Greek-Style Soy Yogurt or Soy Yogurt Cheese

by on September 10, 2007
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Greek-Style Soy Yogurt with Agave and Granola
My new favorite food! Or maybe it’s an old favorite?

Ilva combines it with wine-simmered peaches. Heidi uses it to make frozen yogurt. And just about everyone is using it to make Tzatziki.

Normally I just ignore non-vegan ingredients in recipes, but lately I’ve started to notice so many mentions of Greek-style yogurt that I decided to do a little research into exactly what it is and whether there’s a vegan equivalent. What I found out was that it’s basically yogurt that has been strained. Well, excuse me, but isn’t that what we referred to in the 80′s as “yogurt cheese”? Way back in the dark ages before I became vegan, one of my favorite bagel spreads was herbed yogurt cheese. You simply took yogurt, put it into a cheesecloth-lined strainer, let it drain until it was a spreadable consistency, and then mixed it with whatever herbs and spices you liked. Of course, back then French Onion Dip was all the rage, so that’s what mine usually came out tasting like.

After doing a little more research, I’ve decided that the main difference between Greek-style yogurt and yogurt cheese is the amount of time you allow it to drain and, therefore, the thickness and dryness of the end-product. According to this site, which explains how to make Greek yogurt from scratch, you’re supposed to let it drain for about 2 hours. Another article suggests letting it drain overnight. Most recipes indicate that the amount of yogurt will be reduced by about half.

On the other hand, most recipes for making yogurt cheese, also known as labneh, specify a longer draining time, even as long as 1 to 2 days. The main objective is to let it drain until it is the consistency of a soft cream cheese, so the draining time depends a lot on the consistency of the yogurt you start with. You should wind up with one-third to one-fourth the amount of yogurt cheese as yogurt, so if you start with 3 cups of yogurt, expect around 1 cup of yogurt cheese after draining.

Armed with all of this knowledge–and a couple of “gold” coffee filters–I recently started making Greek soy yogurt. The first step is to make my own soy yogurt. As I’ve mentioned before, the only plain soy yogurt I can buy here is Whole Soy, and it’s so sweet that it might as well be the vanilla flavor. Besides tasting better, homemade soy yogurt costs less than half the price of store-bought.

Making Greek-Style Soy Yogurt

I’ve found that if I know I’ll be straining the yogurt, I can skip the step of adding a thickener, such as agar, when I make it. This speeds up the process of making soy yogurt, but the downside is that I wind up with less Greek yogurt or yogurt cheese than when I use the thickener because more water (whey) is lost. So I do recommend using a thickener, but if you’re in a hurry, you can get by without one.

After the yogurt is made and has incubated until it’s to the tartness I like (anywhere from 8 to 20 hours), I let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Then, I set a cone-shaped gold coffee filter in something that will hold it upright and catch the water that drains out and line it with a paper coffee filter or with two layers of cheesecloth, as shown. (If you don’t have cone-shaped filters, you can line a mesh strainer or colander with cheesecloth or even purchase a special yogurt-cheese maker.) I pour or spoon the yogurt into the filter, place it in the refrigerator, and cover the top loosely. In the photo above, I started with unthickened yogurt, so the water started draining immediately. (I took this photo about a minute after pouring the yogurt into the filter, and the whey just poured out.) If the cup that the water is draining into is not very deep, be sure to empty it into another cup from time to time. Save the whey, though; it’s full of nutrients and can be added to smoothies and soups or used to replace water in baked goods. (I’ve also watered my plants with it, but I don’t recommend that.)

Making Greek-Style Soy Yogurt

Here’s what the yogurt looks like after about 6 hours. When it reaches the consistency you like, remove it from the cheesecloth and store it in a covered container. If you want, you can press out more water by twisting it in the cheesecloth, but I find this unnecessary unless I’m making a very dry yogurt cheese.

Thick Greek-Style Soy Yogurt

Here’s how thick the finished Greek-style yogurt is. I took photos of this spoon of yogurt for about 3 minutes, and it never once dripped off the spoon!

Greek-Style Soy Yogurt with Agave and Granola

I find that Greek-style soy yogurt, besides being thicker than regular, has a slightly sweeter taste. Perhaps it’s because the flavor is more concentrated, or maybe it’s that some of the bitterness is removed with the whey. I like it plain as a low-fat spread on breads, but my current favorite use of it is to serve it with agave nectar and a sprinkling of granola, a lower-fat, vegan version of the traditional Greek dessert that uses honey and walnuts.

But it has so many more uses. Give it a try in shrikhand, an aromatic Indian dessert. Veganize this Mini Tomato Pesto Torte. I’m making a batch now that I have earmarked for a version of these delicious-sounding stuffed mushrooms. You can even fry it or fill crepes with it. In its thickest form it works as a replacement for cream cheese and in its thinner form it can replace sour cream in almost any recipe (I’m planning on making a cheesecake with it soon). The possibilities are endless, so get straining!

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tabitha August 17, 2009 at 4:25 pm

Do you know how much protein this has?
I have a hard time getting enough protein and have been looking for a vegan greek yogurt since the non-veg kind has about 15g.
I'm looking forward to trying this, high protein or not:)

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2 SusanV August 17, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Tabitha, it's going to have the same amount of protein the yogurt you start with has. So if you use a quart of Wildwood soyogurt, which contains 32 grams of protein, your strained yogurt will contain 32 grams of protein, though it will be much less than a quart in volume.

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3 Mandie August 25, 2009 at 9:52 pm

Wow, this is so perfect! I'm making my transition to vegan-ism right now and greek yogurt is definately the hardest thing for me to get away from. I think soy yogurt is a great idea but it just doesn't compare to my good ol' protein filled greek stuff. Do you know what the nutrition facts are for this? I would be interested in knowing them if you could because the protein is the total deal breaker. Thanks so much for this awesome recipe! I hope the nutrition stacks up but if not I know I'll have fun making it anyway :).

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4 Adrienne September 4, 2009 at 10:00 am

Do you think this recipe would be possible to make with almond milk and yogurt cultures?

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5 SusanV September 4, 2009 at 10:11 am

I think you can make it with almond milk. Just follow the instructions in my post "Making Soy Yogurt," but be sure to use some sugar to give the yogurt cultures something to feed on.

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6 moonwatcher October 3, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Hi Susan,

I just want to report that I had wild success using the homemade soy yogurt and converting it to Greek yogurt. I'm doing it one cup at a time, as needed–and in my case, I just used a small strainer, no cheesecloth–and that works perfectly. I had tried it before with store bought soy yogurt and a layer of cheesecloth, but it was too "thick" as you mention in the comments here. This time just used the strainer and voila! I put it on some baked fruit cobbler made with fruit juice and a little mape syrup in the topping and it was wonderful! I'm hooked now. . .the Greek dressing with the cucumbers looks great, too. . .Thanks so much!

moonwatcher

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7 Anonymous January 9, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Bookmarked this. Thank you for sharing. Positively value my time.

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8 Anonymous January 18, 2010 at 4:19 am

This is a titanic article as they all are. I from been wondering nearly this as some time now. Its great to note down this info. You are objective and balanced.

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9 martha winsor June 13, 2010 at 9:34 am

another thought…
when i used to make cow milk yogurt, i either simmered the milk to reduce it considerably, added dry milk powder, or added evaporated milk (depending on what i had on hand, and what i wanted the finished product to taste like, or be used for, or how much time i had for the project.
therefore this question…
can soy yogurt be produced from soy milk powder, and can as good a result be had from using more powder than one would use to make the standard ‘soy milk’ beverage?
i also highly appreciate this site and all the contributors. many thanx.

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10 SusanV June 13, 2010 at 11:44 am

I haven’t tried adding soy milk powder, but I have heard that it can be used to make soy yogurt. If you try it, please let us know what your results are.

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11 Amy August 7, 2010 at 2:49 pm

This is so awesome! I am saving up for a soy milk maker! cant wait til i can make my own soy yoghurt!

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12 Mark November 30, 2010 at 9:02 am

Well from my experience Greek-style yogurt is not Greek Yogurt, rather a cheap imitation.
Even a typical industrial Greek yogurt is superior to the greek-style ones they sell in grocery stores. If you ever go to Greece visit some of the traditional stores who sell yogurt and compare them with the ones they sell here.

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13 Kerragh December 28, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Susan,
I have had terrible luck with the soy yogurt recipe. The taste has been awful and extremely watery, regardless of the thickener I use. Here are a few of my thoughts on the possible cause. Please let me know if you have any suggestions:
-I used unsweetened commercial soymilk but added sugar and salt as suggested.
-I used agar flakes since the powder is not available in my area. However, I did adjust the amount accordingly (3:1 ratio flakes:powder). It never seems to completely dissolve though. Is this common?

Any help you could offer would be greatly appreciated. I will keep at it until I get it right!

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14 SusanV December 28, 2010 at 3:10 pm

That’s the problem with agar flakes–they’re very hard to dissolve and clump easily. You could try grinding them to a powder in a blender before using them. Other than that, I’m not really sure what the problem could be. What are you using as a starter culture?

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15 Kerra Gazerro Hanson December 29, 2010 at 7:33 am

Thanks for the response, Susan. I am using Wildwood Probiotic Soyogurt, Unsweetened Plain. I like your suggestion to grind the agar flakes to a powder. My inner voice is telling me that this is the root of the problem. If I do choose this approach, should I still add 1 tbsp., or reduce the amount to 1 tsp., as in your original recipe? Thanks for being so receptive to my questions and offering feedback and suggestions. It is greatly appreciated. I will keep you posted.

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16 SusanV December 29, 2010 at 7:39 am

I’m glad to help, Kerra. I think I would probably split the difference and use 2 tsp. of the powdered flakes. I think they will be less dense than the packaged powder but denser than flakes. Good luck!

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17 Kerra December 31, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Susan,

Success! I used a coffee grinder and created a powder with the agar flakes. Basically, I used the amount called for (1 Tbsp.) and added whatever it was reduced to once ground. I assume your estimate was pretty close, since it appeared to be about 2 tsp. I allowed the soy yogurt to incubate for about 12 hours, then put it through a mesh sieve. It is simply wonderful. Thanks for your help…and Happy New Year!

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18 tamy July 29, 2011 at 5:58 pm

my 3 year old cant heve milk it so hard to find differnt kind of yogurt for her i rhink if i make this for her add fruit to ir shell love it

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19 Megan June 23, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Hi Susan! Did you ever happen to try making a cheesecake with this? I’d LOVE to know any tips or tricks, as I’m a very new vegan and cheesecake was my weakness! It would be so great if that could be a (sooner than later) future post ;-) Thanks!

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20 Reena Kazmann September 18, 2012 at 4:05 pm

So glad to see this. What yogurt recipe are you using–the one you published in 2007? Or is there an updated one?

How long does this keep in the fridge?

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21 Audrey September 18, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Susan… you are awesome. That’s all I have to say. Definitely making this over the weekend! I wonder if it freezes well… mmm Greek soy froyo!

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22 Krista October 23, 2012 at 8:15 am

Hi Susan,

If I follow your soy yogurt recipe to make this Greek yogurt, do I need to stir in the liquid if it separates as you suggest in the other post, or can I just pour it off at that stage?

Thanks!
Krista

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23 Susan Voisin October 23, 2012 at 8:31 am

You can pour it off. That will give you a head start in thickening it.

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24 anne desjardins October 2, 2013 at 6:22 am

Wow! What a great blog for people who are looking for creative ways to cook plant-based ingredients and for those among us who try to cut on dairy products! I’m impressed… This is an awsome and very inspirational piece of work, Susan! So far, I have never been able to find good soy yogurt and this is something I’ve been missing badly since I’ve given up on cow milk… What I love is plain yogurt and it’s nowhere to be found in a plant-based version… Also tried your mac’n'cheese recipe and loved it. Made it twice in one week, with lots of steamed veggies for added nutritional benefits and an slivered almonds-whole wheat bread crumbs topping. My husband is a fan too, which is, per se, a huge compliment, since he’s been a meat-cheese lover all his life! Keep up with the good work and thanks a lot for working so hard at helping people getting great tools to improve their health through better food choices…

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25 Maple P December 16, 2013 at 1:42 am

I was wondering how the cheesecake turned out. If you have posted it, and I just couldn’t find it? I’m curious to know what were the results. And if its better using “its better then cream chesse brand” (this vegan cream cheese gives me an upset stomach) or if using the soy greek yogurt turned out yummyer? =)
-Maple

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26 Taylor Kelley January 6, 2014 at 2:08 pm

I tried to strain ‘So Delicious’ plain coconut milk yogurt with a coffee filter and a strainer. It was in the frig overnight and the next day, nothing had happened. I also tried to put a weighted lid on top of it, nothing happened. It was still sitting in the coffee filter, no drainage at all. Maybe it didn’t work because whey is actually a by product of dairy milk. So, I guess will do without Greek yogurt now that I’m a vegan. :(

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27 Susan Voisin January 6, 2014 at 2:15 pm

I think they put so many thickeners in coconut milk to make it yogurt-like that it doesn’t have any real liquid left to strain out. One of these days, Whole Soy will again be making soy yogurt, and if you’re not opposed to soy, it makes a good Greek yogurt.

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28 Brier March 6, 2014 at 3:17 am

Hi! Thanks for the great instructions, I’ve been experimenting with making soy yogurt for a few days now, but could never get it as thick as I wanted it. I think this is the answer :)

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