I did it! I did it! I DID IT!
As some of you may remember from a previous post, yogurt has been the hardest thing for me to give up. I tried a number of alternative yogurts – soy yogurt, almond milk yogurt – before finally discovering a yogurt compatible with savory, not sweet dishes – Whole Soy & Co. Yogurt – Plain, Unsweetened.
Only problem is those little tiny tubs are expensive!
So I’ve been experimenting with making my own yogurt, using Whole Soy & Co. yogurt as my starter. Results have varied dramatically – from “Hmmm, not too bad,” to “Yuck, get that out of the house NOW!”
Different brands of soy milk make a vast difference in taste. Silk Unsweetened was sorta ok, Whole Foods Unsweetened was actively awful, and plain Earth Balance soy milk was just too sweet. (Let’s not even talk about my experiments with almond and rice milk.)
Surprisingly, the different soy milks also produced differences in texture and consistency. Some were creamy, some were runny. Unfortunately, the ones with the more pleasing texture weren’t always the ones with the more pleasing taste!
Then I discovered Soy Dream, by the makers of Rice Dream, in those aseptic non-refrigerated cartons. I chose the Original. I couldn’t believe how good this soy milk tasted – almost like milk, with none of that “beany” aftertaste. Once I tasted it I knew I had to try making yogurt with it, and my instinct was correct – the yogurt turned out fantastic, even better than the Whole Soy & Co. yogurt I used as my starter! It was not too tangy and not too sweet, with a fairly thick, creamy consistency.
Please note that soy yogurt will never be as firm as milk yogurt unless you add a thickening agent to it, such as agar. I’m ok with my yogurt being a little runny, as most of the time I’m just going to make raita with it or swirl some into my rice and beans.
I’ve adapted these yogurt instructions very slightly from Vegan Indian Cooking by Anupy Singla. At first I thought cooking yogurt in a slow cooker sounded like a gimmick, and Anupy is definitely slow cooker crazy! But after researching soy yogurt recipes on the web and finding complicated procedures that included thermometers, agar, and special yogurt makers, her recipe seemed simplest.
And, after trying it a few times, it makes sense. The slow cooker will get the soy milk very hot with a few bubbles, but doesn’t actually bring it to a boil. (When you make traditional milk yogurt you bring the milk to a boil, then cool it down, but boiled soy milk is NOT good.)
The slow cooker I use is a 2 quart Crock Pot, bought on sale for $7.99 at Target. It normally retails at $11.99.
- Taste the soy milk you are planning to use. (I highly recommend Soy Dream.) If you don’t like the way it tastes, you won’t like it in your yogurt, either. Don’t use if it’s been in your refrigerator awhile and isn’t fresh.
- Pour 4 cups of soy milk into your slow cooker and heat on low for 2 1/2 hours. The milk should get very hot with just a few bubbles.
- Turn the slow cooker off and let the milk sit for 2 hours.
- After 2 hours, the milk should still be very warm but not hot. Pour a little of the warm milk out into a bowl and whisk with 1/2 cup yogurt. (Again, I use Whole Soy & Co. yogurt, plain, unsweetened.) Then pour the milk-yogurt mixture back into the crockpot and stir gently. I wasn’t sure of the reasoning at first, but then I found the yogurt tends to curdle if you add it directly into the slow cooker and it touches the hot sides of the slow cooker.
- Put the lid back on and remove the stoneware pot from the base, wrap carefully in a towel, and place inside a dark oven for 8 hours.
- After 8 hours, check the yogurt. Remember, the longer it sits, the firmer it will get, but it will also get more sour.
- Refrigerate! The yogurt will firm up a little more in the refrigerator.
- Eat and enjoy! Remember to save 1/2 cup of yogurt as a starter for your next batch of yogurt.
UPDATE 10/29/2012: I’ve since made this with plain, unsweetened West Soy soymilk. It took a bit longer to “set” – I think I let it sit 10 hours! – but it also produced a nice, neutral-tasting yogurt.
- The more yogurt I make with my own starter instead of Wholesoy & Co., the better it tastes. It also seems to steadily be getting thicker and creamier. (My partner says his mother has been making (milk yogurt) from yogurt that originally started in a batch almost 20 years ago, right after they moved to America.)
- I’ve modified the crockpot settings some because I am so impatient. Instead of heating the soymilk on low for 2 1/2 hours, as Anupy suggested, I heat it on high for about an hour. (Be careful, though – crockpot settings differ; the whole point is you want the soymilk to become as hot as possible without actually boiling! If the milk starts getting big bubbles instead of small bubbles, that’s too high. It will change the taste of the soymilk.)
- Some days my yogurt just doesn’t “set.” I don’t know why – it never seems as if I’ve done anything different. Perhaps it’s the weather – I remember making fudge as a child with my great Aunt Martha, and her claiming the fudge wouldn’t “set” because it was raining. Anyhoo – one night I was so frustrated I just put the whole thing back in the crockpot, heated it back up again, and started over. That time it “took”!
- I’ve also cut the yogurt that I stir into the warm soymilk down from 1/2 cup to 1/4 cup. Please note: I don’t know if this amount will work the first time, when you are using commercial yogurt as your starter. But after you’ve made yogurt a few times, using yogurt from the previous batch as your starter – definitely try gradually reducing the yogurt you use as your starter.
- Finally, if you left your yogurt out a bit longer than usual to try to get it to thicken up and it tastes sour – don’t despair. I must confess to leaving my yogurt out “a little bit longer” – either to try to get it to “set” a little bit more, or because – I admit it – I just forget about the stuff. Put it in the refrigerator and taste it after it gets cold – for some reason, it seems to get a little sweeter in the fridge. If you use your yogurt for savory dishes, like me, a little salt can also help cut the sour.
UPDATE 10/6/2013 – Please also check out this post – Vegan Crockpot Yogurt Part II – for an update on how to make homemade vegan yogurt during WholeSoy’s time of woe.
How do you store the 1/2 cup starter for your next batch? Can ou freeze it? How long will it keep in the fridge.
I usually just put a little yogurt in a clean, separate container so I won’t forget and eat it all! (Which has happened before!) I honestly don’t know if you can freeze it or not. It should stay good in your refrigerator for at least a week. We are very yogurt-crazy at my house – we eat it not only on Indian food but also as a sour cream substitute on baked potatoes, Mexican food, etc – so I don’t think I’ve gone more than a week or so without making a new batch. Hope that helped!
Thank you Thank yoU!! I’m in the process of going vegan and this really helps.. because I’m Indian and I didn’t know how I was going to be without yogurt!
I’m so glad this helped! Yogurt was the biggest hurdle for me, too – I even stopped eating a number of foods because I didn’t want to eat them without yogurt!
On the days that it doesn’t “take”, you said you put the whole back in the crockpot and heat it up again. Does that mean you simply heated the mix up (milk + starter) and then started the 8 hour block again?
Yes, I heated the mix up (milk + starter), then added a little more starter and wrapped it up again for 8 hours. It’s always “taken” the second time.
I tried this… But, overnight didn’t help. I’ve left it in the oven still for the day. Hopefully it will work. I think its too cold in my house. 😦
Should I invest in a yogurt maker to keep the milk/yogurt mix warm? What are your thoughts?
Did your yogurt turn out? If you eat anywhere near the amount of yogurt we do, a yogurt maker might be a good investment. I just looked it up on Amazon and they have really come a long way! Now I want one myself. My advice would be to make sure you buy one of the newer yogurt makers. With the old ones, you still had to heat your milk before pouring it into the yogurt maker. With the new yogurt makers it looks like you can just add the milk and water and turn it on. If you get one, let me know how you like it!
I found a yogurt maker in a thrift store (these seem to make their way to thrift stores a couple of months after Christmas especially) and I heat my milk in a crockpot with a thermometer stuck in – 180 degrees is the sweet spot. Then I just leave the thermometer in, set a timer for about 2 hours until the temp is about 100-120, add the starter, thickener, and lift out the crockpot liner, put it on the base of the yogurt maker, and just leave it for 10 hours. PS: I got the crockpot at the thrift store too!
Yeay! MIne worked too! I am so excited…thank you SO much for this..wow! ♥
I’m so glad it worked for you!!!!
I am going to make another batch this morning trying the less expensive soy milk in the refrigerated section. One thing I did differently (since I am in boiling hot Phoenix) is I heated up the soymilk in the microwave to the correct temperature, right in the crockpot. Then I wrapped it in the towel and placed it in the oven. So easy and I am so glad I found your site! ♥
I used your recipe and it worked! I tried 2 other methods/recipes first that totally failed, so this felt like a major win for me haha. I did add 1 tsp of arrowroot per cup of soy milk and whisked it in before starting, because I wanted a thicker yogurt. WholeSoy isn’t producing any yogurt right now, and the closest I could find to plain was SoDelicious vanilla coconut yogurt. It worked just fine with the SoyDream milk. My oven doesn’t have a light that I can turn on without opening the oven door, so I wrapped my whole crockpot in a fleece blanket, put a heating pad on top of the blanket on low, and laid a heavy towel over top of that. 10 hours later I had a yogurt that had a great yogurty tang, but it wasn’t as thick as I wanted, so I strained it using some cheesecloth in a colander and had Greek style soy yogurt in just over an hour. Thank you for the step-by-step instructions!
Yay! I’m glad it worked out for you! Your update was also very timely … I let my yogurt starter run out 😦 and too late discovered the Wholesoy yogurt shortage. I’ve got some freeze-dried yogurt starter to try, but thanks for giving me another option!!
Thanks! I’ve been wanting to make my own yogurt for years, but it was always so easy to buy it. But I recently went from vegetarian to vegan, and was so happy to find this recipe. It worked the first time, using coconut milk yogurt for starter, so I’m very encouraged.
I’m glad it worked out for you! I’m going to have to try the coconut milk yogurt for starter!
I’m going to give this a try. Our toddler loves YoSoy yogurt which apparently is not in production anymore (does anyone have any info otherwise?). It is her favorite. It is reallly runny. I am hypothyroid so I shouldn’t eat much soy and prefer Almond Dream almond yogurt. My husband loves the Silk soy yogurt. (Our son, of course, won’t touch any of it. HA!). It’s become too much (money and time!) to accommodate everyone’s tastes. Do you think it will work to use a plain almond yogurt for the starter when using soymilk? Otherwise, I only have on hand blueberry or strawberry flavored Silk yogurts. (I, too, am impatient and want to try this recipe asap!). Any advice? I’ve never seen Rice yogurt, so I’m guessing that’s out of the question? Does this recipe work with almond milk? Eager to try…..
I don’t know about the almond yogurt with soy milk, but I know several people have had great success using almond yogurt with almond milk! And several other people have successfully combined soy milk with coconut milk yogurt. So I’d say give it a try and let me know what happens!
I was hoping to make non-dairy yogurt with stevia…..and even the unsweetened soy yogurt has some kind of sweetener in it. But I’m psyched after reading all of this to try it.
Try it and good luck!
great! I figured out the crock pot method even before reading this, great minds think alike:) Just need to get thicker. I like silk unsweetend soy milk. Also have to find a starter in a store somewhere because i am not sure if you realize that Whole Soy has shut down production since spring 2013 and its now almost Nov 2013. I am in love with Unsweeted Plain yogurt they made because its seriously THE ONLY SOY YOGURT ON MARKET THAT DOES NOT CONTAIN OVER 15 g of SUGAR> its so maddening how the dairy and yogurt industry get away with this, i might as well eat a candy bar. So I was forced to make my own healhty version of soy yogurt but still need to perfect texture, too runny even with xanthum gum. Thanks for sharing:)
Yes, I am aware Whole Soy has not been in production for awhile. That post was written over a year ago. I did recently do a follow-up to that post you may want to check out. I used coconut milk yogurt as a starter (a suggestion of a reader) and surprisingly there wasn’t much coconut taste! By the third batch there wasn’t any at all! That same reader also offered some suggestions for making yogurt thicker, which I shared. I believe she used agar and also strained the yogurt.
Be careful if you use a starter – the ones I found all had skim milk powder! 😦 If you find a vegan starter please write back and share!
And I agree with you about the incredible amounts of sugar in yogurt! You’re right, you might as well eat a candy bar or piece of cake!
Wow – you’ve really worked on this and got it down to an art! Thank you for all of your work on this, it makes it easier on me. I’m gonna try this for sure!! 🙂
Please do and tell me how it worked out!
This is awesome. Anupy Singla was my husband’s friend. Thy went to the east west center in Hawaii for masters 🙂
Small world! Is Anupy as nice in real life as she appears in her books? Seriously, her book on Vegan Indian Cooking is one of the best Indian cookbooks I’ve ever read (and I have dozens). EVERYTHING from that cookbook has turned out well. Better yet, everything I make from that cookbook, the very picky Amrik says, “Hmm. Tastes like something my mother would make.” 🙂
There was a guy called Amrik with my husband at east west center…any connection?. My husband’s name is Amit Gupta.
I don’t think so … Amrik received both of his degrees from NC universities.
I’m glad you updated this so I could discover it! I might even be brave enough to try it!
Thanks, Laura! I hope you are brave enough to try it! It’s super-easy and far more healthy (and cheaper) than store-bought yogurts!
Thanks for your useful advise to make dairy-free home-made yogurt. But some bloggers did add probiotics, is any difference?
Any yogurt you use as a starter should have active live probiotic cultures – otherwise, the yogurt won’t “make.” If you’re not using yogurt as a starter you would need to add probiotics, but if you’re using yogurt as a starter, the probiotics are already in there.
Thanks for you kind explain!
You’re welcome! That was a good question.
LOVE homemade yoghurt! xxx
So do I!
I’ve been making soy yogurt in the crock pot for a couple of months, thanks to your recipe. I’ve been using store brand organic soy milk, and the yogurt was a little too “soy” for me. So I tried combining soy milk with other milks. I just tried 2/3 soy milk and 1/3 coconut milk, and am pleased with the yogurt it made. It seems to have a neutral flavor. I eat it plain, or with fruit. I used frozen starter, and that worked fine, too!
What a great idea – to combine soy milk with coconut milk! Thanks for the great feedback! 🙂
I think I’m being a bit dense, but to clarify–when the yogurt goes in to the oven, the oven is not supposed to be turned on, right? It’s just for a dark place? Also, if we’ll be using the yogurt as a sweeter snack (not savory), would it be okay to use a sweetened soy or other non-dairy yogurt as the starter, or can the sugar mess it up?? I am so excited to try this!! I miss Whole Soy, and I can’t pay the $1.50 for the tiny cup of Silk yogurt.
Right, the oven is not supposed to be turned on. I think it’s just because it’s dark and the enclosed space helps hold the heat in a little. And if you like a sweeter yogurt … say, for smoothies or to eat with fruit … it’s fine to use a sweetened soy yogurt. The sugar won’t mess it up at all. Good luck!
Hi. This looks interesting and I want to give it a try. I used to buy the quarts of Silk soy yogurt, which was a good product, but then they stopped making it @#$%. I have tried a bunch of times now to make my own, but usually it either doesn’t ferment or it ends up watery. I began adding agar agar, which does work well as a thickener, and I recently bought another kind of thickener made from modified corn starch and will try that out. My question is this: why do you call for a long, slow, low temperature heating period? The other recipes I’ve seen involve a quick heating of the milk, then adding the culture and a thickener.
I modified this recipe from Anupy Singla’s slow cooker yogurt recipe, and there are many other similar slow cooker recipes out there. Not sure why it works, but it does. Also, the more you make yogurt, using the starter from your last batch, the thicker the yogurt will become.
P.S. The agar agar was not flawless though – you have to cook and stir it into the hot milk for several minutes until it dissolves. Another question: why do you say not to boil the milk? Other recipes call for the milk to brought very briefly to a boil.
I always do everything possible to never allow soy milk to come to a full boil. Typically boiling causes soy milk to separate and changes the taste.
Does this work with unsweetened soy milk?
Yes, I always use unsweetened soy milk!
Alas, my first attempt was a total fail. I used Wholesoy yogurt and West Soy unsweetened plain milk (couldn’t find Soy Dream Original Classic). After 10 hours, it looked the same as when I first put it in the oven. I’m heating it up again to start over, as described in one of the posts above. I’m so discouraged as I’ve gotten used to having Wholesoy’s unsweetened plain and they have shut down production.
Aww, I’m sorry it didn’t work for you! I’m not sure why sometimes yogurt just refuses to set. The two most common reasons (in my personal experience) seem to be, either I added the starter when the milk was too hot, or it was too cold in the house. I’ve lately discovered preheating my oven to 350, then turning it off and putting the yogurt in once it “pings” it has cooled off, has resulted in a faster firmer yogurt. But sometimes it just doesn’t set and there doesn’t seem to be any reason why.
And, also, West Soy is what I use as well … I haven’t been able to find Soy Dream for awhile, either! I think I actually like West Soy better…
Thanks for your reply. My attempt to reheat and try it again didn’t work. May I ask what you mean by putting the yogurt in “once it pings it has cooled off”? What pings, the slow cooker, or the oven? How would I know that the milk is cool enough to add the starter? Thank you again.
When my oven cools off it makes a “pinging” sound .. it’s still slightly warm, however, and that seems to make an ideal environment. As to how will you know the milk is cool enough? The beauty of the slow cooker method is you can do it the lazy way, by time not temperature (and then I think the crock material also helps hold in heat). The “milk” should be hot but not uncomfortable for you to put your finger in (kind of like a warm bath?) If you want to yelp and pull your finger out, it’s still too hot. My partner, who made yogurt with real milk all his life, can just heat soy milk on the stove, stick his finger in, and “tell” if it’s the perfect temperature. Your crockpot might be heating a little higher or lower than some? There are some people who use thermometers which you could try. There’s also a number of electric “yogurt makers” out there that keep the milk at the correct temperature. I hope this helps …
Thank you for the suggestions.. I will test the temperature of the heated milk and preheat, then turn off the oven next time (although my oven doesn’t “ping”). I’m determined to make this work…
So happy to stumble on this recipe. I try to avoid soy and want to try with coconut milk… do you just prefer soy? Or is the process different with coconut?
I’ve never made yogurt with coconut milk, but I know people who have! I just prefer soy because I tend to use the yogurt in savory dishes (like Indian food) and as a replacement for sour cream. I think coconut yogurt would be great to mix with fruits.
About the oven: my mom lets the oven light on because it gives a little bit of heat and helps with the process
Thanks for sharing – great idea!
Does the 1st 2hours coming in crockpot start once it reaches the sweet 180° or as soon as you put it in crockpot?
As soon as you put it in the crockpot!
Will this work with almond milk or coconut milk? I can not have soymilk. Thanks
I know people have made this with coconut milk. Not sure about almond milk!
Has anyone made vegan yogurt with a yogurt maker. Some of the recipes Ive read are just too much work for me. My yogurt maker makes great yogurt, but I haven’t tried it for making vegan yogurt.
If you have an official yogurt maker, that should work just fine. I would recommend starting with soy milk and whatever starter (soy, yogurt, coconut). Soy tends to work the best (initially, until you get your starter really strong!) Almond milk lots of people have have trouble with. Coconut seems to work on a level with soy but I have not experimented with that enough to easily confirm.
Also consider if you are making plain, unsweetened yogurt or a sweet yogurt to mix with fruit and granola. The more sugar in the “milk” you use, the easier it will be. A nonsweetened yogurt might take a couple of rounds to get that really good probiotic starter to get it really creamy. It is worth working for!
Hope this helps!
In addition to soy milk and soy yogurt do you add a thickiner like agar agar and how much?