Is “dairy-free yoghurt” an oxymoron? If you’re of the opinion that nut/legume milk is not milk, then maybe you think dairy-free yoghurt cannot be called yoghurt. However, if you think that the bacteria defines the food, then yeah, making yoghurt out of soy/almond/coconut milk qualifies as yoghurt. Lastly, if you prefer looking at nutritional content, you might be against this nomenclature. Read on and find out.
What is yoghurt
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, yoghurt (or yogurt) is “a fermented slightly acid often flavored semisolid food made of milk and milk solids to which cultures of two bacteria (Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus) have been added”. (1) Oxford dictionary tells us yoghurt is “A semi-solid sourish food prepared from milk fermented by added bacteria, often sweetened and flavoured.” (2)
Therefore, whether you consider dairy-free yoghurt yoghurt depends on whether you consider dairy-free milk milk.
Because lactose is the sugar present in mammal milk, dairy-free yoghurt is lactose-free. If the product doesn’t contain gelatin as a thickener, it is also vegan.
Most products currently available in the market are made with coconut milk, followed by almond milk or a combination. The actual composition of dairy-free yoghurts varies widly depending on the brand. Below are a few examples.
- Coyo natural: Organic coconut milk (97%), organic tapioca starch, live vegan cultures (inc. Bifidobacterium, L. Acidophilus)
- Coyo vanilla bean: Organic coconut milk (95%), organic vanilla bean paste (2%), organic tapioca starch, live vegan cultures
- Coyo mango & passionfruit: Organic coconut milk (81%), organic mango (4.8%), organic apple puree, organic tapioca starch, organic passionfruit (1.2%), organic pineapple juice, organic banana, organic guava, live vegan cultures
- Cocobella natural: Coconut yoghurt (water, coconut milk, native starch, tapioca syrup, yoghurt cultures and probiotics)
- Cocobella vanilla: Coconut yoghurt (water, coconut milk, native starch, tapioca syrup, yoghurt cultures and probiotics), vanilla blend (water, sugar, rice starch, natural flavour, vanilla bean (< 1%), lemon juice concentrate)
- Cocobella passionfruit: Coconut yoghurt (water, coconut milk, native starch, tapioca syrup, yoghurt cultures and probiotics), passionfruit blend (passionfruit pulp (6%), water, sugar, rice starch, sodium citrate, natural flavour)
- Nudie natural: Coconut yoghurt (coconut, water, cornflour & cultures)
- Nudie vanilla: Coconut yoghurt (coconut, water, cornflour & cultures), natural flavours, monkfruit juice, vanilla bean (0.5%)
- Nudie mango & passionfruit: Coconut yoghurt (coconut cream, water, corn starch, cultures), mango puree 9%, passionfruit 5% (passion fruit juice, passion fruit pulp seed-in), monkfruit juice), natural flavours
- Nakula natural: Coconut (93%), native starch, cane sugar + cultures
- Nakula passionfruit: Coconut (79%), Passionfruit Puree (15%), native starch, cane sugar + cultures
- Wisebunny natural: Water, almonds (10%), sugar, stabilisers (pectin, agar, carob bean gum), tapioca flour, live cultures
- Wisebunny mango: Water, almonds (7%), sugar, mango (3.5%), stabilisers (pectin, agar, carob bean gum), tapioca flour, rice starch, natural colours (carrot concentrate, turmeric) natural flavour, live cultures.
Plant-based yoghurts are lower in protein and calcium than dairy-based ones. In addition, they are generally higher in fat and energy. The sugar content varies depending on the ingredients. See the table below for a comparison between different varieties, including averages for regular yoghurt (3).
|Fat, total (g)||23.7||9.7||14.6||9.9||5.3||3.9|
|– Saturated (g)||22.4||8.7||13.8||9.0||0.4||2.5|
|Carbohydrate, total (g)||3.4||6.5||4.8||8.9||7.5||4.2|
|– Sugars (g)||1.7||2.0||1.2||3.4||4.5||4.2|
|Nutrient||Coyo vanilla bean
|Yoghurt, vanilla flavoured
|Fat, total (g)||23.2||8.4||15.8||3.4|
|– Saturated (g)||22.0||7.5||15.0||2.2|
|Carbohydrate, total (g)||4.2||11.4||4.5||9.8|
|– Sugars (g)||2.6||5.5||1.4||9.8|
Tropical fruit flavoured
|Nutrient||Coyo mango & passionfruit
|Nudie mango & passionfruit
|Yoghurt, passionfruit flavoured
|Fat, total (g)||18.3||8.3||12.2||10.7||3.5||3.4|
|– Saturated (g)||17.3||7.4||11.5||10.1||0.3||2.2|
|Carbohydrate, total (g)||7.4||10.8||5.5||9.9||8.5||11.4|
|– Sugars (g)||3.0||5.0||2.2||5.9||5.8||11.4|
I have tried a few different brands of dairy-free yoghurts in a variety of flavours. Some brands approximate the texture of regular yoghurt more than others. However, the flavour doesn’t come close, at least in the products I have tried (Coyo, Cocobella and Nakula).
Summary and recommendations
Dairy-free yoghurt is not nutritionally equivalent to regular yoghurt. However, this does not necessarily mean it is not a healthy food. If you are on the fence regarding dairy consumption, read the section “Should you consume dairy?” in the article Is dairy good for you?.
Therefore, if you choose to consume dairy-free yoghurt, make sure you are consuming enough protein and calcium from other sources. In addition, if you are trying to lose weight you might need to keep an eye on the amount you are consuming as some of these yoghurts are energy-dense.
Likewise, if you need to control your sugar intake, have a look at the ingredients lists and nutrition information panel before buying one of these products.
In addition, this lack of one-to-one also applies to culinary uses, as the taste and texture might not work as expected in some cases. Therefore, if you decide to use non-dairy yoghurt for cooking, experiment with different brands until you find the one that works for you.
You can dig into the archives of my blog for a few dairy-free yoghurt/kefir reviews:
- Merriam-Webster.com. yogurt: Merriam-Webster; 2019 [27 June 2019]. Available from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/yogurt.
- Lexico.com. yogurt: Oxford University; 2019 [27 June 2019]. Available from: https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/yogurt.
- Food Standards Australia New Zealand (2014). AUSNUT 2011–13 – Australian Food Composition Database. Canberra: FSANZ. Available at www.foodstandards.gov.au