Review: Non-Dairy Yogurts

by mary on October 30, 2012

Wildwood Organic Soy Yogurt in a bowl, shown with container

Wildwood soy yogurt

I love fresh, plain yogurt with no added sugar or extra thickeners like tapioca or pectin. I used to make my own dairy yogurt, but lately I’ve been trying non-dairy yogurts.

Cow’s milk contains lactose, or milk sugar, that the lactobacillus bacteria that turn milk into yogurt feed on during fermentation. Soy, almond, and coconut don’t naturally contain lots of sugar like milk does, so at least some sugar must be added for fermentation to work. For the resulting yogurt to be as sweet as dairy yogurt takes even more sugar.

Besides sugar, non-dairy yogurts need thickeners. Dairy milk solidifies on its own during the fermentation process, though most store-bought dairy yogurts contain extra thickeners like tapioca starch and gelatin anyway. Alternative milks must not set up well, since every non-dairy yogurt I’ve seen contains several different thickeners. No getting around it, dairy yogurt is a simpler product than non-dairy yogurt. It’s rather like trying to raise a loaf using wheat versus trying to make a gluten-free loaf– the latter is always going to be more iffy and complicated. And yet, sometimes it’s what you need.

Unsweetened non-dairy yogurt is hard to find, yet important for recipes where you don’t want the off flavors that some sweeteners can add.  It’s also good when you just don’t want all that sugar. Wildwood makes an Unsweetened Plain Probiotic Soyogurt. As you would expect, it’s quite tart, lacking not only added sugar but the lactose that’s naturally found in milk. It has a yellowish color and a flavor that’s as tart as dairy yogurt but otherwise not that similar. I don’t enjoy it plain, but it’s good with fresh fruit or granola on top and in recipes. It has a looser, wetter texture than the other yogurts I tried, and I liked that, it was more like homemade dairy milk yogurt. Plus, since soy milk has much more protein than other alternative milks, this yogurt is much higher in protein than almond milk or coconut milk yogurt. (6/19/13 update: Wildwood Unsweetened Soyogurt has been discontinued according to my co-op, does anyone know of an alternative unsweetened non-dairy yogurt?).

I also enjoy Nancy’s Organic Cultured Soy yogurt. It has a shorter, more natural list of ingredients than many of the alternative yogurts. It’s sweetened with amazake (from brown rice), white grape juice, and agave. The additional sweetness makes for a yogurt that I enjoy straight out of the container. Of course the sweetener also makes it higher calorie, higher carb, and lower protein, cup for cup, compared with the Wildwood Unsweetened soy yogurt.

The Nancy’s is quite solid in the container because it uses agar-agar as its only thickener. I liked that simplicity and the fact that agar-agar is a traditional food. Because agar sets up so firmly, the Nancy’s takes a lot of stirring initially. It never becomes quite as smooth as some of the other yogurts I tested.

Nancy's Soy Yogurt in a bowl with newspaper on the table

Nancy’s soy yogurt

Amande Cultured Almond Milk is sweetened with pineapple and peach juice. Because of that, it has a bit of a fruity tang. It also, naturally, has an almond flavor. Almond milk is pretty thin, and Amande has three different ingredients to thicken it: rice starch, locust bean gum, and pectin. It’s solid in the container but stirs up to a yogurt-y consistency. (6/19/13 My co-op has been having supply problems with this for months, I hope that resolves soon. Meanwhile I’ve picked up some Almond Dream yogurt; tasty, but has ingredients I try to avoid like cane sugar and cornstarch. 12/16/13: Cascade Fresh is having continuing production problems with Amande and it is still not available.)

 

Amande almond milk yogurt shown in a bowl with container, place mat, and newspaper nearby

Amande almond milk yogurt

So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt has a bright white color and a mild, moderately coconut-y flavor. It was by far the creamiest of the four yogurts I tried, the only one with a texture comparable to dairy yogurt. It’s also the only one of the four that uses cane sugar (evaporated cane juice). Coconut has a lot of saturated fat, and half of the calories in this yogurt are from fat, mostly saturated fat.

You can argue about the saturated fat in coconut and whether it’s healthy (see my article on the tropical oils) but I can’t imagine that having half the calories in this yogurt from mostly saturated fat, and probably a lot of the rest from cane sugar, is a particularly good nutritional profile. This could be a really useful yogurt for some recipes, though, or for when you want a yogurt with a really creamy mouthfeel.

coconut milk yogurt shown outdoors on a flagstone with a spoon nearby

So Delicious coconut milk yogurt

12/16/13 update: after tasting all of these non-dairy yogurts and comparing nutritional values, I settled on the Wildwood soy yogurt, but it has been discontinued and now the Amande is also unavailable. The coconut yogurt is good  but not nutritious enough for me to eat regularly. So that leaves me with Nancy’s Soy Yogurt, and it’s what I’m buying now.

What’s your favorite non-dairy yogurt?

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Kiersten
Twitter:
October 31, 2012 at 8:35 pm

I don’t eat yogurt, but I use it a lot in baking. I was wondering how the non-dairy varieties would work in baked goods and it sounds like maybe the sugar would have to be adjusted. This is such a useful post!
Kiersten recently posted..Garden Update | So many peppers and tomatoes!My Profile

Reply

mary mary October 31, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Thanks, Kiersten! I’m glad it was helpful!

Reply

Hannah
Twitter:
November 1, 2012 at 5:37 pm

What a helpful roundup! There are so many options on the market now, it can easily become overwhelming when you don’t quite know what to look for. My current favorite is the Greek-style almond yogurt by So Delicious. It’s so rich and creamy, it makes for a very satisfying lunch component.
Hannah recently posted..Brace for ImpactMy Profile

Reply

mary mary November 2, 2012 at 2:59 pm

I haven’t seen that Greek-style almond yogurt. I’ll have to keep my eyes out for it, I’d like to try it. I hope you and your family did OK with Hurricane Sandy: seems like a good sign that you are online, anyway.

Reply

Val November 6, 2012 at 5:46 am

Yogurt was one of the things I missed a lot when I found out I couldn’t have dairy any more. The alternatives are really yummy but so darn pricey. I haven’t seen a greek style either.
Val recently posted..No Posts Were Found!My Profile

Reply

mary mary November 6, 2012 at 6:04 am

They definitely are more pricey, especially compared to making your own dairy yogurt at home! I’ve looked at a few posts on making your own non-dairy yogurt, and haven’t had the motivation to take that one on yet. Definitely looks more complicated than the dairy kind.

Reply

Alyssa (Everyday Maven) November 6, 2012 at 9:31 pm

This is great! We don’t do a lot of dairy products and I have been wondering about many of these brands. I am going to try that Wildwood Soy – thanks :)
Alyssa (Everyday Maven) recently posted..Rustic Vegetable Soup with Red Beans + PotatoesMy Profile

Reply

mary mary November 6, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Thanks, Alyssa! Let me know how you like it and how it works in your recipes.

Reply

CJ November 8, 2012 at 2:58 pm

I would like to make my own soy yogurt but haven\’t researched how to do it, yet. Bought the wildwood to try and could not tolerate it :-(

Reply

Mireya November 19, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Humm, these sound intriguing. I occasionally eat yogurt, but I would like to learn how to make almond yogurt.
Mireya recently posted..Holiday Stuffed SquashMy Profile

Reply

mary mary November 20, 2012 at 5:32 am

I’d like to know how to do that, too, Mireya. I’m sure it’s harder than making dairy yogurt.
mary recently posted..Skating the Fiesta TangoMy Profile

Reply

tracylee November 28, 2012 at 3:50 am

Thanks for the review!
I’ve had some medical issues in the last few years, and my digestive system can’t tolerate over about 5g of sugar per serving, and when dairy is added to that, things get really uncomfortable. So I’ve been without milk, yogurt and anything with cream. I’ve found alternatives to milk and cream for baking and cooking, but really miss yogurt.

I was thrilled to find Wildwood unsweetened plain yogurt at Grocery Outlet today for $0.99. I haven’t tried it yet, but plan to add granola and dried fruits to perk it up a bit.

Reply

mary mary November 28, 2012 at 4:38 am

99 cents! You really scored on the Wildwood Unsweetened Plain Yogurt! Thanks for commenting, I enjoyed hearing from you!

Reply

fiddles December 17, 2013 at 3:30 am

Do you know that you just did a better job explaining Nancy’s yogurt than the people who work there? I wrote them a very polite letter of my unfortunate dissatisfaction with their product, siting my experience with vegan foods and my need for yogurt for proper digestion.

I indeed find the flat flavor and lumpy texture off putting, but would eat it when nothing else was available. I also found it impossible to eat out of the container as it was quite prone to rotting. A woman named Elaine saw fit to right me back just to tell me how great their product was as a kind of dismissal instead of any other feedback or compensation for my time or dissatisfaction; this is the part I find the most inexcusable. I could even have understood being ignored and fully added a sentence that I understood that others may feel differently and it was just my experiences, but no…they had to go out of their way to mail little more than an insult; I’d apparently hurt their feelings.

Well, I’ll save them future insults by no longer buying their products and letting everyone know my dissatisfaction. Thanks to you though, perhaps I’ll give the almond one a try!

Reply

mary mary December 17, 2013 at 4:36 am

I’m sorry they didn’t do something nice for you like sending you a coupon, perhaps they couldn’t think of another product of theirs that you could use. A refund could have worked. I hope you do get to try the Amande almond yogurt: the company spent months trying to get production going again in a plant that ultimately decided not to produce the Amande, and is now working with another plant to start production there. Thanks for visiting and commenting, it’s good to know what my readers are thinking about!

Reply

Annie Occident March 5, 2014 at 10:00 pm

WholeSoy & Co is far and away my favorite plain unsweetened non-dairy yogurt. It’s tart the way plain yogurt should be and it doesn’t have any of the cloying sweetness that I’ve tasted with some of the brands you’ve reviewed. Texture is smooth, but just a little thinner than dairy yogurt. Unfortunately, they are still bringing their new factory online so there is no product in the chain – and i don’t have a container to read the ingredients and compare (I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it never occurred to me to check beyond sugars/sweeteners).

Reply

mary mary March 6, 2014 at 7:55 pm

Thank you, Annie, I really appreciate hearing from readers like you. I have had the Whole Soy & Co yogurt and I agree that it’s really good. I hadn’t reviewed it because I don’t love some of the ingredients (cornstarch, natural flavors) but I just went and read their website and it looks like they are very careful where their ingredients come from. For example their cornstarch is from Europe to avoid the GMO’s in American cornstarch. Perhaps it’s time for me to give their yogurt another look and maybe add it to this review. What is it with all these alternative yogurt makers having supply chain problems! It is very frustrating, hope they have some yogurt again for me to try soon,

Reply

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

This blog uses premium CommentLuv which allows you to put your keywords with your name if you have had 5 approved comments. Use your real name and then @ your keywords (maximum of 3)

Previous post:

Next post: