Vegan Yogurt


When I went vegan ten years ago, vegan yogurt didn’t exist, at least where we lived. In fact, I remember my mom telling me she was going vegan but that she was going to keep eating dairy yogurt because she enjoyed it and had no other alternative. Several years later commercial brands showed up in our stores—yay! But, like most processed foods, they often contained a lot of sugar and additives I just didn’t want to eat, although there are some plain, additive-free vegan yogurts out there now.

However, making your own vegan yogurt isn’t all that difficult! And you don’t need to go out and buy a fancy yogurt making machine…you likely have what you need at home already!

The things you need when making vegan yogurt are soy milk, vegan yogurt starter, and a way to keep the mix warm while it turns into yogurt.

The Milk

What I and many people have found is that soy milk makes the best vegan yogurt without having to add thickeners. I’ve tried coconut milk, cashew milk, blends, etc., and pure soy milk has the best outcome. You want an unsweetened organic soy milk that is made only with soy beans and water, no sugar, no oils, no additives whatsoever.

I make my own soy milk and it makes great yogurt; here’s the process for making soy milk.

Before going zero waste, I used commercial soy milk. Westbrae was the best I found because it was organic and made with just soy beans and water. You want to make sure that you buy the Westbrae with only filtered water and organic soy—they have another carton that looks just like this but it has additional ingredients, so make sure and check the ingredients label. We bought this soy milk by the case (our local IGA will do that for us and we get discounted pricing for it).

Westbrae Soy Milk Made from Only Non-GMO Soybeans and Water

Vegan Yogurt Starter

You can buy vegan yogurt starters or probiotic capsules to start your yogurt process, but what I have found to be the easiest and best way is to use already made vegan yogurt—yes, use yogurt to make more yogurt! Probiotic capsules can be tricky because while the packaging tells you how many live cultures there are, that is generally the amount at the time of manufacture, not at the time you buy or use it. Why does matter? Well, there’s no guarantee that the product was shipped or stored in a way that kept those cultures alive—you may be buying dead cultures. I have found yogurt to be much more consistent. Just make sure the container you buy has live, active cultures. It doesn’t have to be soy or plain vegan yogurt, it can be flavored and sweetened. And after your first batch, you no longer have to buy starter yogurt, you’ll just use some of yours you made!

If you do decide to use probiotic capsules, you just gently pull the probiotic capsule apart and sprinkle the contents onto your milk and stir to combine. I’ve used six capsules in three quarts of soy milk with great success. It may vary between different probiotic capsules, so you’ll have to experiment.

Before using the probiotic capsules, it’s advisable to test any new bottle to make sure the cultures are live. To do this, sprinkle a capsule over a half cup of milk, stir, and then wait 24 to 48 hours for a reaction. By the end of this time, if the probiotics are viable, the milk should curdle or change to a yogurt-like consistency. You can then use this as part of your starter. You only need to do this test when you open a new bottle, or if you’re concerned your capsules are old or not working.

The Incubator

Instant Pot

You have a lot of options here. You can make yogurt in an Instant Pot that has the yogurt setting (it won’t work in an Instant Pot that doesn’t have this setting, it gets too hot and kills the cultures), a crock pot, or a food dehydrator. The directions vary just a bit depending on what device you use.

In any case, I’ve found that a 1:3 ratio works well for me, that is 1 part yogurt to 3 parts soy milk. I make large batches with 1 quart yogurt to 3 quarts soy milk, but you can easily do smaller, like 8 oz. yogurt to 24 oz. soy milk. So as we go along, that is the ratio I would be using in the directions.

Simply combine the  soy milk and starter yogurt (1:3 ratio), or contents of the probiotic capsules, and stir to incorporate. You can either pour this starter liquid into jars or directly into the Instant Pot (I just pour into the Instant Pot because I like to strain the yogurt later for really, really thick Greek-style yogurt and then put into jars). Put the lid on the Instant Pot, it doesn’t matter if the sealing ring is in or not and doesn’t matter what position the vent is in either because you’re not pressure cooking this, just using the Instant Pot to maintain a temperature to grow yogurt cultures. Do NOT put the trivet in and do NOT add any water to the Instant Pot around the jars. Hit the “Yogurt” button and set the time you want it to go. I use 6 hours. You’ll want to experiment and see how tangy you want your yogurt to be and how long it takes before it goes too long and separates (6-12 hours, but most people do about 6-8. Mine separates out at 10 hours).

Instant Pot Set for 6 Hours in the Yogurt Function

Crock Pot

Put your soy milk (3 quarts) in the crock pot and turn the crock pot to low for 2-1/2 hours to slowly heat up the milk. Then turn the crock pot off and let the milk sit in the crock for 2 hours. Then add the starter yogurt (1 quart) or contents of six probiotic capsules and stir to combine. Remove the crock from the cooker, wrap it in towels and keep in a warm place for 6-10 hours (some people put the towel-wrapped crock in their oven with the oven OFF for this time, but with my firefighting background, I just can’t do that!!). You can keep on your kitchen counter if your kitchen is warm and not drafty, or set by a fireplace, away from getting too hot. This is how my mom makes her vegan yogurt with Westbrae organic soy milk and some of her own yogurt as starter and it comes out beautifully!

Food Dehydrator

I have an Excalibur food dehydrator which has lots of room for jars, as do other dehydrators. For this method, I combine the soy milk and starter yogurt (1:3 ratio) or contents of six probiotic capsules, stir, and pour into clean jars. I put the lid on the jars and set them in the dehydrator and turn it on to 100˚F. Let them go for 6-10 hours, checking to see when they are tangy enough for your taste. Note, if you set it too hot, the mixture will separate and curdle and not make good yogurt.

Once the yogurt tanginess is to your liking, you can put into jars and refrigerate, unless you already have it in jars, then just refrigerate!

If you like thick, Greek-style yogurt, you’ll want to strain the liquid “whey” off; you can do it now or after refrigerating. It’s super simple. I line a mesh strainer or regular colander with a flour sack towel or paper towel (my flour sack towels were stained so I used paper towels for the photo!!), set it over the sink or a bowl, pour in the yogurt, and let drain until it gets to the desired thickness, then spoon into jars.

Straining Off the Whey

You can store your yogurt plain or doctor it up. We like “fruit on the bottom” yogurt, so I use little 8-ounce containers, put frozen or fresh fruit on the bottom, sprinkle on ground flax seed (because it’s a great way to get flax in your daily diet), cover with plain yogurt, and drizzle on a bit of maple syrup for sweetness. After a few hours, the yogurt settles into the fruit and things get all happy. When you want yogurt, just pull the container out, stir, and eat, just like store-bought.

Homemade “Fruit on the Bottom” Yogurt with a Little Maple Syrup on Top

Enjoy! Just make sure you leave enough to make your next batch!

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Soy Yogurt

Making your own vegan yogurt isn’t all that difficult! And you don’t need to go out and buy a fancy yogurt making machine…you likely have what you need at home already!
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American, Gluten-Free, Whole Food Plant Based, Zero Waste
Keyword Soy Yogurt, Yogurt
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 5 minutes
Servings 8
Author Cindy Thompson, Trimazing! Health & Lifestyle Coaching

Ingredients

  • 3 quarts Soy Milk make sure it contains only soy beans and water, no oil or sugar added
  • 1 quart plant-based yogurt plain or flavored, just make sure it has active cultures

or

  • 6 probiotic capsules or more, depending on the brand

Instructions

Instant Pot Directions

  • Combine the soy milk and starter yogurt or probiotic capsules and stir to incorporate. 
  • Either pour this starter liquid into jars or directly into the Instant Pot.
  • Put the lid on the Instant Pot. It doesn't matter if the sealing ring is in or not and doesn't matter what position the vent is in because you're not pressure cooking this, just using the Instant Pot to maintain a temperature to grow yogurt cultures. 
    Do NOT put the trivet in and do NOT add any water to the Instant Pot around the jars. 
  • Hit the "Yogurt" button and set the time you want it to go (6-12 hours, but most people do about 6-8. Mine separates out at 10 hours). Experiment and see how tangy you want your yogurt to be and how long it takes before it goes too long and separates. (6-12 hours, but most people do about 6-8. Mine separates out at 10 hours).
  • Once the yogurt tanginess is to your liking, put into jars and refrigerate, unless you already have it in jars, then just refrigerate!

Crock Pot Instructions

  • Pour soy milk into the crock pot and turn the crock pot to low for 2-1/2 hours to slowly heat up the milk. 
  • Turn the crock pot off and let the milk sit in the crock for 2 hours. 
  • Add the starter yogurt or probiotic capsules and stir to combine. Remove the crock from the cooker, wrap it in towels and keep in a warm place for 6-10 hours 
  • Once the yogurt tanginess is to your liking, put into jars and refrigerate.

Dehydrator Instructions

  • Combine soy milk and starter yogurt or probiotic capsules, stir, and pour into clean jars. 
  • Put the lid on the jars and set them in the dehydrator and turn it on to 100 degrees. Let them go for 6-10 hours, checking to see when they are tangy enough for your taste. Note, if you set it too hot, the mixture will separate and curdle and not make good yogurt.
  • Once the yogurt tanginess is to your liking, refrigerate.

For Greek-style Yogurt

  • If you like thick, Greek-style yogurt, strain the liquid "whey" off after you've finished making your yogurt. You can do it immediately or after refrigerating. 
  • Line a mesh strainer or regular colander with a flour sack towel or paper towel, set it over the sink or a bowl, pour in the yogurt, and let drain until it gets to the desired thickness, then spoon into jars.

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