Using Vegan Yogurt
By Chef Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD
There are so many varieties of vegan yogurt available on the market today! There is traditional soy yogurt, of course, but there are almond, rice, coconut milk, and arrowroot yogurts as well. Yogurt cultures are added to these liquids and processed just like traditional dairy yogurt. Be wary, though! Scan the yogurt labels, as some seemingly vegan varieties may include non-vegan white sugar or honey.
Soy yogurt is probably the easiest vegan yogurt to find, and it is closest to dairy yogurt in terms of tangy taste and texture. Plain (unflavored) soy yogurt can be stirred (slowly) into soups to make them creamy or into cooked beans to create a beans-and-sauce combo. This would work with from-scratch beans or with canned beans. If you are making a fast can of soup, use plain soy yogurt for some or all of the required water.
If you’d like a thicker yogurt, sometimes called ‘Greek yogurt’ or ‘yogurt cheese,’ line a colander or sieve with cheesecloth or coffee filters, pour in the soy yogurt, and allow it to drain for several hours. You can set this up so that it drains overnight in the refrigerator. What remains will be thick, creamy, and concentrated in tanginess.
You can use your soy Greek yogurt as a base for a thick salad dressing or dip. A fast way to accomplish this is to combine your Greek yogurt with salsa, pickle relish, chutney, hot sauce, or even hummus. If you have leftover cooked potatoes, chop them and add them to some chopped scallions or yellow onions and some parsley. Then, toss with your plain soy Greek yogurt or soy Greek yogurt dressing. Now, you have a fast potato salad ... or the makings of a cold burrito or wrap.
Here are some ideas for savory yogurt dip combinations. Mix these ingredients together and then add them to soy yogurt or soy Greek yogurt:
- Chopped fresh dill, mint, garlic powder, lemon juice, scallions, and peeled, chopped cucumbers
- Chopped walnuts, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, nutritional yeast, and black pepper
- Sunflower seeds, onion powder, and garlic powder
If you have the time, you might like to read up on making your own soy yogurt. It really does not take that much time! Here are two helpful sites:
OTHER VEGAN YOGURTS
As the name implies, almond yogurt is made from almonds. Rice yogurt is made from rice milk and coconut milk yogurt from coconut milk, usually lower-fat coconut milk. These varieties are often a bit thinner and less tangy than soy yogurt, so they work well for sweeter items, such as hot cereals and smoothies. Instead of prepping hot cereal with water or vegan milk, try rice yogurt! If you purchase fruit-flavored rice or coconut milk yogurt, you can prepare a peachy oatmeal or a strawberry-mixed grain hot cereal.
If you have some very ripe fresh or canned fruit, you can blend it with rice or coconut milk yogurt and use it as a dipping sauce for fresh or dried fruit, pretzels, or breadsticks. This can also serve as a good base for smoothies. For a basic yogurt smoothie, you can combine rice or coconut milk yogurt with semi-thawed orange juice concentrate, frozen strawberries, and a ripe banana. You can freeze this base and combine, frozen, with the vegan milk of your choice and fresh or canned fruit. Any leftover smoothie can be frozen for a refreshing yogurt treat!
Arrowroot yogurt or vegan yogurts made from fruit purées are usually enjoyed on their own. Their texture and taste does not blend well for sweet smoothies or savory dishes, but they can be used as a topping for hot or cold cereals, fruit salads, or frozen desserts.