I have been making my own coconut milk kefir for quite some time now. It started after my naturopath recommended it to me as a probiotic-rich alternative to kombucha, because it contains less sugar.
Now, being dairy intolerant, rather than making traditional milk kefir using dairy milk, I went looking for a non-dairy alternative and came across coconut milk kefir. Note: I do rest the kefir grains in dairy milk every few batches to keep them strong (I explain why below).
What is Kefir?
Kefir is a cultured, fermented beverage that’s packed with probiotics and beneficial enzymes. It’s created using kefir grains (not an actual grain) which ferments the milk, turning it into a sort of liquid-yoghurt which you can drink.
Generally, the taste is quite tangy as the fermentation process removes most of the lactose (the natural sugar found in milk).
Now, coconut milk kefir is made by using milk kefir grains to ferment the coconut milk, but it is still dairy-free. Coconut kefir has a much milder, less-tangy flavour compared to dairy milk kefir.
As coconut milk does not contain lactose, naturally found in dairy milk, there are a few modifications that need to be made to help keep the kefir grains strong and prevent atrophy (wasting away). Why does this happen? Kefir grains require lactose to thrive. While the grains will continue to ferment for many batches, they will also begin to degrade, changing shape and turning mushy and grainy. Ideally, they should be a cauliflower shape with a crispy texture.
To help maintain the health of the grains, rest them in dairy milk for a minimum of 24 hours after every couple of batches. If you’re sensitive to dairy milk, rinse the grains in water before using them again in the coconut milk to remove any remaining residue.
For those avoiding dairy, kefir can also be used to ferment nut milks (like almond and cashew). Traditionally, nuts, seeds, and legumes were soaked and/or sprouted to deactivate anti-nutrients (such as phytic acid, lectins, etc.) that protect the seed but harm our guts on the way through. When kefir grains are added to nut milks, they make them more easily digestible for the body, and deliver a probiotic-boost at the same time!
Fun fact: Coconuts are technically a drupe (like cherries and peaches), and do not contain phytic acid, so don’t need to be soaked, sprouted, or fermented to make them easier for digestion. In fact, the coconut “flesh” is full of healthy fats, minerals, and acids like caprylic acid (which is good for those suffering with candida).
What to do when taking a break from making kefir…
If you’re halting kefir production in your home (maybe you’ve made too many batches and are now trying to get through them all… I’ve been there), you can rest the grains for a period of time in the fridge, but the longer you rest the grains, the longer it will take to revive them.
According to Hannah of Kombucha Kamp;
1-7 days: Place the grains in a glass jar and fill with fresh milk. Store in the fridge.
7-14 days: Place the grains in a glass jar and leave them dry (with no liquid). Store in the fridge.
14+ days: Lay grains out on a cookie sheet or dehydrator sheet and dehydrate them at 36°C – 40°C (98°F-105°F) until dry. Store the dehydrated grains in a freezer safe bag in the freezer.
To revive kefir grains, place in a small bowl and cover with fresh milk and 1 tsp of sugar. Replace the milk every 48-72 hours until the milk begins to separate into whey (a clear liquid that usually forms at the bottom of the container). Once you can see signs of fermentation, start a new batch using 1 tbsp of grains for every 2 cups of milk. Keep in mind that it may take a few weeks for the grains to regain their full strength and begin reproducing again.
Coconut Milk Kefir Recipe
Time to make this delicious fermented drink rich in beneficial probiotics and enzymes!
- 2-4 tbsp milk kefir grains (can collect from health food store)
- 4 cups full-fat organic coconut milk (about 2 cans)
- Place room temperature coconut milk into a glass jar, and add the kefir grains. Cover lightly (I use a cheesecloth and seal it with a rubber band) then leave at room temperature (21°C-24°C or 70°F-75°F) out of direct sunlight for 12-48 hours (tasting throughout to see when the culture has reached your desired level of fermentation).
- Strain the kefir culture through a metal strainer, and place the kefir grains into fresh coconut milk to start the next batch.
- Store the fermented coconut milk kefir in the fridge until you’re ready to drink it.
To make into yoghurt…
- Line a metal sieve with a thick layer of cheesecloth (or a nut-milk bag), and place the sieve over a medium-sized bowl to catch the whey.
- Pour the strained kefir culture into the sieve and place the entire bowl (sieve included) into the fridge. After 1 hour, check the liquid in the bottom of the bowl and make sure that it’s mostly clear (it will an opaque-white coloured liquid swirling around in it, but it should look a lot like the liquidy whey from the top of a yogurt container). If it isn’t clear, pour it back into the cheesecloth-lined sieve and add a few more layers of cheesecloth (or a second nut-milk bag) to strain out the whey.
- Check how thick your yogurt is after about 4 hours. It will take anywhere between 4-24 hours to strain enough whey to have thick, creamy yogurt consistency. Once it’s reached your desired consistency, scrape the yogurt into a bowl or container for storage and store the whey in a glass jar to enjoy as a probiotic-rich beverage. For 1 cup of coconut milk it yields around 1 cup of yoghurt.
Note: Milk kefir grains may take a few batches to adjust to the coconut milk and may not produce the desired consistency or taste until then.
As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. It’s important to check with a doctor before taking this or any new product, especially if taking any other medicine or supplement or if pregnant or nursing. Be sure to check ingredients to make sure there is no risk of an allergic reaction.
Have you ever made kefir before? What was your experience?
Lots of love,
Wells, Katie. (November 21, 2018). Coconut Milk Kefir Recipe. Wellness Mama. Retrieved from https://wellnessmama.com/54711/coconut-milk-kefir-recipe/
Gotter, Ana. (October 9, 2017). What Is Kefir?. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/kefir
Recipe: Coconut Kefir Milk – 3 Ways!. Cultures for Health. Retrieved from https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/milk-kefir/coconut-milk-kefir-recipe/
Slajerova, Martina. (Updated: July 18 2021). How To Make Coconut Milk Kefir. Keto Diet App. Retrieved from https://ketodietapp.com/Blog/lchf/how-to-make-coconut-milk-kefir
Tiffany. (November 8, 2017). Coconut Kefir Recipe. Coconut Mama. Retrieved from https://thecoconutmama.com/coconut-kefir/
Ballantyne, Dr. Sarah, PhD. (April 25, 2012). Coconut Milk Kefir “Yogurt”. The Paleo Mom. Retrieved from https://www.thepaleomom.com/recipe-coconut-milk-kefir-yogurt/