In Evergreen, Fermenting, Food, Recipes
Milk Kefir Grains in a strainer basket

Milk Kefir Recipe

Milk kefir is a healthy, probiotic, yogurt-like drink that can be used in smoothies, salad dressings, dips and more.

Milk kefir is one of the easiest and healthiest ferments to get started with. All it takes are a few simple steps and it will be your friend for life! (Literally for life…milk kefir grains will live indefinitely if fed and cared for properly.)

Both milk and water kefir are among my favorite ferments because of their ease and their health benefits. And of course, mine is appropriately named Kiefer. (As in, Sutherland!) Brilliant…I know! 

If you haven’t caught on yet, I name my ferments and affectionately refer to them as my “Kitchen Pets”. They are alive after all! I have to feed them and clean their “cages”, so to me…they’re pets! (Head over to these posts and you can meet Kombucha Kevin, Seymore the Sourdough Starter and Stokely, our Water Kefir. The rest of the gang has yet to be introduced!)

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So what is milk kefir, you ask?

Kefir is pronounced kee-fer (also keh-fur and keh-feer…but around these parts we’ll say kee-fer, m’kay?) and it is simply drinkable yogurt, or some call kefir yogurt.

To some, milk kefir is an acquired taste. It’s sour and sometimes pungent, but I find it similar in taste to plain yogurt. Milk kefir is a fermented (or cultured) dairy food originally from the Caucuses (the region where Asia and Europe meet). It’s traditionally revered for being an elixir of long life, vitality and health.

Turns out there’s validity to this pedestal milk kefir has been placed upon, but it’s only just now gaining popularity in our Western world. Milk kefir is jam packed with probiotics, vitamins and minerals.

What are the health benefits of milk kefir?

As previously mentioned, milk kefir is full of beneficial bacteria, biotin, folic acid, phosphorus and vitamin K – all essential nutrients for health and well-being.

Milk kefir may also improve gut health as a single grain of milk kefir (known as a kefiran) has the potential to protect beneficial bacteria from damage due to the hostile environment in our digestive tract. 

Is kefir better than yogurt?

If you’re anything like me, you grew up knowing you should eat copious amount of yogurt any time you needed a boost to your immune system. But I have since learned that those sugar-filled yogurts from the grocery store probably weren’t doing me any favors.

Yes, yogurt contains beneficial bacteria, and homemade yogurt can be a great way to build up the beneficial bacteria in your gut. However, milk kefir provides different strains of beneficial bacteria, so I find combining the two into a smoothie will give your body an extra dose of goodness! Milk kefir is more potent than yogurt with its numerous strains of “good guys” (beneficial bacteria). It’s full of calcium, magnesium, folate, vitamins K2, B1 and B12 and contains billions of friendly microbes that help your “good guys” flourish.

Kefir is a fantastic way to help boost the immune system, heal a leaky gut, replenish your gut bacteria after antibiotic use, ease allergies, or help fight off a cold or flu.

Can I eat milk kefir if I’m lactose intolerant?

Oftentimes, milk kefir can even be enjoyed by those with dairy intolerance’s (but not those with true allergies). During fermentation, the bacteria and yeasts consume the natural sugars in the milk (lactose), making it digestible for those who are lactose intolerant.

Dairy kefir is most beneficial when made with raw milk (although grains that come dehydrated will need to first be re-hydrated in pasteurized milk). If raw milk isn’t an option, kefir can successfully be made in pasteurized/homogenized whole milk. (Read up on why raw milk is best.)

Can I make milk kefir with coconut milk?

Yes…and no! Milk kefir can successfully be made with coconut milk, however you will want to refresh your grains in between batches by making a batch of milk kefir with regular milk. Kefir grains feed on lactose (the sugar found in dairy milk) and will starve if only given coconut milk for extended periods of time.

Are kefir grains really “grains”?

Similar to kombucha, kefir is made from a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY), however milk kefir “grains” looks quite different than a kombucha “mushroom”. When rinsed clean, they resemble tiny clusters of cauliflower, but there is no relation to cauliflower nor are they an actual grain.

I’m about to go all geeky (consider yourself warned!)…these grains are actually bound together in a gel-polysaccharide bio-matrix. Basically, they’re “firm, lumpy, gelatinous blobs held together by big sugar molecules (glucose and galactose).” (source)

Where can I find milk kefir grains?

Your best bet is to buy them on Amazon…but get them from a trusted source like this one. Alternatively, if you have a friend who currently makes milk kefir, you could ask them if their grains are doubling and if they have any extras. When milk kefir grains are fed and cared for properly, they’ll grow and double in size. If this happens to you, pass them along to a friend in need! Or, you can always blend them in a smoothie, feed them to the chickens or toss them in the compost bucket.

How to make milk kefir?

Seriously guys, milk kefir is a cinch to make. So grab some grains, your supplies and let’s get fermenting!

Once your grains are hydrated you’ll be enjoying the benefits of this healthy tonic every 24-48 hours! (To rehydrate your grains, follow the instructions that came with them. This usually means letting them soak in milk for about 48 hours before use.)

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Straining milk kefir through a non-metallic, fine mesh strainer.

Milk Kefir Recipe


  • Author: Full of Days
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes (plus 24-48 hour ferment time)
  • Yield: 1 quart milk kefir
  • Category: Dairy
  • Method: Fermentation

Description

Milk kefir is a healthy, probiotic, yogurt-like drink that can be used in smoothies, salad dressings, dips and more.


Ingredients


Instructions

  1. Pour 1 quart milk into a clean jar.
  2. Add milk kefir grains. Stir gently with a non-metallic spoon and cover with a coffee filter or paper towel secured with a rubber band.
  3. Wait 24-48 hours.
  4. Using a non-metallic spoon or spatula, strain your milk kefir through a fine mesh strainer (must be non-metallic) into a bowl. Your kefir is now ready to enjoy or can be stored in the fridge for later.
  5. For a thicker, milk kefir yogurt, place milk kefir into a fine mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter and allow it to strain for 6-12 hours. (This allows excess whey to drain off, giving you a thicker yogurt.)

Notes

  • Milk kefir, like other ferments, prefer temperatures between 68-85℉, the warmer they are, the quicker they’ll ferment. If your grains were “hibernating”, or this is your first real batch after hydrating them, it may take them slightly longer to “wake up” and get active.
  • For a thicker, milk kefir yogurt, place milk kefir into a fine mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter and allow it to strain for 6-12 hours. (This allows excess whey to drain off, giving you a thicker yogurt.)
  • It’s important to note the difference between milk kefir grains and milk kefir starter or culture. Kefir grains will continue to ferment batch after batch, whereas a starter culture will only make one batch of kefir. The following recipe uses kefir grains, if you have a kefir culture, the process will be similar, but you should reference the directions on your package for accuracy.
  • If 1 quart of milk kefir every 24-48 hours is too much, gift half your grains to a friend and only make 1 pint at a time.
  • If you need to stop making kefir for a week or more, let your grains “hibernate” in the refrigerator in a glass of milk. Don’t neglect them too long without refreshing the milk (every month should do). I have successfully brought my grains back from over 6 months of hibernation with no adverse results.
  • What happens if you let your kefir ferment longer than 48 hours? Chances are it’s just fine. However, if there is any visible mold, you will need to discard your grains and start again. Kefir left out for up to a week should be fine (this is how they extended the “shelf life” of dairy thousands of years ago!). Your kefir will be rather tart, if it’s not palatable, your best bet would be to strain out your grains and start a fresh batch.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/2 cup
  • Calories: 81
  • Sugar: 6g
  • Sodium: 63mg
  • Fat: 4g
  • Saturated Fat: 2.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 7.5g
  • Fiber: 1.5g
  • Protein: 4g
  • Cholesterol: 15mg
Prepared milk kefir in a mason jar and milk kefir culturing in a mason jar with coffee filter lid.
Milk kefir cheese dip with green onions and carrots.

How to flavor milk kefir and milk kefir recipes.

If you love store-bought flavored kefir, you may find you’re disappointed with the taste of your homemade kefir. The sad truth is, those store bought “healthy” kefir drinks have upwards of 33 grams of sugar per one cup serving! That’s more than 8 teaspoons of sugar people! This is a far cry from a healthy drink!

If the tang of plain kefir is too much for you, try adding a small handful of blueberries and whizzing it in the blender, or use kefir as a smoothie base. I like to add a few drops of liquid stevia to my smoothies to help cut the tang (I tend to like a sweeter smoothie but not the excess sugar). Click here for our favorite smoothie recipe.

You can also turn your delicious milk kefir into incredible kefir cheese. It’s similar in taste and texture to cream cheese and makes a great base for dips or a spread. Click here for our delicious, tangy, probiotic Kefir Cheese recipe.

Milk kefir tips and tricks:

  • Milk kefir, like other ferments, prefer temperatures between 68-85℉, the warmer they are, the quicker they’ll ferment. If your grains were “hibernating”, or this is your first real batch after hydrating them, it may take them slightly longer to “wake up” and get active.
  • For a thicker, milk kefir yogurt, place milk kefir into a fine mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter and allow it to strain for 6-12 hours. (This allows excess whey to drain off, giving you a thicker yogurt.)
  • It’s important to note the difference between milk kefir grains and milk kefir starter or culture. Kefir grains will continue to ferment batch after batch, whereas a starter culture will only make one batch of kefir. The following recipe uses kefir grains, if you have a kefir culture, the process will be similar, but you should reference the directions on your package for accuracy.
  • If 1 quart of milk kefir every 24-48 hours is too much, gift half your grains to a friend and only make 1 pint at a time.
  • If you need to stop making kefir for a week or more, let your grains “hibernate” in the refrigerator in a glass of milk. Don’t neglect them too long without refreshing the milk (every month should do). I have successfully brought my grains back from over 6 months of hibernation with no adverse results.
  • What happens if you let your kefir ferment longer than 48 hours? Chances are it’s just fine. However, if there is any visible mold, you will need to discard your grains and start again. Kefir left out for up to a week should be fine (this is how they extended the “shelf life” of dairy thousands of years ago!). Your kefir will be rather tart, if it’s not palatable, your best bet would be to strain out your grains and start a fresh batch.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Tammy
    Reply

    OHHHOOHHHH kefir cheese!!! YUM! Are milk Kefir grains the same as water kefir grains?

    • Kelsey Steffen
      Kelsey Steffen
      Reply

      I wish they were but they’re not! I’ve read about people using them to ferment sugar water, then just doing a batch of milk in between ferments but I’d be nervous to try for fear of killing my grains! Kefir cheese is a cinch! You’ll love it! I’ll get that recipe out soon!

  • Lauren
    Reply

    I just read up on how a second ferment further reduces lactose and makes it more palatable (it can also be flavored during this time)! I have one going with cinnamon and vanilla. Hope it turns out ;)! Does it kill the vitamins and enzymes if you use the kefir in a recipe that is baked?

    • Kelsey Steffen
      Kelsey Steffen
      Reply

      Yum! How did the kefir turn out? Yes, since you’d be heating the kefir while baking the bacteria would die, but to be honest, I’m not sure if the vitamins would be altered or not. My guess is some would still be intact and beneficial. But the bacteria don’t like temps much higher than 115 degrees. If you soak your grains in the kefir for 7-8 hours before baking you’ll be breaking down the phytates, so it’s still beneficial in that regard!

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