For anyone who has ever given up dairy yogurt, you know it’s generally one of the last foods you ditch when you choose to eat vegan, or even vegetarian. With the touted health benefits of dairy yogurt, (the convenience, the protein, and the calcium it contains), many people seem to be able to justify eating that food over other dairy foods such as cheese, butter, and even milk. Still, since we know any form of dairy isn’t a healthy choice and it’s not the only place to get calcium or protein, finding a yogurt replacement that’s good for us is always a win.

Coconut yogurt is probably the best replacement to dairy yogurt you can choose. Though not a complete protein, it is a great source of amino acids. It’s also very satiating, is high in B vitamins, magnesium and potassium, it contains healthy fats for your liver, and is the least allergenic of most commercial non-dairy yogurts (versus soy and nut-based options like almond). The best part about coconut yogurt, however, is that you can make your own very easily, without much hassle.

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Excalibur dehydrator

Larry Jacobsen/Flickr

There are some fairly healthy, unsweetened coconut milk yogurt products on the market, but most of them have additives or additional sweeteners you really don’t need. They’re nothing like real yogurt that you can make at home yourself. If you have a dehydrator, you’ve got it really easy. While you can make coconut yogurt without a dehydrator, using one will allow the yogurt to stay at just the right temperature without overheating or getting too cool. This is crucial for proper fermentation and allows the yogurt to “do it’s thing” as you go about doing your own thing.

Here’s how to make it:

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coconut meat

Scott Dexter/Flickr

1. Get Your Supplies

First, make sure you have a dehydrator that allows you to change the temperature. You’ll need to set it between 100 – 110 degrees, no higher or lower than that range. You’ll also need 4-6 fresh, young white coconuts to make about a quart of yogurt. Be sure to buy the whole, young white coconuts, not the mature brown ones. The young white ones are usually pre-cut once they reach the stores and shaped like a cone at the top. (Here’s how to open one if you need help with that.) You’ll also need three vegan probiotic capsules which will start the culturing process for your yogurt. Commercial powdered starters work too, but are really not needed if you have the capsules at home with the powder already in them. All you have to do is twist them to open them up and discard the outer capsule.

2. Get Yourself Set Up

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TheDLC/Flickr

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First, cut your coconuts open. Pour out the water and reserve about 1/2 – 3/4 cup. Save the rest for a smoothie, or drink it over ice, since coconut water is a great source of natural electrolytes. Scoop out the meat of each coconut with a large spoon until you get about 3-4 cups worth (some will differ in size and contain more than others). The meat will come out in strips, which is normal. Be sure to scrape it all out until the sides feel hollow. Put your meat in a large stainless steel or glass bowl as you go until you’re done.

3. Blend it Up

Now, you’ll want to either put the meat in your blender and your reserved coconut water. Open the probiotic capsules over your blender, pour out the powder inside, and toss the capsules away. Blend for about 20 seconds or until you get a thick pudding like texture (At this point, you almost have yogurt).

4. Package It

Now you’ll want to transfer the blended mix to a glass bowl (Pyrex dishes work great). Just be sure it will hold at least 4 cups and has a lid. You can also use small mason jars if you like.

5. Incubate It

Now you’ll want to turn your dehydrator on. Remember, no more than 110 degrees, preferably 100 degrees if your dehydrator tends to run warmer or work more quickly (better brands such as Excalibur may do this, or a hot kitchen could affect it too). Leave the bowl (or jars) of yogurt on the bottom tray of the dehydrator and let it run for 3 hours. Check on it after that period. If it smells like yogurt, you’re good. If not, put it back in and let it go another 2-3 hours until it’s ready.

6. Enjoy It!

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Now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor! Put some yogurt in a bowl with some berries, in a smoothie, add nuts and seeds, turn it into a savory or tropical dip for fruits and veggies, soak your oats with it, or serve it up fancy in a “bowl” of pineapple or papaya as a beautiful treat. Refrigerate the leftovers, which will keep for one or two weeks (You can also freeze them and thaw).

 

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And there you have it – fresh coconut yogurt with no additives, fillers or other unnecessary ingredients, and … it’s completely vegan! If you want your yogurt sweet, just stir in your choice of a healthy sweetener once you’re ready to eat it.

You can also see how to make coconut and kefir without a dehydator here for more information. Have you ever made your own coconut yogurt?

Lead Image Source: SaraJane/Flickr