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Homemade Dairy Free Yogurt

Get good taste and better health with do-it-yourself yogurt.

[Updated October 27, 2016]

My husband, a man who dearly loves dairy, recently developed a milk intolerance. His sensitive stomach reacts to lactose, forcing him to cut back on his favorite foods—milk, cream, cheese, and most difficult for him, yogurt at breakfast. He didn’t give them up without a fight.

Attempting to satisfy his dairy craving one day, he guzzled down some lactose-free milk and happily discovered he could drink it without the usual ill effects.

Good news for him, which got me to wondering: Could I make a tasty yogurt from lactose-free milk? What about coconut milk, goat’s milk or soy milk? With my husband’s encouragement, I decided to give it a try. The results were delicious. The fresh yogurt I produced was on par with flavorful Greek and Turkish varieties. My better half was delighted.

There are three components in cow’s milk that can cause problems: casein protein, whey protein and lactose sugar.

Casein and whey can produce IgE antibodies in sensitive people, triggering a true allergic response.
Lactose is typically the culprit behind milk intolerance, a condition due to lack of a digestive enzyme (lactase) that’s less plentiful in many of us as we age.

If you’re dairy allergic or lactose intolerant, you can still create yogurt that rivals the best commercial brands. All that’s needed besides alternative milk is “starter” (active yogurt cultures), a thermometer and a little time. It’s well worth the effort. Not only is homemade yogurt inexpensive, it provides all the probiotic benefits (and more!) of store-bought varieties, improving digestion and boosting the immune system.

My husband and I now make a fresh batch or two of yogurt every weekend, enough to enjoy for breakfast all week long. Here’s the basic recipe, adapted for either coconut milk (for dairy-allergic yogurt lovers) or lactose-free milk (for those who are lactose intolerant). This recipe also works well with goat’s milk and soy milk.

Fresh Yogurt


Homemade yogurt will be thinner than commercial brands due to absence of gums, thickeners and stabilizers. The longer it ferments at room temperature (up to 12 hours), the thicker it gets. To thicken even more, add gelatin, pectin or agar, as instructed. You will need a yogurt maker for this recipe.

4  cups unsweetened coconut milk or lactose-free milk
1  tablespoon sugar or honey, more to taste
1/8  teaspoon yogurt culture starter or 1 packet yogurt culture mix
2  teaspoons gelatin, pectin or agar powder combined with 4 teaspoons water, optional for thickening

1. Heat milk in a saucepan (or microwave up to 1 minute) until temperature is at least 180 degrees. Do not boil.

2.  Cool milk to between 105 and 115 degrees. (To save time, place milk in the refrigerator for an hour.) Cooling is important as high temperatures kill yogurt culture. If milk forms a skin on top, remove it.  

3. Stir in sweetener until dissolved. Add culture and stir well.  

4. Pour yogurt into yogurt maker container. Cover, turn on machine, and let sit at least 8 or up to 12 hours, or leave it overnight. You can tell yogurt is ready when a thin layer of “water” about ¼ inch, appears on the top. Yogurt will continue to thicken as it cools.

5. For thicker yogurt, soften gelatin, pectin or agar powder in water. (This step is recommended if using coconut milk.)  When it thickens (about 30 seconds), microwave gelatin mixture for 10 seconds or until it becomes liquid. Stir into yogurt and refrigerate until chilled. If even thicker yogurt is desired, add more gelatin.
6. Transfer yogurt to a container, cover tightly and refrigerate.

Each cup contains 146 calories, 5g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 20mg cholesterol, 126mg sodium, 16g carbohydrate, 0g fiber, 9g protein.

TIP: For lactose-free milk, try Lactaid or Organic Valley.

TIP: No starter? Use 2 to 3 tablespoons from your last yogurt batch or from a store-bought brand that contains active yogurt cultures.