The last few days, I’ve been on a soy yogurt making frenzy! Hubby is allergic to dairy and I’ve been thinking of ways to add non-dairy alternatives (milk, yogurt, ice cream) to his diet. He had some commercial soy yogurt when we were back in the US several weeks ago and mentioned how the yogurt helped with his digestion and skin! Soy yogurt is hard to find in China, not to mention, extremely expensive if you do find them! So I’ve been researching how to make soy yogurt for some time now.
The first step is to find all the ingredients. The next step is to acquire all the equipments/tools. The third step is to experiment, experiment, and experiment! Soy yogurt is a little more difficult to make than regular cow’s milk yogurt. I don’t know why, but from what I’ve read, soy yogurt tends to be more runny and takes longer to incubate. In any case, I’ve made several batches of soy yogurt (using slightly varying methods) just to see the difference in the results.
Below is the basic recipe for making yogurt using all types of milk. Then I’ll include where I acquired a few items and a few tips from my own experiments, what worked and didn’t.
The Basics of Making Yogurt
- milk (cow, soy, rice, oat, coconut, etc…)
- sweetener (sugar, honey, agave, stevia, maple syrup, etc…)
- yogurt starter*
(*Some yogurt starter has milk powder so if you’re not sensitive to dairy, you can use any yogurt starter. You can also use unsweetened yogurt as a starter. You need about 10g starter or 50ml yogurt per 1000ml milk.)
- yogurt maker
- measuring cup
- Yogurt starter should be at room temperature. If not, place the packet or container in warm water for 30 minutes.
- Sterilize all equipments that touch/handle the milk by pouring boiling water over them for a few seconds.
- Heat the milk to about 90C, then cool down to 43C. Alternatively, you can heat half the milk to 90C and mix it with the other half of cold milk to save time.
- Add yogurt starter and sweetener to the milk and place mixture in the yogurt maker.
- Incubate for 6-12 hours.
Where to Buy Yogurt Ingredients / Equipments in China
This particular yogurt maker model has a small container and makes only about 750ml (3 cups) of yogurt at a time. There are models with bigger containers but I opted for this model because 1) I didn’t want to waste too much precious homemade soy milk in case my experiments failed and 2) it comes with an ice cream maker attachment.
This brand/packet of yogurt starter contains 5 strains of bacteria — Bifidobacterium bifidum, Bifidobacterium adolescentis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus (两歧双歧杆菌、青春双歧杆菌、嗜酸乳杆菌、嗜热链球菌、保加利亚乳杆菌)
My Experiments / Tips & Tricks
- My very first attempt at making soy yogurt, the result was runny because I didn’t add any sweetener. The starter needs something sweet to feed on. Later batches, I used agave as a sweetener and the result was fine.
- For even firmer yogurt, you can use agar agar powder or gelatin. Mix a tiny amount (you can experiment how much) of gelatin with cold milk first, let sit for a minute, then pour hot milk over it. Stir until dissolved.
- I used homemade soy milk made using the Vitamix. One batch failed completely and I suspect it was the way I made the soy milk. I usually make the soy milk by blending boiling water with soaked soy beans for 3 minutes, then strain the milk with a cheesecloth and cook the milk for another 20 minutes. However, I tried making the milk by cooking the soy bean in water first for 20 minutes, then blend and strain the milk. Not only was this method of making the soy milk more difficult to strain, the result was mostly liquid with specks of yogurt. FAIL.
- I tried using coconut milk/juice (the popular Chinese drink from Hainan) to make coconut yogurt. The result was also mostly liquid with specks of yogurt. FAIL.
- In all my attempts, I incubated the yogurt for 12 hours. Soy yogurt takes much longer to incubate than regular cow’s milk.
For my next experiment, I will use commercial soy milk. I read that many people tried making soy yogurt and the result was runny. I suspect that it might have something to do with the soy milk and how it is made/processed because all my attempts with homemade soy milk (minus the one time I cooked the beans first then blend) were successful and the yogurt was quite firm, even without the gelatin.