When you make your own yogurt, you avoid cross contamination issues, preservatives, refined sugars, food coloring and you can control the bacteria strains used. For those who have kids with PANDAS or sensitivity to yeast, that is key to being able to have yogurt at all, because most yogurt is made with S. Thermophilus which is a strep strain that can flare PANDAS.
I used a dehydrator for this recipe, to incubate the yogurt at a consistent, low temperature, but you can use a yogurt maker or store the jar in an insulated cooler.
Homemade Coconut Yogurt
- 3 cartons of the coconut cream linked above. If you can find another source, it just needs to be thick like heavy cream.
- 1/4 tsp non-dairy probiotic of choice (I used Custom Probiotics 12 strain)
- 1-2 Tbsp. honey OR maple syrup OR coconut nectar
- Candy thermometer (very important)
- Glass or ceramic containers with lids (do not use metal). I use a Pyrex container and I place a small plate upside down on top of it while it incubates, then use the plastic lid during refrigeration.
- Sterilize your yogurt containers, mixing spoons and other utensils with boiling water. This will keep bad bacteria from competing with the good bacteria.
- In a saucepan, bring coconut milk to 170-185 degrees, then remove from heat. Bringing it to just boiling is ok, but watch it closely. (Do NOT microwave, which harmfully alters the chemical structure of the milk).
Some say you don’t have to heat coconut milk very much, because it usually comes from sterile containers. However, if you have made your own coconut milk, make sure you’ve heated it to at least 180 degrees, or you risk of contamination with Burkholderia cocovenenans or other harmful bacteria.
- Add maple syrup or honey and stir thoroughly. The sweetener provides food for the bacterial culture and will be mostly consumed by the time your yogurt is done. Without a natural form of sugar, coconut milk will not culture.
- Cover (I just lay a clean kitchen towel over the top) and cool to 105-110 degrees. It is very important that you allow the temperature to drop so as not to kill the bacterial culture you are going to introduce. It takes a fair amount time to cool to 110, so go do something else in the house for a while.
- Remove about 1/2 cup of cooled coconut milk, and add either 1/4 cup of plain coconut yogurt (from your previous batch) or 1/4 tsp. of your probiotic. (You should save 1/4 cup of your homemade yogurt as a starter for the next batch.) Stir well.
- Thoroughly mix the inoculated batch back in with the remainder of the cooled coconut milk.
- Pour cultured milk into any appropriately-sized, shallow glass or enamel containers, cover and let stand at 105-110 degrees for 8-24 hours, to a maximum of 29 hours. The longer you ferment the yogurt, the less sugar it will contain and the more sour it will taste. Check for taste at 8 hours, but note that if you want all the sugar to be fully consumed by the bacteria, you will need to ferment for at least 18 hours.
- To keep the correct temperature for the culture, I use my Excalibur dehydrator set at about 105 degrees, and place the containers on the bottom, away from the heating element. You can also use a temperature-adjustable heating pad or crockpot, or put a 60-Watt bulb in your oven and leave the light on. No other heat is needed. Remember, too high a temperature will kill the bacterial culture; too low of a temperature will prevent proper fermentation. You will know you have done it right by the proper yogurt-sour smell and taste.
- After 8–24 hours, remove from heat, stir to an even consistency and refrigerate.
- Once fully cooled, you can stir in fresh fruit, vanilla, nuts, oats, or any other flavoring you desire.