There have been many health movements which have exploded over the last few years. Some of which include fermented foods & gut health, plant based eating, and just dairy-free in general. For someone like me, these concepts aren’t new. In fact, I’ve been struggling with anxiety, acne, gut issues and lactose intolerance since my late teens (only those close to me will know how many years it’s been). It stemmed from MANY years of antibiotic use (24 years in fact) for recurring strep infections that completely wrecked my gut health.
Over the years I’ve tried to eliminate dairy from my diet but yogurt has been one food I find hard to get by without. I love the creaminess, the tang, the richness, and no matter how hard I try I keep convincing myself that the yogurt is fine because it has probiotics and maybe I won’t have issues digesting it this time… a girl can dream. I finally came to my wit's end this year and decided to try making my own homemade coconut yogurt so I could ditch dairy while healing my gut. I’d seen recipes floating around and since everyone else was hopping on the fermentation train due to the pandemic I was filled with hope and determination. So I bought some coconut milk, did some research, and made the stuff.
For anyone new to the world of gut health we have hundred of different strains of bacteria in the digestive tract. Generally speaking, they can be divided into the good folks and the no-so-good folks. As a whole, this is called our microbiome. Usually, the not-so-good bacteria is kept in check by the good bacteria and there are no issues to be had, the peace is kept. But what happens when our modern ways of processed foods, lack of fiber, dehydration, sleep deprivation, and lack of movement take over? Our digestion is negatively affected and the good guys don’t get the nourishment they need to survive (which also means WE aren’t getting the nourishment we need) and the bad bacteria start to proliferate. Gone are the days of naturally fermented foods, wild bitter greens, and a little dirt on your food. They’ve been replaced by boxed and bagged items that contain little more nutrition than the packaging they come in, and certainly no natural enzymes (which are also important for digestion by the way). Don't get me wrong, I love me some processed foods, but the problem arises when those foods make up the bulk of our diet.
When the bad bacteria is allowed to proliferate we end up with inflammation, digestive issues, skin conditions (including acne), hormone imbalances, mental health concerns... the list goes on. Faulty digestion literally affects every system within your body; your health of your digestive system is the core of your overall health. Fermented foods are a great way to supply your body with natural probiotics (although many people may still need a probiotic supplement). Which brings me to: coconut yogurt.
I live about 4.5 hours from any more major center, 6 or 8 hours if you want to go a little further. And while our grocery stores have made great progress in the last few years, bringing in many foods to those with sensitivities, the processed coconut yogurts just don’t cut it for me. If they aren’t full of sugar, they’re full of binders and other substances that also seem to make me break out. And honestly? Some of them just don't taste right! if you live in a major center you may have access to really high-quality coconut yogurt (and I envy you) but no matter where you live, this recipe is incredibly easy to make and tastes delightful. Remember, if you are used to conventional store-bought yogurt then you will be used to your yogurt being very sweet. This yogurt is not that - it’s tangy and has a wonderful coconut flavor. I love to pair it with some ground flax and fresh berries. It’s a great way to get yer good bacteria while providing a source of healthy fat, and I’m all about blood sugar stability.
Before you start, a few tips:
I prefer to mix my coconut milk + probiotic in the same container it will ferment in. You could mix in a separate bowl (non-metal) first then put it into a jar BUT the more you transfer between containers, the greater the risk of introducing bad bacteria.
One of the most important pieces of information is to NOT use any metal once the probiotic has been added. The metal can interact with the good bacteria and kill it, so use a glass or ceramic spoon to stir once you’ve added the probiotic.
The probiotic I use is Genestra Brands HMF Powder - Probiotic Formula that I bought from Well.ca! It’s just over $40 so I realize it may not be within everyone’s budget but they have many capsule options that start at under $20.
It is important that you use probiotic only. No prebiotic + probiotic blends! I haven’t experienced it first hand but in my research I read that prebiotics will cause it to ferment very quickly and your yogurt will go real nasty, real quick.
I would avoid using wood utensils. Wood is porous and can harbor bacteria. I used a large wooden spoon one time and ended up with some lovely pink mold. *Side note: I did not the use wood spoon in the photo above, it was just for show!
It may be worth noting that this brand of Coconut Milk I use (Lucky Dragon) does have some additives. I'll be experimenting with other brands and will make sure to post updates at the bottom of this post once I've done so!
If you’re looking for a great reference video, I highly recommend this one by The Minimalist Baker.
Wide-mouth glass jar.
Non-porous, non-metal spoon OR stirring stick
Coconut Milk (Lucky Dragon)
Cheesecloth, napkin, clean cloth, or paper towel
Gather your utensils + dishes and give them a good wash in hot soapy water. Rinse them well with hot water and lay them on a clean dish towel to dry. Sometimes I get impatient so I use a clean dish towel to dry them. Either way, you want them completely dry because water in your yogurt can harbor bacteria.
Wash your hands really well, just in case.
Empty your can of coconut milk into your wide-mouth glass jar (I use Lucky Dragon Coconut Milk, I cannot guarantee the same results with other brands). You can use a metal spoon to get the coconut milk out then use a whisk to mix up the coconut milk so it’s nice and smooth.
Before you move forward, throw any metal utensils you used in the sink so you don’t accidentally grab them in the next step!
Take your probiotic and add it to the coconut milk. If using capsules, you can use 2-3 capsules per one can of coconut milk. If using a powder, you can use 2-3 scoops.
MIX WITH A NON-METAL UTENSIL. My tips for this are less surface area = better because the mixture will stick to the spoon and we want to avoid using our fingers to scrape it back into the bowl.
Cover with a piece of cheesecloth or any kind of clean cloth (cotton, linen, etc. work best) and use an elastic to hold it in place. The first time I made this I realized I didn’t have any cloth so I cut a piece of paper towel and used that instead, and it worked just fine!
Place the jar on your countertop (out of direct sunlight) and let it sit at room temperature for 24 - 48 hours. I find 48 hours is the sweet spot and yields yogurt that has a nice tang to it.
Check your yogurt for any mold on top. Does it look good? No unusual smells? Right on! Throw an air-tight lid on top and put in the fridge for 4-8 hours, then enjoy! This should keep in the fridge for 7 - 10 days. *Some separation is normal during the fermentation process, just give it a stir before putting it in the fridge!
Let me know how you make out if you try this on your own! I promise it’s incredibly simple after you try it once and it really only takes 5-10 minutes to make (that includes washing the dishes). Once you get the hang of it you’ll be making coconut yogurt every week and your digestion will thank you for it!
Love your guts,