I recently posted about the probiotic dreaminess that is kefir cream, but haven’t forgotten my friends who don’t do dairy. A wonderfully easy, dairy-free alternative is coconut milk kefir!
Who knew that adding milk kefir grains to (full fat, canned) coconut milk would, in time, become something so thick and creamy? I like Simple Truth Organic Coconut Milk and Trader Joe’s Organic Coconut Milk because they contain just coconut – no preservatives.
When you open the can of coconut milk, it may have separated. I stir the solid layer and liquid back together to help ensure that the finished cultured product is consistent. Then, the coconut milk is poured into a non-reactive jar and the milk kefir grains are added.After a couple of days, the kefir is super thick and slightly tart. As with dairy milk kefir, the grains will need to be fished (or strained, if you so desire) out and placed into culturing medium again: think of these SCOBYs as pets – they must be fed regularly in order to stay healthy and active.
While milk kefir grains may be used to culture non-dairy (coconut, nut, oat) milks, they need recharging in dairy periodically to remain healthy. Milk kefir grains feed on lactose, which is only present in dairy milk, so I put them back in dairy milk after every non-dairy batch. I also use a subset of my main milk kefir grains group that I’m willing to sacrifice if they don’t survive in the non-dairy culture (hasn’t happened to date).
One thing to bear in mind after culturing in non-dairy milk: the grains will carry some of the flavor of the previous medium to the new one because they won’t be completely “clean” when removed from, for example, the coconut milk. By the second batch in dairy, they’ll be free of the flavor of the other culturing medium. Another option to clean them is to rinse them in the new milk they’ll be placed into (don’t rinse them in water – read about an interesting experiment here).
The finished coconut kefir is creamy and delicious, with a bit of that characteristic (milk) kefir tang. After being in the fridge overnight, it thickened up significantly. I could eat it right off the spoon, but exercised some restraint and added it to soaked muesli cups (I’m really digging these right now) and will enjoy some probiotic kefir goodness in a multi-layered muesli mélange!
Learn more about culturing different types of milks in this Cultures for Health article.