Don’t DIY: The Dairy-Free Yogurt Experiment

Making yogurt at home is really easy. Making dairy-free yogurt at home and having it resemble anything like regular yogurt, or even the dairy-free yogurt from the store, is definitely not easy.

I knew the odds were stacked against me. I’ve heard other people say they could do it, so I tried it.

For all of these experiments I used the same method as how I successfully make regular yogurt, and I used store-bought coconut yogurt for a starter.

My first experiment was with almond milk, though I didn’t have high hopes. It cultured, but it was still a liquid, and the result wasn’t pretty: a beige water with tiny white almond particles suspended in it. Not desirable.

I didn’t try soy milk, but I don’t see how it would thicken up any more than the almond milk, although the results might be smoother.

Next I tried to culture coconut milk. This didn’t seem like a smart idea, because who sits down to eat a nice big cup of heavy coconut milk straight? And in the end, that’s exactly what it tasted like: a big cup of coconut milk. I’m not sure it cultured.

Then I tried a blend of half coconut milk and half water. It cultured a little bit, but I had to keep stirring it to taste it. The coconut milk kept rising to the top in little clumps, and the water settled to the bottom. It was all right, if you were looking for a slightly-cultured coconut milk beverage.

There’s a good reason dairy-free yogurt has a combination of cornstarch, rice starch, tapioca dextrose, guar gum, or xanthan gum added to it as a thickener, and now I’ve experienced it first-hand.

I’m not sure what kind of results other people get when they say they make dairy-free yogurt. A drink? I was hoping for yogurt.

But that’s how it goes when you make gluten or dairy-free foods and hope they taste like something you remember. Sometimes you find something really good, and sometimes it fails spectacularly.

Has anyone tried it with better results?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. sad day! I was hoping the coconut or almond experiment would work :) I was going to try starting an almond batch with regular dairy starter, and then gradually reusing the remnants of each batch until the cow dairy eventually got diluted out. Do you think that would work???

    Mama Bean´s last post…Mama Bean and Papa Bean wish everyone a happy Earth day!

  2. I tried making soy yogurt once following my usual yogurt method and it was a spectacular failure. I think I tasted it and poured the whole batch down the drain.

  3. The only time I ever was close to yogurt was totally by accident – the thicker bottom portion of some homemade soy milk got left in the fridge too long, and when I bravely took a whiff of it, I realized it had not spoiled but . . . yogurted. I managed to make that last a few batches by adding fresh soy milk to it, but eventually it petered out. Even that was more like a yogurt drink than thick commercial yogurt, though.

  4. We drink soymilk and not dairy milk at home, however occasionally we have dairy yogurt and cheese. I have tried soy yogurt but finding plain ones is bit hard sometimes. I have never tried to make non-dairy yogurt at home so I guess I would not know.

    I like dairy yogurt’s texture which I have yet to find it in non-dairy yogurt or cheese, and one of the reasons I am not 100% vegan yet.

    Zengirl: Heart and Mind´s last post…We are what we eat, really!

  5. I’m sorry the yogurt-making didn’t work out, but you did give me a much-needed laugh. The search continues, I guess. I do have to tell you that this is one of the few blogs I want to keep visiting (I’m trying to live more intentionally instead of wasting so much time on the internet). Thanks for doing this blog, Rachel.
    Sincerely, Megan

  6. We make soy yogurt regularly using a yogurt maker. It’s far from perfect, but it’s firm like yogurt and it tastes as it should. We boil the soymilk, let it cool, mix in the starter (generally previously made yogurt), and then pour the mixture in the individual containers and plop them in the yogurt maker for 7 hours. I’ve never tried the oven method.

    Sorry to hear that almond and coconut milk didn’t work. But thanks for experimenting! I’d been thinking about trying almond milk but will now save my time!

    Amanda´s last post…What I love :: the public library

  7. I’m so not anywhere near being able to make my own yogurt.

    I’m just trying to switch from regular to Greek yogurt, and that’s been hard for me. It’s so thick and sour.

    Great for cooking, not so much for breakfast. But, I’m working on it.

  8. Interested to know whether you’ve tried making kefir?
    I’ve been told you can make it with soy, coconut milk, etc and is supposed to be great in smoothies for a yogurt taste …. haven’t tried it myself as yet.

  9. have you looked over at kathysrecipebox.com ? I am pretty sure she has a coconut milk yogurt. There is an added thickener, I am thinking it is tapioca starch…let me go check…yep! here it is: http://www.kathysrecipebox.com/?p=136

    maybe that’ll help :)

  10. I’ve always wanted to try my hand at yogurt making…I’m still working my way up to a dairy one. I did make my own creme fraiche last week. It’s so yummy!
    Oh, and Meredith, we always put a little bit of honey in the Greek yogurt. The baby loves it that way!

    Amanda G´s last post…Coffee and a Book

  11. I’m lactose intolerant, so I’m always on the hunt for something milk-like to pour on my cereal. Recently I started drinking lactose free milk, which tastes somewhat like real milk only a little bit sweeter. Have you considered using it for yogurt experiments? Or are you looking for something entirely non dairy?

  12. A little Wikipedia search revealed that soy milk needs additional sugar to feed the bacteria…so in theory, maybe that is what your methods are missing? Lactose feeds the bacteria in regular milk, so you’d almost have to have some additional sugar in there. Whenever I read these dairy-free recipes, I’m always frustrated by them because they never seem to consider that the basic process of making yogurt is feeding the bacteria the lactose to promote fermentation. A little science can go a long way in recipes!

  13. Try Donna Gate’s Body Ecology Kefir Starter. My friends use this particular product on everything and apparently it even works on fresh, green coconut juice.

    I am far from an expert though. I will start my career with your kombucha :))

    Eszter

  14. I have heard that you can use Pomona’s Pectin to make your homemade yogurt thicken nicely. If you are using a milk without calcium in it then you also need to use the calcium water.

    I haven’t tried this but it sounds like a good alternative to some other food additives.

  15. I’m really enjoying your blog! I haven’t tried making yogurt yet, but we make dairy free COCONUT MILK ice cream that is great! The secret is adding that teaspoon of xanathan gum. It’s just a can of coconut milk, a banana or two (or other fruit), honey or stevia etc, and half a cup almond milk plus 1 t xanathan gum to thicken it–in the ice cream maker. add vanilla if desired.

  16. I know this old. Wondering if you found success!? Personally, I just got a yogurt maker for Christmas and next week I will be trying this….

    http://www.thespunkycoconut.com/2010/10/dairy-free-yogurt-2-soy-free-refined.html

    She has success with it all the time. I can hardly wait. Also got an ice cream maker…so looking for yummy gluten free/casein free frozen treats, too. :)
    tammy´s last post…Goose- goose- duck

  17. Like Tammy above, I know this is an old entry but have you tried water kefir? It’s a little like kombucha but I think it’s a little more versatile, you can make coconut kefir with it, or just ferment some sugar water for a carbonated probiotic treat, and it lives forever like sourdough starter, as long as you take care of it.

  18. I just found this blog post at CookingTF.com…it looks promising! I’ll be trying it as soon as I get home.
    http://blog.tfrecipes.com/2011/02/03/coconut-milk-yogurt-2/
    Maggie @ Maggie’s Nest´s last post…Clean &amp Simple- Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

  19. I write the blog that Maggie Referenced above. Some folks have reported using that recipe with So Deliciou’s coconut milk yogurt and they said the results were less heavy than the canned coconut milk. I haven’t tried it yet, but it sounds like it might be a good option for you if you thought the canned coconut milk was too heavy.
    KerryAnn´s last post…Good- Better- Best- When and How to Choose Organic on a Budget