How to Make Creamy and Thick Vegan Yogurt Using Plant Based Milks | Plant Based Yogurt | Dairy Free and Probiotic Yogurt Recipe
Making Vegan Yogurt at Home
Making vegan yogurt at home doesn't have to be complicated, but it is very different from traditional dairy yogurt. I’ve got to say though… the process for making thick and creamy vegan yogurt is definitely more intensive than just popping a probiotic capsule into some coconut milk and leaving it overnight (if you saw that viral video that did this, I’m about 99% sure it was a facade). Due to the nature of plant based milks and the microbiology of yogurt making, under no circumstances will plant based milks thicken into a yogurt like substance just by adding a culture and leaving it at room temperature. Cultured full fat coconut cream will be a semi-solid mass at room temperature because it’s full of saturated fats… but plant based milks will not. Let me explain why:
Various probiotic bacteria play important roles in the production of yogurt. Most often species of Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Streptococcus are the microbes found in various types of yogurt. Specific types of yogurt, such as Greek and Belgian, are distinguished by the species of bacteria used to culture animal sourced milk into yogurt. When in animal sourced milk, the bacteria can use up lactose present for energy which produces a byproduct of lactic acid. Lactic acid builds up in the milk causing the coagulation of milk proteins, this transforms the milk into a semi-solid mass with a drastic change in taste.
Lactic acid fermentation does not happen quite the same in dairy free/vegan yogurt. There is no lactose in plant sourced milks. Instead bacteria utilize other sugars and proteins for metabolism and reproduction. The bacteria still produce some acid in dairy free milk, so the flavor is slightly tart. However, plant based milks do not have the same proteins that coagulate in the presence of acid as in animal sourced milk. So a thickener must be used to create dairy-free yogurts. Our favorite thickener to use when making dairy free yogurt is Agar agar. Agar is vegan and it is made from a type of sea vegetable.
What is the best plant based milk to use for vegan yogurt?
There are many plant sourced milks on the market, but from our findings, yogurt microbes prefer a few types more than others. The plant sourced milk that works the best for us with vegan starter cultures is soy milk. For this recipe and in these photos we used a mix of coconut cream and soy milk, and it’s one of the best vegan yogurts we've made! Another favorite combo is oat milk and soy milk. Feel free to use or blend any plant based milks to your liking for this recipe though. All plant based milks will work.
Dairy free yogurt Cultures + Supplies
When culturing your milk into yogurt you have two options: Use a starter culture, or use already made vegan yogurt. We like the second option, because already made dairy-free yogurt is easily accessible from health food markets and at Whole Foods. If you prefer to use a starter culture you can order a high quality Vegan Starter Culture online like this one. You'll also need a yogurt maker, and we suggest this one.
Plant Based Yogurt | Dairy Free, Probiotic, Thick and Creamy Yogurt Recipe
- 1 Quart Soy, Oat, Hemp, Cashew or Coconut milk (or a blend of any of these, full amount still equaling 1 quart)
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons Agar Agar
- 2 Tablespoons of already made vegan yogurt, or a packet of starter culture.
- 1 Tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice.
- Allow your milk to temper to room temperature and pour it into a quart sized mason jar. Our favorite blend of plant based milks for yogurt is oat milk and coconut cream.
- Gently set your room temperature jar of milk into a pot and add water around the jar until the jar is halfway submerged. *Do not put a lid on the jar.
- Place a thermometer into the jar of milk and bring the water to a light simmer, continuously stirring the milk.
- Once the milk reaches a temperature of 82 degrees Celsius (180 F), thoroughly stir in the Agar. Use 1 tablespoon for a thinner yogurt and 2 for a thicker yogurt. You may have to adjust the amount of agar dependig on the brand of agar you buy. It helps to dissolve the agar in a little bit of the hot milk then add it in to the rest. Continuously stir the milk and agar at 82 degrees for about 3 minutes.
- Keeping the thermometer in the milk, remove the jar of milk from the hot water. Let it cool to about 44 degrees Celsius (about 110 F) stirring the milk occasionally.
- Once your milk is slightly cooled, you can add your starter culture or already made yogurt. It is best to dissolve dried cultures in a small amount of the cooled milk, then add it to the quart sized jar and stir. Dissolving the starter in a small amount of milk helps to prevent clumping and distributes the culture evenly throughout the milk. If you are using already prepared yogurt with live active cultures, just use two tablespoons spoons and stir it into the cooled milk.
- Once your milk is inoculated with probiotic microbes you are ready to incubate! Dispense the milk mixture into the clean jars for your yogurt maker. Be sure the lids are off, turn it on and let it incubate for 12-24 hours. If you prefer a more tart yogurt, let it incubate closer to 24 hours.
- When your yogurt is done incubating, put lids on and place in the refrigerator. I like to stir in a bit of lemon juice before putting it in the fridge for a more tart tasting yogurt. Once cooled, flavor however you'd like and enjoy! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Pinterest for yummy upcoming recipes using vegan yogurt!
What can I make with Vegan yogurt?
I like to use my homemade yogurt in a variety of ways:
In smoothies and smoothie bowls
With oatmeal for breakfast
Yogurt bowl snack: Yogurt topped with a bit of fruit and nut mix and local honey
To replace sour cream: Plain and tart, its a great substitute for sour cream on tacos and burritos