You might think I’ve gone off the deep end, advocating that you puree and ferment nuts to make your own plant-based yogurt. And of course, you’re right, this isn’t something everybody has the time or energy to do.
However, I see many people in my practice who:
- Want to eat foods that contain beneficial bacteria (probiotics) but don’t tolerate dairy
- Have been advised by their doctor to avoid dairy (for instance, men with prostate cancer)
- Want to increase their intake of beneficial plant fats
- Want to eat plant-based yogurt but are put off by the hefty price tags, long ingredient lists, plastic packaging and (often) artificial flavors of commercial plant-based yogurt
- Like to experiment with fermentation and try new foods and recipes
It is for all these folks that I’ve posted this recipe.
Now, this yogurt does not provide a nutritional profile that’s comparable to dairy-based yogurt. It contains less protein, calcium and saturated fat than dairy yogurt and has a very different vitamin & mineral profile. On the other hand, however, it does supply a wide range of bacteria (if you use a good probiotic supplement, you’ll get more microbial diversity that you’ll find in your typical store-bought yogurt, be it plant- or dairy-based), healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber and antioxidants. You can always increase its protein content by stirring protein powder into the yogurt, adding it to a protein smoothie containing high-quality protein powder, or by eating it alongside a higher-protein dish like scrambled eggs.
I used cashew and hazelnuts here, but you should be able to make this with any combination of nuts you fancy. (Though very low-carb nuts like macadamias may not work as well in this recipe. If you try these, let me know how it went.)
If you don’t have a high-speed blender (e.g., Blendtec or Vitamix), I recommend you soak the nuts overnight to soften them, or soak them in hot water for two hours beforehand; drain and rinse before using. To achieve the consistency of “regular” yogurt, you can use a little more water – 3½ to 4 cups; if you want a consistency closer to Greek yogurt, use 2½ cups of water. You can also play around with consistency by varying the amount of starch you use to thicken the yogurt. Using 3 cups of water produces about 4 cups of yogurt.
- ½ cup hazelnuts unsalted (see note below)
- ½ cup cashew nuts raw
- 3 cups water filtered
- 2 tbsp corn starch potato, arrowroot or tapioca starch work, too
- 3 capsules probiotic supplement See notes below.
- Combine the nuts and one cup of the water in a high-powered blender and process for one minute.
- Scrape down the sides with a spatula, add the remaining water and starch (whichever using), replace the lid and process for another minute, or until super-smooth.
- Pour the mixture into a non-reactive pot (I use stainless steel) and bring it just to a simmer over medium heat. Stir continuously with a wire whisk as the "milk" heats up (be sure to scrape the bottom and corners of the pot). Once the mixture reaches a simmer, cook for another 30 to 45 seconds, then remove from heat. Cover.
- Allow the mixture to cool for about 30 minutes or until it reaches 100 to 110 degrees F. If you don't have a thermometer, use a clean spoon and taste the mixture, or drop a little onto your wrist to test the temperature. If it seems barely warm but not hot, it's safe to add the probiotic. If the mixture is too warm the microbes will be destroyed.
- Open the probiotic capsules and sprinkle the powdered contents onto the cooled, thickened milk. Discard the capsule(s). Whisk the probiotic powder into the milk. Immediately pour into a clean, dry 1-quart jar (or 2 pint jars). It's best to leave a bit of space so that the yogurt is not in contact with the lid. Cover with clean lid(s).
- Place the jars in the Instant Pot (no need to add water) and lock the lid (no need to seal the vent). Press the “Yogurt” button, and use the +/- buttons to adjust the time. For less tangy yogurt, try 10 hours (this is the default time for some IP models). For tangier yogurt choose 12 to 14 hours of incubation. Don't disturb the yogurt during this time.
- If you don't have an Instant Pot, you can place the yogurt jar(s) in the oven and turn on the oven light; this will gently heat the oven to body temperature and spur the fermentation process. Set timer to 10-12 hours (I do this overnight).
- When the timer beeps, remove jars from the Instant Pot or oven. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. The yogurt will thicken even more once chilled. Always use clean utensils when scooping out individual portions.
- Keep the yogurt refrigerated and enjoy it within 7 to 10 days. Serve topped with berries, nuts, granola or anything else you enjoy with yogurt. This works well in Bircher muesli (overnight oats).
- Net carbs per serving: 9 g
- Hazelnuts: I use Trader Joe’s lightly roasted Oregon hazelnuts to make this yogurt; they have a deliciously toasty, sweet & nutty flavor. If you can’t obtain these, simply buy the freshest hazelnuts you can find and toast them yourself: tip onto a small plate and microwave on HIGH for one minute; stir lightly and then microwave on HIGH for another 30 seconds until they turn lightly golden and fragrant. Set aside to cool (10-15 minutes); then tip onto a clean cotton towel, gather up the corners of the towel into a bundle and massage the nuts them through the fabric to rub off most of their skins.
- Probiotics: I use refrigerated probiotics that I buy at a health-food store. Try to find a brand that supplies at least 30 billion live bacteria per capsule and 8-10 different strains of bacteria. If you don't want to buy a probiotic supplement just to make this recipe, you can also make yogurt by adding 1/4 cup of pre-fermented yogurt to your thickened & cooled nut "milk;" I used Forager cashew yogurt for my first batch and it worked (though I preferred the taste of next batch that I made with a probiotic supplement). I haven't tried using my homemade yogurt to seed new batches of yogurt, so I don't know whether this works on an ongoing basis. If you try it, please let me know how it went.