How to make coconut yogurt (two ways)

Homemade coconut yogurt

Today we're making coconut yogurt, from scratch. And - lucky for you - because I'm insanely indecisive, I'm giving you two recipes: one that's a bit lighter and thickened with universal pectin and another that's hella rich and contains only three ingredients: (guar gum-free) full fat coconut milk, pure maple syrup, and some good ol' fermentation-promoting bacteria.

To say these recipes have been a long time coming would be an understatement. I've been working on them since this past April and, as of Saturday, I've tested 37 different versions.. and wound up with two that I liked enough to share here. I've learned what I like (guar gum-free coconut milk, maple syrup, etc.) and what I don't (cooked tapioca, store bought-starters, etc.), and now I'm here to share my yogurt-making knowledge so that you can confidently venture into your kitchen and whip up some coconut yogurt, too.

So let's start with the coconut milk, seeing as how 1) it's the main ingredient and 2) the kind of coconut milk you use will determine the overall quality of your yogurt. As always, my favorite brand is Aroy-D, and that's because it contains two ingredients: coconut and water (no weird preservatives or guar gum). While it's not organic (SIGH) and the cans don't claim to be BPA-free, most companies (organic or not) that are BPA-free just replaced the BPA lining with another toxic lining. So pick your poison, people.

Coconut milk brands you need to avoid: Native Forest (I know it's organic but it's also oily as fuck) (which is no bueno) and Natural Value. Coconut milk brands I'll use if Aroy-D isn't available: 365 Everyday Value and Thai Kitchen.

On to the bacteria.

While you can ferment the yogurt with store-bought yogurt (or a store-bought starter), it's not my favorite method. So I use the contents from a probiotic capsule instead. If you can't find the brand I use, look for a probiotic supplement that contains Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus - which are the two main fermentation-promiting bacteria most commonly used in yogurt production (and for good reason: they work). One thing I've noticed is that sometimes the powder doesn't like to release from the capsule (which makes me crazy) so, should that happen to you, just grab a (clean) toothpick and give it a good poke.

Now that we've taken care of the coconut milk and bacteria, I'm sure you're wondering how the hell to actually make the yogurt. The good news is - if you don't have a yogurt maker or multi-cooker (I have this one, as well - but prefer the former) - you can use your oven (assuming it's equipped with a light). And honestly, although I do have a multi-cooker (and love it in a pinch), the oven is always my go-to incubation method. The only problem with using an oven is that it tends to run on the cool side (mine sits right around 102˚F) so the fermentation process takes a bit longer. Whereas if you're using a device that has a yogurt setting, the incubation temperature is typically 110˚F and yogurt can be made in 12-18 hours (my device is auto-programmed to 8 hours but it's never enough time for coconut yogurt).

Alright. I feel like you're ready to roll up your sleeves and make some yogurt. But before I release you into the wild - here are a few more things to keep in mind:

- Use one probiotic capsule per can of coconut milk (or per 215g of coconut cream).
- If your yogurt develops a gray or yellow film during incubation, PITCH THAT SHIT.
- Make sure everything that comes into contact with the yogurt is properly sterilized.

PS - I'm currently working on an almondmilk version for those of you who'd prefer something a liiiiittle less fatty. Cross your fingers it doesn't take me almost-five months to get it *just* right.


Things you'll need (that you may not already have on hand)
+ Universal pectin (Pomona's is the only brand that will work)
+ Live cultures (I use probiotic capsules)

Other things you'll need
+Candy thermometer
+ Yogurt maker, multi-cooker, or an oven with a light (if going the latter route, you'll also need a few oven thermometers to ensure your oven reaches the proper temperature)

P R O B I O T I C S
Homemade coconut yogurt
Homemade coconut yogurt
Blueberry-swirled coconut yogurt
Blueberry-swirl coconut yogurt

Notes: For super thick yogurt, use 14 ounces of coconut cream or increase the pectin (and calcium water) to 1 teaspoon each. You don't have to add the tapioca starch but it does make for a slightly thicker yogurt than one that's thickened with just the pectin. If you'd rather use store-bought coconut yogurt as a starter, use 2-3 tablespoons per can of coconut milk. Recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, etc.

COCONUT YOGURT (PECTIN-THICKENED)

1 (14 oz) can full fat coconut milk
2 teaspoons (12g) pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon (1g) universal pectin

1/2 teaspoon calcium water (comes with pectin)
1 teaspoon (2g) tapioca starch, optional (see notes above)
1 (20 billion CFU) probiotic capsule

Before starting this recipe, you need to decide how you're going to prepare the yogurt and plan accordingly. If in your oven, you'll need to make sure your oven is preheated to ~105˚F (anything between 100-115˚F is acceptable for yogurt making), which you can do by turning on your oven light. If making the yogurt in a in a yogurt maker or multi-cooker, you'll need to make sure it's nice and warm by the time you put the yogurt inside. Once you decide how to make it, proceed.

Add the coconut milk and maple syrup to a small saucepan set over medium-low heat, and stick a thermometer on the side of the pan (you'll need to heat the mixture to 180˚F to ensure ensure the final product doesn't separate). Once the coconut milk starts to gently boil, add the pectin and calcium water and whisk vigorously (for about one minute) to ensure no clumps remain. Continue heating the milk (it should start to really boil) and once it reaches 180˚F, off the heat and give it another good whisk. Remove 1/4 cup of the warm coconut milk and place it in a small bowl. Sift in the tapioca starch and whisk until the mixture is clump-free, then add the tapioca mixture back to the coconut milk and whisk to combine. Monitor the coconut milk until the temperature drops to 108˚F, then empty the contents of the probiotic capsules into the milk and mix, using a wooden utensil, until combined. Pass the milk through a sieve and into a sterilized jar (if you catch a tiny bit of the pectin or tapioca, that's fine) (if you catch more than a tiny bit, that means 1) you didn't whisk well enough and 2) your yogurt won't be nearly as thick as the varieties pictured). Seal the jar with a lid and proceed with your incubation method of choice. If going with a yogurt maker or multi-cooker, incubate for 12-18 hours, depending on how tart your like your yogurt (the longer it incubates, the more tart it will be). If using an oven, go for a full 24 hours (or 36 if you like it super tart).

Once the yogurt's finished incubating, give it a good stir (with a spoon, whisk, immersion blender, etc.) then seal it again and pop it in the refrigerator. It needs to chill for a full 24 hours before consuming. Yogurt will keep refrigerated, in an air tight container, for up to two weeks.

Yield: About 14 ounces

Homemade coconut yogurt

Notes: While coconut milk chilled for 24 hours is suitable for making coconut whipped cream, it is not suitable for yogurt making. You need to separate as much of the water from the cream as possible, and that requires a longer chilling time. Although you can make coconut yogurt with coconut milk that haven't chilled at all, it won't be nearly as thick and the texture will be slightly feathery (something I don't like). If you'd rather use canned coconut cream, I had success using Thai Kitchen's coconut cream (though the guar gum gave the yogurt a light texture, similar to the texture of coconut yogurt you'd buy at the grocery). Also, if using coconut cream you still have to refrigerate the cans for 2-3 days to fully separate the water and cream. If you'd rather use store-bought coconut yogurt as a starter, use 2-3 tablespoons per 215g of coconut cream. Recipe can easily be doubled, tripled, etc.

COCONUT YOGURT (NO ADDED THICKENER)

2-3 (14 oz) cans full fat coconut milk, refrigerated for 2-3 days
4 teaspoons (24g) pure maple syrup
2 (20 billion CFU) probiotic capsules

Before starting this recipe, you need to decide how you're going to prepare the yogurt and plan accordingly. If in your oven, you'll need to make sure your oven is preheated to ~105˚F (anything between 100-115˚F is acceptable for yogurt making), which you can do by turning on your oven light. If making the yogurt in a in a yogurt maker or multi-cooker, you'll need to make sure it's nice and warm by the time you put the yogurt inside. Once you decide how to make it, proceed.

Open the cans of coconut milk and spoon the thick layers of cream off the top (if the cream isn't nice and firm, that means the coconut cream didn't set up properly and that your yogurt will be on the runny side). You need to end up with 430-445g coconut cream, though the amount of cream available varies from can to can (which is why I called for 2-3 cans). Add the coconut cream and maple syrup to a small saucepan set over medium heat and stick a thermometer on the side of the pan (you need to heat the mixture to 180˚F to ensure ensure the final product doesn't separate). Once the cream reaches 180˚F, off the heat and give it a good whisk. Monitor the coconut milk until the temperature drops to 108˚F, then empty the contents of the probiotic capsules into the milk and mix, using a wooden utensil, until combined. Pass the cream through a sieve and into a sterilized jar, then seal the jar with a lid and proceed with your incubation method of choice. If going with a yogurt maker or multi-cooker, incubate for 12-18 hours, depending on how tart your like your yogurt (the longer it incubates, the more tart it will be). If using an oven, go for a full 24 hours (or 36 if you like it super tart).

Once the yogurt's finished incubating, give it a good stir (with a spoon, whisk, immersion blender, etc.) then seal it again and pop it in the refrigerator. It needs to chill for a full 24 hours before consuming. Yogurt will keep refrigerated, in an air tight container, for up to two weeks.

Yield: About 8 ounces


VARIATIONS

To use agar-agar - Once you've heated the coconut cream to 180˚F, whisk in 1/8-1/4 teaspoon agar-agar powder depending on if you're using coconut cream (1/8 teaspoon) or coconut milk ( 1/4 teaspoon).
Blueberry-swirled coconut yogurt - Reduce 1 cup of blueberries (or any fruit) until the juice turns syrupy. Let cool then swirl into yogurt.
Cacao coconut yogurt - Sift 2-4 tablespoons of cacao powder into the yogurt and mix until smooth. May need to add additional maple syrup, if desired.
Vanilla bean coconut yogurt - When the yogurt has finished incubating (and just before it's chilled), stir in 1/4-1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean powder.

Blueberry-swirled coconut yogurt