How to Make Coconut Yogurt — 2 Simple Ways

One of the tastiest ferments I've been playing with over the last year is Coconut Yogurt. There are a few big reasons why I wanted to perfect a homemade coconut yogurt. One is that many of my clients avoid dairy and wanted a replacement. Another is that fermented foods are a big part of overall health and including a variety of natural ferments helps to balance our gut bacteria (and benefits our immune and mental health). Finally, I LOVE coconut! And what's not to love? A great source of healthy fats, a fantastic source of slow-burning energy and it's ridiculously tasty.

But why not just buy coconut yogurt from the store? Commercial coconut yogurts are expensive, often contain a lot of added sugars (So Delicious Vanilla Coconut Yogurt has 24 grams per cup, YOSO has 26 grams!!), and most brands contain thickening agents that can irritate the digestive system (carrageenan), along with synthetic vitamins and flavours. Making your own coconut yogurt is easy, inexpensive, and you can use it as a base for dairy-free 'sour creams' or coconut ice cream. Today, I'll introduce you to 2 different methods you can use to ferment coconut milk.

Basic ingredients are coconut milk and a starter culture - either kefir grains or probiotic powder

Basic ingredients are coconut milk and a starter culture - either kefir grains or probiotic powder

Method 1 — Using Probiotics

This method uses probiotics as the starter culture and agar powder or gelatin as a natural thickening agent. You can use probiotics that are sold as a powder or ones that are in capsules, simply open the capsules up. 

Ingredients:
2 cans full-fat coconut milk (NOT tetra pack versions, use canned, it's thicker)
2 tsp probiotic powder
1/4 tsp agar powder OR 1 tsp grass-fed gelatin (use more for thicker results)

Directions:
Place the two cans of coconut milk in the refrigerator for about 24 hours. Then open the cans and scoop off the thick white cream on the top and add to a small saucepan. If your house is cool enough to keep cream and water separate, you may be able to skip this step. You can keep the water to add to smoothies.
Heat the coconut cream over low heat to about 100 degrees F. Then stir in either agar powder or gelatin, whisking constantly to avoid clumps.
Remove pan from stove and whisk in probiotic powder. (If you don't have a thermometer, you want to remove the cream from the stove before it boils and add the probiotics once its cooled a bit to avoid cooking them. We need them to be alive to ferment!)
Pour into a clean glass jar, cover with a clean towel or coffee filter and secure with a rubber band. Allow to ferment in a warm place for 24 to 48 hours. If your house is quite cool, you can create a little incubation chamber by placing jar in an insulated bag or cooler (like a small Thermos lunch pail) with a hot water bottle or a few jars filled with hot water.
Once fermented to your liking, (it will taste a little tangy), transfer to the fridge and allow to thicken. If you've used gelatin, this will take up to 12 hours. Keeps for several days.

A jar of coconut ferment surrounded by jars of hot water, wrapped in an insulating blankie

A jar of coconut ferment surrounded by jars of hot water, wrapped in an insulating blankie

Method 2 — Using Kefir Grains

This method uses kefir grains as the starter culture. I love this version because the kefir makes the final product slightly effervescent. SO delicious on its own or enjoyed with fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.

Ingredients:
1 can full-fat coconut milk
2-3 Tbsp kefir grains (I used water kefir grains, but dairy grains may work just as well)

Directions:
Shake coconut milk can well before opening to mix cream and water. Pour into a clean glass jar. 
Stir in kefir grains using  a wooden spoon (kefir doesn't like coming into contact with reactive metals).
Cover with a clean napkin or coffee filter, secure with a rubber band and place in a warm spot, out of direct light, to ferment for 24-48 hours. How long the ferment takes will depend on how warm your house is, (warmer is faster). 
Once fermented, (it will taste tangy and mildly effervescent), you can strain out the kefir grains using a cheesecloth or nut milk bag. Top yogurt with a lid and store in the fridge, keeps for several days. 

Kefir grains stirred into coconut milk, these will be strained out once ferment is done

Kefir grains stirred into coconut milk, these will be strained out once ferment is done

I personally prefer the kefir method as a yogurt replacement. It's tangy and delicious and works well with fruit or in smoothies.
When using the coconut yogurt as a base for sour cream or ice cream, I prefer the probiotic method. It's smoother and you can adjust how much thickening agent you use. It's really easy to stir in fresh herbs and minced garlic and create a really tasty sour cream alternative. For coconut ice creams, you can blend in sweetener, fruits, vanilla powder, lime zest and juice, cocoa powder, espresso, . . . the skies the limit!

Bubbles rising up are a sign of fermentation, the taste will get tangier and tangier as it cultures

Bubbles rising up are a sign of fermentation, the taste will get tangier and tangier as it cultures

Hope you have fun playing with this tasty ferment. If you have questions or create a tasty recipe with it you'd like to share, send 'em my way!