Greek Yogurt: Raw Vegan Style

by Gena on September 7, 2009

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Happy Labor Day! I hope you’ve had a good long weekend and have enjoyed the same kind of lovely weather I saw upstate.

In honor of my last post, I’m featuring yet another one of my “client request” recipes. (In case you missed the last one, these are recipes that I’ve concocted at the behest of my clients; usually, these are raw approximations of cooked favorites). This time, I’m taking a humble stab at a well-loved favorite: Greek yogurt.

When I went vegan, I was happily surprised at how few non-vegan foods I missed. In fact, when asked whether or not I “missed” things—which I often was—I could respond with a very honest “nope”! I had stopped eating red meat as a kid. I’d always found eggs pretty repellent. I’d kept fish in my diet not because I liked it (I didn’t), but because I was self-conscious about restaurant dining, and at that point in my life I was still a bit too shy to defend my own food choices. And with a recent diagnosis of lactose intolerance to deal with—plus the fact that I’d always wrinkled my nose at the smell of cheese (even mild cheeses)—I figured it would be a breeze.

And it was, 95% of the time. If I had to name a single food I missed, though—in spite of how damaging I’d come to believe cow’s dairy was to my digestive system—it would be Greek yogurt. Perhaps it’s the one culinary vestige of my Greek heritage that stuck (because Lord knows I did not inherit a love of lamb, kasseri cheese, or fish). Perhaps it’s that rich texture; I’m a sucker for all “mushy” foods (hummus, guac, nut pate, banana soft serve—you guys can fill in the rest), and Greek yogurt fits the bill. Or perhaps it was the joy of drizzling sweet raw honey over cold, sour yogurt. Whatever the case, I admit it: I missed it.

My stomach, however, did not. And the improvements in my digestive health, to say nothing of the sudden absence of seasonal colds and allergies, soon made me forget that I’d ever been attached to dairy.

In the time since I became a vegan, other foods have given me the things I used to seek out in yogurt: fruit puddings provide sweetness; raw hummus and guacamole serve as dips and spreads; coconut shakes are a decadent breakfast treat.

Many of my clients, though, still miss their yogurt. And as a raw coach, I aim to please.

There are numerous ways to experiment with yogurt in a raw diet. The first is the most obvious, but only applicable for non-vegans: kefir. This fermented milk drink (which can of course be made raw) is popular with many non-vegan raw foodists. The internet is littered with articles on how to make your own, or you can check out my friend Anthony’s blog for thoughts on his recent experiences with raw dairy foods.

The second option is to try a truly faithful approximation of raw yogurt—which is to say, a fermented food that’s rich in healthy bacteria. Google “raw vegan yogurt,” and you’ll find numerous recipes, many of them nut based, which call for probiotic powders or rejuvelac (a grain-based, fermented liquid) to aid in the fermentation process. These recipes are highly intriguing, but from my vantage point they all present a fundamental problem: time. I don’t really have the time, patience, or foresight to ferment blended cashews each time I crave something that is yogurt-like, and I doubt that my busy clients will, either.

Which brings me to my own experiments with raw yogurt—or stuff like it. The first food I like to recommend is my banana soft serve. Sure, it’s much sweeter that Greek yogurt, but if you add a few drops of lemon to it, you’ll find that it tastes surprisingly yogurt-like (pinkberry, anyone?). And the texture is reminiscent of yogurt, as is the infinite variety of fun toppings. You can also play around with a nut based yogurt—start with something like my raw whipped cream, and adjust it to suit the texture and flavor you like. The problem with nut-based yogurt is that it’s a bit rich—too rich, perhaps, to fill a simple yogurt-craving.

Below, you’ll find my favorite raw “yogurt” yet. It uses one of my favorite raw ingredients—young thai coconuts—and if you don’t count the time you’ll spend hacking your coconuts with a cleaver, you’ll find that the recipe is unbelievably simple. Ready?

Raw Greek-style Yogurt (yields about one cup)

Ingredients:

Meat of three young coconuts
½ tsp lemon juice
Water

Procedure:

Place coconut meat and lemon in a blender or food processor (if you have a conventional blender, I recommend a processor for this job; if you have a Vitamix or high speed blender, that’s ideal). Do your best to blend it up with as little water as possible. This may mean scraping the bowl frequently, but it will be worth it when you get a thick texture. When the mix is reaching a creamy, rich consistency, throw in any flavorings you like. I made mine with some fresh vanilla; you can also add some berries, chocolate, or anything else that suits you. Continue blending till the mix is as smooth as you have patience for, and voila:

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You’ll be amazed at the rich, creamy taste of this stuff. It’s reminiscent of coconut in a way that regular yogurt is not, but the lemon does a good job of cutting the sweetness. Best of all, for those of you who have a hard time digesting dairy, this yogurt will leave you bloat free, cramp free, and constipation free. For those of you who are striving to eat a vegan diet for ethical reasons, you can rest assured that you’ve made an animal-friendly choice.

Top this with your favorite yogurt toppings, and enjoy!

I hope you have a great Labor Day. See you back here soon for a recap of my weekend upstate and an exciting product review!

xo

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

brandi September 7, 2009 at 12:09 pm

what an awesome idea! I don’t think I’ve ever seen young thai coconuts in my neck of the woods, but I’ll have to keep my eyes open for them.

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VeggieGirl September 7, 2009 at 12:19 pm

YOU MEAN I’LL ACTUALLY GET TO ANSWER THE QUESTIONS NOW AT THE END OF BLOGS THAT SAY, “HOW DO YOU LIKE TO EAT YOUR GREEK YOGURT?” ;)

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emily September 7, 2009 at 2:09 pm

Genius idea Gena! I love coconut, but the store-bought coconut milk yogurts (So Delicious) were pretty yucky in my opinion.

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Diana (Soap & Chocolate) September 7, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Sounds delicious! And having conquered my first coconut mere minutes ago, I think I can put this recipe on my radar for sure. Yogurt is definitely something that’s hard to replicate if you’re trying to be vegan! Even the store bought coconut yogurt is full of sweeteners and all kinds of random stuff. I tried goat yogurt this morning, thinking it might be an upgrade from the cow variety, but even that’s just so thin! Sigh…

Well, coconuts to the rescue. You will be glad to know that I successfully replicated Bonobo’s coconut chai crack in my own kitchen today, but you will not be glad to know I did not save you any. ;)

Hope you had a great getaway! xo

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maya September 7, 2009 at 2:33 pm

sounds so cool! looks so creamy! coconut is my favorite,..must get a fresh coconut and cut it open soon, havent done that in so long, but it always takes so much work to open it :) but this idea is genius love it!

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Shelby September 7, 2009 at 3:35 pm

I literally yelled “YES!” when I saw this post! Everyone always raves about greek yogurt and even when I wasn’t vegan I didn’t try it.

I’ll have to get some coconuts asap!

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melissa September 7, 2009 at 5:49 pm

you rock. yogurt is definitely one of the hardest things for me to cut out of my diet, it’s such a staple. you have done it again. It’s great that coconut is naturally sweet, so you don’t need to add anything else!

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Katrina (gluten free gidget) September 7, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Brilliant! I must try this soon! You rock my socks!

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Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) September 7, 2009 at 6:24 pm

What a fabulous, creative alternative! Thank you! And thanks for posting the backlinks to your older posts on raw hummus (I had seen that one) but the low sugar desserts link was awesome! I totally agree that when people are yeasty is when they crave sugar, 100% agreement. And once you balance the yeast, the sugar cravings do subside generally. Same with dairy. I blogged on this a week or so ago that people are actually addicted to casomophins, which is the opioid-like protein in dairy that renders us addicted to it. Generally speaking, people who crave dairy can be severely addicted to it OR are intolerant of it. In food allergy circles I always read that we crave our allergens. This is way off track of a comment for this glorious post on yogurt, but just wanted to chime in this way on a couple of your older posts :)

Also, I did a little Amazon bonanza and got the spiralizer AND The mandolin you recommend. Woo-hoo, now where’s that UPS man at anyway? :)

averie

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Jaymie September 7, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Just found your blog (love it!) and am excited about your recipes- this one in particular. I have one question though: I have figured out how to get into a young coconut, but find that I get different amounts of meat with each one- some have the purply soft (slimy) meat, some have just a small amount of firmer meat… is there a trick to the perfect timing to get the perfect amount of the perfect consistency of meat? Thanks!

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Caroline September 7, 2009 at 8:39 pm

Dare I say it? This sounds BETTER than Greek yogurt!

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Gena September 14, 2009 at 6:57 am

It IS better!

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Chandelle September 7, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Great recipe! I’ve been making this myself for a while, but I do ferment it overnight (after adding a few tablespoons of old yogurt to start it) and then I have probiotic coconut yogurt in the morning. So delicious and effortless! And much better than commercial coconut yogurt (or most any yogurt…) which has so-o-o-o much sugar in it. Sometimes I combine coconut with almonds or cashews for a bit more thickness. I’ve never actually tasted Greek yogurt, since it became popular after I went vegan, but either way, hooray for healthy AND delicious!

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Belinda September 8, 2009 at 12:44 am

Wow! It looks and sounds delicious. Too bad young coconuts are very difficult to get and sooooo expensive here ! I saw them at 4 euro’s a piece!!!!!!!!

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Michelle @ Find Your Balance September 8, 2009 at 4:21 pm

I thought you had to order young coconuts online but yesterday I saw some at Whole Foods! Awesome!

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Eco Mama September 8, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Looks great! Can’t wait to try it!

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gina (fitnessista) September 8, 2009 at 7:44 pm

thank you for another beautifully simple and delicious-looking recipe :D you never cease to amaze me ;)
hope your week is off to a great start <3

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Amber September 8, 2009 at 8:51 pm

I cannot tell you HOW excited i am to try this!! Greek yogurt is the one thing I miss as well! Thank Gena!

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Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter) September 10, 2009 at 6:50 am

Thanks Gena. This recipe is so simple. Makes me want to jump in my car and drive to my local Asian Mkt. Bye. :)

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Michal September 13, 2009 at 5:05 am

I cannot wait to try this out, my only problem would be finding coconuts, let alone young coconuts! Do you think if I found regular coconuts it would result in the same texture/consistency?

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Gena September 14, 2009 at 6:57 am

Hi Michal!

Unfortunately, I doubt that — you’d have to add a lot more water. Still, it would be doable with a Vitamix and some patience!

Gena

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Random June 7, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Yogurt doesn’t make you constipated, please don’t misinform people. On the contrary greek yogurt helps with the bowel flora and the good bacteria in it helps with the immune system. Activia for example is a yogurt with a load of helpful micro-organisms, which also helps bowel movement.

thanks for the recipie netherless.

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Gena June 7, 2010 at 9:48 pm

On the contrary, people who react poorly to dairy may find yogurt extremely constipating.

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Suzanne Turner February 7, 2012 at 2:32 am

Have you tried making coconut almond yogurt? We have been going crazy making cultured and fermented foods lately and we can’t get enough. Yogurt was the one food I missed when I went raw, and now we’re making some sweet (I’m eating raspberry as I type) and some savory- garlic dressings, spicy sauces- you’d be happy to know I’m working on tzatziki to pair with cucumber slices and tabbouleh inspired parsley salad. :)) It gets way more tangy & delicious- like sour cream even- after a few days if you add the live cultures- and so so good for you. It really helps digestion and feeding your good flora.

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Suzanne Turner February 7, 2012 at 2:33 am

Here’s a how-to for the cultured yogurt! http://www.vitallifefoundation.com/almond-coconut-yogurt.html

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Colette February 9, 2012 at 9:57 pm

very exciting. can’t wait for a day I feel daring enough to try it. (i never tried greek yogurt before being vegan) however, i would love to have to benefits of all the good bacteria. that’s the only reason why i want to make a raw yogurt in the first place. however, i am glad i stumbled upon this recipe! thank you!

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