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)
- 2-3 Tablespoons Agar Agar
- 1/4 Cup Boiling Hot Water
- 2 Tablespoons of already made vegan yogurt, or a packet of starter culture.
- 1 Tablespoon Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
- Pour 1 quart of plant based milk into a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Stir continuously.
- While your milk is heating, blend together the lemon juice agar agar and 1/4 of boiling hot water. I like to do this in my small blender cup, it makes for a more even consistency in the yogurt.
- Once your milk is lightly simmering, turn the heat to low. Be careful not to burn the milk. Add in the water-agar mixture and stir continuously for about 5 minutes.
- Remove milk mixture from heat and allow to slightly cool for 10 minutes.
- Add in your starter cultures and mix well. You can use a yogurt starter culture packet, or two tablespoons of already made vegan yogurt.
- 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. Once cooled, add in some fruit if you'd like and enjoy!
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