Having been a vegetarian for his entire life, dairy products played a central role in the hubby’s diet. His favorite ones used to be milk (until he became acquainted with homemade almond milk) and still are yoghurt and curd cheese which he eats every day. Now that he wants to reduce dairy or probably even cut it out completely, we need a substitute for those – and for yoghurt in particular. In other words, unless we find an appropriate plant-based alternative to cow’s milk yoghurt, veganization for the hubby will be very difficult, and since we do not want to rely on soy products, some magic had to take place in our own kitchen.
Regarding myself, I loved yoghurt as a child and almost lived on it. When I learned that my year-long, severe and untreatable joint pain I had back then came from consuming dairy, I had to give up all dairy products overnight. Yoghurt was the hardest for me to say goodbye to, much more than ice cream or chocolate. I cheated a couple of times and the pain came back immediately, so in the end I preferred to be able to run and climb stairs again without pain, but I still missed yoghurt terribly. Homemade nut milk yoghurt would probably manage to end that state of lacking something.
During the past two weeks, I have tried my luck with it. Making non-dairy yoghurt turned out to be quite a challenge, because there are demands to both taste and texture.
A while ago, my mom started to make her own yoghurt with organic milk, and during one of my stays with my parents, I used her probiotic powder together with almond milk to make almond yoghurt. When I opened the container after a night of fermentation, it smelled like yoghurt, but it was completely fluid and only suitable for drinking.
The challenge with nut-based or seed-based milks is that they do not thicken during fermentation as cow’s milk does, so you need to add a thickener to it. I have tried carob gum and guar gum and found both to work well. Other options I have read about are agar agar and ground chia, but I have not tried those so far.
Carob gum and guar gum are derived from the seeds of carob or guar trees by dehusking and milling them. I have researched the internet on probable health concerns with those gums and found that you should not overdose them and consume them with sufficient fluid, but since you do not need more than a few grams of these substances to thicken a whole batch of yoghurt, you will not consume them in large amounts when eating this yoghurt, so they should be safe. However, because some products are polluted with toxins, it is a good idea to buy organic quality.
~ guar gum and carob gum ~
For the fermentation, you need a yoghurt starter. I ordered probiotics on the internet (the kind that is used for homemade dairy yoghurt as well) which come in powdered form. You only need a pinch of those, so you can make a lot of yoghurt with them. As soon as you have made your first yoghurt, you can save a spoonful of it and use that as a starter for the next batch of yoghurt, or you can start with probiotic dairy or soy yoghurt (if you eat those) from the store.
~ “we like to reside in the fridge after opening” ~
Equipped with probiotics and thickening agent, the only ingredient that misses is the nuts or seeds you want as the basis of your yoghurt. I opted for cashews because they blend so well and with little leftover pulp. Also, they contain a rather high amount of carbohydrates which bacteria are fond of. You can use other kinds of nuts and seeds or a mix, but then you probably have to add a spoonful of sugar, honey, or agave to feed the bacteria.
You do not need a yoghurt maker for making your own yoghurt, but if you have some, it is a little easier because it spares you the careful heating and temperature measuring. I have a non-electric yoghurt maker that works very well and did not cost a lot of money.
~ yoghurt maker sitting on the bottom kitchen shelf ~
Then, the process of making your own nut or seed yoghurt is very easy, and the result is tasty and very rich and creamy. Since the yoghurt needs 10 or 12 hours to ferment, you may want to start making it in the evening so you have fresh yoghurt for your next breakfast. The recipe below makes quite a lot yoghurt, and if you want to start with less, just cut the ingredients by half.
- 130 g (3/4 cup) cashews (or more, for a richer yoghurt), soaked in water for at least one hour
- 1 pinch of probiotic powder
- 1-2 tsp guar gum
- flavor options: add vanilla, cocoa powder, ground cinnamon, or other spices of choice
- sweetening options: add pitted dates, stevia, agave, honey, or sugar
- protein options: add a spoonful of protein powder (this will also make the yoghurt thicker so you need less thickening agent)
Put the soaked cashews with a little water into the blender – just enough to cover them and let your blender do its work. Blend until you receive a thick, smooth cream.
(If you want to flavor, sweeten, or enrich the yoghurt with protein powder, blend the respective ingredients in now. Otherwise proceed as below.)
Add water up to the 1 liter (4 cups) mark of the blender container and blend some more to make cashew milk. Transfer the milk without filtering to a bowl and stir in the probiotics. Whisk well to make sure they evenly disperse.
The fermentation procedure depends on the equipment you have.
- If you do not have a yoghurt maker, warm the cashew milk on the stovetop until the temperature is about 36 to 40 °C (87 to 104 °F), then pour it into a bowl, cover, and let ferment in a warm place for 10 to 12 hours.
- If you have an electric yoghurt maker, pour the cashew milk into the container without heating, turn on the yoghurt maker according to the instruction manual and let ferment for 10 to 12 hours.
- If you have a non-electric yoghurt maker, pour the cashew milk into the yoghurt container without heating. Bring some water to boil and put it into the thermic container, then place the yoghurt container above it, put the lid on, and let ferment for 10 to 12 hours.
After the fermentation, you will find that the cashew milk looks a little disintegrated, but it should already smell nicely like yoghurt. Blend in the thickening agent – do not overdo it as the yoghurt will continue thickening in the fridge. Store the yoghurt in an air-tight container and keep refridgerated. It will remain fresh for a couple of days and can be used like regular yoghurt.
Have you made non-dairy yoghurt yourself? If yes, what are your experiences? What nuts or seeds do you use?