Friday, August 6, 2010

Homemade Coconut Milk Kefir

This week I made coconut milk kefir. If you've never heard of kefir, it's okay. Think of it as a thin yogurt with healthy strains of probiotics, which of course help encourage healthy happenings in your intestinal track. (Isn't that a fun way to put it?) If you've ever had GI issues (and if you're gluten free, there's a good chance you've had fun GI issues, yes?) you know that probiotics, especially naturally produced probiotics are a super healthy addition to your diet.

If you want the details smetails of what kefir really is, check out this article by Wikipedia. Or this article from Earth in Common.

Traditional kefir (as with most fermented milk products like buttermilk and yogurt) are made from cow, sheep, or goat's milk. Thankfully kefir will also grow in other non-dairy milks like soy and coconut. (I have read that trying to make kefir with nut milks does not work, but I haven't tried it... so if you can't have soy or coconut... I don't see why you couldn't at least try to make it with a fresh cashew milk or almond milk...)

Soy is not nice to my body, so I use coconut milk as you see in the picture above. There several different ways of making kefir. The traditional way starts with kefir "grains". Coconut milk is poured over the "grains" and left to ferment for about 24 hours and you are left with a slightly soured milk with lots of healthy probiotics. Another popular way to make your own kefir is to use a freeze-dried kefir starter that you simply mix with coconut milk that you have "pasteurized" or gently heated to kill off any bad bacteria. Once the pasteurized milk has cooled you stir in the kefir starter and then allow it to ferment for about 24 hours. When it's finished you will have a thickened slightly sour drink. In Europe it's often enjoyed alone as a beverage... for sweeter American palates it's used more in smoothies and/or mixed with fruit for a sweeter drink.

Kefir can also be used in baking when a recipe calls for an acidic liquid such as buttermilk or yogurt. Here is one recipe I've made that uses kefir.

I recently purchased some kefir grains to make future batches, but for this week I used the Body Ecology Kefir Starter. This is a great starter to use if you are dairy or casein intolerant because it's dairy free. Many brands of freeze-dried kefir starter also contain powdered dairy milk, which is great if you can have dairy. I've heard this brand is really good.

Making kefir with freeze-dried starter is very simple.

First it's best to heat the coconut milk (I used 2 (13.5 oz) cans of  regular (not lite) coconut milk) to about 160-180 degrees to make sure to kill off any bad bacteria that might be lurking in the can.

Next you allow the coconut milk to cool back down to about 75-80 degrees. This can take a while. The Body Ecology directions indicate that you don't need to heat the milk to the temperature I did. Do what works best for you. Once the coconut milk has cooled you simply whisk the kefir starter into the coconut milk. I poured the cultured milk into a large glass jar and covered it with a tea towel. Allow the kefir to sit undisturbed for 24 hours.

The resulting coconut milk kefir is slightly thick (think thin sour cream texture). Don't be surprised if you have some water at the bottom of your kefir that has separated from the thicker mixture. That's fine. Just stir it back into your kefir.

Now it's time to use that kefir. Add it to smoothies, if you enjoy the slightly soured taste, drink it alone, eat it like you would yogurt with gluten free granola on top for crunchiness, use it as a cream on raw berry blueberry pies (that was super delicious if you're wondering!)... Make sure to store your coconut milk kefir in the refrigerator.

So there you go. Easy homemade coconut milk kefir. Are you going to try it?
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  1. I love this post. I've had kefir but never knew it was as simple as it appears to be! Thanks for posting.

  2. Crys - thanks so much for stopping by! I'm so glad you enjoyed the read on kefir! it's so incredibly simple to make and so delicious in so many different things! I'd love to know how it turns out for you if you ever try to make it!

  3. Awesome, Carrie! I've never had kefir, but I need extra probiotics right now. Did you order the Body Ecology Kefir Starter online via link you shared? Is that the only way to get it?


  4. Oh Carrie, thank you for this! I just tried to make coconut milk yogurt in the Crock Pot, using So Delicious coconut milk and So Delicious Plain Coconut Milk Yogurt as the starter.

    It didn't work, it was a pure liquid soup!

    I'm thinking it was either the style of coconut milk I used (not of the canned variety) or not using a real starter.

    I will have to get some Body Ecology Kefir Starter and try again. Your Kefir looks like it could be strained to make it thicker too, what do you think? Maybe a dairy-free Greek-style yogurt? A dairy-free, soy-free sour cream?

    Oh, I am getting excited!! :-D

  5. Heidi - I did make coconut milk yogurt once using a combination of homemade cashew milk & canned coconut milk (not so delicious -- has lots of additives that may impede the yogurt making process!) at any rate, it did work -- made a thick yogurt, but it tasted HORRIBLE. I don't know what I did wrong, or if it had a bad bacteria to build up in it or what! Who knows! But the kefir starter definitely worked! And I had the same idea you did... I think you could definitely strain it for a thick yogurt or sour cream type substitute! I'll have to try that soon! Let me know how it works for you!

  6. Would you be able to use this kefir to make additional batches like yogurt or is the starter necessary?
    Can't wait to try it-Thanks!

  7. Hi Karen - I think you are supposed to be able to make up to five additional batches of the kefir using the original batch. However, I think that was probably tested with dairy milk and I'm not sure if it would work that way with coconut milk. I have not yet tried it. I did see some negative reveiws about the Body Ecology Brand on Amazon, and they were negative simply over the fact that they didn't get a lot of additional use from the first starter. Clear as mud? My guess would be to simply try it and see if it works!

  8. I think I need to get me some kefir grains! This sounds great.

  9. We make Kefir all of the time using Raw Goat Milk! It has the most amazing intestinal healing properties! I got my live grains from the farm that I get my milk from, but I have also used the Body Ecology Starter as well! This Kefir looks delicious! Will have to try this one as well! I think people think making your own Kefir can be intimidating, but it is really so easy! I actually like Kefir better than yogurt. One because of the type of probriotics - yogurt bacteria strains tend to be more transient and continually needs replenishing while Kefir bacteria strains will actually take up residence in the intestines. And two, I like drinking it, instead of eating it with a spoon! ;0)

  10. Alta - :-) I should get some this week! I'll be interested to see how well they work with the coconut milk!

    Kim - that is awesome! I can tolerate goat's milk cheese... that makes me wonder about raw goat's milk. Thanks for sharing that about the probiotics in kefir! I had no idea they were that were so resilient in the intestines!! That's very cool!

  11. Hi! just happened upon your blog, loving it! My boyfriend makes Kefir from raw goats milk as he is allergic to just about any other kind. He makes the most awesome blend with pollen puffs and honey...I was not a convert until this!