Easy, Homemade Vegan Yogurt
A few years ago I wrote a post about how to make homemade yogurt, and on a whim I decided to revisit it. And now suddenly I’m obsessed with having fresh, homemade vegan yogurt in the house all the time.
I’ve made soy, coconut, and various blends and I’ve played with the ratios. I’ve included the new recipe and expanded directions here, so that you can enjoy this easy DIY project for your home too!
Like many homemade fermentation projects, it seems much more complicated than it is. Really we’re just setting up good bacterias (in this case, lactobacillus) to do what they do and create awesome cultured foods.
Our archives are full of information about probiotics and cultured foods and why we ALL need them in our diet, and I’ve included a few links at the end in case you need to brush up on gut health information. As anecdotal evidence, my sweetie and I have been eating sauerkraut for like two years, everyday, and our immunity is way up. We’re also in great shape, have excellent digestive health, great skin, and very rarely get colds or other illness, and I attribute nearly all of this to our plant-based diet full of cultured foods (including this yogurt).
How to Make Homemade Yogurt
Notes about Ingredients:
+ Choose your milk. I’ve made this recipe with full-fat (canned) coconut milk, but I’ve also done boxed cashew milk and homemade cashew milk, along with regular old soymilk. Full-fat coconut milk is the big winner: super creamy, very rich and totally flavorful. It’s good for sweet and savory foods: I use for my daily breakfast chia pudding bowls and stirred it into a lentil curry with excellent results. Try a red lentil curry with about 1/2 cup of the yogurt stirred in for a creamy, slightly tangy twist. All other plant-based milks will work, but the texture is really the best with more fat (oh, you haven’t heard: healthy fats are SO good for you).
+ WTF is agar? Agar (or agar-agar) is a seaweed that works like vegan gelatin. Gelatin is usually made using leftover body parts from animals, which is pretty dang gross. Seaweed is better, yes? You can find online, or at your local health food store. Agar powder is infinitely easier to work with since it’s ground very fine, but agar flakes are often easier to find. The agar flakes require a bit of stirring for them to melt, but it works out the same in the end. Different directions for each are included below.
+ Why starch? Plant milks don’t have the same proteins as dairy milk, and thus need a little help in the structure department, so this is where the starch comes in. I’ve used both potato and tapioca starches, but organic corn starch would work too. Use whatcha got in the pantry.
+ Choose your Culture. Homemade yogurt needs to start with a culture, and while you can buy packages of culture, I like using a store-bought yogurt as a starter since it’s really living and very consistent. I always use unsweetened (be sure to read the labels– even ‘plain’ yogurt is loaded with sugar) because I like to use my yogurt for both sweet and savory foods and generally don’t like a lot of sugar in my diet. If you’re sure you want to keep it sweet, I highly recommend the So Delicious Unsweetened Vanilla, but they also make plain. You can sweeten the yogurt after it’s finished. Keeping sugar out of the recipe ensures the cultures do their thing and you can taste the flavor of real yogurt, which helps you know when it’s ready.
+ an oven with a working lightbulb (you can also make yogurt in a dehydrator or a yogurt-maker, but I don’t have either, so the oven is my choice)
+ a candy thermometer (small thermometer, see in the photo above)
+ six half pint (8 ounce) canning jars (the kind with a band and lid, see photo at right). Regular jars may work, but I only recommend canning jars because they can be boiled safely, and other jars may shatter.
+ The recipe is quick to cook but takes eight hours (or more) of culturing time, so be sure to factor that into your day. I’ve done it early in the morning to have yogurt by dinnertime, or made it in the evening, and woken up to fresh yogurt in the morning.
+ I recently got a Vita-Clay MultiCooker, and I’ve been making my yogurt in this nifty machine. Just dump it into the clay pot, set for eight hours, and done. Read more about it here.
4 cups unsweetened, plant-based milk
¾ teaspoon agar-agar powder OR 1 tablespoon agar flakes (note differing directions below)
3 Tablespoons potato starch
½ cup store-bought or previously made coconut yogurt
- First, sanitize your jars to get your good bacteria off to a head start: add all canning jars and lids to a large stockpot. Cover with water, and bring to a boil. Lower heat, but keep at a medium boil for five minutes. Turn off heat, but leave jars in water until ready to use.
- If using agar powder: Whisk 1/2 cup of milk with starch and agar powder until smooth. Add mix to a medium saucepan with 2 more cups of milk. Heat on low until temperature reaches 180ºF, whisking constantly. Mixture will thicken considerably. Proceed to step 4.
- If using agar flakes: Add 2 cups milk to a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-low until flakes have totally dissolved (this helps ensure even thickening, but the undissolved agar flakes will be chunky). Remove 1/2 cup of warmed milk and stir with starch in a small bowl until starch has dissolved. Add back to saucepan, and cook together until mixture has thickened.
- Meanwhile, fill a large glass bowl with cold water and ice cubes to create an ice bath.
- Once cooking mixture is thickened (and agar flakes have dissolved), whisk in remaining 2 cups coconut milk.
- Place saucepan in the bowl of cold water and ice. Let the milk cool to 115ºF, stirring constantly. Stir in prepared yogurt and whisk until smooth. Remove saucepan from the ice bath.
- Remove jars carefully from water using tongs and place onto a dishtowel or cutting board (keep hot jars off of cold countertops for safety).
- Pour milk mixture into jars evenly and cover with lids and bands. Wrap each jar individually with kitchen towels (or similar) and place onto a cookie sheet or baking pan (whatever size that fits, I can usually fit all into a 8×8 baking dish).
- Place all wrapped jars into the oven and turn the light on, which is just enough heat to incubate your cultures. Keep in the oven for 8 hours.
- After 8 hours, check your yogurt– it should be slightly tangy and noticeably thicker. If it does not seem tangy enough, keep in oven for another 2-3 hours, checking every hour or so. Once fully cultured, unwrap the jars and move them to the fridge. I find that the finished yogurt lasts for over a week. Remember to save half of your final jar to use as the starter for your next batch!
Yield: 5-6 half-pint jars (total about 4 cups yogurt)
jars image from here; yogurt image from So Delicious; other images by author