Vegan Coconut Yogurt?

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Store Bought Or Make Your Own…

After a mention last week, several readers asked whether coconut yogurt is really vegan. The answer, as usual, is ‘that depends.’ My local grocery store carries half a dozen forms of coconut yogurt, ranging from cow or sheep milk yogurt with coconut flavoring to cultured coconut-milk yogurt that’s certified vegan to almond milk yogurt that isn’t, though it’s not clear why, since it’s lactose- and dairy-free. Are they interchangeably yummy?

Well, no. Some of the coconut-flavored dairy yogurts are too sweet to use in a savory recipe (or anywhere, in my opinion). The Almond Dream version is pretty good in sweet or savory applications; not horribly sweet, with a definite almond flavor and a slightly gritty texture reminiscent of ground nuts (not too surprising). It’s best poured over berries, or jazzed up with toasted coconut flakes and chopped nuts. The texture is overall runny, yet more like old fashioned junket than regular dairy yogurt (though no rennet is involved). It has a quivery, slightly gel-like quality several people found off-putting, thanks to gummy-making ingredients such as tapioca, corn starch, and locust bean gum.

Gummy Or Runny?

In my informal taste test involving everybody who passed through the kitchen one day, the almond milk version ranked fairly low, largely due to the texture. One person liked it enough to go buy some, but my grandson spat it out with two-year-old frankness, making a horrible face and plaintively asking for ‘YO-gut’ (he clearly felt tricked and wanted his idea of the real thing).

SO Delicious brand cultured Greek style coconut-milk yogurt  is even more gel-like, with almost a solid rather than a semi-liquid texture. The flavor is surprisingly mild, not especially sweet or intensely coconutty, despite being made from organic coconut milk. Nonetheless, it works pretty well in fruit salads and added to soups, curries, and/or tacos in place of sour cream or even goat cheese. It got several top choice votes, and it’s quite well received when I serve it with vegan meals. Though the texture is slightly weird (this stuff is so thick it’s sliceable), it’s fun to cut or mold it into little rosettes and other playful shapes (coconut playdough?). It’s quite delicious as a spread or dip, blended with fresh minced mint, a squeeze of lime juice, and a little sea salt, or mixed with toasted coconut and some garam masala.

Dairy Coconuts

Of the dairy versions, Noosa Aussie style coconut yogurt was the overall taste test favorite (though it wasn’t my own first pick). It’s very sweet, with lots of coconut bits and a caramel-like, flan-ish flavor overtone that comes from sweetened condensed milk (along with whole milk, coconut milk, and coconut cream). It’s very thick, like a Greek yogurt, but again without as much coconut punch as I’d like. However, four other people said it was fantastic or at least seriously yummy, so there you go!

Next most popular, Liberte coconut yogurt is less sweet and also quite thick and creamy, thanks to whole milk, cream and what’s simply listed a ‘coconut’, presumably a combination of coconut milk and coconut cream as well as some coconut shreds. As flavored yogurts go, this is a pretty good version for both sweet and savory recipes. I was going to try it in a few zipped-up versions but it got eaten up by enthusiasts too soon.

Put The Lime In The Coconut

Overall, I was disappointed by the lack of coconut pizazz I was expecting. Happily, there are a number of ways to boost the flavors you want in a yogurt, whether vegan or dairy. For instance, you can make wonderful vegan versions from coconut cream by adding lime juice, toasted coconut flakes, and sea salt, or take it in new directions with brown rice syrup, chopped candied ginger, and a touch of hot paprika. The recipe below makes an amazing topping for curries or roasted vegetables or a sumptuous garnish for soups, from garlic-laced carrot to Scandinavian cherry, hot or cold.

Coconutty Vegan ‘Yogurt’

1 can organic coconut milk (not light)
pinch sea salt
1/4 cup toasted unsweetened coconut flakes (*)
juice of 1/2 lime (about 2 teaspoons)

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend for 20-30 seconds. Taste and adjust seasonings, then let meld for 15-20 minutes before serving. Makes about 2 cups, keeps for 3-5 days when refrigerated.

(*) Bob’s Red Mill offers lovely coconut flakes without sweeteners, so you can doctor them to your taste. I usually just toast them on a rimmed baking sheet (350 degrees F for about 8 minutes) to bring out their full, rich flavor.

Coconut Dairy Yogurt

For dairy versions, I start with Nancy’s plain whole milk yogurt, which has the tartness and grass-fed flavor I love, but you can of course use any plain yogurt you prefer.

2 cups plain whole milk yogurt (or any)
1/2 cup toasted unsweetened coconut flakes (*)
1 organic lime, juiced, rind grated
1-2 tablespoons brown rice syrup or honey (optional)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Combine yogurt with coconut flakes, grated lime rind, 2 teaspoons lime juice, sweetener (if using) and a pinch of salt. Let stand a few minutes and adjust lime juice and salt to taste. Chill for at least an hour (overnight is great) before serving. Makes 2-1/2 cups.

Herbed Or Spicy Coconut Yogurt

To make this version vegan, use coconut milk, thinning with coconut water to desired texture/pourability. For variety, add some garam masala, smoked paprika, or chipotle paste to taste.

Savory Coconut Yogurt

2 cups plain whole milk yogurt (or any)
OR 1 can organic coconut milk (not light)
1/2 cup toasted unsweetened coconut flakes (*)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup stemmed cilantro or basil
2 tablespoons minced mint
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

In a food processor, combine yogurt with half the coconut flakes and all remaining ingredients and process for 15-20 seconds. Stir in remaining coconut flakes and chill for at least an hour before serving. Makes about 2-1/2 cups.

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2 Responses to Vegan Coconut Yogurt?

  1. Thanks for this blog;with a vegan in the family, these recipes wi be put to good use.

    • Ann Lovejoy says:

      Great! Let me know if you’ve got any requests and I’ll try to come up with something that will please your non-vegans as well.

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