What is Kefir, Exactly? And Is It Vegan-Friendly?

Whether it’s during a grocery store trip or while social media scrolling, it’s likely you’ve come across fermented foods and beverages before. Things like kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, and miso have risen in popularity in recent years, and the overall market has shot to more than $575 billion. By 2032, it could hit more than $989 billion.

Many fermented foods and beverages are made from dairy—like kefir. The thick yogurt-like drink was one of the first known fermented beverages in the world. But, while it’s usually made from cow’s milk, kefir can be made without dairy so those avoiding dairy don’t have to miss out on its potential health benefits. Intrigued? Here’s what you need to know.

What is kefir?

Kefir, which originates from the Caucasus Mountains that lie between Asia and Europe and the nomadic Ossetians, is a mix between a yogurt and a milky drink. 

It’s made with a mix of fermented milk and kefir grains, and, while you might think of things like barley and rice when you see the word “grain,” kefir grains are actually a little different. In fact, they are living symbiotic colonies of yeast and bacteria. This means that kefir is a good source of probiotics, which may help with gut health.

“The fermentation process gives kefir its rich probiotic content which is the primary reason kefir has immune boosting benefits,” Tricia Best, RD, told All Recipes.

“Probiotics actively repopulate your gut with healthy bacteria which are needed for proper immune function,” she continued. “It has been said that the immune system is housed in the gut, and this is relatively true. The gut’s microbiome plays many vital roles in the body and when it is out of balance nearly every body system is impacted.”

Is kefir vegan?

Because kefir contains fermented cow’s milk, in its original form, it’s not vegan. That said, it is possible to use plant-based milks instead. This recipe from the blog Light Orange Bean, for example, guides you through how to make vegan kefir using soy milk and water kefir. The latter is a kind of sparkling, probiotic drink, which is made with, you guessed it, water.

“After 24 hours of fermentation, soy milk in the jar with water kefir became slightly thicker and has a hint of sour taste,” notes the blog post. “This is the best time to enjoy the soy milk kefir as a beverage.”

You can also use a combination of coconut milk, date paste, and water kefir to make vegan kefir, as this recipe from The Coconut Mama blog demonstrates. “It contains powerful anti-bacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a superior food to keep in your kitchen,” notes the blog.

You can also use other alternative milks, like almond milk and oat milk, too. But if you’re not interested in making your own kefir, or you simply don’t have the time (we get it), then it is also possible to buy vegan versions. Below, we’ve listed a few of the best brands to try.

Where to buy vegan kefir: 5 brands to try

VegNews.vegankefir.cocosCocos Organic

1 Cocos Organic

British business Cocos Organic has been making coconut-based products for more than a decade, using ethically sourced, natural, organic ingredients. It has a whole range of vegan kefir products, which are gluten-free, made in the UK, and contain billions of live gut-friendly bacteria. Flavors include Natural, Strawberry, and Mango Passionfruit.
Check it out

VegNews.vegankefit.biotifulBiotiful Gut Health/Instagram

2 Biotiful Gut Health

Founded by figure skater-turned-entrepreneur Natasha Bowes, Biotiful Gut Health is not a vegan brand, but it does offer a whole range of plant-based kefir products. Made with oat milk, the drinks, which are designed to support immunity, come in a range of flavors, including Cherry, Mango, and Vanilla.
Check it out

VegNews.vegankefirinnercoInner-Eco

3 Inner-Eco

Made with coconut water and kefir cultures, Inner-Eco’s range of You Gut This probiotic coconut waters are as tasty as they are good for you. They’re sparkling, bubbly, and deliciously fruity, especially if you choose flavors like Blueberry Blackberry and Mango Pineapple.
Check it out

VegNews.vegankefir.foragerprojectForager Project

4 Forager Project

It’s not specifically sold under the label “kefir,” but Forager Project’s range of vegan, yogurts are just as good for your gut. They contain live active cultures and are made with a blend of organic cashews. Try tasty flavors like Blueberry, Mango, Vanilla Bean, and Strawberry.
Check it out

VegNews.vegankefir.sojadeSojade

5 Sojade

Known for its authentic, simple French vegan products, the plant-based brand Sojade has expanded into kefir alternatives. This particular beverage is made with fermented organic soya milk, contains billions of kefir cultures, is low in fat, and it’s pretty tasty, too.
Check it out

For more on dairy-free food, read:

Here at VegNews, we live and breathe the vegan lifestyle, and only recommend products we feel make our lives amazing. Occasionally, articles may include shopping links where we might earn a small commission. In no way does this effect the editorial integrity of VegNews.

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