One day, while I was busy straining whey from a batch of homemade dairy-free yogurt and waiting for what seemed like way too long, I said to myself, “There must be a better way.”
I knew that yogurt had been made this way for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years, but that was when yogurt was made from only cow’s, goat’s, or camel’s milk. While substituting cashews in place of milk, I set to work to find a better, no-muss, no-fuss method for making easy vegan cashew yogurt.
Realizing that the culturing time can only be sped up so much — after all, those little beneficial bacteria need time to work their magic — I also figured out that the best way to improve yogurt making was to remove the straining-curds-from-whey process, which is not only time-consuming and somewhat labor-intensive but also very messy.
After a few tries I discovered that it is possible to make delicious, cultured yogurt without all the muss or fuss of straining curds from whey. While it still takes several hours for the probiotics to proliferate, giving yogurt its signature tangy taste, in a mere few minutes of actual prep time you can make your own yogurt. And, of course, you can set the probiotics to work while you sleep, thereby greatly reducing the seeming wait time for your fresh yogurt.
Not only is this yogurt delicious, but it also tends to result in a larger diversity of probiotic strains than commercial yogurt — and you’ll know from the taste whether it actually contains live cultures, which is hard to know when eating commercial varieties. Additionally, this recipe contains the fiber that is naturally found in the cashews (most unflavored yogurt contains none) and is naturally thick like Greek yogurt.
And it thickens up even more when left to culture overnight, making the perfect base for sauces, salad dressings, and marinades.
- 3 cups raw, unsalted cashews
- 2 cups filtered water
- 1 probiotic capsule or ¼ teaspoon probiotic powder
- Pomegranate seeds or pitted frozen or fresh cherries for garnish (optional)
- In a medium glass or ceramic bowl with a lid, combine the cashews with the water, and pour in the contents of the probiotic capsule (discarding the empty capsule shell) or the probiotic powder. Stir the ingredients together until combined.
- Attach the lid, and let sit at room temperature for eight to twenty-four hours, depending on how tangy you like your yogurt.
- Puree the ingredients in a blender until smooth, then return the yogurt to the bowl. Garnish with pomegranate seeds or cherries if desired, and enjoy immediately, or refrigerate for up to four days.
Seven Myths about Yogurt
Myths about yogurt and probiotics abound. While conducting my research for this book, I was surprised to learn what many people are saying about yogurt. To help dispel misinformation, here are the seven most common myths about yogurt you need to be aware of. Keep in mind that it’s not my intention to bash yogurt — after all, eating yogurt provides many health benefits. Rather, it is my goal to present it in an accurate light.
Myth 1: All yogurt is healthy. Not all yogurt is healthy. In fact, some is downright disgusting and contains more sugar than you’ll find in doughnuts. And some yogurt is full of additives, colors, and gums (like xanthan gum or carrageenan) to thicken it and are best avoided altogether.
Myth 2: All yogurt contains beneficial probiotics. Many yogurts are heated during the manufacturing or shipping process and no longer contain the live cultures they boast on the label. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to find out whether the yogurt you buy contains live cultures other than to take a heaping tablespoon of it, add it to warmed milk or milk substitute, and leave it to rest for eight to ten hours. If you have a new batch of yogurt from your experiment, then you know the original yogurt you purchased contains live cultures. Otherwise it probably doesn’t.
Myth 3: Yogurt is the best source of probiotics. Not even close. Don’t get me wrong: unsweetened yogurt with live cultures is a great addition to any diet, but it isn’t the best source of probiotics, not by a long shot. There’s sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented pickles, curtido, kefir, and miso, to name a few — all of which tend to be higher in probiotics and contain many more varied strains of those good microbes than yogurt.
Myth 4: Yogurt contains a vast array of probiotic strains. Yogurt usually contains two or three different strains of probiotics, depending on the cultures used to inoculate the particular yogurt you’re buying. Those strains are usually Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, and occasionally Streptococcus salivarius or Bifidobacteria. (Don’t worry: there’s no connection between S. salivarius and the strep bacteria that make you sick.)
Myth 5: Even people who are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products can eat yogurt. Because the cultures turn the milk sugar lactose into lactic acid, some people who are lactose intolerant can eat yogurt without digestive distress.
Depending on the amount of lactose present in the end product (which is usually determined by the fermentation time and the activity of the particular cultures used), a person with a lactose intolerance may not be able to eat dairy-based yogurt.
Additionally, anyone with a full-blown allergy to dairy products will still have an immune response to dairy yogurt and will need to avoid it altogether. Having said that, there are many excellent nondairy alternatives that still confer the health benefits of eating yogurt.
Myth 6: “I eat yogurt, so I get all the probiotics I need.” I regularly hear this from people who consider themselves knowledgeable about health and wellness. They (incorrectly) believe that yogurt is a cure-all for what ails them and can correct any imbalances in their intestines. Because most yogurts contain only two or three strains of probiotics (out of the thousand or so currently known probiotics possible in our food), you’re only going to reap the health benefits of taking those particular strains. However, the few strains found in yogurt offer many benefits, including easing traveler’s diarrhea, boosting nutrient absorption, and treating H. pylori infections or food poisoning.
Myth 7: Dairy-based yogurts are nutritionally superior to nondairy-based yogurts. Although the amount of research assessing nondairy yogurts is still relatively small in comparison to dairy yogurt, there are some good studies showing the health benefits of the dairy-free versions. Dairy-free yogurt has been linked to reducing cholesterol levels and heart-disease markers as well as increasing anticancer activity.11
Even when yogurt is portrayed accurately, without embellishing its healing properties, this delicious food still warrants superfood status.
The Cultured Cook by Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook
is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold
Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM, is an internationally bestselling author whose works include The Cultured Cook and Be Your Own Herbalist. She is a certified herbalist, a board-certified doctor of natural medicine, and one of the world’s most popular natural health bloggers. She holds advanced degrees in health, nutrition, orthomolecular nutrition, and acupuncture. She lives near Vancouver, BC. Visit her online at Michelle Schoffro Cook.
Excerpted from the book The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your Life. Copyright © 2017 by Michelle Schoffro Cook. Reprinted with permission from New World Library.
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