Almond & Hemp Milk Yogurt | Dairy-Free

 

When Turtle Mountain’s® So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt hit the market we rejoiced! Finally, a dairy-free, soy-free yogurt our son could enjoy. I was impressed with the taste and texture of So Delicious—however the cost of a 6-ounce container was hard to swallow ($1.59-$2.29), so I decided to try my hand at making a similar dairy-free yogurt. Ten batches of yogurt later I am pleased to share this dairy-free yogurt recipe with you. I don't think any non-dairy yogurt can yield the creaminess and taste of a dairy yogurt, but it's a great substitute. What I am excited about is:

1) There's only one tablespoon of honey per quart.
2) The “curd and whey” do not separate during the incubation process!
3) It’s made with homemade nut and seed milks.
4) You know exactly what is going into the yogurt.

Whether it's cow's milk or nut milk, making yogurt is a labor of love. There’s a bit of time involved, but most of it is incubation and chilling time. Should you choose to give this recipe a go, here’s what to expect over 25-35 hours:

Nut Soaking Time: 8-12 hours
Yogurt Preparation Time: 30 minutes plus 45-75 minutes cooling time
Incubation Time: 8-10 hours
Chilling Time: 8-10 hours

Almond & Hemp Non-Dairy Yogurt

Yields: Approximately Two Quarts
Time: 25-35 hours (only 30 minutes of hands-on time)

*** These instructions are lengthy, I know, but it is CRITICAL to follow each step, use exact measurements, ingredients and temperatures***

Ingredients:
Raw Almonds
Raw Hemp Seeds
Filtered Water
Arrowroot Starch (also called flour or powder)
Agar-Agar Powder (NOT flakes or bar ... available from Amazon)
Organic Cane Sugar
Allergen-Free YOGURT STARTER or Allergen-Free Probiotic Capsules
 
Equipment:
Yogurt Maker
3-Quart or Larger Stainless Steel Pot
Small Saucepan
Wire Whisk
Digital Thermometer
Nut Milk Bag
Blender (preferably a Blendtec or Vita-Mix)

Let’s Get Started:
Sterilize the nut milk bag and fermentation container(s) by carefully dousing with boiling water. Set up the yogurt maker per the manufacturer’s instructions and turn “on”. Ensure the machine will hold 2 quarts. If not, scale recipe accordingly.

In a small bowl, combine and set aside:

1/2 cup filtered WATER
4 tablespoons ARROWROOT STARCH

In a small saucepan, bring to a full boil then reduce heat and simmer 5-10 minutes, stirring often:

1 cup filtered WATER
1-1/2 teaspoons AGAR-AGAR POWDER

While the agar-agar mixture simmers, add to blender and blend on high for one minute (see NOTES on blending time):

1-1/2 cups raw ALMONDS (soaked in filtered water for 8-10 hours and rinsed until water runs clear)
1/2 cup raw hulled HEMP SEED
Enough filtered WATER to meet the 4-cup mark on the blender carafe

Drape the nut milk bag over a large bowl. Pour the “milk” into the bag and gently squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Toss or freeze the pulp for another use. Pour the milk back into the (rinsed) carafe and add:

2 tablespoons organic CANE SUGAR
Enough filtered WATER to meet the 4-cup mark on the blender carafe

Blend on medium for 30 seconds. Pour the milk into a 3-quart (preferably larger) stainless steel pot and add:

An additional 2 cups filtered WATER

Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Immediately whisk in the boiling agar-agar mixture. Return to a full boil and immediately add the arrowroot starch slurry. Boil for 10 seconds and remove from heat. A note of caution: this mixture has the tendency to boil over so watch it carefully.

Allow the milk mixture to cool at room temperature until it reaches 105-108˚F. This can take 45-75 minutes. Placing the pot in a cold-water bath is not advised. The agar-agar will begin to gel on the sides and bottom of the pot and you will end up with chunks of "gelatin" in the yogurt.

When the digital thermometer reads 105-108˚F, it’s time to add the yogurt starter. You never want to add it when the milk is any warmer. You’ll likely kill the bacteria and it’s ability to culture the milk mixture.

Scoop onto a spoon:

Manufacturer's recommended measure of allergen-free YOGURT STARTER
OR
35-40 billion CFUs of an Allergen-Free PROBIOTIC POWDER

With a small spoon, drizzle a teaspoon or two of the warm milk mixture over the yogurt starter/probiotic. With back of the small spoon, press out any lumps of yogurt starter and carefully blend until smooth. With a rubber spatula scrape every last bit of the yogurt starter/milk mixture off the spoons and into pot. Whisk, whisk, whisk to ensure the milk and yogurt starter are well blended.

Pour the milk mixture into the fermentation container(s) and place in yogurt machine. Incubate for 8-10 hours. Be careful not to disturb or stir the yogurt during this step. The bacteria are hard at work and need to be left alone. After 8-10 hours, carefully transfer the container(s) to the refrigerator and chill for another 8-10 hours. If you’re like me, you’ll take a peek and give the yogurt a poke before transferring to the fridge. Go ahead and satisfy your curiosity, but do not stir or disturb it too much. And know that the yogurt firms up quite a bit during refrigeration. Trust the process :). Yogurt will last 1-2 weeks in the refrigerator. Sweeten with honey, if you wish, before serving.

THE EQUIPMENT AND INGREDIENTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

Yogurt Maker | You don't need a yogurt maker to make yogurt. A dehydrator works and even a Styrofoam cooler with a light bulb in it! But yours truly just doesn’t have the time to baby-sit yogurt in a lit-up cooler, ensuring the temperature remains at a constant 100-105˚F. I like that my Yogourmet Electric Yogurt Maker baby-sits it for me. The Yogourmet is a nice machine that allows you to make 2 quarts of yogurt at a time. I do recommend looking into purchasing and using a glass fermenting jar versus the plastic one the Yogourmet comes with. Lucy’s Kitchen has one that fits. If you want to give yogurt making a try but aren’t ready to invest in a new machine, check Craigslist or your local thrift shop for a gently used one. I see them quite often at our local Goodwill. If you plan to ferment the yogurt using a dehydrator or other method, there are plenty of sources online with helpful how-to’s.

Nut Milk Bag | There are a few nut milk bags on the market. The one I bought did not last very long. I ended up popping a seam open—squeezing gently is advised. A suitable and affordable alternative to a nut milk bag is a reusable mesh produce bag. You can buy a 3-pack of 3B Bags® for under $10 at most natural food stores. They are tough and durable. And, buying a 3-pack ensures you always have a clean one on hand. For clean up, just rinse and toss in with the laundry. I will say that these produce bags do allow a tiny bit of the fibrous pulp to slip through, but not enough to bother me. If you want to order an honest-to-goodness nut milk bag, try the Pure Joy Planet store online.

Yogurt Starter | Nut/seed milk yogurts are best made using a yogurt starter. Unlike animal-based milks, a scoop of yogurt may not work. I prefer working with a starter designed specifically for yogurt making. Because it is impossible for me, a consumer, to oversee every step in the manufacturing process when it comes to allergen-free yogurt starters and probiotics, I must leave it up to you to research and decide which yogurt culture or probiotic is safe for you and your family. One tip I can provide in your search; select one that includes the lactic acid-producing bacteria Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. In the United States, the USDA defines "yogurt" as containing these two strains bacteria.

Digital Thermometer | This must-have is available at most cooking stores for $10-15. I recommend a water-resistant model in the event it falls into the pot (two of mine died that way).

Arrowroot Starch | This easily digested starch is extracted from the root of the arrowroot plant. Many gluten-free baking recipes call for it and it is a replacement for cornstarch for thickening. Find it at some larger grocery chains, natural food stores and most Asian markets.

Agar-Agar Powder | This vegetable "gelatin" powder is derived from a number of seaweeds which are processed by boiling and drying. It is a clear, tasteless alternative to animal or chemical-based gelatin and is known to soothe the digestive tract and aid regularity. It comes in different forms (powder, flakes, sticks, etc). I use the powder form and purchase it at my local Asian market. Most natural food stores carry it. Amazon sells it, too. For more about agar-agar click here.

HOW MUCH YOU CAN SAVE BY MAKING YOUR OWN NON-DAIRY YOGURT

I would compare this Almond & Hemp Non-Dairy Yogurt to Turtle Mountain’s So Delicious® coconut or soy milk yogurt. I can pick up a 6-ounce container of So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt for $1.59 at our natural food store or for a whopping $2.29 at Kroger. This yogurt recipe makes close to two quarts—or approximately 11 6-ounce containers. My cost break down is as follows:          

Raw Almonds: $3.50 (expect to pay double for organic)
Raw Hemp Seed: $2.50
Agar Agar Powder: $0.50
GI Prostart Yogurt Starter: $0.50
Arrowroot Powder: $0.25
Raw Honey: $0.75
 
Total: $8.00 (savings of $9.49-$17.19)

NOTES: If you do not have a Blendtec or Vita-Mix you may need to blend your almonds, hemp seed and water for a considerably longer length of time.

You can do it! You can make non-dairy, nut milk yogurt!!