If you are struggling to achieve a creamy, thick consistency with your non-dairy milk yogurt, you are not alone. Thickening any milk made from a plant is a tricky task. You only have to look at the ingredients list of any commercially made non-dairy milk yogurt for proof of this – every single one will have a thickener or a stabiliser. Thickeners such as arrowroot, tapioca flour, agar, carrageenan, zantham gum, guar gum, and soy lecithin are commonly added to commercially produced plant-based yogurt to get that thick, creamy yogurt consistency we all love.
If you have dietary restrictions it can be disheartening and frustrating. None of the thickeners in commercially produced, plant-based yogurt are GAPS or SCD friendly. It is very hard to avoid added sugar and preservatives in most brands too. The only truly safe and healthy option is to make your own. Besides, the therapeutic value of homemade over commercially available are so great that making your own is a no brainer.
The tricky part is that plant-based milks don’t have the same protein, sugar, and fat structure as animal milk, so they behave fundamentally differently when inoculated with yogurt starter cultures. Non-dairy milks will culture, but they will not naturally thicken and set like dairy milk yogurt. But take heart. Even if you produce a batch of thin or separated non-dairy yogurt, it is still a cultured food and it will be very good for you. Don’t let it go to waste - add it to a smoothie and get your daily burst of gut replenishing probiotics that way.
But if you really must have a guaranteed spoon-able, thick, set yogurt, you will need to include a thickener. The good news is you have a range of healthy choices available to you. It is however best to shift your expectations a little bit. Expecting the exact same texture as a brand pumped with stabilisers and preservatives may lead to disappointment.
We suggest you consider 3 methods; gelatin, agar agar and tapioca. The thickener you choose will come down to personal preference and your dietary considerations. Read and follow the instructions below carefully as activation for each method is temperature sensitive.
Gelatin is basically the cooked form of collagen - a protein contained in the skin of animals. Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the human body and contains the essential amino acids which are necessary to accelerate cell growth and heal every tissue in the body. Collagen is known to benefit your skin, muscles, bones, tendons, brain, and heart plus it has impressive gut healing properties that can aid in repairing leaky gut. Gelatin is the only thickener permitted on gut healing protocols such as GAPS and SCD. Gelatin is activated at a very low temperature, so you can make raw yogurt with this method of thickening.
Add a level teaspoon of gelatin to every 4 cups of non-dairy milk before heating and culturing. Gelatin must be heated to 95⁰F (35⁰C) to activate. One level teaspoon is a guide only. Experiment and add more or less to get the consistency you enjoy most. Ensure the milk is below 108°F (42° C) before adding the starter culture and sugar.
Tip: Gelatin can be tricky to whisk into a large quantity of liquid without clumps forming. To integrate more easily, expand the gelatin in a smaller quantity of milk first. Simply pour half a cup into a small bowl, add the gelatin and mix thoroughly. Leave the gelatin mixture to sit and swell for a few minutes then transfer the clump of gelatin into the rest of your milk. As soon as the milk is heated the expanded gelatin will quickly dissolve.
Click over to our coconut yogurt recipe using gelatin as a thickener.
Agar is a plant-based, gel-like substance derived from red algae and is a perfect Vegan gelatin substitute. It’s low in calories, high in fibre and boosts manganese, magnesium, folate and iron. It may also help improve digestive health, aid in weight loss and keep your blood sugar stable. Agar agar is not permitted on GAPS & SCD and must be cooked for an extended period of time so it’s not suitable for raw yogurt.
Add one teaspoon of agar to every 4 cups non-dairy milk before heating and culturing. Agar agar must be heated to 190⁰F (87⁰C) and held at that temperature for at least 10 minutes. Allow the milk to cool below 108°F (42° C) before adding the starter culture and sugar. 1 teaspoon is a guide only. Some agar agar is a fine powder while others are flakes. Flakes may require more - experiment and add more or less on your next batch to get the consistency you enjoy most.
Tip: A double boiler will keep the milk from scorching during heating.
Tapioca comes from the root of the cassava plant. Tapioca flour is pure starch and is limited in nutritional value but is a very good gluten and grain free binding agent. Tapioca is not permitted on GAPS & SCD.
Dissolve 1 tablespoon of tapioca flour per 400ml can of coconut milk before heating and culturing. Tapioca must be heated to 140⁰F/ 60⁰C to activate. Stir continuously as it thickens to avoid lumps. Allow the milk to cool below 108°F (42° C) before adding the starter culture and sugar.
Tip: Tapioca flour is a very fine flour that does not easily blend into liquid. To integrate more easily, mix the tapioca flour into 1/3 cup of coconut milk and then stir into the rest of the milk.
For the full method click over to our coconut yogurt recipe thickened with tapioca flour.
Try our gut loving coconut yogurt thickened with gelatin, or our delicious almond milk yogurt thickened with agar. We’ve even found ways to defy the rules and make non-dairy yogurt that doesn’t require additional thickening. This easy coconut yogurt is plenty thick enough as is our date sweetened coconut and cashew yogurt. We also have 2 other coconut yogurt recipes in our DIY coconut yogurt handbook that do not require added thickeners.