Most vegan yogurt made at home is going to need thickening help. Unless you're using commercial soy milk with little to no additives, or coconut milk with guar gum, there's just no magical way to make it thicken by adding the culture to milksorry! Such is the case with nut or seed milks. In my experience, I have yet to see a commercial nut or seed milk even culture, let alone thicken. Homemade milk and a thickener is the best combinational chance of success.
Today, to stay truly vegan, let's experiment with the Vegan Yogurt Starter Culture with homemade almond milk and agar agar. The Instant Pot is the craze these days for making yogurt. I highly recommend IP owners spend a few bucks and get a spare seal. I have nightmares of yogurt smelling like chicken or beef, and I certainly want no residual smell or tastes! Use the spare seal for yogurt making only.
If you haven't made your homemade milk yet, be sure to check out the previous article, Homemade Nutmilk for Vegan Yogurt Starter then you'll be ready to make some vegan yogurt that will thicken with the help of agar agar (I hope).
I'm modifying the directions for the Vegan Yogurt Starter to accommodate the thickener. Note: I always preheat my IP since I like to control the milk heating process on my stovetop. I don't want to dump a warmed starter into a cold pot and delay the yogurt making process.
- Turn the IP on to the yogurt setting, and let it warm up as you prepare the yogurt.
- Stirring frequently, slowly heat homemade milk to 110º. Add 1 heaping tsp of agar agar - mix well. Add vegan starter, again mixing well. Pour into the IP.
- Cover and culture for 6-8 hours. Let cool for an hour and then refrigerate for at least 6 hours. Since it's a good idea to stir the yogurt before refrigerating, I stir and put it in a quart mason jar for fridge room's sake.
- Your yogurt is now ready to enjoy as is, flavored with fruit and/or honey, or added to smoothies.
So how did it turn out? Well, it was tart! But, it FAILED the thickening goal, miserably. After its time in the fridge, it was just as runny as the milk I began with! I will try this again with double the agar agar, and report back.
But what to do with it now? Is it wasted? Not really, since it DID culture. I could have chosen to use it as is, but I was determined to get it a bit thicker. There is a trick using guar gum I have always wanted to try, and it works AFTER you have cultured. So that dismal morning, I added 1 tsp of guar gum, mixed well, and refrigerated it.
By 9:00 p.m. it had only slightly thickened, so I thought I'd give it more time and check it again in the morning. Unfortunately, more time yielded nothing more in thickness. So I added in, but blended in the blender another 1 tsp of guar gum. Again, into the fridge it went.
By 9:00 p.m. IT WAS THICK AND GOOPY! WIN!
Although tart and thick, it was pretty flavorless. For 2 cups of yogurt I added about ½ cup strawberry puree and 2 tsp of xylitol. What and how much you add is totally up to you.
but this was PERFECT for us!
Moral of this experiment: have guar gum on hand, but TRY AGAIN!