Vegan Yogurt / Vegan Dahi
Hello my sweet eco-friends!
I've always really loved eating yogurt (dahi / perugu) with everything, ever since I was a little kid. However, once I went vegan, it was really hard for me to find a similar tasting substitute, especially because all the ones that you can buy are pretty sweet or really expensive. The quantity I usually had at home could not be matched. So I set out to make this recipe, and it took me around 4-5 trials before I perfected it.
I tried making cashew yogurt, soy yogurt in the Instant Pot, coconut milk yogurt, and just about everything under the sun. It always ended up tasting just like coconut or soy and I did not like that. I wanted something more neutral, and in order to achieve that, I employed the technique of blending various milks.
- Rice milk is actually very mealy and grainy, and I can taste the blandness of it. In Telugu (my mother tongue), we call that taste "chappa."
- Peanuts are super peanut-buttery once made into a milk, and that doesn't taste great as a sour yogurt.
- Cashews are very nutty and super rich, but they do contain a lot of fat. I didn't want my yogurt to be so calorie-dense.
For the longest time, I tried to avoid using any thickeners, because I wanted to use only natural ingredients that were readily available. Unfortunately, we cannot do all of that and still create a budget-friendly vegan yogurt with a large quantity. Cashews cost a pretty penny, although they make a thick yogurt.
Say hello to agar agar powder, the vegan form of gelatin, which is actually all natural and highly adaptable as a gelling substance. It's made from seaweed and can be used for multiple purposes, such as making jellos, puddings, cheeses, yogurts, etc. The best part is that once you buy the powder, it will keep for a long time and you really only need to use 1/4 of a teaspoon for this recipe that makes nearly 8 cups of yogurt!
Needless to say, that makes this yogurt super affordable, because you don't need a ton of any of the above ingredients. Also, as in any kind of yogurt, you only need to use a probiotic capsule or some sort of starter once. Every subsequent time you make this yogurt, you can just use around 2 tablespoons of the previously made yogurt (old yogurt) to culture it.
In order to culture this yogurt, there are 3 different techniques you can use:
Probiotic Capsule: you only really need to use one of these, considering there are 50 billion probiotics in every capsule. The one I use opens up into a powder, making it ideal to sprinkle over the milk and mix through. Previous Culture: just 2-3 tablespoons of the previously made yogurt or store-bought vegan yogurt can give that culture a head-start. Just mix it into the milk. Green Chili Tops (Crowns): you may be surprised to learn this, but traditionally, these little stems were used to culture yogurt back in the day. If you have some green chilies, don't throw away those tops, just sprinkle them over the milk so that the milk can culture into yogurt.
That being said, your climate does have an effect on the duration of the culturing process. If you live in a warm climate which is nice and humid, the probiotics will multiply pretty quickly and you can have your yogurt in around 8-10 hours (depending on your liking towards tartness). If you live in a generally cold climate, you will need a little extra time for the yogurt to set up and become really tangy. I live in a colder climate, so I tend to check it after around 12 hours. If I like the taste of it, then I keep it in my fridge to get nice and cold before consuming it. If not, then I like to keep it outside a little bit longer until it reaches the desired sourness.
Here are the ingredients that you'll need for this recipe:
1/2 cup basmati rice
1/4 cup raw, shelled peanuts
1/4 cup raw cashews
1/4 teaspoon agar agar powder (not the flakes!)*
Culturing ingredient: (Choose 1 from below) - Previous culture - Probiotic capsule - Green chili tops (10-12 of them)
1. Boil the rice, peanuts, and cashews together with 1 and 1/2 cups of water. Once it boils, turn the heat to low and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Strain and rinse the rice and nuts under some cold water with a fine mesh sieve.
3. Transfer the rice and nuts into a blender and blend with 2 cups of filtered water. Then add another cup of water and blend more. Don't wash your blender out yet.
4. Squeeze the blend through a nut milk bag or cheese cloth.
5. Fill your blender up with 1-2 more cups of water and blend through to pick up the remaining bits. Repeat step 4 with the remaining milk.
6. Heat the milk up in a large pot along with the agar agar powder, stirring occasionally, until it reaches a boil. Then turn off the heat.
7. Let the milk cool down to around 115° F or 45° C and pour in your culturing ingredient. Stir and leave in an oven turned off, for 12-16 hours (if in a cool climate) or 8-10 hours (if in a warm climate).
8. Check the taste and if it's tangy enough for your liking, keep it in the fridge to get nice and cold before consuming. If it's not tangy enough yet, leave it for another 2-3 hours and check again. Enjoy with curries, rice or oatmeal.
Agar agar powder is very strong, unlike the flakes. If you only have the flakes, then you will have to use at least 3/4 teaspoon or more (basically 3 times the amount).
I have been making this for over a few months now and even my husband (who is just vegetarian and is very picky about his dahi/yogurt) will eat it! This tastes and feels almost like the real thing for me. I can have it with my upma, my curries, and Indian pickles. It tastes delicious and makes quite a large quantity! If you like it thicker, you can add another 1/8 of a teaspoon of agar agar powder. I prefer it to be not too thick and not too thin, so 1/4 of a teaspoon works best for me.
Let me know how it turns out for you!