by Cat, Jan 2012 (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)
When I need to avoid dairy (even raw), I used to use commercial soy milk and soy yogurt. But no longer – I believe that most soy products are not very healthful, especially commercial versions which contain undesirable ingredients. Instead, I make coconut milk (from dried shredded coconut). Now I’d like to culture that to yogurt and kefir. Sometimes I make almond or cashew milk for drinking, but it doesn’t make much yogurt. (1 quart almond milk makes only ⅔ cup yogurt).
- Includes: 1. How to make yogurt from coconut milk; 2. Nut/Seed milk yogurt starters (cultures).
- See also: 1. Coconut Milk; 2. Coconut Milk Kefir; 3. How to Open a Coconut
Coconut Milk Yogurt
This recipe is adapted from Angela’s Kitchen (2), which she adapted from a recipe in Wild Fermentation (1) for dairy yogurt. It uses a true yogurt culture: GI ProStart Yogurt Culture (Contains L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus and L. Casei and is dairy and gluten-free). I use Natren true yogurt culture, but it is not dairy free; see Nut/Seed Milk Yogurt Cultures, below, for more options.
See Angela’s website for photos of the process. She makes a culturing chamber out of an insulated (ice) chest, or a closed cupboard with a warm light bulb. I use my gas range’s oven, warmed by a pilot light.
If your yogurt isn’t as thick as you’d like, don’t be tempted to add more starter – yogurt culture doesn’t like a crowd. Try adding 3 Tbsp tapioca starch per quart of coconut milk as thickener. Tapioca starch is made from the cassava root; a good substitute for tapioca starch is instant tapioca. This must be stirred into the coconut milk before heating. See the Cooks Thesaurus: Starch Thickeners (3) for more.
If you want to make your own coconut milk from fresh, young coconuts or from dried or desiccated shredded coconut, see my Coconut Milk article. However, don’t use the Dairy Milk Substitute version, because it is diluted and will not produce thick yogurt.
Ingredients & Equipment:
- 4 cups fresh (from raw or dried coconut meat), or canned coconut milk (not ‘lite’, which is a watery second pressing)
- 1 Tbsp yogurt starter for the first batch; then reserve 1 Tbsp previous batch for future batches
- tapioca starch or instant tapioca granules (optional thickener)
- quart jar
- 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan
- dairy thermometer
- culturing chamber
- If using a thickener (like tapioca starch), stir it into the coconut milk before heating.
- Slowly heat coconut milk in saucepan over medium heat, to 180 F.
- Off heat and let cool to 110 F. Add some warm milk to the starter in a glass cup, stir until dissolved/combined, and then add that back to the saucepan.
- Pour into quart jar, screw on lid. Set jar in saucepan of warm water and place in culturing chamber.
- Allow to culture 8 – 12 hours or overnight. Give it a taste – it should be sweet-sour. If not, it needs more time.
- Transfer to fridge. It will continue to thicken. Some watery fluid may separate out, depending on how much water was in the original coconut milk.
- Be sure to save some for a future batch!
Testing 1/12/12: I used 2 cans Organic Thai Coconut Milk (canned) and Natren Yogurt Starter. This culture includes some dairy but I don’t have time to order the non-dairy version. The small amount of dairy in this starter will get diluted away with sequential-culturing. I did not use tapioca starch for this first batch. This yogurt is much better than that made from almond milk. It has a texture similar to homemade dairy yogurt, with a slight coconut flavor.
Nut/Seed Milk Yogurt Starters (Cultures)
Many nuts and seeds will make a type of yogurt, although most sources agree that cashews work the best. Sunflower seeds also make a good yogurt; WholeLivingDaily has a recipe for using Sunflower/Pumpkin Seed Milk (4) for making Seed yogurt (5).
First you want to decide which starter to use. Most of the references I can find do not use dairy yogurt culture (L. Acidophilus, S Thermophilus and L. Bulgaricus). See below for notes on using dairy yogurt culture. However, this type of starter contains milk product (whey, etc.) so if you are avoiding dairy, using dairy culture is not for you. The following cultures are not dairy yogurt cultures (tho they may work with dairy):
Dairy-Free yogurt cultures
- GI ProStart Yogurt Culture (6) (recommended by YouAreWhatYouEat (7) for nut milk yogurt): Contains L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus and L. Casei and is dairy and gluten-free. The first two of these are what are used for dairy-milk yogurt. This culture is probably the best option for a true dairy-free yogurt; however, it’s possible it won’t work with all types of nut milk.
[NOTE: the website says GI ProGurt; I believe this product name has changed to GI ProStart. Another product called ProGurt by Progurt contains HPI culture (Human Probiotic Isolate), and is very expensive ($120 or more per packet). Whereas ProStart is about $35 for 80 quarts of yogurt.]
- Veggie Culture (8) from Body Ecology (recommended by Renegade Health (12)): Contains L plantarum, L. lactis (3 subspecies) & Leuconostoc mesenteroides ssp. cremoris. Cultures in a yogurt maker, meaning it requires the same warmer-than-room-temperature as yogurt (95 F.). Can reuse by sequential culturing, about 6 times. Can also use to culture cream for butter or sour cream. I tried this with almond milk and was disappointed in the result (see Almond Milk Yogurt, below), mainly because I only got about 2/3 cup yogurt out of a full quart of almond milk.
- All Flora Probiotic (9) from New Chapter (VeganEpicure Version #1 (10)): Contains L. rhamnosus, L acidophilus, L. plantarum, L. salivarius, L. helveticus, B. breve, B. infantis, and B. longum. Cultures at 95 F but doesn’t get thick like yogurt unless you thicken it with (organic) cornstarch.
- Vibrant Innergy Probiotic Blend (11): Contains L. salivarius and L. plantarum-OM (a unique culture that ‘requires a very special culturing process’). It cultures at room temp, but continues to culture slowly after refrigeration.
- Allergen-free Jarro-Dophilus capsules (iHerb code JRW-03033), but be forewarned: this probioitic is highly perishable… (this product is not the same as regular Jarro-dophilus, which won’t work as a starter).
- Rhio’s Raw Energy doesn’t use any culture – just the flora naturally in the almonds.
Dairy Yogurt Culture
The following can also be used, but contain dairy components, so avoid if you have a dairy intolerance:
- Natren true yogurt culture
- Nancy’s Yogurt (real yogurt, not powdered culture)
Coconut Milk ‘Yogurt’ Pudding
If you’re curios, check out the Renegade Health video on coconut milk (12), for an interesting pudding made from coconut milk and kefir starter..References:
- Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz
- bodyecology.com/vegetable-culture-starter.html and bodyecology.com/kefir—starter.html
- video: renegadehealth.com/blog/2009/07/29/how-to-make-young-thai-coconut-yogurt