How to Make Dairy-Free Kefir Milk
Kefir is a nice fermented drink that has a lot of microbes, bacteria and yeasts, along with various vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes.
You can even make non-dairy kefir such as coconut kefir (keep reading to find out).
It is interesting to know that there are several researches that have found many compounds in kefir, such as kefiran, which are beneficial to your health, has properties that helps to support your immune system and has the ability to decrease allergic reactions in the body. When the wonders of fermentation are combined with nutrient-dense foods such as dairy products, nuts and seed milks, a wonderful reaction occurs as the good bacteria in the kefir grains or the cultured kefir powder begin to ferment the milk.
When the natural balance of good and bad bacteria in your intestines are disturbed, your digestive health becomes at risk and can be susceptible to pathogens(bad bacteria) that are trying to overrun your body’s immune and digestive systems.
Why Drink Kefir: Health Benefits of Kefir
Milk kefir and soymilk kefir are considered to be the two most promising food components in terms of preventing food allergy and promoting the enhancement of mucosal resistance to gastrointestinal pathogen infection. Kefir consumption is growing around the world, like in the regions of Western Europe, mainly because of its probiotic and nutraceutical properties.
Probiotics can help to cleanse your digestive tract and repopulate it with good bacteria, this ensure that your foods are well digested and also help to flush out the bad bacteria. They improve our general health by first improving our digestive health and boosting our immune system and thereby promoting a well balanced ecosystem in our bodies. You can read more about benefits of probiotics here.
Consuming kefir drinks (fermented/Probiotic drinks) helps to reduce inflammation and as we know inflammation is one of the key factors that causes insulin resistance or as type 2 diabetes as it is more commonly known. Kefir drinks also help to balance your gut bacteria which can have a lot of health benefits as mentioned in our article on Probiotics.
Fermented soymilk is the most recently developed of all traditional foods and the only one to have originated in the west. Fermented soymilk has numerous advantages over non-fermented soymilk. It provides a wonderful new texture and may reduce flatulence, destroy undesirable pathogens, improve product flavour and also remove the beany flavour of soymilk. Over the years kefir has become well known especially for its health and medicine properties, it is used by many persons as a health drink to help fight against tuberculosis, ulcers, arthritis, bronchitis, diarrhea and cancer.
When consumed regularly kefir can lower cholesterol levels, regulate blood pressure, manage diabetes, regulate metabolism, help in the production of bile and discourage food cravings. Kefir is a very safe and healthful organic beverage and it is super rich with probiotics.
Dairy-free Kefir Alternatives
I’m assuming that you know how to make milk kefir or water kefir. If you want a non-dairy kefir (you are lactose intolerant say or you don’t want dairy in your diet), then you still can have the pro-biotic benefits of kefir without the dairy.
You might also want to check out our Ultimate Guide to Dairy Free Kefir — we cover all the different lactose-free kefir options available.
Here are the main non-dairy kefir options you can make.
Water Kefir is a completely dairy-free probiotic drink and is another excellent alternative for dairy-free kefir, it is made in a similar way to milk kefir. Water kefir is a delightful probiotic drink which can be flavored with any fruit juice you fancy and it is carbonated making it a great fermented alternative to pop/soda. Coconut milk and coconut water are also perfect alternatives to make dairy-free kefir drinks, these alternatives and others are high in probiotics and are excellent for your digestive system and your overall well being.
You can follow these links to find methods on how to create other dairy-free kefir such as water kefir, coconut water kefir and coconut milk kefir.
Coconut Water Kefir
Coconut water also contains only one fifth of the sugars found in other fresh fruit juices. Fermenting it reduces the sugar even more and makes all of these wonderful and beneficial nutrients available to your body. You will need to use Water Kefir grains, which is a different kind of kefir species than the milk kefir. You can also try converting milk kefir to water kefir, then using the converted milk kefir grains with coconut water. However, the kefir might not do as well as natural water kefir, so try this at your own risk.
Soy Milk Kefir
Another dairy-free option is soy milk, it makes a wonderful kefir drink that is alive with powerful and essential nutrients. A recent research was conducted to see the effects of probiotics on soymilk that was boosted with extra calcium. It was found that fermenting calcium-boosted soymilk with probiotics could improve the absorption of the minerals in the body up to 90%. This helps to boost the rate of absorption of calcium. Seeing that soy milk is not enriched with calcium like cow’s milk, they came up with the idea to boost soymilk with extra calcium for the fermentation process. Therefore, adding calcium to soymilk can be very beneficial in improving bone health, according to lead the Author in the Journal of Food Science.
Almond Milk Kefir
Almond nuts are another great alternative for dairy-free kefir drinks, they have an abundance of vitamin E and other beneficial nutrients. According to the research which was published in The Journal of Nutrition by researchers Kelly JH and Sabate J. , almonds provide protection against insulin and blood sugar issues, it also helps you to lose weight and are heart healthy as it helps to protect the heart from cardiovascular diseases.
Other Nut Milks (Cashews, Walnuts, Peanuts, etc)
You can pretty much use any nuts to make kefir, not just almost. Cashews for example, make a great tasting milk. Substitute almonds for another type of nut to make a different nut-based milk. Note this will make a drastically different flavored end product.
Hint: I personally love pistachio milk kefir!
Part 1: The Kefir Supplies
You don’t need anything fancy to make your basic kefir. You can use basic household items in your kitchen. Here is a list of the essentials. Buy them on Amazon or raid your kitchen for them. The key ingredient here is the Milk Kefir Grains. You need to either a) Buy them on Online, b) Have a friend give you some of their kefir grains.
- 3 glass mason jars – You can locate these on amazon, the price varies depending on the cost and amount.
- A blender to do your blitzing
- 1 cup of nuts/seeds or even coconut pulp soaked for 12-24 hours
- Dates, prunes, raisins or any fruits your desire
- 1-2 tsp of kefir grains or 1 packet of powdered culture starter (I recommend kefir grains bought online or given by a friend, NOT powdered starter)
We recommend you make kefir from the ‘mother’ kefir grains, not the powdered culture starter packs which allow you to make a ONE TIME batch of kefir per pack. It’s far more cost effective to get your hands on actual kefir grains. This makes BETTER kefir than using kefir culture starter packs.
Part 2: Activating Kefir Grains
Once you have your kefir grains (and assuming you’ve not used them already), you need to activate them first. This basically comes down to ‘feeding them’ a few times with milk before you start using them to brew non-diary.
Keep in mind that Kefir grains LIVE from the milk fat found in milk. Giving milk kefir grains NON dairy does not properly feed them. If you don’t ‘refresh’ your grains with proper milk, your grains will die.
Activating BOUGHT Kefir Grains
- Your kefir grains, if you’ve bought them online, should come in a pack already portioned out. Empty your kefir grains in the jar then pour in 1 cup of fresh dairy milk and let it steep for 24 hours at room temperature. If it’s a first time use, you may want to use the grains for a week with milk before giving them a non-dairy milk to keep your grains healthy
- Then strain and rinse the grains out lightly with distilled, spring or filtered water after the 24 hours and place the activated kefir grains in a glass jar or bowl.
- You are now ready to begin making your dairy-free kefir.
IMPORTANT: You need to remember that your kefir grains must be reactivated once every week with 1 cup of fresh dairy milk; kefir grains do not grow in plant-based milk like soy or coconut. If they are not refreshed once a week in fresh dairy milk they would eventually die.
It is the lactose in the milk that the kefir grains feed on, so you need to pamper them once a week with real milk because without this weekly inoculation they would die. I believe the best culture to make your dairy-free kefir with would be the powdered starter culture because there is no weekly inoculation of dairy when using the powdered starter culture .
We advise that you refer to our main guide on How To Make Milk Kefir for more detailed information on how to store and treat your kefir grains during this activation process. This information will help you to maintain your kefir grains so that they are fresh and ferment in the right manner.
The video below is an excellent guide which you can use to follow along with as you activate your kefir grains, however, in this video the instructor does not show the step where she rinses the activated kefir grains before using them. We urge you to remember this step to get rid of the dairy milk from your activated kefir grains.
Now that you have you have activated your kefir grains properly we can start the actual process of making dairy-free milk Kefir.
Part 3: Making Non-Dairy Kefir
Now that you have your kefir grains ready to go, you can start making non-dairy kefir. Rember, at you need to use real milk with your grains at least once a week to feed them. I recommend for every 2 non-dairy kefir batches you make, use the grains with a batch of regular milk. This comes down to about once a week. You may also want to divide you your kefir grains into two groups: pure kefir and non-dairy kefir. Keep your pure kefir batch in a bottle of milk in your fridge as backup. Change the milk every two weeks to keep them healthy. This will be your ‘storage’ should your regular use kefir grains that you use to make non-dairy kefir die.
1) Make the Almond Milk
So you have kefir grains ready to go. Now you need to make some fresh, non-dairy milk with a nut-based milk. I recommend making your own nut milk as this is the best way to get the healthiest milk — you are in control of ALL the ingredients. As an alternative though, you can buy store bought nut milk (such as almond milk) if you don’t want to make the almond milk yourself.
If you want homemade almost, here’s how to make it.
- Get 1 cup of nuts, seeds or even coconut pulp and soak them in water for 12-24 hours. Ensure that the water covers all the nuts.
- Pour out the water and add the nuts or seeds to your blender along with 4 cups of water.
- Blitz(blend) them until a nice and creamy mixture is formed, you can jazz it up if you so choose with dates, prunes, raisins or any fruits you desired to add a nice sweet taste to it, you can also add a dash of vanilla extract.
- You can now strain it over a bowl to catch the milk and separate the pulp, give it a good squeeze after straining to remove as much liquid as you can.
- Then you would use the milk to make your dairy-free kefir and keep the pulp to use in your dishes or baking.
2) Make the Kefir with the Almond Milk
- You need either 1-2 tsp of activated kefir grains or 1 packet of powdered culture starter( follow the directions on the packet).
- Pour the kefir grains or powdered culture starter into a glass jar with your dairy-free milk.
- Stir it gently with your wooden/plastic/bamboo or stainless steel spoon
- Then cover it with your muslin/cheesecloth/paper towel/coffee filter or kitchen towel.
- Secure it with a rubber-band or kitchen twine.
- Then set it at room temperature at 70 oF – 75 oF for about 12-24 hours
- After it has finished fermenting and the taste and thickness are all to your satisfaction you can now strain it into a glass jar and secure it with a lid.
- Store it in your refrigerator for later use.
How to Make Dairy Free Kefir with Soy Milk
You can use soy and other plant-base foods to make dairy-free kefir like rice milk, coconut milk, coconut water and water kefir. Studies recently showed that coconut milk kefir and soymilk kefir are just as beneficial for optimal health as animal based milk kefirs are.
The ingredients are the same as in given previously, with the difference being that you don’t need to make a nut-based milk, but can just use store-bought soy milk.
The Steps to Make Soy Kefir
- Take 1 teaspoon of the activated kefir grains and place it into a glass jar or bowl
- Add 1.6oz. or 50 ml of organic soymilk
- Mix until it forms a smooth thick paste
- Add another 50 ml of organic soymilk
- Mix it again to form an even solution and pour it into another glass jar or bowl
- Add the remainder of the soymilk from the 1 litre pack
- Stir it well to ensure that the kefir grains are well dispersed into the organic soymilk.
- Cover the glass jar or bowl with the cheesecloth/muslin/kitchen towel/paper towel or coffee filter.
- Let it sit for 24 hours, when the 24 hours have passes, you will notice the soymilk looks like soymilk yogurt, that is the consistency of soymilk kefir.
- Use the strainer to strain out the soymilk kefir, and store the kefir grains for the re-culturing of the next batch.
The Final Word
Dairy-free kefir can be made from any seeds or nuts — this produces a nice, thick kefir that’s an alternative to mlk kefir. Because you are NOT using milk, but soy or nuts, it’s dairy free. If you want a much thinner, and lighter non-dairy kefir, consider using water kefir grains to brew up water kefir or cocunut water kefir. Both of these are non-dairy and quite a bit different in taste and texture to regular kefir or kefir made with nut milk.