Meditations on plain soy yogurt

Hello there and oooohm shanti. It’s time to open your mind to the occasionally conflicted world of the vegan plain yogurt fan; previously in an older incarnation of my blog I’ve lamented about the slim pickings for hard core vegan yogurt fans. Sure, I’ve made my own plain at home, but sometimes you can’t make every single vegan ingredient from scratch. Yogurt for me (and I suspect other true yogurtheads) should not be relegated only to second-rate, ultra-sweet strawberry pudding. I like the versatility of plain yogurt, not only for light, tangy smoothies that don’t taste milkshakes but to accompany savory foods as well. Indian, Middle Eastern and Greek cuisine for example make good use of plain yogurt as a cooling companion to spicy curries or a creamy base for essential dishes such as tzatziki, that much requested garlicky yogurt dip.

However, I’ve learned to change my attitude, and as they say in the yogurtverse, change that attitude and change the world of soy yogurt. Okay, that’s not exactly how the saying goes, but thanks to a chance meeting with the gracious folks of WholeSoy & Co. back in October they generously sent me samples of their new products straight from their magical yogurt sanctuary. I felt like quite the accomplice getting a foam cooler delivered to my doorstep lovingly packed with samples of two of their new soy yogurt flavors.

I tore the lid immediately off the most anticipated of the two; a 24 ounce bucket of unsweetened plain yogurt. For yogurt fans this is the holy grail of soy yogurts; too often plain non-dairy yogurts are laden with too much sweetener, giving savory dishes a unwelcome sweetness that yogurt-missing vegans learn to deal with but never feel truly satisfied with.

My first take on Wholesoy’s new product: creamy with an agreeable ivory color, tangy and with minimal soybean aftertaste, a feature that usually overwhelms many plain soy yogurts. I can see this being a good base for a lot of savory foods; I’ve used the samples mostly as-is, so my plans for raita (Indian yogurt sauce) will have to wait until the next shopping trip. My experiments so far with the unsweetened plain have been basic: dolloped on curry, in a smoothie, and in the first photo, for a fast spin inspired by labne; Lebense-style yogurt drizzled with olive oil.

I still am a fan of the occasional sweet soy yogurt, and WholeSoy’s second sample tasted like it was made for me: a sharp and refreshing Key Lime flavor, with little bits of delectable lime pulp. It’s still somewhat sweet so I may not want it for breakfast, but with granola it made a fine mid-afternoon snack.

This labne isn’t thick like the non-vegan original–I’ll have to pick up more plain WholeSoy to see if it can strain properly to create that effect (I haven’t had much luck with other plain brands)–but it takes just minutes to prepare and adds that cool savory accompaniment to Middle Eastern dishes and would be just as appropriate with Indian food.

Savory soy yogurt sauce
A fast, savory yogurt sauce that’s smooth, cool contrast to spicy foods. A must for Indian curries and Middle Eastern grain-based entrees.

1 1/2 cups plain soy yogurt
1 clove garlic
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Pour yogurt into a small mixing bowl. In a mortar and pestle grind together garlic and salt to form a smooth paste, then stir into yogurt. Spread yogurt into a shallow bowl and drizzle with olive oil. If desired chill the yogurt after spreading into the serving dish to help it firm up slightly.