How to Make Coconut Milk Yogurt
Step 1: Choose the Coconut Milk
Coconut milk yogurt can be made with canned, boxed, or homemade coconut milk. We recommend choosing an unflavored variety with the least number of additives possible.
Step 2: Choose the Thickening Agent
Coconut milk is not particularly thick when made without a thickening agent such as tapioca starch or gelatin. Since it has a different chemical structure than animal milk, it behaves differently when cultured. Without the added thickening agent, coconut milk yogurt will generally be rather runny and more similar to the consistency of kefir. If using a thickening agent isn't an option but you still prefer thick yogurt, it is also possible to strain some of the liquid from the coconut milk yogurt by placing the finished yogurt in a tea towel or similar tight-weave fabric and allowing the mixture to hang over a bowl to drain some of the liquid, resulting in thicker yogurt.
Step 3: Choose the Yogurt Starter
Some varieties of yogurt starter culture at 110°F using a yogurt maker or similar device. These are known as thermophilic yogurt cultures. Examples of thermophilic cultures include direct-set (a.k.a. one-time use) variety yogurt starters, some heirloom-variety cultures such as Greek and Bulgarian, and commercial yogurt with live active cultures from the grocery store used as a starter culture.
Other varieties culture at room temperature on the counter without a yogurt maker. These are known as mesophilic yogurt cultures. Viili, Filmjolk, Matsoni, and Piima are all examples of mesophilic yogurt cultures.
Please note: if using an heirloom-variety (perpetuating) yogurt as the starter culture (Greek, Bulgarian, Viili, Matsoni, Filmjolk, Piima), be sure the yogurt used as the starter culture for making the coconut yogurt was made with cow or goat milk. Yogurt made with coconut milk using an heirloom-variety starter cannot be used as a starter culture for future batches of coconut milk yogurt. The structure of coconut milk is too different from animal-based milk and the bacteria will not be strong enough to perpetuate effectively.
Click here for more information on the various types of yogurt starters.
Step 4: Make Yogurt
There are several ways to make coconut milk yogurt at home. Which method you choose will depend on the type of yogurt starter you are working with.
Heat the coconut milk to approximately 115°F, and let it cool to 110°F. While it is cooling, mix in the thickening agent of your choice. If adding tapioca starch or flour, whisk the starch into a small amount of milk, then mix that portion of milk into the larger portion of milk and mix well to combine. If adding gelatin, sprinkle the gelatin into the milk and mix well.
Once the milk has reached 110°F, add the yogurt starter and mix well to combine.
Incubate the mixture at 108° to 112°F for 8 to 24 hours. While a yogurt maker is generally the easiest way to culture thermophilic varieties of yogurt, if you do not own a yogurt maker, here are a few alternative ways to keep the yogurt at the right temperature:
You can test the temperature of each of these methods ahead of time by heating some water to 110°F and holding the jar of water for the required number of hours using the method of choice. Test the water temperature at 8 hours and every 2 hours thereafter to ensure that the incubation method will hold the warmth properly.
Please note: coconut milk generally takes a few hours longer to culture than yogurt made with animal-based milk. If a more sour yogurt is desired, culture for a longer period.
Once the yogurt has set (solidified), allow it to cool for an hour or two until it reaches room temperature. Place the yogurt in the fridge for 6+ hours to halt the culturing process. The yogurt will also thicken further as it chills.
Measure out the milk. If adding tapioca starch or flour, whisk the starch into a small amount of milk and then mix that portion of milk into the larger portion of milk and mix well to combine. If adding gelatin, sprinkle the gelatin into the milk and mix well.
Add the yogurt starter and mix well.
Incubate the mixture at 70° to 78°F for 18 to 24 hours. (Some people have good luck with 36 to 48 hours for a more sour yogurt.) Please note: coconut milk generally takes a few hours longer to culture than yogurt made with animal-based milk.
Once the yogurt has set (solidified), place the yogurt in the fridge for 6+ hours to halt the culturing process. The yogurt will also thicken further as it chills.
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