How to Make Soy Milk (again!) and Soy Yogurt

I’ve recently gotten back into making yogurt. See, a year or so ago I mentioned I wanted to start making yogurt and my aunt gave me her old yogurt maker. And for a while there I was making a batch every week. But I kind of got out of it because it was sort of annoying to make. I’d used Bryanna’s method and Susan from Fat-Free Vegan’s method, and while both of them made consistently successful batches of yogurt, the adding of thickeners bothered me for some reason. It seemed like the whole process was a lot harder than it needed to be. Not that either method was difficult (they are very similar), and not that I’m one to shy away from difficult tasks in the kitchen, but when making staples on a weekly basis, I like the process to be as quick and easy as possible.

It was Wild Fermentation that changed everything. Sandor Katz claimed making soy yogurt was no different than making dairy yogurt (which I’ve never done but which looks very easy and never calls for thickeners), and he shared what I have found is the secret: adding less pre-made yogurt to the warm milk. And nothing else! He himself had read in another source that yogurt cultures don’t like to be “crowded” and that less is therefore more. All of the other recipes I’ve found for making soy yogurt call for 1/4 to an entire cup of existing yogurt to be mixed into a quart of soy milk. Sandor Katz called for just one tablespoon. And it works! No need for thickeners or fuss. It’s so easy I’m back to making it all the time.

Soy Yogurt

1 quart soymilk, preferably freshly homemade
1 Tbsp soy yogurt, with live cultures (can be from your previous homemade batch)

I’ve already explained how to make soy milk, but I figured I’d document it again for this tutorial. But if you already know how to make your own soy milk or if you want to use commercial soy milk, just skip down to the “*******” below.

To make about a quart of soy milk, soak 4 ounces of dried soy beans over night (I use 4 handfuls, which is actually a bit more than 4 ounces). It’s not necessary, but I put the dry soybeans in the blender and pulse a few time to break them up. Then I add water to the blender and swirl it around, causing the hulls from the beans to float up to the top, which I then pour off. I repeat this a few times, then I top it off with water and soak the beans right in the blender.

The next morning (or 8 hours later), set a scant 4 cups of water over medium heat in a medium large pot.

Meanwhile, drain the soaked soybeans, then put in the blender (if they aren’t already there) with fresh water to cover by 1/2 to 1 inch or so. Blend very thoroughly.

Pour the blended soybeans into the water and stir. Heat over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep an eye on the soymilk as it has a tendency to rise up and boil over very quickly.

If the soymilk gets very foamy on top, you can skim the foam off.

Meanwhile, set up your strainer. I use a 4-cup measuring cup (although I should really use a larger one, and I’ll show you why in a moment), a strainer, and a piece of cheesecloth. Set the strainer in the measuring cup and line with the cheesecloth.

When the soymilk is ready, pour it into the cheesecloth-lined strainer.

Now, usually I’m doing this with two hands and as the soy milk filters down into the measuring cup, I lift the strainer out of it to make room for the milk. I didn’t take into account that this time I’d be taking photographs and not have two hands, so I didn’t lift the strainer and the soy milk overflowed. Oops! If I were any smarter than I am, I’d be using a bigger receptacle in the first place, but I like using something that has a spout and that’s what I have.

I sort of close the cheesecloth up into a sack and bounce it up and down on the strainer, settling the bean pulp – or okara – and pushing most of the soy milk out. I don’t worry too much about squeezing all of the liquid out because I’m trying to keep this process as fast as possible, but you can get really into it and mash it with a potato masher if you’d like.

Here’s the okara. You can save it for another purpose, although if you’ve been a reader for a while you’ll know that I have issues cooking with okara so I’m not going to think any less of you if you throw it away or compost it.

The worst part about making soy milk, by the way, is cleaning up the pot. It requires a lot of scrubbing.

You now have soy milk. If that’s all you’re here for, you’re dismissed. You can add a sweetener if you’d like. Frankly, I don’t bother any more. I used to add agave nectar or maple syrup or even a bit of sugar, but the only things I use soy milk for are the occasional loaf of bread (I use water more often, however) and putting on breakfast cereal and most cereals are already too sweet as it is.

Back to the yogurt.

******* If you are using pre-made soy milk instead of making it now, gently warm it – in a saucepan over medium heat or in the microwave – until just before boiling: about 180 to 190 degrees. Then follow the instructions below.

If you have one, stick a thermometer in the soy milk. If you don’t, don’t worry about it. You want the soy milk to cool to about 110 degrees Fahrenheit. This took about 45 minutes for me (though you can speed it up by putting it in the refrigerator or in a cold water bath). If you don’t have a thermometer, just stick your finger in it. If you can leave your finger in without burning it, it’s cooled sufficiently.

While the soy milk is cooling, sanitize and prepare the container(s) in which you’ll be making the yogurt. You can do this by running them through the dishwasher, or you can either submerge them in boiling water for a few minutes, or do as I did and rinse them out with boiling water.

If you are using a yogurt maker, plug it in and set the sanitized container(s) inside. The warmth will help any water clinging to them evaporate and it’s helpful for the containers to come up to temperature before adding the yogurt.

If you don’t have a yogurt maker, there are many incubation ideas floating around the internet. What I’d probably try first is the oven, using either the pilot light of a gas oven or the light bulb of an electric oven. I’ve never used this technique so I’m not going to discuss it, but you’ll find plenty of ideas if you google it.

When the soy milk is cool enough, whisk in 1 tablespoon of pre-made soy yogurt. If using store-bought, make sure it contains live cultures; it will say so on the container (Whole Soy does). You can also use a tablespoon of your previous batch of homemade yogurt. I’ve read that after six rounds of using your own yogurt, you should make your 7th batch using store-bought again to refreshen the culture, but I haven’t really tested this out because I haven’t managed to make yogurt for 7 consecutive weeks and have had to buy new yogurt before that anyway. When you buy the commercial yogurt, you should make sure it’s plain flavored, although since you’re using so little, I imagine you can get away with a flavored variety if that’s all you can find. I’d probably use vanilla if I couldn’t find plain.

If the soy milk gets foamy or bubbly when you whisk it, you can skim the bubbles off to prevent your yogurt from containing bubbles.

Pour the soy milk/yogurt mixture into your prepared containers.

Incubate. I’ve seen it said both that soy yogurt takes less time and more time to set than dairy yogurt. Having never made dairy yogurt, I can’t tell you which is correct. But I did notice that since using this thickener-less method, my yogurt’s actually been setting in less time than it did before: in as little as 4 hours. This picture was taken after 6 hours. It may have been ready in 4 hours, but Brachtune and I sort of ended up taking a little nap and I didn’t check it.

I happened to be flipping through The New Farm cookbook yesterday for an unrelated reason and came across their yogurt making section. Their method is similar to this except they call for more pre-made yogurt. But they did include a little trick for telling if your yogurt is done. If, when tilted to the side, the yogurt comes cleanly from the side of the container, it’s ready. It’s probably hard to see here, but that’s exactly what my yogurt is doing.

Refrigerate for about 3-4 hours, during which time the yogurt will further firm up, before eating.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy yogurt is mixed with granola, sliced bananas and other fruit, and drizzled with agave nectar.

I know this has been very long, but if you’ve made it this far, I shall reward you with pictures of Brachtune being beautiful.

24 Comments »

  1. Kaylen Said,

    February 1, 2009 @ 1:39 pm

    Neat!

    I don`t have a yoghurt maker, but my oven does have a proof setting that keeps it at 90 degrees. When I make soy yoghurt I just pour freshly made soy milk into a mason jar, wait for it to cool to 90 degrees, stir in soy yoghurt from the last batch, and put it in the oven on proof. When I get up in the morning it`s ready.

    Not sure if proof is a common oven setting, but I find it very useful.

  2. renae Said,

    February 1, 2009 @ 1:44 pm

    Wow, I’d love to have a proof setting – that’s awesome!

  3. Courtney Said,

    February 1, 2009 @ 5:50 pm

    Wow–thank you so much for the tutorial! Do you think it would work with almond milk? I have missed yogurt! I am trying to avoid soy (although I think I could easily use a Tbs as a starter) and have been using almond milk for a while now…

    I don’t have a proof setting on my oven, but I do have a dehydrator. I wonder if I took the racks out and put the jars in if that would work?

    Thanks!
    Courtney

  4. Mom Said,

    February 1, 2009 @ 6:52 pm

    Brachtune looks very content there in the sun.

  5. Cindy Said,

    February 1, 2009 @ 7:00 pm

    You lost me at ‘cheesecloth’, I skipped to the end to enjoy the kitty pics.

  6. renae Said,

    February 1, 2009 @ 7:27 pm

    Courtney, that’s a good question. In Wild Fermentation, Sandor Katz says he hasn’t had success making yogurt with rice or seed milks, but he doesn’t say anything about nut milks. I’m worried it might not work if seed milks don’t work. If you try it, let me know how it goes. As for the dehydrator, I’m not sure about that either. They generally get a lot warmer than yogurt makers, but if you can rig it to stay cooler – maybe leaving the top off – if might work. I’d use a thermometer to see what temperature you’re working with. I don’t think you’d want it to go above 120 degrees F. Also, Sandor Katz mentions that yogurt cultures don’t like to be moved during incubation, so if your dehydrator has a fan, that might be an issue.

    Mom, she was very content!

    Cindy, that’s why I post the kitty pics. I try to keep everyone happy. I’m pretty sure my mom skipped to the end too!

  7. Mom Said,

    February 2, 2009 @ 9:02 am

    Ha! There you are wrong! I did at least attempt to peruse the whole post, although not very successfully. The only parts I usually understand are the cat pictures and Mark’s posts.

  8. Jes Said,

    February 2, 2009 @ 1:30 pm

    Brachtune’s eyes! I love ‘em! And I’m very impressed with your soy milk & soy yogurt makingness. It’s definitely on my list, but I don’t think I’ll have the time for awhile. Sigh..

  9. Courtney Said,

    February 2, 2009 @ 6:45 pm

    Thanks for your help! I am going to try it this weekend, I think. I will let you know how it goes!

    Courtney

  10. Melissa Said,

    February 4, 2009 @ 7:00 pm

    What a brilliant idea – less yogurt starter equals thicker yogurt! I’ll have to try it out for my next yogurt batch. I hate using a thickener too. It just seems too artificial.

    Do you have any idea how coconut-based yogurt is made? I love the new coconut yogurt – but I doubt making it at home is as easy as taking coconut milk and letting it ferment.

  11. Mark Gailmor Said,

    March 6, 2011 @ 7:38 pm

    For anyone that doesn’t have a yogurt maker go out and buy a crock pot. Here’s a link to making vegan soy yoghurt with a crockpot. http://bonzaiaphrodite.com/2010/08/homemade-vegan-yogurt-in-the-crock-pot/

  12. renae Said,

    March 7, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

    Mark, great link, thanks for posting it. That whole site is really nice!

  13. bill Said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 4:27 pm

    i did ‘peruse’ the whole article. naturally, they have expensive devices that make soy milk, and the clean-up is not bad, important if using on a regular basis. very educational, headed to the kitchen to try it right now-no stomach should be without yogurt! and that’s the way i love good sour yogurt, w. a banana, but naked-it’s sweet enuf… she is a pretty cat-what is the orgin of the name?

  14. villarosa Said,

    July 29, 2012 @ 4:34 pm

    Love your yogurt maker. Do you mind sharing what brand it is?? Also wonder if you ever put any type of sweetener or thickener in your soy milk? Just finished getting my milk made and starter added and put in jars to put in my dehydrator. Hoping it turns out as nice as yours! Thanks for all you shared in this post, and truly appreciate your time to answer my questions

  15. renae Said,

    July 29, 2012 @ 4:41 pm

    Hi Villarosa, I’m on vacation and can’t check the brand of the yogurt maker, but it’s actually pretty old and I doubt it’s still made. It was my aunt’s years ago; she stopped making yogurt and passed it on to me. I can report back when I return home next week if you’d like, though.

    I’ve never put a thickener in soy milk, although sometimes when I blend up hemp milk I’ll put a pinch of xantham gum in it to thicken it. I’ve never made yogurt with hemp milk though; I’ve heard it doesn’t thicken well. As for sweetener in my non-dairy milks, I don’t think I’ve ever sweetened it when I’ve made yogurt, although I’ll often top yogurt with some agave nectar. For drinking, I’ll sometimes blend in a couple of dates or maple syrup to slightly sweeten it; sometimes I don’t bother.

  16. Joe Said,

    January 7, 2013 @ 4:52 pm

    I bought a yougurt maker recently and was very frustrated as my first batch of Soy Yogurt was basically warm soy milk and water. I was recently diagnosed Celiac and need to eat GF/CF and was hoping that making my own yogurt would save me some money. I stumbled upon your blog and I thought “I’ll give this a try” so I want to report back to you what happened.

    I added 60G of Unflavored, unsweetened Trader Joe’s Soy protein into my milk while cooking it. I didn’t add it to thicken it, just to get more protein. I also added 5 tsp of sugar to give the bacteria something to feed on. I used 1 Tbsp of Trader Joe’s Vanilla soy Yogurt.

    The Yogurt I got was AMAZING!!! As thick as Greek Style yogurt and it was done in 6 hours. (I probably could have removed it at 4 hours it got so thick). The appearance once I mixed it was lumpy, but the texture was quite smooth and an amazing flavor.

    Thank you so much for this method. I’m going to try my next batch without protein powder as I’m curious how thick it will get. 60G was a little too much. I think I will use 1/2 that amount in the future as I work on perfecting my concoction.

  17. Paul Said,

    February 17, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

    I have been making Yogurt and Cheese for quite a while. The incubation process for Soy is the same as milk. When Making yogurt I make 1-2 gal at a time. I use my pasta or stock pot to incubate. I set is on a small heating pad and wrap it with a thick bath towel. For my larger pot I will put a towel on the lid also. the heating pad is on medium heat… Warning – uneven heating (up and down throughout the incubation) will cause “stringy” yogurt. But so long as the temp stays 95 – 115 you will be fine but Ideal temp is 110. Note for both Cow and Soy I find less culture is better and use only about 1/2 -3/4 cup for two gallons of Yogurt (about 2-3 Tb per quart). I hope this helps – This batch of soy yogurt I will try to thicken via straining through cheese cloth the way I do when making cow Greek yogurt and yogurt cheese.

  18. Paul Said,

    February 17, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

    OOPs I meant to say a few other things. – You can get cultures from most cheese supply stores. Some even offer different cultures for different flavor profiles. I find that sometimes the cultures mutate to undesirable flavors within 4 re-batches and yet some even get better for a while. However I have never been able to re-batch more than about 20 times (usually only about 5-8 time) before flavors start to turn. Your flavor preference will determine when. Also note the changes aren’t dramatically different each batch so you will be able to eat the last batch you make before starting with new cultures.

  19. Becka Said,

    May 18, 2013 @ 7:40 am

    Help, I’m allergic to dairy and love yogurt so purchase a yogurt maker. I made my first batch last night using Soysilk. It looked fine after processing except for a separation in the jar with a liquid separated out near the bottom of each jar. The recipe I followed did use tapioca starch and I used a package of vegan culture. Wish I had found this blog in my earlier search but hope you can help me. Thanks.

  20. renae Said,

    May 18, 2013 @ 9:02 am

    Hi Becka,

    The liquid is whey and it’s totally normal. You can either just drain it off for normal-style yogurt, or put the yogurt in some cheesecloth or other porous cloth and drain it over a bowl or jar (for anywhere from 1 to 24 hours; you can refrigerate it while you are doing it) and you’ll have thicker, Greek-style yogurt or “yogurt cheese”.

  21. almond Said,

    August 22, 2013 @ 8:05 am

    Hi,
    What if after culturing it, there is water at the top and what is left of the soy milk is very liquidy below ?

  22. almond Said,

    August 22, 2013 @ 8:07 am

    The remaining part of the soy milk doesn’t look at all like yogurt. It is very water, just slightly thicker than regular uncultured soy milk.

    Thanks

  23. renae Said,

    August 23, 2013 @ 1:32 pm

    Almond, the water at the top is whey and is totally normal – you can just pour it off. As for the soy milk not thickening up as it should, there could be several reasons: bad starter, too much starter (use only about a tablespoon per quart of milk and don’t be tempted to use more), incubation temperature too low or too high (aim for 110 degrees and don’t go too far from that), or incubation time too short or long. Although I use a slightly different method now, I still make yogurt every 10 days or so. Usually it’s perfect, but when it is not as thick as I like it, the reason is almost either that it’s time for me to refresh the starter (i.e. buy a cup of commercial yogurt instead of perpetuating my own culture) or I left it in the incubator too long. 8 hours at 110 degrees seems to be ideal for me.

  24. Frances Said,

    September 1, 2013 @ 7:42 pm

    My friend Bonnie with celiac disease told me that letting yogurt incubate for 24 hours is many times more healthy than the 4-8 hours, but she uses dairy. I don’t see why soy would be any different but have you ever forggotten it and let it go 24 hours? I don'[t think anyone has mentioned yet that be SURE you are using NON-GMO soy beans or soy milk.
    Thanks for this wonderful information I’m going to use to make soy yogurt tonight!! my website isn’t reallly ready yet with content but I include it since it will be about how I eliminated two different cancers from myself using alternative methods so those interested can watch and wait for content to go up. Meanwhile my artful banner is fun to see.

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