Packed with good-for-you fats and probiotics, yogurt is always a solid breakfast choice, but for those who can’t eat dairy, it can be one of the biggest challenges. Of course, in recent years, the nondairy yogurt scene has begun to make waves, and among the best-tasting are those with a coconut base. Coconut yogurt is typically made with both coconut milk and coconut cream, sometimes even pure coconut meat. While these ingredients make for incredibly creamy yogurt so rich it tastes more like dessert than breakfast, store-bought versions of the treat can be more like whipped topping than a meal.
There are, however, a few people that are hoping to make coconut yogurt a more nutritious breakfast option. I spoke with Cobi Levy, one of the partners at the new cafe Broken Coconut in New York City (as well as other spots with killer breakfast options like Black Seed Bagels and Babu Ji), about the restaurant’s housemade coconut yogurt.
“Greek yogurt and skyr are so popular now, but they’re so thick,” says Levy. “We wanted to do something a little more creative.” Levy and his team definitely succeeded—they’ve managed to create a coconut yogurt that mimics the texture of real dairy yogurt, often hard to create when working with such a fatty ingredient like coconut.
Though Levy couldn’t divulge all of the secrets behind Broken Coconut yogurt’s light and fluffy texture, he had a lot of recommendations for the best way to make the dish yourself, starting with, well, a starter. To thicken yogurt properly, you’ll need a group of live probiotic cultures known as a starter. Broken Coconut uses a bell+bella starter, but you could also use probiotic capsules from your drugstore. After procuring a starter, you’re ready to make coconut yogurt. Want to try? Here’s how.
Sterilize a few glass jars with airtight lids by filling them with boiling water or running them through the dishwasher. Heat your oven to 100ºF (a little over is OK, but no higher than 115ºF), then turn off the heat, leaving the oven light on and the door closed.
Shake 2 14-ounce cans of full-fat coconut milk and dump them into a medium saucepan. Sprinkle 1 scant tablespoon of agar agar flakes over the milk (you can also use tapioca starch to thicken the yogurt, but Levy recommends agar agar). Bring the milk to a boil over medium heat, then begin to whisk the mixture and reduce the heat to low. Continue to whisk for a few more minutes until the mixture is thick.
Take the pot off the heat and let the mixture cool to 100ºF, measuring with a candy thermometer. Whisk in 1 teaspoon of probiotic powder (if using capsules, open them and dump out the contents into a bowl, then discard the casing) and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar or maple syrup.
Pour the yogurt into the jars and tightly screw on the lids. Place the jars in the warm oven and let sit for 8-24 hours—the longer it sits, the more tart it will become.
Take the jars out of the oven and transfer to the fridge for 6 hours to chill. If at any point you notice pink or gray film on the surface of the yogurt, unfortunately that means there’s bad bacteria growing and the yogurt needs to be thrown out. As Levy says, “the hardest part for most people when making yogurt at home is creating a consistent environment to hold the yogurt in so that it grows, but doesn’t grow anything extra,” citing his team’s own experience with weirdly-colored things surfacing in the yogurt during their testing process. “You can find some nasty things growing when you’re adding cultures.”
After the yogurt has chilled, you’re ready to eat. Dress it up with any fixin’s you like, from fruit to nuts to granola and everything in between.
As much fun as it is to make coconut yogurt with materials you already have, like Mason jars, Levy suggests that beginners consider buying yogurt-making devices or other gadgets that keep temperature consistent and the container airtight. Of course, gear isn’t required, but it will allow you some peace of mind when starting out on your yogurt-making adventure.