Time, bacteria, and milk: these are the three simple ingredients you need to culture the best vegan yogurt at home. Let’s look at how to make vegan yogurt with minimal effort whilst saving you money as well.
The truth is that becoming a vegan, even with the best vegan lifestyle books is a little tougher than most people think. And even though the dairy section of your favorite store will have some vegan brands, there’s always a part of you that doubts the authenticity of the brands.
Store-bought vegan yogurt can be super-pricey to buy every day, so if you can get into making your own – all the better.
Regardless of your preferences, you’ll know how to make the best of any vegan yogurt flavor you’d like.
Having grown up in a home where yogurt was a staple during snack times and even mealtimes, the love for yogurt has stayed with us and if you are like the rest of us who adopted the vegan lifestyle years after indulging in too much dairy yogurt, you no longer need to be anxious about the yogurt options accessible to you.
The best part is that there are numerous options for you to try out at home from the plain unsweetened yogurts to the fruit-topped and the double-nut infused and high-protein yogurts.
With all these options, you will be wondering why you never made the lifestyle conversion sooner – the healthy options on the vegan side are to die for!
But before we look at some of the best ways of making the best vegan yogurt, let’s look at the compelling reasons for you to try vegan yogurt.
Why Vegan Yogurt?
Yogurt boasts significant nutritional benefits primarily because they are made of healthy gut bacteria cultures, specifically, S. Thermophillus, Bifidobacterium, and L. Acidophilus.
These bacteria are essential for good gut healthy by serving as reinforcements for the digestive flora. What this means is that the bacteria in the yogurt will give your intestinal bacteria a burst of life often.
As you may already know, your gut health is important to your overall health. A lot goes wrong when your gut health is in jeopardy, which is why a burst of life from live bacteria cultures every so often is important.
And as long as you have good gut health, you will experience a host of benefits, including:
- Improved immune function
- Enhanced skin vitality
- Improved absorption of nutrients in the intestines
- Prevention of chronic bowel disease
- Improved sexual health
On top of all these, yogurt keeps you fuller for longer since it’s packed with healthy nutrients and macronutrients that take longer to digest. Therefore, your vegan yogurt could be exactly what you need for a trimmer waistline and overall fitness.
Besides proteins, yogurt is also enriched with calcium.
Benefits of DIY Vegan Yogurt
It eliminates the single-use burden of the vegan yogurt bought from stores – the store-bought yogurt comes in plastic containers, and this might not be a great option for conscious consumers.
- It saves money
- You know exactly what’s in the yogurt.
- Making Vegan Yogurt from Scratch
- You get to create unique flavors
What do you need?
To make vegan yogurt from scratch, you need to invest in the right equipment.
- Sugar Thermometer – even though most of the recipes you come across online don’t mention the sugar thermometer, it is an important piece of equipment for yogurt production. The sugar thermometer is essential when you are playing around with bacteria as it allows you to give the bacteria an optimum start for the bacteria multiplication process by ensuring that the multiplication takes place at the right temperature. Also, your milk will attain the right temperature.
- Vegan Probiotic capsule – this capsule must be very strong for it to act as the fermenting bacteria needed during the culturing of the yogurt. A capsule is preferable to the tablet since you’ll be required to open the capsule for the bacteria to infuse the milk. The best capsule is dairy-free and has few bulking agents.
- Breathable fabric/ Cheesecloth – this cloth allows free air circulation into the fermenting bacteria as you wait for the milk to thicken.
- Stainless steel pan – this pan is non-reactive, and it gives you the certainty that you are not dealing with any contaminants which could interfere with the growth of the bacteria.
- Airtight mason jars – for storage
Choosing the right vegan (non-dairy) yogurt milk
Besides the quality of the yogurt, your choice of milk determines the flavor, texture, and whether you need a thickener for the final product.
With that in mind, here are your options:
- Soya Milk: Vegan yogurt made of soya milk yields the most savory flavors of yogurt, and it’s also a great option if you are experimenting since the consistency of the milk, and the yogurt will remain unchanged throughout. You won’t need any thickening agents.
- Almond Milk: this milk will have a slightly nutty flavor. You could use either organic, unsweetened almond milk if you are looking for an option with fewer additives. But because of the light and the watery texture of almond milk, we recommend using a thickening agent for a thicker final product. The thickening agent would also prevent the separation of the milk during the processing.
- Coconut Milk: if you are looking for the vegan yogurts with the sweetest flavor and the highest fat content, then coconut milk is your best bet. You could also use coconut cream for the best results, but make sure that the cream is organic and full-fat. You won’t need a thickening agent.
- Oats: Like soya milk, oat milk is a fairly good option for beginners or anyone experimenting. It gives you a mild, tart flavor, and like soy, no thickening agent is required. Besides yogurt (semi-set), oats make great pancake batter.
- Cashew nuts or Hazel Nuts: before using either of these nut milk, bear in mind that the milks can be a hit/miss in terms of their setting ability. However, once you master the art of creating yogurts using other milk, you will be able to handle either of these kinds of milk with ease. When you are ready, know that cashew nut milk is silky, but you’ll need an additional setting agent when dealing with hazelnut milk.
- Rice Milk – this is flavorful, and it has enough natural sugars.
Choose the Right Thickeners
Most non-dairy milk options fail to set properly without a thickening agent. Since you need a spoon-able and thick yogurt, you need to find the thickener that best meets your needs.
Thickeners must be added before the culturing process and before heating, but others can be added after heating.
Therefore, you need to check your options first and determine the best one for you. Remember that the need for a thickener or not depends on the non-dairy milk you choose.
Tapioca starch – adding tapioca starch to your milk directly could easily result in a lumpy mess, which is why you should mix this thickening agent with some milk (1/2 cups of milk with two tablespoons of tapioca starch) in a small bowl until you get a smooth mixture. Add this to the heating milk saucepan only after you have a consistent mixture.
Agar Agar – this your vegan alternative to gelatin made from seaweed rather than animal products used to make gelatin. The advantage of agar agar is that it won’t form lumps, so you only need to sprinkle the required amount over the milk and then let it sit undisturbed for 5 minutes or until all the flakes are rehydrated before you mix it into your milk.
Now that you know what you need and what to expect with different vegan-friendly kinds of milk let’s get started with the real work.
Warm the milk – you will need about one liter of milk, and if using coconut cream, get two tins. Put the milk in the stainless steel pan over medium heat, while stirring gently. Heat your milk to between 90-95 degrees Celsius.
Add Your Thickener – If you are using a thickener, dissolve it slowly as the milk heats up, stirring the mixture constantly to avoid globules from forming in the mixture. Depending on the thickening agent you use, agar, or tapioca starch, you’d need 1tsps per 1 liter of milk.
Let the milk cool – remove the milk from the heat and allow it to cook to 45 degrees Celsius. Stir the milk occasionally.
Add Probiotic Capsule – once the milk has cooled down, add the probiotic and whisk it into the milk evenly. Discard the probiotic’s outer casing.
Add Sugar (Optional) – sugar could promote fermentation and improve the flavors, but this step is optional.
Transfer the yogurt mixture to sterilized mason jars – do this when the mixture is fully cooled to room temperature. Pour the mixture into the mason jars and then cover each of the jars with cheesecloth and tie off the cloth using an elastic band or a string around the lid’s lip.
Fermentation – Let your yogurt ferment in a warm, dark location for a minimum of 48 hours. To speed up fermentation, you could keep the mason jars in a slow cooker or an instant pot set to warm for up to 8 hours. A warm spot like an oven could also work, but you may have to give your yogurt mixture 12-24 hours if you settle on the gas oven with the light on or an insulated cooler surrounded with warm water.
Transfer to the fridge – after fermentation, transfer the yogurt to the fridge, at least 3 hours before you eat your yogurt.
Add flavors after refrigeration.
Note that using the results from your first test, you can adjust your ingredients in the future, to match your preferences.
Enjoy Your Yogurt
Now that the hard work is done, it’s time to enjoy your healthy vegan yogurt. Since you most certainly love some sweetness, you could eat your yogurt sweetened with fruit and natural honey. You could add any other ingredients you are interested in.