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I have been on a serious coconut yogurt kick recently. It all started when my friend Starlene from GAPS Diet Journey sent me a little bit of the yogurt starter that she uses when she posted her great recipe for coconut milk yogurt. It was instant love from my first batch. The rich, creamy, thick, and slightly tangy, yogurt was just what I had been missing since going dairy-free in August 2012. I had always seen the coconut yogurt at the store, but they are all full of too much junk, so frankly, I had gotten used to the fact that yogurt was no longer part of my diet. But, now it’s back and I’m kicking myself for not doing this sooner! Since she sent me the starter a few weeks ago, I have made about a gazillion batches … well, not quite that many, but a lot. So much that I decided to buy a couple cases of coconut milk from my health food store!
We all know that fermented foods are beneficial to our health. After all, true health begins in the gut, and if our gut is not healthy, we are not healthy. Incorporating a wide variety of fermented foods is a great way to ensure our body is getting the beneficial bacteria that we need. There are many different strains of beneficial bacteria, which is why variety is key. I often find myself eating the same ferments over and over, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, there are going to be strains that I am missing. I am excited to have yogurt now, so that I can incorporate some new types back into my diet. And, my husband even likes it. As a matter of fact, he loves it and told me to make sure I mentioned that he gives it a glowing review! Thanks babe! 🙂
What Do You Need? Cultures, Thickeners, and More.
So, I received these cultures from Starlene and then proceeded to try to figure out how to make coconut milk yogurt. The main dilemma that I faced was that I don’t have a yogurt maker. Nor do I have a dehydrator, so my options for keeping the yogurt incubated were slim. I found a few crockpot recipes around the Web, but was not too keen on those either. So, I started experimenting and I have finally found what works for me — my oven. I can’t guarantee this method will work for everyone else, but hopefully it will spark a little inspiration for you to play around and see what works for you. My “recipe” is a combination of Starlene’s recipe and the recipe from Cultures for Health.
You will need a thickening agent for your coconut milk yogurt, and I like to use gelatin for that (please see my important note about gelatin below). Gelatin is very nutritious and healing to the gut, so this is a great way to get a little more into your diet. I have never used anything other than gelatin, but according to the recipe from Cultures for Health, you could also use tapioca starch/flour.
When it comes to yogurt starters, there are a lot to choose from. Yogurt starters are broken down into two categories: Thermophilic (heated) and Mesophilic (non-heated). For this recipe, I use a thermophilic starter, since I heat the coconut milk up and incubate it at a warmer temperature (108 – 110 °F). I have not yet played with making a mesophilic-style yogurts.
Also, when looking at yogurt cultures, you will probably see the terms “direct-set” and “reusable” used. Direct set cultures are a one time use only culture. This is what we will be using for this recipe. Reusable cultures are where you can take a small amount from a previous batch of yogurt (that uses a reusable starter) to make your new batch. If taken care of, these reusable cultures can be used indefinitely.
What strains of bacteria are in these cultures? The GI Pro Start, which is what I use, contains:
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus
- Streptococcus thermophilus
- Lactobacillus casei
The vegan direct set culture from my affiliate partner, Cultures for Health, contains:
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus casei
- Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp bulgaricus
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Streptococcus thermophilus
The GI Pro Start site says that for nut milks, you often have to increase the amount of starter and also play with the fermentation time. They recommend 1/2 tsp. or more of the starter per quart of nut or non-dairy milk. I experimented with the amount of starter culture and found that 1/4 tsp. gives me a yogurt that I like best. This yogurt does not get super tart. It stays pleasantly tangy, which is nice if you have eaters with sensitive palates. The texture will depend on how much gelatin you use. If you use a full 2 tbsp., you will end up with a super thick Greek-style yogurt. As you lessen the gelatin, you will get a softer, thinner yogurt. My favorite consistency is right around 1 tbsp. of gelatin, but, depending on what my plans are for the yogurt, I make it thinner or thicker.
Important Note On Gelatin Types
When it comes to gelatin, you don’t want any old gelatin off the supermarket shelves. You want to look for 100% grass-fed gelatin from healthy animals. Just like other animal products, quality is important.
That is why I recommend Vital Proteins Grass-Fed Gelatin products and Perfect Supplements products exclusively. I have compared these brand with other brands on the market and the quality far surpasses anything else I’ve tried. I am thrilled to be one of their affiliate partners and support such great products and companies.
Perfect Supplements offers a grass-fed hydrolyzed collagen (cold-soluble) right now and has a gelatin (hot-soluble) in the works for 2016. Read my review of their product here or watch the video below. You can order their own products via their own site here or on Amazon here.
How To Make Creamy Coconut Milk Yogurt
In order to make coconut milk yogurt, you need the following items (this will make close to one quart):
- 2 cans of coconut milk (I love Aroy-D brand)
- 1 tsp. to 2 tbsps. grass-fed beef gelatin (see note above)
- 1/4 – 1/2 tsp. yogurt starter culture (I use the GI Pro Start or Cultures for Health Real Yogurt Starter)
- A 1 liter anaerobic fermenting jar
- A thick bath towel
- A food thermometer (like this one)
- An electric oven with a working light
Here are the steps that work for me. I usually make mine in the evening, around 8pm, so I can leave it in the oven overnight. I have the process timed out a bit, so I am going to give you a breakdown of what I do. In total, my yogurt incubates for around 16 hours. You can play with a longer or shorter duration of time and see what you find works best for you.
1. Heat your coconut milk over low heat until it reaches 115 °F. This will not take long at all, so make sure you keep a close eye on it. I use a whisk to keep the coconut milk stirred and the heat dispersed.
2. Once the coconut milk reaches 115 °F, remove from the heat and whisk in your gelatin. Make sure to sprinkle it in slowly so you don’t end up with any clumps. Though, honestly, if there are any clumps, it’s not the end of the world. 🙂
3. Let the mixture cool to 110 °F. I like to keep stirring the mixture to help speed up the cool-down process. Once the mixture hits 110 °F, you can add your starter culture in. Make sure your culture powder is not clumpy, or else it won’t whisk in correctly. If there are any clumps, just break those up before you add it to the warm coconut milk.
4. Whisk the mixture until well combined and then pour into your sanitized jar and close the lid. Place the airlock in the lid at this time.
5. Wrap the jar up in your towel and place in the oven, next to the oven light. If you’re using an airlock, make sure the airlock is not touching the oven heating coils. You may need to adjust your shelves accordingly. Make sure the towel is wrapped around the jar well to keep out the light, but don’t cover the airlock.
6. Close the door and turn on the oven for 35-45 seconds. My oven defaults to 350 °F when I turn it on, so I leave it at that, and turn it off after 40 seconds. You just want the oven on long enough to slightly heat up the coils. According to my thermometer in the oven, it never gets above 100 degrees when I do that. It’s just enough to get some residual heat in there. I also store my cast iron frying pans in the oven and they hold quite a bit of residual heat too. Keep the door shut and the oven light on overnight. I head to bed and let it incubate.
7. When I get up in the morning, usually around 7am, I go downstairs and I turn the oven on for 30 seconds and then turn it off. Leave the door shut and keep the light on.
8. Around noon, I remove the yogurt from the oven. This gives it about a 16 hour incubation time, though sometimes I forget and it goes a little longer. Even 24 hours is fine. You will notice that the coconut yogurt has separated, so I use a stainless steel whisk and stir it all back together while the mixture is still warm. I close the lid and let it cool to room temperature (keep it covered with a towel to keep UV light out) and then move it to the fridge. The yogurt will be pretty thin, but once it cools in the fridge it will set up. Use more gelatin for a thick yogurt, less for a thin yogurt.
9. Let it chill completely and then serve. It tastes pretty amazing on its own, but you could flavor it any way you’d like. Fresh or frozen fruit tastes great, as does a bit of honey or maple syrup. Another favorite is to add a dollop of your favorite jam or jelly and stir it in. The sky’s the limit!