Congratulations! You’ve decided to reduce the amount of dairy in your diet by replacing your usual cow’s milk yogurt with a non-dairy alternative. It’s a hard decision to make, and you deserve a lot of credit. Now that you’ve made the decision, how do you take the next step?
There are plenty of non-dairy yogurt options to choose from, but which do you pick? Where do you start? Which alternative do you try?
Just looking at the varieties in the yogurt case in the supermarket can be bewildering. Confusing and intimidating even. Although there are far fewer non-dairy offerings than dairy, it still can be off-putting to see shelves piled with yogurts made from coconut, soy, rice, oat, almond, cashews, hemp…
To help you navigate the options, here is a very informal comparison of six varieties of plain yoghurt. I looked at flavor, consistency, and price, and ranked them from A (the one I liked the best) through D. There is nothing scientific in the scoring scheme I used!
A word about sugar…
I used plain yogurt because I’m not a fan of the fruity ones and don’t eat them (too much sugar).
Even with these plain samples, the sugar content ranges from less than 1g to 14g. It wasn’t planned this way, but it turned out that three of the sample yogurts are sweetened with cane sugar, three are not. (They all contain at least some sugar from the other ingredients in the mix.)
Another value that ranges quite a lot is the protein content; not surprisingly, the nut-based yogurts contain more protein than the coconut-based yogurts. They all contain some live bacteria/probiotics.
Full disclosure: Of course, which brand you end up using will depend on your individual preferences and local availability, but to give you some context for my opinions below, I’ll share with you that I like thick yogurt that’s a bit on the sour side.
More full disclosure: I stopped eating milk-based yogurt several years ago, and couldn’t find a non-dairy alternative that I liked. I stopped eating yogurt altogether. This was really challenging for me because for years my breakfast had consisted of plain yogurt and berries. I don’t remember what became my replacement breakfast, but about three years ago I started making my own yogurt. (See Ruth’s recipe for a delicious two minute, two ingredient yogurt.) I often use a different recipe, also from Ruth, that takes a bit longer to make, which I’ll post soon. Thick and sour; it’s perfect for me; however, I don’t always feel like making it, so I was motivated to find a ready-made version that I could use from time to time.
When I was searching for a non-dairy yogurt all those years ago, I remember standing in front of the yogurt offerings in my local supermarket feeling like I was on Mars. Hopefully the same won’t happen to you!
1. Almond Dream Almond Milk Yogurt
This company makes a variety of beverages, yogurts, and frozen desserts from cashews, almonds, coconut, rice, soy, and sprouted rice. You can tell what the base is because it appears in the name (hence, Almond Dream yogurt is based on almonds whereas Rice Dream milk is made out of rice).
Flavor: Despite being labeled as “Plain” this is definitely a dessert yogurt to me. With 14 grams of sugar, it’s the sweetest of the sample products. This yogurt might be a candidate for a dessert recipe, but I wouldn’t use it as a topping for my breakfast berries, or even in a smoothie; there’s just too much sugar for my taste.
Pot appeal: By contrast to the starkly white coconut-based yogurts (CoYo and So Delicious), this almond-based product looked beigey-grey. I think it’s just the color of the almond milk that’s made when the skins are left on the nuts after soaking (it would be much whiter if the skins were removed). For a plain yogurt, the color doesn’t look all that appealing to me. It had a slightly gummy mouth feel, but it had a nice thickness and was creamy when stirred up.
Price: $1.79/170g (29.83 cents per ounce)
2. So Delicious Plain CoconutMilk Yogurt (sweetened)
So Delicious makes a variety of dairy-free products, including milks, frozen desserts, cooking milks, and creamers. Their coconut-based yogurts are non-GMO, gluten-free, and certified vegan. They offer two unsweetened flavors (plain and vanilla).
Flavor: This review is for So Delicious’ sweetened variety of plain yogurt. With 10 grams of sugar it was, predictably, too sweet for me, but it had a very nice, mellow coconut flavor. I can imagine dipping strawberries into a pot of this yogurt – much like a cold fruit fondue! I can also imagine using this yogurt to make a frozen dessert.
Pot appeal: When I first took off the lid, I was struck by how crisply white the yogurt looked. It looked just like whizzed up coconut flesh! Upon stirring the product, it had a slightly gummy appearance and not smooth and creamy. Which is weird because if you asked me was the product smooth, was it thick, and was it creamy, I’d say yes — but somehow as a whole it wasn’t smoothly thick and creamy. It had a slightly pasty mouth feel.
Price: $1.79/150g (33.77 cents per ounce)
3. Kite Hill Almond Milk Yogurt
Kite Hill makes a range of nut-based products, with some very decent soft cheeses (and an excellent ricotta cheese). This yogurt is made with almond milk.
Flavor: The pot of yogurt contains 5 grams of sugar, which is pretty low when compared to other yogurts. (Some flavored yogurts contain upwards of 25 grams of sugar!) Even so, this yogurt was a little too sweet for my palate.
Pot Appeal: When you first peel off the lid, the yogurt looks a bit clumpy; I think that’s due to the separation of the almond milk. When stirred through, the product is nice and creamy, almost silky. It has a nice clean color. I liked the mouth feel. I added half a pot to my smoothie today, and I think it made the smoothie creamier than usual, which I liked. I’d be happy to add berries and flaxseed to this yogurt and call it breakfast. I’d use it in cooking too.
Price: $1.99/150g (37.55 cents per ounce)
4. Forager Unsweetened Cashew Yogurt
Forager yogurts are made with cashew nuts, and are organic, non-GMO, free of lactose, gluten, and soy, and are kosher. The plain yogurt is available in a 24 oz pot only. (Other flavors come in the more usual 150 gram (5.3 oz) containers.)
Flavor: I was so excited to try this yogurt, which was new to me. This yogurt is unsweetened; one serving contains only 1 gram of sugar! My hopes were high for a nicely sour flavor. But alas, it was not to be. To me, this yogurt had almost no flavor at all, which could be an asset depending on what you want to use it for. I can definitely see myself adding this yogurt to a curry sauce, for instance, or for making my smoothie creamier. But I don’t see myself sneaking a spoonful straight out of the pot as an afternoon treat (which I’ve been known to do…).
Pot appeal: This yogurt is creamy and quite thick, which I liked a lot. It has a nice color, and it comes with a reusable lid.
Price: I’m not sure, because I lost the receipt…but I made a note that it costs 37.55 cents per ounce.
5. So Delicious Plain Coconut Milk Yogurt
This review is for the unsweetened version of plain (unsweetened is also available in vanilla flavor).
Flavor: This had a hint of sourness – the only one of all the samples that did. Like the sweetened version, it had a very nice, mellow coconut flavor. I wouldn’t eat this straight, but it would be good as a topping.
Pot appeal: Again, this product is really clean and white in the pot. It suffered from the same gumminess as the sweetened version, and had a slightly pasty mouth feel. I’d be more likely to use this product in cooking – I think it could be good in a Thai curry or some other dish that uses coconut milk, and it would lend a little creaminess to the sauce.
Price: $1.79/150g (33.77 cents per ounce)
6. CoYo Coconut Milk Yogurt
CoYo products are free from dairy, soy, honey, gluten, egg, sesame, colorings, preservatives, and contain no added sugar. The products are created in small batches in coconut-only commercial kitchens.
Flavor: This yogurt is really coconutty! Not a hint of sourness, but very delicious. This yogurt tastes decadent, despite having less than 1g of sugar per serving – it’s intensely thick and creamy. It contains coconut butter, which is high in calories, but also in scrumptiousness.
Pot appeal: As you remove the reusable lid, you notice how crisply white this product is. It is very rich, and definitely snack-worthy – but only a bite at a time because of the richness. I was having a hard time imagining a recipe I’d want to use this yogurt in (it’s so good straight out of the pot!), but then I realized that it would be delicious swirled on top of Ruth’s tomato red pepper soup. I liked this yogurt well enough that I’d be willing to try it in just about anything.
Price: $1.79/150g (33.77 cents per ounce)
Any of these yogurts can be satisfactory alternatives to dairy yogurts, depending on your personal preference and uses. Even though some were thicker than others, none of them was thin and runny. I would say that they all are nicely thick and creamy.
I realize that I might be a bit unusual in my strong preference for sour yogurts, so I hope you’re not discouraged from trying some of these, even the ones I didn’t care for that much.
An important thing to note is that just because a product is non-dairy, organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, etc., doesn’t mean that it’s good for you. Reading ingredient labels is key, regardless of the product you’re buying…