Don't do dairy—or just looking to take a break from it? There's no need to miss out on parfaits, smoothies or any of your favorite yogurt-based treats. Our Vegan Coconut Yogurt recipe is made in much the same way as traditional Homemade Plain Yogurt and the results are a super-rich-tasting and creamy treat even nonvegans will love. And, just like regular yogurt, our vegan yogurt is made with probiotics—friendly bacteria that may boost your immunity and contribute to better gut health.
Watch our IGTV series, Veganize It, to see how to make this recipe and more vegan versions of your favorite dishes.
Our vegan coconut yogurt is made with whole coconut milk, tapioca starch, sugar and the contents of probiotics capsules—you can buy these at health-food stores, many grocery stores and online. You'll also need a candy thermometer or instant-read thermometer and four 8-ounce jars with lids.
Like the jars in the video? You can buy them on Amazon.
Just like when you make regular yogurt from cow's milk, the first step in making vegan yogurt is to sanitize all of the tools and jars you'll be using to incubate your yogurt. You can sterilize your equipment in boiling water or run it through the dishwasher (use the sanitize setting if your dishwasher has one).
Our vegan coconut yogurt is made with full-fat coconut milk thickened with tapioca starch. Start by pouring it into a saucepan and whisking well to break up any lumps. Then transfer about a half-cup of the coconut milk to a small bowl and whisk in the tapioca starch, then whisk that mixture back into the saucepan (whisking the starch into a smaller amount of the coconut milk helps to eliminate lumps). Finally, add a bit of sugar to the mixture. Don't skip the sugar—it's added not for sweetness but to give the probiotics something to eat so they can multiply!
Before adding the probiotics, it's necessary to heat the coconut milk mixture to kill any harmful bacteria. Heat the mixture until it's hot but not boiling, about 180°F (boiling is 212°F). Use a candy thermometer or instant-read thermometer to monitor the temperature.
Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool, stirring it occasionally, until the temperature has dropped to 100°F before adding the probiotics. If the mixture is too hot, it will kill the active probiotics. Once the mixture is cool, break open the capsules and add the contents to the mixture in the saucepan, whisking well to combine.
Next up, divide the yogurt mixture among the jars and incubate it. Incubating just involves keeping the mixture warm (between 105°F and 110°F), and you can do it lots of different ways. You can keep the yogurt warm using your favorite yogurt maker, a dehydrator set to 110°F, in an Instant Pot or even in an oven with the light on. (If using the oven, wrap the jars in a towel to help insulate them.) Let the yogurt rest and incubate for 12 to 14 hours—the longer it rests, the tangier it will be. After incubating the yogurt, transfer it to the refrigerator and give it 24 hours to cool and thicken before eating (it will keep for a week in the fridge). Then all that's left is to serve and enjoy!
For a look at the price difference between traditional and vegan yogurt, we turned to vegan chef Jenné Claiborne (@sweetpotatosoul). While prices for store-bought yogurt vary, Claiborne notes that making a batch of our vegan coconut yogurt costs about $2 more than buying a 32-ounce container of organic whole-milk cow's yogurt. That's about 50 cents per serving—well worth it for this creamy yogurt, as Claiborne says.
Dairy actually has a bigger environmental impact than poultry or pork, when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions per gram of protein, according to research from the World Resources Institute, so making vegan yogurt could help lighten your personal environmental load. "Making yogurt at home also cuts down on single-use plastics," Claiborne notes. "If you do buy yogurt, buy it in bigger containers and portion out single servings at home in reusable jars," she adds.
In terms of nutritional differences, this vegan yogurt is made with creamy full-fat coconut milk, so it's not a shock that it's higher in calories than traditional dairy yogurt. You get 164 more calories per cup from our vegan coconut yogurt than from whole-milk vanilla yogurt. But it's also lactose-free and has 9 fewer grams of carbohydrates than vanilla yogurt. The other big nutritional difference is that this vegan yogurt has 0 grams of protein. Dairy yogurt is actually a great vegetarian source of protein. Regular yogurt typically has about 7 grams protein and Greek yogurt has about 19 grams per cup.
Pictured recipe: Vegan Coconut Yogurt
Vegan coconut yogurt can stand in for traditional yogurt in many dishes. We like to serve it in a tropical smoothie bowl with sliced banana, pineapple, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sliced almonds, dried cranberries and toasted coconut. Or try it with any fruit that's in season—it's lovely with berries, peaches and apples. Check back in with Veganize It soon—we'll be rolling out a new vegan version of a favorite dish every week on IGTV.
Culinary nutritionist and EatingWell Test Kitchen manager Breana Killeen is a Le Cordon Bleu–trained cook, dietitian and sommelier who loves dogs, classic cars and a cool glass of rosé.
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