I am a yogurt fiend. I spend a long time in the refrigerated section of the grocery store trying to pick out the perfect yogurt. My favorite flavor is coconut with extra pulp, but up until recently, I had no idea that when I said “coconut yogurt,” most people thought I was referring to coconut milk yogurt, which came on to the market in 2009 as CoYo. Honestly, If you had asked me what coconut milk yogurt was, I couldn’t have told you.
I've gone on the record in the past as being an almond and soy milk hater, so it’s not surprising that I previously refused to venture into the dairy-free options in the dairy section. Since our senior editor, Kat Kinsman, first started her medically necessary paleo diet, I had never considered that non-dairy yogurt could actually be tasty or even comparable to my regular yogurt which simultaneously helps and hurts my gut. Yes, I am finally admitting to the fact that, like many adult humans, my body really hates dairy. A lot. That doesn’t mean I’m going to kick my addiction, though. Plus, yogurt is loaded with probiotics. Enter coconut yogurt. But beyond the taste, why is everyone obsessed with coconut yogurt?
There’s no doubt that coconut yogurt got its start as a result of the vegan craze that started showing up in your Instagram feeds around the same time kale became the ultimate superfood. Then came the more recent coconut craze, and the rest is history. Although it’s true that coconut oil is not as healthy as everyone thought, coconut meat does have health benefits. Beyond being high in fiber and many good-for-you vitamins, it does have antiviral and antibacterial properties because of its high concentration of lauric acid, which our bodies convert into a compound called monolaurin. But because coconuts are high in saturated fat you should ingest it in moderation, as with most good things in life.
When buying coconut yogurt, make sure it has at least two ingredients: active live bacteria cultures and coconut milk. Beyond those two things, the only other ingredients you might find are coconut water, to sweeten it, and pectin or another natural thickening agent, for texture. That’s how you get coconut milk to turn into yogurt. During the dairy yogurt-making process, milk is heated and live cultures are added. Then the bacteria digest the lactose (the natural sugars present in dairy), creating the lactic acid that gives yogurt its tart flavor. Once the liquid becomes acidic, the pH drops and the proteins set into the thick, familiar consistency of yogurt.
In coconut milk, there aren’t any sugars for the bacteria to ferment, so in order to get that familiar texture, the mixture has to be thickened with an additive. Coconut yogurt is also relatively easy to make at home. You can even make your own coconut milk by soaking shredded coconut in water much like making homemade oat milk or soy milk, and then continuing the culturing and thickening, like when you make your own yogurt. Because of coconut milk’s fairly unpleasant flavor, it might take a few tries to make your yogurt palatable, which is why brands like Anita’s add sweetened coconut water into the mix.
My daily dessert-for-breakfast yogurt habit is one of the few joys in life, so instead of going cold turkey, I have sort of hopped on the health nut bandwagon. And by that I mean I started eating CoYo, so it might be more accurate to say I’m hanging on to the bandwagon by my pinky finger and letting it drag me along.