Today on the blog, we’re sharing a recipe for coconut kefir from The Art of Plant-based Cheesemaking by Karen McAthy. This recipe is one of Karen’s favorite things to make just for its own sake. With a bright, tangy flavor with light effervescence, you can add coconut kefir to smoothies, salad dressings, vegan cheesecake or even use it for leavening biscuits!
Coconut Milk Kefir Recipe
Tools & Equipment
- Thick cast sauce pot, medium
- 1 L jar, washed, sanitized
- Impermeable lid (for the jar)
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Probe thermometer
- Fine mesh strainer (optional)
- 500 mL high fat coconut milk
- 1 Tbsp water kefir (from the water kefir you have made, with or without some of the grain)
- Optional: 1 tsp sugar (or any of the options that you would use to feed water kefir)
- Wash and sanitize all surfaces and tools you will be working with.
- Heat 500 mL of the coconut milk to 185°F (85°C). Do not boil the coconut milk.
- Remove from heat, and using active cooling processes (e.g., place on an ice bath, or stir), cool the coconut milk to 105°F (40°C). Active cooling is important because it either cools the coconut milk down quickly (ice) or allows the hot coconut milk beneath the surface to come to the top and the excess heat to evaporate (stirring). Allowing the coconut milk to cool by just standing on the counter means that the surface cools while the middle stays hot, and this puts the surface milk at risk of becoming host to unwelcome microbes.
- OPTIONAL. At just over 120°F (about 50°C), add 1 tsp of sugar (use the same kind of sugar you fed the water kefir with). Stir until the sugar is dissolved. This is not necessary, but it can help the water kefir microbes replicate quickly when you add them. The coconut milk is a richer medium than the sugar/water mixture the microbes feed on, so the added sugar helps them take to the new medium.
- At 105°F (40°C) place the coconut milk in the 1 L jar and add the water kefir (with or without the grain). Cover the jar with the lid, and place the mixture in an area of your kitchen that is even in ambient temperature (no large temperature changes). The kefir microbes are mesophilic, meaning they do their metabolizing work at room temperatures, so you want to avoid keeping them near too much heat. However, in cooler months or if you do not do a lot of culturing in your environment, you can place the jar in the oven with the oven light on (not the heat) and use this as an incubator for the fermentation period.
- Allow the mixture to ferment for 24 to 48 hours. Check the mixture every 12 hours, or at least once a day. Visually, you are looking for signs of change, and that will include some small bubbles. Taste and smell the mixture. It should start to smell a little tangy, or bright, and the flavor should be mildly to moderately acidic.
- The longer you culture, the more you will notice changes to the surface of the coconut milk kefir and the thicker it will get. Depending on the inherent water content of the coconut milk you use, you will notice varying degrees of separation as the thicker fat component rises and the water settles. This is normal, and in fact indicates that the microbes are doing their job.
- If you want a thicker texture, allow the mixture to culture the full 48 hours. If you want the coconut milk kefir only for use as a starter culture, stop the culturing anywhere between 24 and 36 hours and refrigerate.
- Transfer the coconut milk kefir to a new, clean, sanitized container for storage. Less headspace is needed than in the culturing jar. It must be kept in the refrigerator after the culturing process is finished. You will notice it thicken up after cooling.
- If the surface of the coconut milk kefir is starting to buckle but there is no unwanted growth, it is usually a sign that it has been heavily cultured and that the microbes have produced enough acid to break down any proteins. Check the surface for any color changes. If there is a light pinkish, beige, tan, or orangish color evenly spread on the surface, this is wild yeast. Simply scrape off and discard. If you find bright pink spots (not an even spread) or other colored spots, they are molds and you should discard out of an abundance of caution and start again.
Coconut milk kefir can keep properly stored in the refrigerator for up to 30 days (with no cross-contamination from double-dipping etc.).