Everywhere you turn these days, you hear about probiotics and healthy gut flora. Coinciding with the rising popularity of probiotics are probiotic-rich foods, like kombucha, kimchi, and kefir. These three probiotic foods are easy to make at home, but for some people, kefir poses a bit of a problem; it contains dairy. For anyone who is lactose intolerant or vegan, kefir isn’t an option. But there’s good news! Vegan kefir does exist, and it’s easy to make at home.

Healthy Gut Flora

A healthy gut, with a good balance of bacteria, has been linked to a vast array of positive health outcomes – from a healthy brain, to a healthy weight, to the potential to ward off illness.1

Fermented foods like kombucha and kimchi are absolutely overflowing with probiotic bacteria, and some, like kefir, are easy to make at home. Probiotic capsules are another easy way to boost your gut flora, but they aren’t the only way you can feed your gut with healthy bacteria.

But first, let’s get back to basics, and take a quick refresher course on probiotics.

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are “friendly” microorganisms that, when introduced into your gut, provide health benefits to your body. This is because your gut microbiome often needs a little help to inhibit “bad” bacteria and further support the “good” bacteria that are already there. Think of probiotics as your own personal “army” being sent in to keep the peace.2

However, the struggle between “good” and “bad” bacteria in your colon is an ongoing fight. So, finding ways to consistently deliver friendly bugs into your gut is ideal.

Probiotic Foods

Probiotic foods are a fantastic way to regularly contribute to your microbiome, and they are often right under your nose. Some of the most popular include:

  • Vegan Kefir | Urban Monk NutritionYogurt (including coconut, soy, and almond milk varieties)
  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickles
  • Miso
  • Sourdough bread
  • Kombucha
  • Fermented veggies
  • Kefir (including coconut kefir and almond milk kefir)

What is Kefir?

Traditionally, kefir is a fermented milk drink with a distinct, sour taste. It’s slightly carbonated, due to the lactic-acid fermentation that occurs during its creation. Kefir can be likened to a “drinking yogurt”; it contains probiotic bacteria and beneficial yeast.3

Now, the trick with kefir is that it’s made from “kefir grains.” These aren’t really grains at all, but a starter culture that looks like grains. You can think of a starter culture as a substance that triggers fermentation into action. It’s already filled with billions of friendly bacterias and yeasts. Kefir grains look a lot like cottage cheese.

Vegan Kefir | Urban Monk NutritionTraditional milk-based kefir is low in lactose because the bacteria help to digest the lactose in the milk.4 But while this can help the lactose-intolerant, it doesn’t help vegans.

But, there’s good news if you’re a vegan and you’d like to make your own kefir. Kefir does not have to be made with dairy. You can make almond or coconut kefir, for example. All it needs is to become “cultured.”

Vegan Kefir

Vegan, non-dairy kefir is commonly made with coconut or almond milk, or with coconut water. But choosing your non-dairy milk isn’t the only thing you need to consider when making your vegan kefir.

Vegan Kefir | Urban Monk NutritionRemember, kefir grains are needed in order to kickstart kefir – and these grains aren’t something you can make yourself. They need to be sourced. But many of the grains on the market are still dairy-based. It’s simple to avoid products called “milk kefir grains,” but many kefir starter culture kits are not completely dairy-free, so you’ll have to dig a little deeper for vegan kefir grains.

The safest bet: seek out dairy-free “water kefir grains ” as your starter. These can easily be found on Amazon.

Vegan Coconut Kefir Recipe

So, let’s make some vegan kefir!

Now, you can make coconut kefir with coconut water or coconut milk – but here’s the catch: you need to make coconut water kefir first, if you ultimately want a “milk”- based coconut kefir.

Here’s why: Coconut water kefir is what provides the potent vegan starter to make coconut milk kefir.

1. Coconut Water Vegan Kefir

What you need:

  • Vegan Kefir | Urban Monk Nutrition2 tablespoons hydrated water kefir grains
  • 4 cups of coconut water (organic is ideal)

What to do:

    1. Add water kefir grains to coconut water in a glass jar.
    2. Cover with a cloth cover and a rubber band.
    3. Let sit for up to 48 hours.
    4. The ideal coconut water kefir will be a little fizzy, with a slightly sour flavor.
    5. Strain the coconut water kefir to remove the water grains.
    6. Refrigerate your new coconut water kefir and enjoy.

If you’d like to move onto coconut milk kefir, read on…

2. Coconut Milk Vegan Kefir

What you need:

  • Vegan Kefir | Urban Monk Nutrition¼ cup of coconut water kefir (the liquid, NOT the grains)
  • 2-4 cups of coconut milk

What to do:

  1. Combine the coconut water kefir with the coconut milk in a glass jar
  2. Cover with a cloth cover and a rubber band.
  3. Allow to sit for 24 hours.
  4. The milky coconut kefir will also be a little fizzy, with a slightly sour flavor.
  5. Refrigerate your new coconut kefir and enjoy.

Looking After Your Kefir Grains

Just like dairy kefir grains, non-dairy kefir grains need constant love to keep them alive. Think of them as a houseplant.

Water kefir grains thrive best outside of the refrigerator. Store them at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. You can keep them in a cloth-covered jar in some “sugar water” (1 tablespoon of sugar and ¼ cup of water for every tablespoon of grains). They will need to be fed fresh sugar water every 24-48 hours.

You can store them for up to 3 weeks in the fridge in this sugar water. But know that it may may take a few batches for the grains to wake back up and work as effectively. To wake them up, take them out of the fridge can add them to fresh sugar water. Then, start on your recipes again.

Feeling Cultured Yet?

Sure, culturing takes a little time, but the finished product always brings so much more joy when you know that you made it yourself. You’ll also know exactly what’s in it (no hidden ingredients or preservatives).

So, get your hands on some water kefir grains, and start embracing the probiotic goodness of a non-dairy kefir. Vegan kefir, including coconut kefir, is a really great place to start. Ultimately, you’ll end up with two probiotic drinks out of this one!

Learn More:
5 Reasons Why You Need Wheatgrass in Your Diet
Raw Water – Is it Worth the Money and Is it Better Water?
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