Lactose-free yogurt, or how to reclaim your childhood

lactose-free yogurt and jam

I have moved countries four times in my life. I have changed homes many more times. In every newly inhabited space, the acclimatization process wasn’t easy; it took me time to get used to the new walls, the temperature, the people and, of course, the food.

On my family’s first night in Israel, I tasted a revelation. The texture, the coolness, the flavor and, of course, the slight hint of fruit in that plastic yogurt cup nearly blew my six-year-old mind. Now, before you click the exit button and get the hell out of dodge (“what kind of a food writer talks about yogurt as a revelation??”), hear me out. Until that point, I had never tasted yogurt.

Don’t get me wrong – I came to Israel fully acquainted with the tart, thirst-quenching taste of kefir, a cultured dairy drink favoured among many post-Soviet nations (I think the idea of pretty much letting milk go bad on the counter and then still drinking it was definitely the saviour of many a Soviet household during the food rationing days). Yet I was also deeply familiar with the nausea it would provoke in my small six-year-old stomach, a feeling that would arise just as soon as I smelled the vile concoction.

So as you can imagine, my parents really weren’t very hopeful upon that first night in a new country, following a harrowing 20-something-hour flight, with their sweating, scowling eldest daughter looking at them with eyes that practically spelled hunger, and nothing to offer her but yogurt, jello cups and fresh fruit (I was also not a big fan of jello cups). But they took the risk, and after sufficient complaining, I relented… and so began a decades-long affair with sour dairy.

lactose-free yogurt

That is pretty much how I felt the same day I made my first lactose-free yogurt. You see, since I realized I couldn’t consume lactose anymore, what I missed the most wasn’t fresh milk, pungent cheese, or rich butter. I missed all those things, for sure, but what I dreamt about every afternoon was my customary cup of yogurt. No soy yogurt came even close to that mythical taste: fresh and cooling, with a sourness that can be easily tamed with just a dab of honey or jam. I just had to find a solution, or risk living life without yogurt.

And you wouldn’t want that, would you?

Next time, what do we do with all of that leftover whey?

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5.0 from 4 reviews
Lactose-free yogurt
 
A rich homemade yogurt, with the offending lactose taken out!
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Israeli
Ingredients
  • 1 litre of lactose-free milk (The percentage doesn’t really matter, though I go for 2 per cent. This is now fairly easily available in North America. In other countries, unfortunately, this ingredient presents more of a challenge)
  • 1 cup of pre-made yogurt, with live cultures (most regular yogurt is fine, but aim for full fat and absolutely no flavoured stuff!)
  • a big pot
  • a big glass bowl or casserole dish with a lid
  • a warm spot: on top of your fridge, the inside of your turned-off oven with only the lamp on, or even a plastic cooler with blankets.
Instructions
  1. Fill a clean sink halfway with very cold water. Go on, you can even dunk some ice cubes in there.
  2. Take your cup of yogurt out of the fridge and let it rest at room temperature.
  3. Pour all of your milk into a big pot, and set it to medium-high. Cover the lid, and sit and watch the pot. They say a watched pot never boils, and you don’t want this thing to come to a full boil. After 5 minutes, test the milk by placing a very clean finger in the pot and then dabbing that drop on the outside of your other palm. When the milk feels hot and is very gently starting to bubble in the pot, take it off the stove (this could take anywhere between five and fifteen minutes).
  4. Alternative: you may also want to invest in a thermometer. The ready milk should measure about 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Take the lid off and place the pot in the half-full sink. Wait about 10 minutes before you start the same testing. This time, the milk should feel cool to touch.
  6. On a fancy thermometer, this would be about 100 degrees Farenheit.
  7. Now, pour your milk into the clean glass bowl. Dump a cup of room-temperature yogurt into your milk, and stir gently with a wooden spoon.
  8. Cover your bowl with a lid.
  9. Now, comes the fun part: place your glass bowl into a pre-determined warm place (on top of your fridge, the inside of your turned-off oven with only the lamp on, or wrapped in blankets inside a plastic cooler). I always go for the oven.
  10. Leave it alone overnight. Or, if it’s midday when you’re testing this (and it should never be midday. Yogurt-making is for lazy people who want time to do their work for them, and it goes best with a full night’s sleep), wait six to eight hours.
  11. Taste your yogurt. At this point, it’ll be sour and warm, and quite runny. It’ll harden in the fridge, after which you can ladle it into about 500ml pre-washed glass jars.
Notes
- For neatly packaged yogurt, skip the glass bowl in step 5 and pour your cooled-off milk directly into four pre-washed glass jars. Add a cup of prepared yogurt, distributing it evenly between the jars, one spoonful at a time. Place the jars on a baking sheet into your warm spot, and leave overnight. It’ll harden in the fridge.
- For silky, creamy Greek yogurt, line a plastic colander with about four layers of cheesecloth large enough that the ends drape over the sides of the colander. After your yogurt has sat overnight in its warm nest, pour it carefully into the colander, and let it drain. If left at room temperature, about one hour should be enough (check for desired consistency). In the fridge, it can rest comfortably for two to four hours, but you may have to add some of the pooled whey back. And voila, you got some delicious Greek yogurt!

 

 

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Comments

  1. says

    I’m newly diagnosed lactose intolerant and the thing I miss the most is not yummy cheese, but yogurt. Especially Greek style yogurt. So thanks for the recipe and I’m looking forward to making it today! Lactose free milk is easy to find in my local supermarket, but almost impossible to find at cafes. I’m having a hard time trying to like soy milk in coffee. Blech. Guess it will be espresso from now on.

    • kseniaprints says

      I’m so glad that I could help you restore one of your pre-diagnosis loves! Yogurt was a very big thing for me as well, and so when I started playing around with lactose-free milk, I was ecstatic to find a way to enjoy the flavour and texture of one of my favourite foods, even with my diagnosis. And I hear ya on the soy milk – I usually go with espresso or try to find almond milk (which is becoming more common in North American coffee shops).

  2. Chris says

    Thank you for posting this easy recipe! One question though: do I start with plain lactose free yogurt for my culture base the very first time?
    Many thanks,
    Chris

    • kseniaprints says

      No, you can start with any unflavoured regular yogurt with live cultures (it should list active culture in the ingredients, or perhaps even more specifically acidophilus or bifidus regularis), though I recommend a higher fat greek yogurt, if possible.

  3. Fabienne says

    Thank you for your post! When I stumbled over this very easy recipe three days ago I made a small test batch right away and it worked beautifully. By now my fridge is pretty full with glass jars full of yoghurt. The consistency is perfect and its not too sour so I don’t even need to sweeten it. So no more sugary and overpriced store stuff for me!

    • kseniaprints says

      I am so glad you liked it, Fabienne! I agree, making my own yogurt put me off most of the commercial stuff completely (though I still like a lactose-free yogurt by this one Quebec company, Liberte). My next goal is to find a way to make good non-dairy yogurt at home without weird thickeners.

  4. says

    Hi there,

    So I made a batch last night after finding your website and so far so good. It is currently setting and I can’t wait to try it. I do have one question though; to make my next batch can I use one cup of today’s batch as my starter or does it no longer contain live cultures?

    Thanks!

    • kseniaprints says

      Absolutely! That’s the ideal starter, a yogurt that you made yourself. Though ideally, you should use some from a jar that you haven’t opened yet (ie, once you pour them into jars, open a new jar when you want to make a new batch).

      • says

        That is wonderful news! I was doing the math on the recipe and being able to use a portion of each new batch as the starter will bring the cost to delicious new lows. Good news on all fronts. :)

        Thanks again for the recipe.

  5. Phuong says

    Hi, I’m so happy to find your receipe to do free lactose yogurt cause I’m on diet and crave for this so badly. Sorry for my question that I can use Almond milk, soy milk unsweetened for this? Actually English is not my language so it takes me awhile!

    Look forward to hearing from you soon,

    Thank in advance!
    Phuong

  6. Shani says

    Hi Ksenia, thanks for this wonderful recipe. I have made it twice and it’s easy and fun to make. How can I get my yogurt to be a little more sour (chamutz)? I use 2% lactose free milk and it’s sweeter than regular milk. Can I add a bit of lemon juice for a more sour or tart flavor?

    • kseniaprints says

      Hi Shani! Sorry I am late to respond, things got a bit crazy with a recent injury I’ve inflicted upon myself. To make your yogurt a bit more chamutz, simply leave it outside a little longer! The tanginess in yogurt, ricotta and even kombucha develops as the good bacteria eats its way through the sugars, thus fermenting your product. I usually leave mine out 12 hours and it’s VERY tangy, but I’d say start at 8 and build from there.
      Behatzlacha :)

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