Coconut Yogurt (Coconut Flesh-Based)

What did you think when you saw this photo? Was it a beautiful bowl of snow-white fluff? Or a disgusting abhorrent bowl of saturated fats?

It is fascinating how much influence the media and knowledge can have over your perspective and affect your actions and reactions. Not too long ago, I kept a safe arm’s length away from coconut products in any form – oil, butter, dried, floured. It was one of those ingredients we have been drilled to think that is bad, bad, bad. Rich in saturated fats, coconut oil was once firmly associated with heart disease, high cholesterol and weight gain. And then I forayed into raw desserts which almost always called for coconut oil or butter or meat. I took the gamble, I fell in love with its sweet gentle fragrance, and the rest is history. Of course, I still had to convince myself of its benefits as below. Today, an ice cold coconut water drink would be the preferred choice on a hot day, and I think of creative ways to use up the precious coconut flesh within.

Does time heal wounds? Roundabout the adage, time does not heal wounds; perspective heals wounds. And perspective takes time. Doing things creates experiences. Challenging oneself opens up your perspective. Not doing things leaves them exactly as they were.

Today, I want to share with you a basic recipe for coconut yogurt. It is a milestone recipe as it embodies the overcoming of a fear food to become an occasional breakfast staple, full of healthy probiotics and fats.

Two ingredients: Choosing Young Coconuts and a Starter

To make coconut yogurt, you need only two items: young coconut flesh and a starter culture. Young white coconuts have soft jelly-like meat, unlike mature brown coconuts with thick hard flesh. This will make it easier to blend to an ultra-smooth consistency; nobody wants lumpy yogurt. The best young coconuts may be identified as those that are heavy for their weight. When you shake it, the coconut should not produce a sloshing sound as it reflects that it is full of liquid with no air inside. Avoid coconuts that have cracks, mold or soft black/brown spots (called eyes).

Using the heel of a chopper, hack open the coconut around its crown at a 45 degree angle. The sweet spot is usually about 2-inches from its apex. Proceed with extreme caution. After a few good whacks, you should be able to pry the top open. Pour out the coconut water through a colander into a jar to strain out bits of husk that may have fallen in. Enjoy immediately or store in the refrigerator for future use as a base for smoothies, soups, and ice creams.

Use a spoon to scrape out the tender white flesh. One coconut usually gives 3/4 cup flesh.

For culture, I empty the capsules from Multiflora Acidoph/Bifidus/FOS (ABF) that I was prescribed by my naturopath a few years ago. You could use any brand of probiotic capsule, but they should contain the bacteria of the Lactobacillus species and Bifidobacterium species. These are the principal colonic bacteria that account for the antimicrobial, immunomodulatory, anticarcinogenic and antioxidant activities of yogurt. You may also use commercial yogurt starters such as Yogourmet which is available on iHerb.

Making the Yogurt: Playing with Tartness and Thickness

Once you have blended the coconut flesh to very smooth, add in the culture powder and thickener (optional). The amount of starter will affect how sour the final yogurt is. In my maiden attempt for Fundamentals of Raw Cuisine course, I used 1/2 teaspoon probiotics for 1 1/2 cup young coconut flesh. I was pleased with the pleasant tang and have kept to this ratio ever since. If you like it less sour, feel free to use less. The thickness will depend on how the amount of thickener you use. In my experimentations I have tried pure coyo with no thickener, and wet almond pulp and cashew paste as thickeners. Naturally, naked coyo gives a thinner consistency like regular yogurt, while those thickened with nuts will give a Greek yogurt consistency. My favorite consistency is right around 2 tablespoons of nut paste for 1 1/2 cup young coconut flesh. The type of nut (cashew or almond) does not influence the taste much.

Fermentation Conditions

Storage. Place the yogurt mixture in a non-reactive (glass) bowl and cover with a cheesecloth or kitchen towel. If you have an anaerobic vessel like Pick’l-it, that should work the best and I am jealous. Lactobacillus species are facultative anaerobic, that is they can survive the best in the absence of oxygen while also being able to endure aerobic environments. Bifidobacteria are strictly anaerobic. Patty from Loving Our Guts did an interesting comparative experiment on yogurt using a Pickl-it, Fido, and mason jar that you can read about here: The Great Yogurt Experiment Conclusion. No doubt this was applied to raw milk yogurts, but perhaps the science may apply to coconut yogurt too.

Temperature. Lactobacilli, Streptococous and Bifidobacteria are thermophilic bacteria, meaning they prefer elevated temperatures for growth, about 40-45 degrees Celsius (104-113 degrees Farenheit). At such temperatures, pathogenic bacteria are inhibited while the good bacteria flourish. You can place your storage jar in an oven or dehydrator set to that range of temperature.

Time. So far I have mostly cultured the yogurt overnight (10 hours) at 42 degrees, then shift the jar to room temperature or 27 degrees for another 24 hours. Beyond this length of culture time it gets too tart for comfort.

Enhancing and Enjoying Your Coyo

I like plain yogurt, but you could enhance the taste with vanilla and sweeteners like maple syrup, honey or coconut nectar. Layer it up in a parfait with juicy fruits such as mango and berries, or use it to thicken smoothies or salad dressings. When fermented, the coconut taste mellows out and takes on the tart taste of yogurt.

This is a Piña Colada pineapple passionfruit parfait with sprouted Matcha buckwheat granola. Cheers to coconuts, gut health and a healthy, happy 2015!

Coconut Yogurt (Coconut Flesh-based)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Dairy-free, vegan, and raw yogurt made from fresh young coconut flesh and naturally cultured. Fear not, this has nary a trace of coconut taste. Play around with the amount of culture and nut paste to create your preferred tartness and thickness!
Recipe type: Fermented/Cultured
Cuisine: Raw
Serves: 1½ cups
  • 1½ cups young coconut flesh, cleaned and removed of any brown bits
  • ½ teaspoon (1 capsule) probiotic powder
  • 1-3 tablespoons nut paste eg. cashew or almond (if you like Greek yogurt consistency)
  • 1-2 teaspoons sweetener (to enhance after fermentation)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (to enhance after fermentation)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla (to enhance after fermentation)
  1. Place the young coconut flesh (and nut paste, if using) in a blender. Blend on high until no lumps remain.
  2. Sprinkle in the probiotic powder and whirl a few times to mix.
  3. Pour out the mixture into a clean fermentation jar or glass bowl. Place in the oven or dehydrator set to 40-45 degrees Celsius (about 110 degrees Farenheit). Let it ferment for 1-2 days. Check occasionally. After 12 hours a film should have formed over the surface. You may choose to scrape it away or simply stir it back in. Taste. Once it reaches your desired tartness and thickness, proceed to add sweeteners/enhancers, if using.
  4. Store in the refrigerator for at most 5 days. The yogurt may taste sweeter and less tart over time as the bacteria die.
Coconut yogurt may also be made from coconut milk. See Tasty Yummies for a post.

Textbook of Bacteriology. Lactic Acid Bacteria.


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