 6, and no more than 24, hours. It becomes the starter batch of the yogurt culture, and will ferment as it remains at room temperature.

Making this product at home can save money for those who regularly consume yogurt. Buying organic yogurt every week can leave a noticeable dent in one's food budget. Matsoni can be made at a fraction of the price using organic whole milk or soy milk. The mixture thickens on its own, so there is no need to spend money on expensive skim milk powder or gelatin.

Caspian sea yogurt is what the Japanese call this product. It became wildly successful in Japan because the Japanese believe that eating the yogurt can prolong life. Dr. Mori Yukio, Professor Emeritus of Tokyo University, first introduced matsoni to Japan. He brought it from Georgia after his research showed that a village of people who consistently ate the yogurt lived longer than other people in the country. Today, the Japanese market has many products for matsoni including special yogurt makers called casupimeka and caspian sea yogurt powder.

The abundance of good bacteria in this yogurt, such as actobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus, makes it a rich probiotic source. Probiotic materials aid in digestion. They also prevent harmful bacteria, such as candida, from proliferating inside the body.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1000158 — On Jun 15, 2018

So I'm from Georgia and some of this was just wrong. I'd never eat a khachapuri with mozzarella or cream cheese. What? And also, Matsoni isn't used in Khachapuri that much. I'm not sure about the health benefits, although it's most likely true since my parents made me eat matsoni when I was little.

By anon957059 — On Jun 18, 2014

I've heard from my aunt's friend that Matsoni is amazinf for weight loss if mixed with ginger powder (organic) or instant coffee. My aunt ate two taplespoons of the matsoni/ginger mixture before every meal and lost 4 kgs in three weeks even thought she didn't eat less.

I only recently started eating matsoni/coffee mix because I hate the smell of ginger.

All of my friends who eat matsoni every day never get fat even if their calorie intake is bigger. The thing is it works wonders for digestion; that's why most of the parents in Georgia feed it to their kids.

The texture of it is definitely different from greek yogurt or kefir. Kefir is more liquid and basically, matsoni is thicker than kefir but not as thick as green yogurt, and the taste is slightly sour.

P.S. Matsoni is Georgian, not Armenian. That's why a Japanese company bought the recipe in Georgia. I do live in Georgia, but I'm not Georgian. I'm from Poland.

By anon341195 — On Jul 09, 2013

I have been "raising"/consuming the same line of Kasupikai yogurt here in Japan for about seven years now. I put about three tablespoons of the old batch into a carton of fresh whole milk, (opened top), then cover it with a paper towel that I center over the mouth of the carton, then fold down the sides, fold the corners in, and secure it with a rubber band. I leave it out on the counter for about a day in summer, and a day and a half in winter. Not really exact. I refrigerate it overnight, and it's cool and smooth the next day.

I was told to be careful at first about putting it into a glass container, leaving it out for a specified time, and not keeping it for over two weeks. All of that has not seemed to make much of a difference.

I use the new carton of milk as the container, I loosely follow the fermentation time, and I have left it numerous times untouched for over three weeks in the fridge, (it got watery, so I just put it in a new carton of milk, and it returned to its normal condition). This has got to be the simplest food you can grow! I use it in my morning smoothies as well as drink it straight. It seems to be more resilient than what is posted. Test out the limits by making a separate batch yourself!

By burcinc — On Apr 01, 2012

@turkay1-- I don't know if everyone makes their matsoni this way, but I actually make it with milk at room temperature, not heated milk. So this might be the difference between kefir and matsoni. I believe kefir is made strictly with boiled or heated milk.

Matsoni is probably the easiest kind of yogurt to make. It's even easier than making yogurt with a yogurt maker. And preparation time is a few minutes!

All I do for matsoni is I mix some matsoni into milk at room temperature, close the lid and leave it in the kitchen at room temperature for 2 days. It makes itself! And don't worry it doesn't spoil. After two days (it might be 1 day depending on the weather), it has a thicker consistency kind of like condensed milk. I then put it in the fridge to cool it and enjoy!

By ddljohn — On Mar 31, 2012

@turkay1-- It is very similar to kefir but I think it tastes better. The textures are definitely similar, matsoni is not as solid as yogurt and it's definitely not liquid like milk, it's in between. Kefir is the same of course.

I think matsoni tastes better because it's a bit more tart which I like. It might also be because I make matsoni at home which beats any store-bought yogurt product.

The first matsoni I had however, which became my starter for following matsonis, I bought from an online store. Unfortunately, it's not a common product to be found unless you have an Armenian or Georgian grocery store near where you live. It is a bit of an issue to order it online but think of it this way, if you continue to make matsoni at home regularly, that one matsoni is going to be enough.

Once you've made matsoni, you can use it as a yogurt starter for the next one. So it literally lasts you forever.

By candyquilt — On Mar 31, 2012

Where can I get matsoni and is matsoni anything like kefir? The groceries around my house all sell plain or fruit flavored kefir. But I have never seen anything called matsoni at any of them.

I love yogurt and I'm always looking for healthier snack options. My sister has also been telling me to eat more yogurt with cultures because I've been having some digestion issues lately.

I've heard that fermented products are particularly good for digestion. It helps replace and increase the number of good bacteria in the stomach. This is probably what I need since my digestion issues started after a long antibiotic treatment. Antibiotics are known to kill beneficial bacteria in the stomach.

So has anyone tried matsoni? Do you buy it or make it at home? Please share!

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