What is Vegan Yogurt Starter?
A vegan yogurt starter simply means that the starter ingredients contain no animal products. In addition the bacteria strains are suitable for the fermentation of non-dairy milk. Examples include rice milk, coconut milk, almond milk, and soy milk. There is no specific requirement as to the bacterial strains that are used with a non-dairy milk base. Instead it is better to make sure the manufacturer states that the starter is suitable for use with alternative milks and to look at customer reviews.
Give The Starter Something To Eat
Using your vegan yogurt starter with non-dairy milks is different than making regular yogurt. The first difference to note is that alternative milks such as coconut and almond milk don’t have as much sugar as animal milk. Without as much sugar for the bacteria to feed on, they have a harder time multiplying. To correct this, add a sweetener such as honey or maple syrup along with the vegan yogurt starter.
A second difference is that vegan yogurts usually don’t firm up on their own like animal milk yogurts do. This is why it’s a good idea to add thickeners. Most store bought yogurts use gelatin but this is a no-go for vegans. The two most popular plant based alternatives to gelatin are tapioca starch and agar agar.
How’s The Thickener Added?
Add the thickener at the beginning when you start to heat the milk. Heat the milk to about 180 degrees F then remove from heat and let sit for about 10 – 15 minuets. By this time the thickener should be nicely dissolved. Then this milk/thickener mixture is cooled to an appropriate temperature for your vegan yogurt starter to be added.
A Comment On Alternate milk
One additional note is that most people make their own milks. This is because many commercial alternative milks such as soy and almond milk have additives that interfere with the fermentation process. High quality store bought coconut milk, however, does work well for vegan yogurt. This is a good yogurt to start with as it requires less preparation. Native Forest makes a popular coconut milk for this and even uses BPA-free cans!
Despite the addition thickeners, the texture is still smooth and creamy. Only enough sweetener is added to aid in the fermentation process. This means it is not tasted in the final product and the finished yogurt still has a mildly tart taste. If a thickener is already added, the yogurt can be strained to make it even thicker.
PS, our Bulgarian page gives another starter that only has bacteria in its ingredients.