I used to culture my own yogurt, kefir, sour cream, etc before I went dairy-free. I must admit I sometimes really miss these foods, but dairy proteins (casein) cross-reacts with gluten antibodies and therefore are no longer an option for me. Oh, the joys of celiac! *sarcastic* Dang, I miss cheese too. *sigh*
Some time ago I discovered the So Delicious brand of coconut milk products. I enjoy their ice creams and yogurts a lot, but the cost can add up. So I explored making my own.
I found a recipe and instructions on Nom Nom Paleo and modified them slightly. As I had cultured yogurts and viili before, I know some techniques work better than others to get the critters growing.
I used 2 cans coconut milk (cream only), separating the cream by chilling at least 24 hours. Put it in a saucepan and added 2 tbsp maple syrup to both feed the culture and sweeten the final product. Warmed the coconut milk until just melted – resulting temperature of 110F. Added 1/4 cup Plain So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt and mixed well. Turned on the oven light and placed the sealed jar in the oven for 24 hours as instructed.
Ingredients: ORGANIC COCONUT MILK (WATER, ORGANIC COCONUT CREAM), ORGANIC DRIED CANE SYRUP, CHICORY ROOT EXTRACT (INULIN), TAPIOCA DEXTROSE, PECTIN, ALGIN (KELP EXTRACT), MAGNESIUM PHOSPHATE, TRICALCIUM PHOSPHATE, ORGANIC RICE STARCH, NATURAL FLAVORS, LOCUST BEAN GUM, LIVE CULTURES, CARRAGEENAN, GUAR GUM, DIPOTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, VITAMIN B12.
I am not a fan of some of the ingredients shown above (carrageenan, guar gum, cane syrup, rice, etc) and would prefer to avoid them.
The Result: After chilling in the fridge, this yogurt became VERY thick and creamy – much thicker than the original. In my book, that’s a good thing as it indicated more cultures and yields a satisfying mouth-feel. The taste was both tangy and sweet. Very good.
My first batch made with 1/4 cup plain So Delicious yogurt as the culture. VERY thick!
I believe warming the coconut milk is necessary, both to adequately mix in the cultures and to give a head-start in the incubation process. Others say to skip it, but if you compare the photos of final products, you can see that this one cultured far better.
As to the culture source, I am going to try it with a probiotic capsule as well, and see which I like better. I started with the existing product first because I knew these specific strains are compatible with coconut milk. This probiotic contains the 6 strains used by So Delicious and a few more:
Either way, the cost is significantly less than $1.99 per 6oz container and it avoids undesirable ingredients! Flavoring should be easy – just add fruit, vanilla or cocoa powder to taste before serving. Enjoy!
* UPDATE: I made a second batch using the probiotic capsules and found that it did not culture as well as using the SoDelicious product as a starter. It was much thinner and tasted different.