How to Make Coconut Milk Kefir

Lately I have been exploring in the world of coconut milk kefir! Our family has been consuming regular raw milk kefir for a few years now, but recently, we lost our frugal milk source, and I was forced to rethink and consider some other nutritious options. Enter…coconut milk kefir!

Kefir is typically made from cow’s milk that is fermented with kefir cultures. It is similar in taste and texture to a drinkable plain yogurt with a bit of a tangy flavor to it. It is known for many health benefits including boosting the immune system, stimulating digestion, protecting against the spread of harmful yeast overgrowth, lowering cholesterol, and guarding against cancer. It is a powerful probiotic that helps beneficial bacteria to thrive in the body.

Coconut milk is naturally rich in medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs). Two of the primary MCFAs found in coconut milk, lauric and capric acid, are known for supporting the body’s immune system. Coconut products contains monolaurin, a fatty acid found in human mother’s milk, which has proven antiviral, antibacterial, and fungal properties that support natural immunity. It has a creamy taste and texture that’s similar to cream (with half the fat and calories) or milk (when diluted). It tastes on the flavor of what you mix it with, making it ideal for both sweet and savory recipes. It is completely dairy, gluten, and soy free, making it the most nutritious option and alternative for the dairy intolerant.

When I searched online for information to make coconut milk kefir, I was surprised to see the serious lack of information on this topic. There appears to be two different options. Coconut water kefir and coconut milk kefir. I wanted to make coconut kefir with coconut milk because it is cheaper and easier. I am all for simplicity. Most of my searching and emailing different companies (Weston A Price & Body Ecology) came up with no responses, so I had to venture out on my own with some help from Julie at Cultures for Health.

Coconut milk kefir works beautifully with milk kefir grains yielding a thick and creamy coconut cream topping for your coffee, ice cream, smoothies, or curries with all the healthy bacterial benefits! Check out Healthy Cooking Coaches recipes for Strawberry & Vanilla ice cream using coconut kefir. You can use it as whipped cream substitute on top of pancakes or waffles (sweetening as desired) or use it in replacement of buttermilk or water in many baked goods recipes. There are no end to the ideas for its usage.

For a tutorial on making coconut water kefir, visit The Nourishing Gourmet or Body Ecology Diet.

Coconut Milk Kefir

1 quart glass jar
2 Tbsp milk kefir grains (available through Cultures for Health)
2 cans unsweetened undiluted coconut milk  or 1 quart So Delicious Coconut Milk (It has been confirmed that Native Forest Coconut Milk is canned in a BPA-free can)

Directions:

  1. Place the milk kefir grains in the quart size glass jar and cover with coconut milk. Carefully mix together with a non-metal spoon (please forgive my forgetfulness on this point in the video!).
  2. Cover loosely with a towel or cloth napkin and allow the coconut kefir to culture on the countertop for 12-36 hours.
  3. After 12 hours, check the coconut kefir every few hours so you can remove the kefir grains as soon as it reaches the desired consistency. If you let it sit too long it will become more sour and very thick, making removal of the grains more difficult.
  4. Remove grains and store them covered with a small amount of milk in refrigerator between batches or follow up immediately with another batch.
  5. Place a lid over the remaining coconut milk kefir in the jar and store in the refrigerator. Note that it will get significantly thicker in the refrigerator as it cools, so it is a perfect consistency to use as whipping cream and such.

Cultures for Health suggests that it may take a batch or two for the milk kefir grains to adapt to coconut milk but if the milk doesn’t kefir properly during the adjustment period, it is still safe to cook with. They do recommend returning the grains to cow or goat milk periodically to refresh them (and they can adapt back to making raw cow/goat milk kefir).

Here’s my little video tutorial:

Can I use kefir packets to make coconut milk kefir? What if I am dairy intolerant?

I originally thought that kefir packets would be a better alternative than grains for those with dairy allergies. I asked Julie at Cultures for Health about her opinion and this is what she shared: Powdered packets should work with coconut milk but since they are in a dairy carrier, they’re not really going to be an improvement on the grains and it’s questionable how well they will re-culture (using a small amount from the previous batch to make the next batch) making them potentially a costly option.  It might actually be less costly to occasionally buy more kefir grains than to buy lots of packets of kefir starter. We’ve taken to trying to steer the dairy intolerant to water kefir for their probiotics for this reason. Plus kefir packets aren’t really a natural culture and contain less than 10 probiotic strains compared to the 30 or so contained in kefir made with grains.

So there are options to try and experiment with, but the best option might be to stick with water kefir grains and the coconut juice method if you have dairy allergies. Packets can be used if you do not have allergies but the best results will come from using grains and rotating back and forth from culturing in coconut milk to cow/goat’s milk.

Can I dilute the coconut milk to make it stretch further?

Unfortunately you don’t want to dilute the coconut milk since that would leave less sugar for the kefir grains to eat and potentially damage the grains.

Can I make coconut milk kefir with water kefir grains?

Julie at Cultures for Health shares, Dom’s kefir site claims you can acclimate water kefir grains to milk (but I don’t believe he mentions anything about coconut milk) but I personally haven’t tried it and never heard from anyone who has.  If you happen to have a significant surplus of water kefir grains though, it might be worth trying.  It certainly would be great for people with dairy allergies—normally if someone has an allergy we just steer them to water kefir.”

Is there any benefit of making coconut water/juice kefir over coconut milk kefir?

Julie again shares, “Both coconut water kefir and coconut milk kefir would contain basically the same probiotic benefits so at that point I think it would just be a matter of the nutritional differences in the original liquids.  Coconut water is more of an electrolyte type beverage (I keep some around for when we get sick but beyond that we don’t drink very much) whereas coconut milk is a very concentrated source of healthy fats.  Both are perfectly healthy but I think they just ultimately have different purposes.”

Can I used powdered coconut milk?

A few readers suggested below that powdered coconut milk is a cheaper alternative. I understand that powdered milk products are best to be avoided. “It is manufactured through a spray drying process of raw unsweetened coconut cream. This is very different from the more widely available and coarser desiccated coconut which is made by grating machines that shred the white coconut flesh.

When coconut milk powder is spray dried, this has the effect of mixing oxygen (from the air) into the powder, under very hot drying conditions. As a consequence, coconut milk powder is “oxidized” and will go rancid quite quickly if not refrigerated and consumed within one or two days. This process also has the effect of increasing nitrate levels in powdered milk, whether it be dairy or coconut powdered milk. High levels of nitrates can increase the risk of cancer.” (The Incredible Coconut Book)

Coconut kefir does exist on the market now thanks to the efforts of So Delicious, but it cannot be compared with the homemade variety! Read more about that here. Making it yourself can always save you money and produce the highest nutrient content!

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of three, homemaker, and writer. She is the editor of Passionate Homemaking since its beginning five years ago. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

136 Responses to How to Make Coconut Milk Kefir

  1. Karen December 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

    I enjoyed your post. Well written, easy to follow and simple. Thank you. I look forward to trying this and teaching it to my clients.

  2. David December 3, 2013 at 10:25 pm #

    Will the kefir grains ever get a chance to adapt to the coconut milk, if they’re placed in cow’s milk between batches??

  3. Fran September 14, 2013 at 7:23 am #

    Hi,
    Thanks for all the info. I have made kefir before but not with coconut milk which sounds absolutely delicious and lots of health benefits.
    Fran

  4. Jean August 28, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

    After making coconut milk kefir I put it in the refrigerator. What is happening is I find
    the fat in the coconut milk turns hard like wax. Is that the way it is supposed to be?

  5. Teitzah Karys March 17, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

    I heard a little about switching to cow or goat milk after a couple of times to keep the grains strong. I wasn’t sure what the process was to do this. Do you mix it in with the coconut grains? Do you really have to switch or can you just start out with new grains after two time of use. Sounds expensive. I also have coconut kefir grains in my freezer. How long do they keep. I think I’ve had them a while.

  6. Steve February 10, 2013 at 7:18 pm #

    I have tried making coconut milk kefir several times now and it just doesn’t seem to be working for me. I used the “Pure Silk” brand in a carton. It looks like you’re using canned milk. Is this the problem I’m having? Thanks!

    • K&M February 10, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

      FWIW, I got it to work once with coconut milk from Soy Delicious and Cultures for Health milk grains. I also made it at 95-98F (to get more flora than yeast) in the Pacific Northwest. The second time I did the same thing (same ingredients). But, I didn’t check the temperature strictly and I was in the desert southwest. It did not turn out the 2nd time. Whether those factors matter, I do not know… but I have read making kefir is an art.

      However, in a class I took (on kefir), the instructor mentioned that it did not work in her 7-grain milk due to some ingredient. I do not remember what it was.

      So, try again with your milk or try a different milk. Not that this recipe calls for it, but: I also heard that tap water could kill the kefir grains b/c of the chlorine…or was it fluoride. I cannot remember too well. Use spring water, just in case.

  7. Tina January 21, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    Hi there! I was just wondering if you would be able to make coconut kefir with homemade coconut milk rather then store bought?

    • K&M February 10, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

      I have been curious about this. Have you tried making your own coconut milk for the kefir? If you didn’t get it to work, I heard tap water (filled w/ chlorine) could kill the kefir. Use spring water. HTH

  8. Hannah September 13, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    I’ve been looking for a dairy alternative and love coconut milk – I will definitely be trying this!

  9. pilar August 30, 2012 at 9:40 am #

    Have you tried living it for longer then 36 hours? Im trying to make virgin coconut oil and i heard that if you leave it longer you could get coconut oil. Do you have any information about that?

  10. K&M July 13, 2012 at 6:41 pm #

    I am finally making this! The Cultures for Health brand can have Streptacoccous (sp?). Is this okay to have in the final product? Or does preparing at the recommended temperature affect the strep bacteria…and get rid of it? I’m confused if having it alive there is a good thing or a bad thing.

    Also, I just had a class on the benefits of kefir (but not how to make it) and they say preparing at room temperature gives you both yeast & flora… and, preparing at ~95F gives you mostly flora and little yeast. They say you want the latter. Any ideas on this?

  11. Lisa July 11, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

    I’ve been making water kefir for about 6 weeks now with great success. The kefirs double in volume after one fermentation.

    However, I’m not having as much success with the milk kefir. The first and second were creamy and little tart, using skim milk. I can’t stand the taste of whole milk. They were growing, bit by bit with the skim milk. Then I tried an almond/coconut milk. No creaminess at all, and I let it ferment long, to the point where the the curds were floating at the top, with a layer of water, and then a layer of almond/coconut milk. I’ve tried the almond/coconut milk several times, and nada.

    I’ve gone back to skim milk occasionally, and, again, it doesn’t thicken at all. I still drink it, and it’s a little tangy, so I’m sure that I’m getting the probiotics.

    Also, when I change from skim milk to almond/coconut milk, I rinse the kefirs in boiled water at room temperature.

    Am I doing something wrong? Have I injured the kefirs in some way?

    Thank in advance for your assistance!

    lisa

  12. Linda June 23, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

    Does anyone know if I can use the sugary water kefir that has been stored (hibernating) in the fridge for 3 weeks while on holidays or do I have to throw out the stored kefire water and start fresh?

  13. Romy June 12, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    Hi,
    Very much interested in making a batch of coconut kefir, two questions tho…
    Trader Joes has a lovely coconut milk I’d like to use, not as heavy as the canned version, probably similar to “So Delicious”. If I add a sprinkle of sugar would that make it work. I am not adverse to a pinch dietarily speaking. Or, what about blending a date in and then culturing?

    Sharon said; “The dairy kefir grains adapt to coconut milk over a few batches. If I go back to dairy for someone, I do rinse the grains.”
    Does this mean you don’t have to return the grains to milk? That would be a big plus for me since we don’t drink milk, although I do have yogurt and my husband’s requisite half & half.

    • Lindsay June 12, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

      For further help on this, I would recommend you talk with Julie at Culturesforhealth.com. She is more thoroughly knowledgeable in this area.

    • Sharon June 24, 2012 at 11:35 am #

      I only send them back to milk if I’m making some for someone else as I don’t use dairy myself. My grains have been fine in coconut milk for long periods.

  14. Adam May 4, 2012 at 4:16 am #

    I have been making pastured raw milk kefir for awhile now. In 24 hours of culturing I have a very thick kefir which I use for smoothies. I have tried making kefir with the So Delicious brand coconut milk. Because I have had for many years a raging systemic Candida/yeast/overgrowth I assiduously avoid sugars. So I use the unsweetened coconut milk. The kefir that results does not really have that tangy yeasty smell the milk kefir gets nor does it thicken. It just separates into a little bit of gelatinous white solids on top and mostly water below. Is this because of lack of sugar resulting in lack of fermentation? Since I can’t use sugar might I use a little FOS (fructo-oligo-saccharides) as they are supposed to feed friendly bacteria and not bad bacteria? What about a small amount of raw unfiltered honey? Rather not tho. Concerned about that feeding the Candida in my guts.
    Any insights would be appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Adam

    • Sharon May 4, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

      Hi Adam, I had no success using the So Delicious coconut milk (it just separated and curdled) but it’s worked well to use a can of coconut milk (I use Aroy-D as no plastic liner) watered down to fit into a quart sealer. Good luck.

  15. Sharon April 24, 2012 at 7:11 am #

    The dairy kefir grains adapt to coconut milk over a few batches. If I go back to dairy for someone, I do rinse the grains.

    • jenna June 23, 2012 at 6:20 am #

      hi sharon,
      i used two cans of arroy D brand milk to 2 TBSP healthy milk kefir grains. the first batch was OK. the second batch had a slight almost fuzzy film on the top that i never see on my raw milk kefir. then put the grains in raw milk (their usual diet) and let kefir for 24 hours. the milk kefir got a thicker fuzzy coating on top. what is going amiss? should i use more kefir grains? less coco milk? both? or is this just my grains adjusting to their new medium? the fuzzy layer is disconcerting, is this just a sign of the grains acclimating to the coco milk? how many grains do you use for your quart of coco milk?

      • Sharon June 24, 2012 at 11:41 am #

        Hi Jenna;

        Seems like you might need more grains for that much coconut milk. I use about 2-3 tablespoons of grains for 1 can of watered down Arroy-D.

        I’m not sure about the fuzzy coating as I’ve never had that happen. I tend to smell and taste to figure out if something is amiss. If it smells off, something’s gone wrong. Apparently

        A great source for kefir issues is Dom’s kefir making site http://users.chariot.net.au/~dna/Makekefir.html#Kefir-d-acqua

        Hope you sort it out as the coconut kefir is sooo nice!

  16. Christine April 23, 2012 at 10:24 pm #

    I thought kefir grains fed off the sugars that are naturally present in “milk,” whether from an animal or plant source. If I were to buy coconut milk, rather than making it myself, wouldn’t I need to buy the sweetened version (rather than the UNsweetened)? It was my assumption that once the sugars are no longer present, then the kefir start to die off. Please advise. Thank you, Christine

  17. Linda April 21, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    Thanks for the posts. Is your recipe for WATER kefir or MILK kefir grains? I only use water kefir and wondered if it would work with them. Also, a previous post asked about the separating of creamy liquid and yellowy liquid ~ is that what one can expect if using water kefir?
    thanks much. will look forward to a reply :)

  18. Sharon April 21, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    I’ve been making coconut milk kefir for a long time. Aroy-D canned coconut milk is also non BPA. I mix 1 can of coconut milk and enough water to almost fill a quart sealer, then add the kefir grains and culture for about 48 hours, stirring once or twice during the process. The consistency when it’s cultured is more like thick milk/thin yogurt (when stirred as the coconut fat rises to the top).

    Thanks for your great website and useful information!

  19. sunnymama March 28, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    What about using fresh coconut milk, made from a fresh coconut?

    • Lindsay March 28, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

      Sure!

  20. Kevin Khoo March 26, 2012 at 11:16 pm #

    I think it best if you can get fresh coconut milk (santan). In Malaysia the fermentation process is less than 6 hours. Any longer and you get pure coconut oil (which is great for massages) and a thick fermented cream (which is amazing to make cheese). Great instructions though.

  21. Linda March 22, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    I was wondering if I can use canned coconut milk with water kefir grains?

  22. kate March 21, 2012 at 6:11 am #

    I added kefir grains to coconut milk as suggested. What i now have is about 1 inch of kefir of a yoghurt consistency and nearly a litre of clear yellowish liquid. is this right? if not what should i do?

  23. Rose February 11, 2012 at 8:04 am #

    To confirm you are saying:

    so if you have dairy allergies you should use grains rather than packets? But it’s still a chance of reaction so best is water kefir?

  24. Courtney January 24, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    How is this dairy free if the kefir grains are cultured in animal milk? I’m new to kefir, obviously, but am interested in making this, and my daughter is severely allergic to animal milk…except mama milk. Could I culture kefir grains in breastmilk? Can you just make coconut milk kefir with water kefir grains?

  25. SunnyArizona January 6, 2012 at 11:06 am #

    Should I be washing the milk grains before using them to start a coconut kefir?

    • Lindsay January 6, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

      It’s not necessary unless you are allergic in some way to the milk.

  26. Shaina January 4, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    Do you know if using regular milk kefir grains in this would leave trace amounts of casein behind? Could you use water kefir grains in the coconut milk? Thanks!

  27. sarena December 9, 2011 at 6:10 am #

    Can I make this from coconut milk I make from blended young coconuts?

    • Lindsay December 10, 2011 at 7:32 am #

      Yes, I believe so.

  28. Rachel Feldman CHHC, AADP October 21, 2011 at 3:16 am #

    I adore you and I hope it is ok but I posted your instrux and gave you credit of course plus I posted on facebook because I think you do such a great job at making coconut milk kefir. Thanks so much for your dedication to health. I am a holistic health coach and just love meeting other like minded people.THANKS!!!!