How to make unsweetened yogurt (curd / dahi) with cashew nuts or peanuts – Vegan kitchen basics

Unsweetened yogurt curd dahi with cashewnuts | ©
Vegan Cashew Milk Yogurt – Soy free, Dairy free!

As a Tambrahm, I do not need to profess my love and addiction to curd (yogurt) and it nearly brought tears in my eyes when I knew I would never taste the thick creamy, just set tang of a good smooth yogurt when I decided to become vegan. The quest for a substitute drove me crazy in the beginning but with time I just got over it, probably because curd was the first thing I stopped. Hot beverages like tea and coffee stuck on for quite some time before I could kick off the poison and a series of acidity problems, both at one go!

When I joined facebook, I began to get in touch with many vegans in India, and was pleasantly surprised to meet a few in Thane itself! All were trying to get the perfect ‘yogurt sub’. I came to know about making yogurt with rejuvelac from Rithika and decided to try it at home. A couple of weeks ago, a memory thread from long ago came back to me at random. I remembered having read in some magazine about making yogurt starter using chilli crowns. I am not sure what it is in chilli crowns that causes it to ferment milk to set into the perfect yogurt but I was sure it could happen with any milk other than dairy milk too. Searching across the net I came across a blog in which the author had posted her soy milk made with chilli crowns. When I understood that it was possible to have vegan yogurt (other than by adding lime juice to milk, which I do not think is perfect!), the craving came back too.

This happened around the time when Jr.H and I were on our raw vegan detox diet and I was desperate to add variety, partly to induce Jr.H to keep up the good work! I started setting up wheat grains for the rejuvelac and two days later when I had a good liquid to make the starter, I soaked both, raw cashews as well as raw peanuts to make the yogurt.

Here is how I made it:

Peanut yogurt starter:
Soak 1 cup raw peanuts overnight or 6-7 hours. Drain, rinse and blend with a cup of plain water till smooth. You might want to skin the peanuts like I did the second time, but it is not necessary. Our temperatures are almost the same as in Summer around this time (except for the sudden rain spells during the last two days), so I just added two teaspoons of the rejuvelac liquid from the wheat grains and set the cup in the sun. It was the day I went to see Sheeba’s Tanjore Painting Exhibition in town. When I returned home that evening, I ran straight to the window and lifted the lid to see yogurt where there had been milk that morning! The only let down was that the yogurt carried the scent of peanut oil. Not that I am complaining too much for I am quite fond of that smell too!

I forgot to take a picture of the peanut yogurt this time but I will when I make it again and update the post.

Cashew yogurt starter:
Soak 1 cup cashews as above. Drain, rinse and blend with a cup of plain water till very smooth. This time I just poured the thick milk in a medium sized bowl and topped with the crowns of fresh chillies, about 13-15, I think. Chilli crowns mean the stem ends of green chilli that remain attached to them. That evening I had perfectly set cashew yogurt that tasted exactly like the one made of dairy milk, no kidding! You would not have made out the difference, believe me! This has the taste of just set yogurt. If you need a tang, add some lemon juice as per your taste.

Update: The chillies need to washed and patted dry completely before separating the crowns. Do not wash the crowns again after separating them from the chillies. The first batch which is the starter culture will have a very faint aroma of chillies that will not affect the taste. The second batch made with this culture will not carry that aroma.

Temperature: If your region is not sunny or warm, grind the cashews with hot water (not boiling hot) and cool the milk till it feels lukewarm or just hot. Then top it will chillies and leave it a warm spot for 4 to 5 hours to let it set. It sets faster in thermal ware as temperature is constant for a long time in such wares. Usually, I just measure the heat by dipping the tip of the index finger of my right hand into the center of the milk and test the temperature, but the internet tells me that milk should be about 30 deg. Celsius or around 100 deg. Fahrenheit in order to be set into yogurt.

Q: A question about Chili Crowns. The addition of Chili crowns didn’t make the yogurt spicy? After the yogurt was set, did you discard the crowns?

A: The yogurt will not be spicy at all. It will taste exactly like that made with regular full fat milk, but the first batch does have a very faint aroma of chillies that cannot be detected if you dilute it into buttermilk or if blended and mixed into rice. Yes, I did discard the crowns once the milk was set.

Peanut yogurt is affordable while cashew yogurt is expensive!
Peanut yogurt is thin but cashew yogurt is smooth, rich and tasty!
I will go for the former if I am going to make a biryani but for the latter for all other things!

Watch out for some great recipes using these kitchen basics on this space soon! Things are going to rock in my kitchen, for sure! If you want flavours in your yogurt you could slice a vanilla pod and drop the seeds or add an organic essence but Indians prefer plain yogurt with no flavour.

What is rejuvelac and how to make it at home? – Please find out here. I used dried wheat grains but it is said that fresh wheat grains make a better product.
Importance of pro-biotic drinks – What are probiotics? Why include probiotic drinks?

You can also make vegan yogurt by use of probiotic powders, though I am yet to try that out.

Earlier “Vegan Kitchen Basics” on Tongue TicklersMaking Coconut Butter and Coconut Cream.

Update on 01/12/2016:

As I was surfing the net today to check whether fermentation breaks down fats (w.r.t a query raised by a reader) I found the blog post that reminded me of the process of fermentation of curd using chilli stalks. I had probably done a check earlier because I have even posted a comment sometime after writing this post! 🙂 Do check the post by Priya of Live2cook.

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Have your say

  1. This is phenomenal…….never had imagined a cashew yogurt… cashew was a cream substitute in gravies for me till now.

    I had tried peanut milk and peanut paneer too and knew about the chilly crowns as yogurt starters but cashew yogurt is genius.

  2. AMA's AnythingVegetarian

    Do you mean to say that the chili crowns acted as the culture to set the yogurt.Didn't add anything else ?.Wow.

  3. wow! i'm not a vegan probably because i LOVE yogurt so much. i'll have to try the cashew yogurt!

  4. I never knew that yoghurt starter is possible with chilli crowns. If it works here, then it going to be awesome. I want to try it but I have a question. Do you just remove the crowns from the chillies and place them over the cashew milk? Do you wash the crowns?

  5. Thanks everyone! I was thrilled too with my taste of creamy yogurt after quite some time!

    AMA, you don't need to add anything else. If your temperatures are low, just grind your cashews with hot water and let it cool to lukewarm before topping the milk with the chilli crowns.

    Lucy, My Mom says the same and I can understand the yogurt fixation! I love it too. My Mother has asked me to show this to her when I meet her so she can change over to vegan diet:).

    Madhu, I washed the chillies with the stems and dried them like I always do with every batch of chillies I purchase. Usually I throw the crowns and preserve the chillies. This time I topped the milk with the crowns and it worked. I did not wash the crowns after separating them from the chillies.

  6. few days back i tried soymilk with almond loved the flavour,so can imagine the taste

  7. Wow thats very unique and wonderful looking curd..

  8. Innovative and delicious yogurt. Love the idea of curd minus milk!

  9. Sanctified Spaces

    I am really amazed for the kind of will power you have to stay vegan!

  10. Looks perfect!

  11. @ Sangeeta

    Can you enlighten us about Peanut Paneer ??

    It would be great. As we have got rid of soya from our kitchen being controversial.

    Pls send me the recipe –>

  12. Sangeeta, I would love that recipe too! Got back to reading your comment after Manish's comment and realized that I missed an interesting bit there!

    Sanctified Spaces, the truth is that after sometime one loses the craving for milk and milk products for the very simple reason that we realize that we were missing the most important thing on which we subconciously focus while eating – the flavours. The flavours that we enjoy most are natural ones – cinnamon, cardamom, flowers etc. They are not milk, paneer or meat. This is what I have learnt through my experience. All other flavours and likes are developed in course of time.

  13. Homemade yogurt is way better than those you'll get from grocery store shelves. Plus you know what goes in it so you won't be worried about nasty ingredients 🙂 I prefer mine with some mangoes and organic raisins.

    Also, glad you mentioned probiotics on your post. I've been reading quite a bit about it lately as well. Here's a good article about it

  14. Love the bowl and bowlful!

    happy diwali harini to you and your dear ones. Sending you love and happiness overseas 🙂

  15. honeybeecooksjackfruit

    Amazing. I had no idea the chili crowns would ferment yogurt, vegan yogurt at that. I often think I should go vegan (and stop using wheat too) but no will power. Hopefully someday I can do it.
    I have to try this yogurt though!

  16. hi harini… back at your blog after a gap… its looking so good now. cashew yoghurt looks amazing… so doesnt it taste like cashews? like can you make tayirsaadam with it??

  17. Hi,
    I've been missing my regular curd as well for the past two years, and occasionally indulged in the regular dahi as a result. I'm really looking forward to trying this tomorrow itself.
    Just a query though. Is it healthy to consume a cupful of cashews every day; for that matter, and of the nuts?

  18. Soma, too late on my part but thank you:).

    Rajani, yes. You can have this as tayir chaadam but it is heavy.

    Nandita, I would definitely not advise this to be had on regular basis. I am over curd rice but it is a good treat to have this once in a while. I have it as an indulgence, maybe once in three months!

  19. Hi Harini, thanks for sending the link….I have missed these posts amidst my shifting and settling i think. Though i was keeping up with the pictures on Flickr. I am all set to try this cashew yoghurt and it will go into the biriyani:)

  20. Do you have good recipe for vegan cheese as well? I have been trying out with soaked cashews+salt+blackpepper+garlic – it makes a good spead, but doesnt make that cube type cheese that you can use for things like pizza etc. Any idea?

  21. This is wonderful Harini, not sure how I missed it!..

  22. Have you ever tried making it with coconut milk? I’m assuming it is possible if peanuts and cashews could be turned into yogurt….
    Thanks for the substitute.

  23. What a coincidence! One of my friends, Lata, also a blogger asked me the same thing. In fact she made it the next day and gave me a feedback. Coconut milk can be indeed made into yogurt but only with the first, thick extract, else it turns out too thin.

  24. Even with the first extract, the yoghurt does not have the thickness of plain milk yoghurt or the richer and creamier cashew yoghurt. But it sets well and has the tang.
    It works fine for the South indian style Khadis and yoghurt based dishes for coconut in the masala to give body to the gravy.

  25. Hey, after our mail exchange the other day, I too tried with coconut milk. I agree with you completely. I made ‘morkootan’ and it worked perfectly! I added ground coconut as is done in the regular manner and the enhanced flavour of coconut worked very well!

  26. I have read somewhere that bacteria resides under the chilli crowns which is why it is recommended to remove the crowns when storing chillies. Maybe it is the same bacteria that helps witht he fermentation process.

  27. Yes! You are absolutely right, Sneha! 🙂

  28. hi Sangeeta mam

    Please elucidate on making peanut paneer.

  29. Ummm…. I am Harini aka Sunshinemom here. I do not generally make peanut paneer but I think I will and I will post the recipe soon. Thanks for visiting Chitkalamba

  30. Dear Harini,

    I’m on a 2 month vrat that requires a strictly vegan/jain diet. I tried making peanut yoghurt today using ur recipe, but substituted green chilli crowns for those from dried red chillis.

    The yoghurt, when set, had the consistency of idli batter. But when I whisked a ladle of the yoghurt with some salt and water it turned into the yummiest buttermilk that I’ve had in a long time. I’m so happy to have a substitute for dairy and am going to share the yoghurt with my sister who’s also on the same vrat.

    Thanks a lot for being generous enough to share your recipes and tips with the rest of us 🙂

  31. Hi, Janaki! Thanks for visiting, trying out a recipe and then, coming back to tell me about it! Much appreciated. 🙂 I am so glad that my recipes and technique work for others too! Sharing is fun!

  32. Hi Sangeeta
    Once I have made the cashew yoghurt, can I keep some back and use it as a starter to make soya or coconut yoghurt?
    Basically can I use it as a starter for any vegan yoghurt?

  33. If it is sour enough, you can Heidi. I use this as a starter but so far only for more cashew yoghurt! BTW, I am Harini. 🙂

  34. was looking for vegan curd and google brought me here to your wonderful post. i am going a bit crazy as after checking some posts on making vegan yogurts – i was at a loss. i simply cannot make them. where to buy the starters?

    thanks for sharing this process of making vegan yogurt. at least i have the chili crowns. for how long i have to keep the cashew milk. is it sour once set or i have to ferment it more to make it sour.

  35. Thanks for looking up, Dassana! What I do is make only a tablespoon of the curd till it comes out well and sour and then I use it as a starter. Unfortunately cashew milk is very temperature sensitive. If it is cold it just won’t set and instead get spoilt. It is best made in Summers. I keep it out the first day till I find light yeast action and it tastes a little sour. Then I refrigerate it until next morning. Put it out again. It sets well in 2-3 days depending on the climate. If you want it sour, as for kadhi, you have to repeat the refrigeration and putting out for about four days. Comes out real thick and tasty.

  36. thanks a lot harini. so now i can make vegan kadhis and vegan curd rice 🙂

    i am transitioning into veganism and i am simply cannot get any vegan substitutes here. i will check your blog for other vegan substitutes like butter , ghee etc.

    thanks again.

  37. A pleasure that you are trying to transition! Welcome to delicious, healthy life!:) Just wanted to let you know, kadhi is tastier with coconut yoghurt while curd rice is tastier with cashew yogurt. You can proceed the same way but will have to use only shop bought coconut milk as it is thicker than homemade. I heat coconut milk using a method similar to double boiler method. Boil water well and place the container containing the coconut milk inside it till it heats up to a tad more than luke warm. Place green chilli crowns and check till done. I don’t think there is a substitute for ghee but yes I do have a recipe for butter like effect.

  38. thanks harini, for the mention about kadhi and curd rice and also the method of making coconut yogurt

    i get the asian variety of coconut milk here and will surely try making coconut curd 🙂

    i also checked your post on coconut butter. do i need to use fresh coconut or the packed coconut milk will do. btw i also get packed coconut cream.

    last but not the least, do you know any website in india that sells vegan products online. i searched on google but could not find anyone.

  39. Dassana, the asian variety works well for coconut curd. Regarding coconut butter only fresh milk works. We have started packaged coconut cream here too but I haven’t used it so far. In far I purchased my first pack a couple of days back. 🙂 As of now, we have no website in India that sells solely vegan products. 🙁

  40. Loved your work harini…All your recipes are fantastic! I wanted to know if I can make peanut yogurt using chilli crowns? Thanks 🙂

  41. Thank you, Shamira! Yes, you can make peanut yogurt with chilli crowns. But this method is effective only when the weather is hot. I am not very happy with the results during the Rainy Season.

  42. Has anyone tried making yoghurt with almonds? Cashews a bit costly to use on a regular basis but we always have almonds in our kitchen!

  43. I have tried with almonds, Prabhat, but they do not have the thickness of cashews and do not set as well.

  44. Hi Harini, I tried making soya milk yogurt with green chilli crowns. I checked after 8 hours and the curd seemed to be setting a bit so decided to leave it for a few hours more. When I checked after 12 hours it had spoiled completely, it smelled really bad. What could I have been doing wrong ?By the way I set it with 10 chilli crowns and slightly warm milk, covered the container as well.

  45. Hi Madhulika, I am getting mixed reviews on this one. 🙁 Soy milk settles pretty quick and gets spoilt if kept out long. I do not keep it out as long as you did. There is another method I use. You could probably try it. Warm 2-3 tbsps of soy milk. Squeeze a little lime. Use this curdled soy curd as a starter but set only about 1/8th cup of soy milk. The second starter will be better than the first. This can be used as a regular starter for larger quantities of soymilk. This method, I find is more accurate than using green chillis. If the second starter does not taste to use it to make more starters till you get the one that satisfies you. Also, the curd depends solely on correct temp of the milk. I think I should use a thermometer next time. Also, the chilli crown method is in Summer and not reliable in Rainy Season or when it is cold. I am sorry it didn’t work out for you. But I will try again with a thermometer and get back here. Do try the lemon curdling method. I am sure you will find that good and do get back to me. I will have to redo this recipe if it doesn’t work.

  46. Thanks Harini for your suggestions. Will try the lemon method. Have you tried the probiotic pill method ?

  47. No. Yet to try that one! Have you? Do share your experience if you have.

  48. does this yogurt also work like regular yogurt in cooked dishes like tikka masala or dishes along those line?

  49. It is excellent for dry tikkas. In fact I am soon posting a dish that will show the yogurt used that way.

  50. Hi Harini! went through your post and came to know that besides milk & soya milk ,curd could be made even from cashews & peanuts.This is something new for me.I want to know a few things from you in this relation as my daughter is unable to digest milk protein, though she is very fond of sweet curd,raitas,cheese, paneer. Secondly, i being a patient of severe arthritis can’t have curd, kadi pakoras. Can kadi pakora be made from Soya Milk? I further want to ask you cashews & peanuts are rich in calories & so any substitute of cashews besides soya ? Secondly, what do you mean by wheat rejuvelac & how is it prepared & used in making curd ? Thirdly, can soya curd excluding cashews & peanuts be had daily. I sometimes use one dried whole red chillie in setting the curd, Although it sets thick but it smells and tastes like red chillie with the result that even if sugar is added to it still it smells like a chillie.Hope to read something new from your side in response to my queries.Pl. respond on my e-mail id. Thanks.

  51. Hi Rewa,

    I have replied to your email id.

  52. Hi I wonder if yogurt could also be made with a mixture of cashews and water chestnuts. Have you ever tried that Harini? Do you think it might work? Im still searching for the PERFECT vegan yogurt. It might also be nice for those who just do not like that strong coconut flavour

  53. Karuna, I would love to have a more perfect recipe as well! I haven’t tried cashews with water chestnuts. I am curious as to how it will turn out. If you try it, do let me know how it works. It might, I think. Yes, it will be great to have something that is more affordable than cashews, and suitable for people who do not like the flavour of coconut. 🙂 Thanks for the idea.

  54. I am a bit confused.. please elaborate on the draining of the soaked peanuts/cashews.. I have in mind that the water it soaked it was either used or discarded. :-/ A video would be amazing.

  55. Hello there harini
    I have just become.a vegan not even completed 48hrs yet
    and i reside in.south bombay kemps corner here there are no shops for vegan foods to buy
    Thank you for your blog actually wanted to.knw cashew nut peanuts are vv heavy as a form of curd
    Soya milk seems to be lite live the idea the way u explained to make soyabean milk yogurt
    But wanted to knw.tht even sequesing lemon in coconut milk and than using tht starter in coconut milk to set a yogurt ??
    And how to make soya milk at home ?? i honestly dont like tetrapacks available here please can u help im super excited since u reside in mumbai i thought there r no vegan here in bombay but very happy to find a site

  56. Hi Ladyredfox, I haven’t been able to check the comments since a few days and am sorry for the delay in replying. You understood correctly. You must discard the soaking liquid and grind with fresh water. I would love to do videos for most of my recipes but unfortunately my day job does not allow me to do that, but I will keep your request in mind and do it some time. I hope I clarified your doubt.

  57. Hi Disha, glad to know that! Welcome to veganism. We have many groups on facebook like Indian Vegan, Mumbai Vegans where you can get in touch with vegans in India and in different States, exchange your thoughts and also find places to visit for vegan foods. Please check my facebook page here and do follow to keep in touch –

    There is a Godrej Nature’s Basket outlet in Mahalakshmi where you will find all vegan goodies that we suburbians are not privileged to find. Yes, cashew and peanuts are heavy but the good thing is they will both taste well even if diluted a lot. Yes, you can make curd with coconut milk as well. You will have to squeeze and form a starter with about a tablespoon of coconut milk and then use this to set the rest. I use only home made milk and this means only the first extract. A post is on the cards about rejuvelac and how it can be used for setting curd. Hopefully I will get to it soon.

    For soy milk at milk, soak soya beans in water overnight. Drain and grind with just enough water to a grainy batter. Seive through a soup seiver or muslin cloth, squeezing out as much milk as possible. To this you may add cardamom powder (a pinch) or split a vanilla bean and add the beans to the milk. Mix well and dilute it is as thick as the dairy milk you earlier used. Now boil like regular milk but on medium flame and stir every now and then. The milk boils quicker than dairy milk so stay around and stir as it gets caught easily at the bottom. When it starts rising, put off flame. Cool to room temperature closing with a ‘holey’ lid so that the soy flavour escapes. Drain and use as you please. Refrigerate.

    If you have a doubt do get back or mail me so I can give you my number as well. I will be happy to help if I can. 🙂

    There are many vegans in Mumbai, and we have regular potlucks as well. Do mail me if interested and I will put you in touch with vegans from various walks of life. 🙂

  58. Thank you for sharing.
    Could you post some pictures of the results using chili stems ?
    Do you warm the milk before adding the chili stems and do you cover the bowl of milk ?
    Thank you

  59. I have given pics and further details in this post – Please look up.

  60. wow that yogurt looks so good. I’ll be sure to give this a try. I have a question, do you think I could make cashew yogurt by adding some water kefir to it? I don’t mean the grains, I mean some prepared kefir as a culture. Just curious.


  61. I am not aware of that process. I just found out about water kefir after I read your comment and it looks like a good culture. I am curious too! Tell me whether it worked, please.

  62. I tried it and it worked! It was a littly fizzy but it got really nice and thick after about 9 hours. It wasn’t exactly like regular yogurt, though, i think I need to work on the cashew/water ratio. (I used 1 3/4 cup cashews and 1 cup water)

  63. So glad! Thanks for the feedback. It certainly is not the same but it is the closest sub I could get so far. Yes, the ratio needs to be worked out as per preference, and it depends on the cashew variety as well.

  64. Hello Harini, I have been making cashew yogurt with my extra water kefir grains. I soak a cup of cashews overnight, In the morning whizz them up with a little water. To to this I add about a teaspoon of water kefir grains and a couple of teaspoons of white sugar ( important as the grains eat the sugar and in the process make the cashew milk sour ), by evening I have REALLY AMAZING TANGY yogurt. If you have a kefir plant do do try this out, you will be amazed. Its very reliable, never ever got spoiled yeasty or gone off. However after the yogurt has ‘set’ I discard the grains since water kefir grains cannot be used for other than water to be strong and multiply.

  65. I have no idea where I can find kefir grains but if I do I will try this method. Thanks.

  66. Hi Harini,

    Thanks for the sharing this recipe.. I was just wondering how long this curd will keep when kept outside the fridge.. to take to office in a lunch box?

  67. It stays good enough for about 3-4 hours depending on the room temperature. If it is in an air conditioned atmosphere it should remain good for long but am not sure about summers. It starts frothing like idli batter. The taste won’t be very different but it might catch a smell.

  68. Will definitely try cashew yoghurt. Till now, I had explored only soy yoghurt and coconut yoghurt. My daughter is on a dairy free diet and I cannot thank you enough for this great recipe.

  69. Hi Harini! How long do you boil peanut milk to get rid of the raw taste?I tried simmerinf for 30 min but it was still there

  70. Sita, I don’t use peanut milk unless I am making kadhi. I don’t like the smell, but in kadhi it blends with the flavours and smells good. If you want to drink milk the best option is cashew, almond or oat milk.

  71. I want to know so can we use chilies crown to make curd with peanut and rice or is it only for cashews
    thank you

  72. I use it only for cashews but you could try the same with peanuts too.

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