In this article I’m going to give you the recipe I use to make milk kefir. I’m also going to point you to a vast array of milk kefir recipes and discuss how to bake with kefir.
What is milk kefir?
Milk kefir is a cultured (fermented) milk drink containing a wide variety of bacteria and yeasts. It is a probiotic that has been reported to have many health benefits. Those range from aiding digestion, reducing bloating, strengthening bones and boosting immunity.
It is similar to yoghurt but is thinner in consistency and contains a much wider variety of beneficial bacteria than yoghurt.
What does milk kefir taste like?
Milk kefir tastes very similar to yoghurt. It’s sour and tangy but unlike yoghurt it has an effervescence to it. It is often described as milk champagne.
Making milk kefir
Milk kefir ‘grains’ are required to make this probiotic drink. They are called grains but in actual fact they are nothing to do with a grain. Instead they are a symbiotic colony of beneficial bacteria and yeast that originates from the mountains between Asia and Europe.
You can buy them from several places including here in the UK. I haven’t ever bought them because I’ve always been given them by a friend so I can’t recommend any particular company.
The milk kefir grains are placed in full fat milk and left covered at room temperature for up to 24 hours. During this time the milk will separate and thicken.
I personally use around 3 tbsp milk kefir grains per 400ml milk. This is more than many people recommend but I find it to be the perfect amount for thick creamy kefir.
I don’t seem to tolerate cows milk very well so I use full fat goats milk to make my kefir. I’m currently experimenting with using coconut milk and other dairy free milks to make a dairy free milk kefir.
Steps to make dairy milk kefir:
- Take a large glass jar. Place 3 tbsp milk kefir grains into the jar and add approx 500ml full fat milk (cows, goats, sheep).
- Place the lid loosely on top of the jar. Don’t screw it on.
- Leave on the kitchen counter for up to 24 hours. Once separated and thickened the kefir is ready. The time this takes will depend on the temperature in the room.
- Get a large glass or plastic jug and place a plastic sieve over the top. Never use metal with milk kefir grains because you’ll damage them.
- Pour the milk and grains into the sieve and gently push the milk through the sieve using a plastic spatula or spoon.
- Decant the milk kefir in the jug into a glass bottle with well fitting lid. Seal the bottle well and place in the fridge.
- Leave the milk kefir in the fridge for around 5 days. Each day shake the milk if separated and remove the lid to let out any gas that is trapped. It should start to hiss when you open the lid. This is when I start to drink it. The milk kefir at this stage is less sour and slightly fizzy.
- Place the milk kefir grains that are left in the sieve into a fresh jar of milk and repeat. Alternatively place them into fresh milk and store in the fridge for a few days before straining them and using them again.
Steps to make dairy free milk kefir (coconut milk kefir)
- Empty a 400ml tin of coconut milk into a microwavable jug. Alternatively place it into a small saucepan.
- Warm the coconut milk just enough to ensure it comes together into a smooth milk (rather than solid and liquid layers). Do not over heat it.
- Pour the slightly warm coconut milk into a glass jar and add 3 tbsp milk kefir grains into it using a plastic spoon or spatula.
- Follow from step 2 above, leaving this milk for around 12 hours, rather than 24 hours.
- After every 2-3 batches of coconut milk kefir place the grains back into a dairy milk to feed. They need the lactose in the milk in order to survive and will eventually die if left in coconut milk alone.
Once you have your milk kefir there are a huge number of things you can do with it.
Baking with kefir
When I make milk kefir I end up with a lot of it. As you can see above, if you make it every day you end up with half a litre daily!
If everyone in the family drinks it then that is probably the amount you will need.
I have a word of caution though.
Milk kefir is an extremely strong probiotic and if you’ve never had it before I advise caution.
As many of you know I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. While milk kefir can help with this it can also make it worse. If I drink more than a few tablespoons of kefir a day it causes me to become more bloated. Some people find the opposite so I’m just advising you to take it slowly.
If you’re new to kefir then take 1 tbsp per day and assess how you feel before increasing the amount slowly.
This is where milk kefir recipes come in handy. Baking with kefir will destroy the beneficial bacteria. However, you’ll get the benefits of the natural rise it gives (whilst not getting any negative side effects).
Milk kefir can be used in recipes where buttermilk is required. Think scones, pancakes, soda bread and cakes. The slightly acidic, sour milk kefir reacts with raising agents to create a wonderful rise. This is perfect for gluten free baking where it’s often tricky to get a good rise.
Milk kefir is also perfect to use as a replacement for a sourdough starter in sourdough bread. Replace the liquid in a sourdough recipe with milk kefir. Then replace the volume of sourdough starter in the recipe for flour.
For example, if a recipe calls for 100g starter, 300g flour and 400ml water use 400g flour plus 400ml milk kefir.
Milk kefir recipes (gluten free)
Gluten free scones
My best gluten free scones recipe is perfect made with milk kefir instead of the milk and yoghurt. I used 120ml milk kefir in their place (slightly less because the kefir is runnier than yoghurt). Add 80g cherries to make wonderful cherry scones.
Gluten free soda bread
My gluten free soda bread with cheese and sundried tomatoes can be made with milk kefir instead of the milk and vinegar.
Gluten free sourdough bread without starter
My recipe for gluten free sourdough bread is so easy to make and the result is an incredible crusty yet springy bread.
Gluten free fruit loaf
This gluten free fruit loaf is so easy to make and it’s wonderfully moist with the addition of kefir.
Sweet gluten free buns
These sweet gluten free buns flavoured with lemon and spice use the milk kefir as the raising agent. The result are soft and delicious gluten free buns that are perfect for afternoon tea.
Other milk kefir recipes
There are so many other milk kefir recipes across the internet. A great source of them is the Cultures for Health website.
Where can I buy milk kefir?
If you’ve been inspired to make your own milk kefir then head to Happy Kombucha.
If you’d like to buy milk kefir already made then take a look in the supermarket. Most UK supermarkets now sell milk kefir. Just check for pasteurisation because if it has been pasteurised it will have no beneficial bacteria left in it.
If you have any milk kefir recipes I’d love to hear from you. I’m always adding to my collection.