It’s creamy, it’s tangy, it’s full of bacteria but it’s still so much fun to stick your tongue in – yogurt! To me, a world without yogurt is woeful, unimaginably grim, and full of longing. If being vegan meant I could never eat yogurt again, I don’t think I would even be able to consider the possibility. Lucky for me, I grew up in a house where making yogurt was not only common, but also free of expensive hardware (I still haven’t figured out the point of a “yogurt maker”).
Yogurt is among the foods people typically file under “impossibly hard to make”. I can’t imagine why though, seeing as how it’s insanely simple. Admittedly, there’s a lot of luck involved, but with some basic science and a few ingredients, you should have tangy, cruelty-free goodness in no time (well, almost).
MOSTLY FOOLPROOF SOY YOGURT
- A vegan yogurt culture, which you can get one of two ways: buy a starter like this one, or use a good-size spoonful of any vegan yogurt labeled with the “active culture” symbol (I like to buy a small container of soy yogurt and take a spoon out)
- Soymilk (You can use other types of vegan milk but the result will be slightly different. I find soymilk gives the most yogurty-ness without using any additives like starch or sugar)
A few factors are critical to yogurt making: cleanliness, temperature and cleanliness.
Really, I can’t stress it enough: the yogurt will not set if anything that touches either the soymilk or the yogurt starter is even the slightest bit dirty. And I don’t mean “crusted” dirty–I mean “microscopic bacteria” dirty. The safest bet is to sterilize everything in boiling water, but for the lazy among us *waves*, a good washing and a little caution will do.
1. Heat about 4 (or 6 or 8, for that matter) cups of soymilk until it’s baby bottle warm. The general guideline is that the milk should be on the edge of hot and warm, but nowhere near boiling. If you have a thermometer, I believe the official temperature is 118°F, but if you don’t, err on the side of “warm”, since too hot kills while too cold only slows.
2. Put a spoonful of yogurt starter in a bowl and whisk well. Slowly add the soymilk, whisking continuously so as to evenly incorporate the yogurt (yogurt chunks = bad). I used spoonful of blackberry yogurt “starter.”
3. Cover the bowl and incubate. This is hard for impatient people (like me), but whatever you do, don’t touch it for at least 5-7 hours. For that matter, don’t go within 10 feet of it. JUST LET IT BE!
There are a few methods of incubation. You want the temperature to be around 100°F (+/- 20°). If you live somewhere warm (lucky!), all you have to do is leave the yogurt on the counter (not in direct sunlight). If you live in the Midwest like me (or anywhere else that’s freezing cold), place the bowl in the back of the oven or microwave with the light on (DO NOT TURN THE OVEN ON) and close the door. I don’t like the idea of not being able to use my microwave/oven for a long period of time so I wrapped the container in my heating blanket and left it on at LOW power.
The longer you leave it, the thicker and more sour it will become. Keep in mind, homemade yogurt (soy or otherwise) will never be as thick as store-bought yogurt unless you strain it after culturing. This is because most store-bought vegan yogurts contain some kind of thickener (typically cornstarch, guar gum or xanthan gum). You can use one of these for a thicker, creamier yogurt, but the tradeoff is more additives (which I like to avoid).
Here’s what it looks like before straining:
After about 6 hours, you can check if the yogurt is done. If you see a little puddle of liquid on the top (as pictured), it’s done culturing but might not necessarily sour enough for your tastes. You can let it culture for up to 12-14 hours, depending on how you like it.
To make thicker yogurt, strain it after you’re done culturing. A cheesecloth with a weight over it would be ideal, but a few coffee filters over a metal can will do just fine.
Let us know in the comments if you try this recipe! Or if you have a different favorite way of making your own dairy free yogurt.