When I decided to stop eating dairy and eggs and go fully vegan in 2017, two big things I knew I’d miss were cheese, and yogurt. Greek yogurt with granola and fruit was kind of a go-to quick meal or snack for me. So I immediately tried some commercial vegan yogurt, and wasn’t impressed. There is no Greek vegan yogurt on the market that I could find, and the regular, non-Greek ones just weren’t cutting it. Not surprisingly, the next step for me was to try to figure out a DIY version. I tested out several recipes before deciding I’d have to come up with my own. My experiments finally led me to create this coconut cashew vegan Greek yogurt recipe, which results in a Greek-style yogurt that is thick, tangy, and really delicious.
It makes a killer vegan yogurt parfait, especially with my homemade coconut ginger almond granola, or chocolate coconut granola.
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I think I made at least six batches of yogurt while trying to develop this recipe. Some were edible, some weren’t. The first one used coconut milk and homemade almond milk, and was thickened with tapioca starch. But I wasn’t pleased with the texture, and I think the starch altered the flavor. Lately I’ve been exploring the many uses of cashews in vegan cuisine, and cashew cream is often used as a sour cream or yogurt substitute. It’s naturally thick and creamy, so I realized that it would be perfect to help thicken the yogurt and make it more Greek-style. (I did try straining previous batches to drain out some of the liquid and thicken them up, but it didn’t help.) Cashews and pectin did the trick, though.
Especially if you’ve never made yogurt before, you may be wondering if you need specialized, expensive equipment or ingredients to make this recipe. Not really! Here is what you need:
A way to keep the yogurt at about 110° F
I used this $20 yogurt maker (Target also sells the same model)to make my vegan Greek yogurt, but you don’t necessarily need a dedicated yogurt maker. People have been making yogurt since far before electricity was invented, so they have rigged-up all kinds of situations to keep yogurt at its preferred culturing temperature. Ovens with just the lights on work for some people, and others use coolers with heating pads, or crockpots, etc. Here are some ideas for how to make yogurt without a dedicated machine. Instant pots have gotten really popular lately, and those also have a yogurt setting.
It doesn’t have to be a fancy, high-speed one. My blender is literally one I got for free off of a curb. The guy getting rid of it had upgraded to a VitaMix, and while I’d imagine that the blending would be faster with one of those, it’s not required.
People make yogurt without a thermometer, but a digital kitchen thermometer is so handy and cheap that there isn’t a good excuse not to have one.
These are the bacteria that give your yogurt the characteristic tang. I bought a box of this starter from my local supermarket, but later I realized that it contains skim milk, so it’s not vegan. If I buy more starter, I’ll give this vegan one a try. Instead of a powdered starter, you can use 3 tablespoons of a plain yogurt that says it has “active cultures” as your starter. You can also use the same amount from a previous batch of yogurt to start your next one, though it will eventually need a boost from fresh cultures.
Pomona’s Universal Pectin
Pectin is the key to a thick, Greek-style vegan yogurt. You should be able to find this in the canning aisle of your local grocery store, or online. But don’t try to substitute a different kind of pectin (I tried and failed). Most pectins for jams and jellies thicken due to a reaction with the large amounts of sugar in those recipes. Pomona’s pectin reacts with calcium, which is why it says it “jells with low amounts of any sweetener” on the box, and it comes with a packet of calcium that you mix up separately.
Other than the pectin, the only other things you need are raw cashews (I like to buy the raw cashew pieces from Trader Joes), and canned coconut milk. The first time I made this I used one can of regular coconut milk, and one of light coconut milk, for a thicker yogurt, but if you make it with two cans of light coconut milk it will be thinner and less rich. I think I like the one light/one regular version best, personally, but you might want to experiment.
There are multiple steps that require waiting several hours, so this recipe does require patience. Please read the whole thing before starting, so you know how much time to allow before you get to eat your yogurt!
Coconut Cashew Vegan Greek Yogurt
1 cup raw cashews (soaked, see below)
1 13.5 fl. oz. can light coconut milk
1 13.5 fl. oz. can regular coconut milk (or 2 cans light coconut milk, for a lighter version)
Pomona’s Universal Pectin:
2 tsp calcium water
2 tsp pectin
5 gram yogurt starter packet (or 3 Tbsp yogurt with active cultures)
Soak cashews in water for at least 4 hours at room temperature, or overnight in a refrigerator. Drain the water, then place the cashews in a blender with both cans of coconut milk, and blend until smooth.
Pomona’s pectin comes with two packets of powder, one for making calcium water, and the other pectin. Make the calcium water according to the instructions. (Mix 1/2 tsp calcium powder with 1/2 cup water.) Add 2 tsp of the calcium water to the cashew-coconut milk, and blend.
Pour the contents of the blender into a pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring with a spatula to scrape the mixture off the bottom of the pan and keep it from burning.
After the cashew-coconut mixture has come to a boil, remove from heat and let cool slightly. Pour back into the blender. If it’s possible with your blender, turn it on and blend while adding the pectin. Be careful not to spit hot yogurt on yourself or your kitchen! If you can’t blend while adding the pectin without making a hot mess, sprinkle a small amount of pectin in at a time, blend, and repeat until you’ve added it all.
Rather than culturing in separate containers, I culture my yogurt in one large glass bowl. Poutr the yogurt mixture into the bowl you’ll be culturing in. Prepare a water bath by placing ice and water in a larger bowl, and place the smaller bowl of yogurt into this one. Let the mixture cool to 108°-112°F (or temperature recommended on your starter), monitoring the temperature with a digital thermometer. When the proper temperature is reached, remove bowl from ice bath, sprinkle with the powdered starter, and whisk to mix.
Place the bowl in the yogurt maker, and culture for the recommended time. (My starter says 4 to 4 1/2 hours, but other recipes say up to 16 hours, so I’ve been doing 6 hours with great results.)
After the culturing time, cover the yogurt and refrigerate it. It will thicken further as it cools, and may take up to 8 hours to reach full thickness. Just like with commercial yogurt, there may be some separation, so stir before eating.