Most of the information below on how to substitute yogurt for dairy-free and vegan diets is excerpted from my book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook. However, I’ve also added product reviews and a few fun recipes that are here on the website.
Quick Ideas to Substitute Yogurt
Easy Buttermilk Alternative
This works very well for marinating and cooking purposes, and is also recommended when yogurt is called for in baked goods, dressings, and sauces. You can substitute one cup of Buttermilk Alternative for one cup of yogurt in recipes.
This is a dairy-free wonder food. Refrigerate a can of full-fat coconut milk for several hours or overnight. The coconut cream will rise to the top and can easily be skimmed off. Depending on your needs, coconut cream can substitute yogurt in a 1:1 ratio. Be aware that Coconut Cream is much higher in fat than the other options listed.
Homemade Dairy-Free Yogurt
Some people love to make dairy-free yogurt at home. It can be much more economical, tastier, and a fun DIY project. Homemade dairy-free yogurts are often thinner than dairy yogurt, so I recommend starting with one of our tested recipes below.
Pureed Silken Tofu
Medium Firm Silken Tofu will puree into a nice consistency, and may substitute yogurt using a 1:1 ratio. Obviously, this sub is only for recipes, and since it does lack the tartness of yogurt, it is most suitable for “heartier” dishes. You can add a little lemon juice to your recipe if some tang is desired.
Sour Cream Alternative
This works well as a straight substitute for yogurt in salad dressings and dips. Use one of our Sour “Cream” recipes for a simple option if you can’t locate a variety in store.
Store-Bought Dairy-Free Yogurt
Soy-, coconut-, almond, and cashew-based yogurts are popping up all over the place, and they contain that same great “healthy bacteria.” For the most part, dairy-free brands work as an equivalent substitute yogurt. Some brands have received rave reviews, and others, well … let’s stick to the ones with rave reviews. Check our product reviews for some options.
Recipes: Homemade Yogurt Alternatives
Dairy-free yogurt is becoming so popular that it can even be found in many small towns. Unfortunately, it can also be expensive. So many people like the option of making their own. Homemade yogurt takes a little bit of time to make, but it involves very little hands on work. Yogurt is a cultured product, so most of the time involves waiting for the yogurt to ferment.
Homemade dairy-free yogurt will almost always differ a bit from store-bought, but in many people’s opinions, that isn’t a bad thing. And if at first you don’t succeed, definitely try again. Very few people have complete success on their first batch of yogurt. It takes a bit of practice to get it right. But once you do, the financial and edible rewards are great. And I have some helpful tips to get you started on that journey to your perfect homemade dairy-free yogurt.
To make your own dairy-free yogurt, you need to begin with a starter culture. This is live active cultures that will help populate your yogurt with good bacteria, or probiotics. Starter culture itself is merely bacteria. It doesn’t contain ingredients such as milk. However, the bacteria must be grown on a medium, and that medium is often dairy.
For most dairy-free or dairy-low consumers, a starter culture grown on dairy isn’t a problem, since the bacteria or starter is completely removed from the medium before use. However, if you are dealing with a severe milk allergy, have any concerns about trace dairy, or are strictly vegan and want to ensure there was no dairy used in the making of the product, look for a dairy-free or vegan label, and then contact the company to verify their processes.
I also want to give you a heads up that the bacteria names themselves can sound like dairy. Many start with “lact” or have the term “casei” in them, which can sound like lactose and casein. These are just scientific bacteria names based on what they do. The names do not reflect the medium that the bacteria was grown on.
There are three things that are commonly used as a starter for homemade yogurt.
You can use a store-bought dairy-free yogurt or a finished homemade dairy-free yogurt as the starter for your next batch. If going with store-bought, make sure the container says something to the effect of: made with live cultures.
Alternatively, you can save a little of your homemade dairy-free yogurt to use as the starter. It has been reported that using your own starter can lose potency over time, so you might want to use a fresh starter periodically.
In terms of how much dairy-free yogurt to use, I’ve read varying reports. Some say as little as 1/4 teaspoon of dairy-free yogurt per 4 cups of liquid, while some recommend a full 1/2 cup. I usually say around 2 to 4 tablespoons, to stay on the safe side without getting excessive. Keep in mind that the longer you ferment, the more it will populate. So if you do start with a lesser amount of dairy-free yogurt or starter, allow a longer amount of incubation time.
You can actually purchase yogurt starters. Most are grown on a dairy medium, but if you need dairy-free purity, a few brands do claim to be non-dairy, dairy-free, and/or vegan. These include Custom Probiotics, Eugurt, Cultures for Health Vegan, Vegan Bio Yogurt, and Belle+Bella. But check the label and with the manufacturer to ensure ingredients and processes are safe for your needs.
Store-bought probiotics can be used, but make sure you are dealing with a good brand that has been properly stored. You can buy probiotics in powder form, but most are sold in capsules. To use it as a starter, simply open the capsule and pour the powder out.
To reiterate, probiotics are simply bacteria, and are removed from the medium that they are grown on. Nonetheless, where dairy is a strong concern, make sure to look for brands labeled as “dairy-free” or “vegan.” And double check with the manufacturer to find out their processes and the medium they used to grow the bacteria. Just a few probiotics that are touted as dairy-free include Ther-Biotic, PRO45, and Garden of Life. But again, double check to make sure they are safe for your needs.
Other Homemade Yogurt Ingredients
You can technically use any dairy-free milk to make yogurt, but the results will vary. And they will often end up more like a drinkable yogurt than a spoonable one. To compensate, some recipes use thickeners like agar powder, agar flakes, gelatin (not appropriate for vegans/vegetarians), or starch. And higher fat ingredients, like coconut milk, coconut cream, or homemade nut cream (easy recipe in Go Dairy Free), are sometimes used instead of dairy-free milk for thicker results.
First and foremost, it’s essential to sterilize all of your equipment to prevent the growth of any “bad” bacteria. You will need a blender, a large pot, and a thermometer. You will also need something to incubate your yogurt. Some people use the oven, some use a crockpot, but we do like the ease of a yogurt maker. In fact, if you plan on making your own yogurt regularly, a yogurt maker can really pay for itself.
The Aroma 8-Cup Digital Yogurt Maker and the Euro Cuisine Electric Yogurt Maker have both received rave reviews and are reasonably priced. These are great for making your substitute yogurt in single-servings. If you just want a tub of dairy-free yogurt, the Belle+Bella Yogurt Maker is actually a cute small appliance.
Dairy-Free Yogurt Recipes
- I have a time-tested recipe for Coconut Yogurt in Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook.
- My good friend Alexa has an Almond Milk Yogurt recipe with the option for using probiotic capsules as a starter.
- For top allergen-free, Cybele Pascal has a homemade Sunflower Seed Yogurt.
Products: Yogurt Alternatives at the Store
Below are the products we’ve had a chance to taste-test and review here on Go Dairy Free. You can use them to substitute yogurt for breakfast or in recipes. But the taste and consistency vary widely by brand.
- CocoYo Living Coconut Yogurt is Brimming with Probiotics
- CoYo Coconut Milk Yogurt Alternative: Pure, Low-Sugar, Dairy-free Luxury
- GoodBelly Shots offer 11 Probiotic Ways to Make Your Tummy Smile
- Kite Hill Almond Milk Yogurt Gets a New Look and Taste
- So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt Still Dazzles in a Dozen Flavors