The Tipping Point For Non-Dairy Yogurts
Yo•gurt /ˈyōɡərt/ - a semisolid sourish food prepared from fermented nut or plant-based milks by adding bacteria, often sweetened and flavoured.
Often, when I tell my friends about my veganism, and specifically about my choice not to consume dairy, they reply with, “yeah I don’t drink milk either.”
Then I ask, “what about yogurt, cheese, butter, and ice cream?”
After a moment of silence and while the wheels are going inside their head as if they just realized that butter, yogurt, cheese, and yes even ice cream is in fact milk, they respond, “I eat those things, but not very much.”
Yogurt is produced using a culture of Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus bacteria. Additionally, other lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are also occasionally added during or after the culturing process. These are often referred to as probiotics. Some countries require yogurt to contain a certain amount of colony-forming units (CFU) of bacteria in order to be called yogurt.
Dairy yogurt was an almost daily part of my diet prior to switching to a plant-based diet. When I first became vegan the options for non-dairy yogurts were few and far between. My first option I discovered was Daiya. It’s a very good substitute, with more protein than dairy yogurt, but it also has more additives than many of the smaller brands I cover below. That was three years ago and a lot has changed in the world of non-dairy producers. Brands like Myokos, Ripple, Forager, Kite Hill, and others were barely on the scene at that point, now they are literally eating the dairy producer’s lunch.
The origins of yogurt are unknown, but it is thought to have been invented in Mesopotamia around 5000 BC. In ancient Indian records, the combination of yogurt and honey is called, "the food of the gods". Issac Carasso industrialized the production of yogurt and in 1919, Carasso started a small yogurt business in Barcelona and named the business Danone ("little Daniel") after his son. The brand later expanded to the United States under an Americanized version of the name: Dannon.
After a recent trip to California I acquired every non-dairy yogurt I could get my hands on, some even smuggled over the border. I had just attended Expo West, the largest natural food show in the world. On my way to the airport I had my Lyft driver stop at Erewhon’s market. After returning home I found a number of local brands and then prepared to sit down and try 10+ non-dairy yogurts.
Photo Credit - NC4 Agency Many plant based yogurts use cashews as their base
I evaluated taste, texture, nutrition and how they made me feel after.
I originally chose not to consume any dairy first and foremost because of the harm and cruelty that is the result of the dairy industry. In her Dairy Is Scary video, Erin Janus explains just how fucked up the dairy industry and the consumption of dairy actually is. Like other mammals, cows only lactate when they are pregnant or have a newborn, so the farmers artificially inseminate female cows over and over again in order to get the raw material for all dairy products.
When the calf is born it is taken away immediately from the mother because if they left it with the mother the baby would drink the milk and that would mean no butter, cheese, ice cream, or yogurt for the consumer. The mother cow often cries out for days and days for her baby. Female dairy cows are kept pregnant their entire life, which ends up being 25% of what they would live to if they were not turned into milk making machines.
If you are vegetarian you may want to consider that 95% of dairy cows are killed for meat once they can no longer provide milk. This is at about five years of age, ¼ of their natural lifespan.
Here are the eight brands I taste tested and my review of each.
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Brand - Forager
Flavour - Vanilla Bean
I’ve been in love with the brand ever since I discovered it a few years ago in San Francisco. Forager’s Cashewgurt is runnier than most of the other brands I tried, which isn’t a bad thing, just a warning if you are looking for a natural yogurt consistency. They do have a new greek style cashewgurt coming out in the next few months, which I will be thicker.
I love the bits of coconut and cassava in this one, it adds just the right texture. Cane sugar is the second ingredient giving this product 12 g of sugar. You also get 5 g of fat and 2 g of protein from the cashews. It’s 100% organic, rich in probiotics, and is only around 140 calories. I’d call this one more of a treat than something I’d use as a snack to get me from one meal to the next.
Forager’s cashewgurt uses a specific blend of six different probiotics: S. THERMPOHILUS, L. BULGARICUS, L. ACIDOPHILUS, BIFIDUS, L. LACTIS, L. PLANTARUM with 100 million of total live and active cultures per gram at the time of manufacture.
Brand - Yooga
Flavour - Turmeric Golden Milk
I liked this one for the low sugar (about half the amount of other leading brands) and I’m a big fan of the turmeric trend so the golden ‘milk’ flavour was a nice addition. The thing I wasn’t sure about was the ground chia. I love the idea of chia as it’s a great source of protein, but based on the fact this yogurt only has 2 grams of protein, the chia that is included doesn’t seem to have much of an impact on the protein levels. I was not a fan of the texture the ground chia added, this was not the regular chia pudding texture you get from putting whole chia seeds in liquid overnight, it was more grainy. It was not horrible and I’m sure many would not mind it. I did like the flavour and a big dose of the healthy fat thanks to its coconut base.
Brand - Daiya
Flavour - Cherry
This was the first vegan yogurt that I came upon, and yes, there are smaller batch, healthier dairy-free yogurts out there. But I really like Daiya’s greek yogurt consistency and frankly, I find it one of the most nutritionally functional yogurts out there. Why? Eight grams of pea protein.
I noticed I stayed fuller longer, often getting me to my next meal. It also travels well for me outside of the fridge for many hours. The downside is the sugar with 15 g, but that is on par with most fruit flavoured yogurts. If you choose Daiya’s plain yogurt you’ll only be getting 3g of sugar.
I do worry when I start seeing ingredients like titanium dioxide, which is a naturally occurring mineral often used as a colouring agent, whitener, and thickening agent. It’s high refractive index makes it a popular ingredient in whitening formulas. I still choose this as a great product to fill me up for a prolonged period of time.
Daiya reports only two live probiotics in their dairy-free yogurt. Plantarum and L. casei
Brand - Laava
Flavour - Blueberry
Another innovator when it comes to ingredients, Laava is the first-ever yogurt made with Pili nuts and it is lusciously creamy. I really like this one. There are no added sugars which means it has about half the sugars of other flavoured yogurts covered in this article. There are 50 billion live PRObiotics per serving. Additionally Laava adds PREbiotics, essentially, healthy food for the probiotics to munch on while they hang out in your gut.
Laava uses the following bacteria in their non-dairy yogurt: L. Plantarum, S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidobacterium Ssp., (B. Bifidum), L. Rhamnosus, L. Delbrueckii. These probiotic cultures are introduced after pasteurization, so they remain intact and alive.
Brand - Good Karma
Flavour - Raspberry
I love the innovation that is happening across the plant based milks, yogurts and cheeses. Good Karma has chosen flax as their base, which is a fantastic source of protein (6 g per serving) and omega 3s (800 mg per serving), which is important because our body does not make omega 3s. But unlike many of the other brands featured and simply because they use flax, the fats are low, which can be a good thing if you are focused on that. I love the consistency and taste of this product.
Kood Karma uses the following bacteria in their non-dairy yogurt: treptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp bulgaricus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp lactis, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium lactis HN019. They make no claims of the quantities of live culture per gram.
Brand - Kite Hill
Flavour - Pineapple
Kite Hill, like Forager and Daiya have been at this for a while. Whereas Forager uses cashews and Daiya uses coconut cream and pea protein, Kite Hill relies on almonds and tapioca starch. If you stay away from their fruit flavours the sugars are reasonable, but when you get into flavours like Pineapple, which I tasted, the sugars are quite high at 17 g, but oh so delicious. I like this product for the consistency, probably closest to yogurt made from dairy and the fact that it delivers 5 g of protein, thanks to all the almonds.
Kite Hill uses the following bacteria in their non-dairy yogurt: S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, and Bifidobacteria and make no claims on the quantity per serving.
Brand - Yoso
Flavour - Plain
Yoso has quickly grown from a small mom and pop operation to a large national brand without losing the quality. They are very particular about the sourcing of organic coconut flesh, which, as we know is a wholesome source of healthy fat with high nutritional density, also a great source of calcium, iron, and dietary fibre. I like to use Yoso’s Cultured Coconut for making chia pudding and on top of oatmeal. With only 1 g of sugar and nearly 20% of the recommended daily calcium this is a healthy go to non-dairy yogurt.
Brand - Deebs Small Batch Coconut Yogurt (so hip they don’t even have a website)
Flavour - Plain
This is dessert for me, so I just eat a few spoonfuls at a time. It has a rich coconut creamy dreamy taste. It’s perfect on top of oatmeal or granola It’s got more tanginess from the fermentation process and not going through any pasteurization. It’s not cheap at $10.99, but it’s also not produced in a factory and has zero added preservatives, so you gotta pay for that, right?
Deebs uses the following bacteria in their non-dairy yogurt: lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacterium bifidum, bifidobacterium lactis streptococcus thermophilus.
There are so many non-dairy options on the market that the, “I can’t find a good alternative” excuse is no longer valid.
If there is one you really like and want it added to the list please leave a comment below.