In the process of buying tofu and other staples of my vegetarian diet, I have started edging my way into the organic foods department of my dearly beloved, nearby Kroger. In doing so, I have exposed myself to a never-before-noticed (by me) array of foods. As I have passed by shelves of tempeh and rows of meat substitutes, the non-dairy yogurts have caught my eye.
Wait, non-dairy? Isn't dairy the essence of yogurty goodness? Having experimented with non-dairy ice cream, cheese, and milk before, I figured a foray into this next realm of the vegan world was called for. With my nose still pinched tightly from some of my vegan cheese experiences, I cautiously picked up five vegan single-serve cups of yogurt available at Kroger and Earth Fare.
The result? The dairy purists might have some competition.
To prepare my palate for the adventure to come, I started out with a regular 'ole cup of Kroger brand vanilla yogurt. For 40 cents, this option is a steal compared to its vegan cousins. With all the classic tang and thick, creamy texture you'd expect, this yogurt proved on point and gave me some solid ground for grading its competitors.
First Ingredient: Cultured nonfat milk
The Best of the Bunch:
This "yogurt alternative" was the first I sampled, and good thing too. Had I started with some of the others, I may not have had the courage to continue the taste test.
I was extremely impressed with this product, even as one who doesn't love coconut. Unlike coconut milk, which can carry an overpowering coconut flavor, this was nothing but pleasant. It was creamy and a little thinner than the real deal but with a nice color. The only thing missing was some of the regular tang.
As with all of these yogurts, the ingredient lists can be off-putting for someone without a chemistry degree. The term "locust bean gum" caught my eye on this one. Turns out that it's actually a product of the carob bean, so have no fear bug skeptics.
First Ingredient: Organic coconut milk (which is water-based)
Also a solid option for a non-dairy newbie, the Silk product lived up to its name in texture. It was thinner than regular yogurt and not something you would glop onto fruit, but it had a nice flavor with visible specks of vanilla. Unlike the coconut milk product, this had plenty of tang (maybe even too much). Notably, this product is labeled as "dairy-free" but not certified vegan.
First Ingredient: Soy milk (which is water-based)
The Low Performers:
Of the bottom tier, this is the best. It has a bit of a gloopy appearance and needs a good stir to look ready to eat. Once stirred though, it has the closest texture to yogurt among these competitors.
Unfortunately, texture alone won't win this any awards. It smells vaguely of Play Doh and has a bland, flat flavor, with a bit of tang. Simply put, this will not fool anyone who has tried the real deal before.
Sugar: 21g (Whaaaaaat! That's about five teaspoons of sugar)
First Ingredient: Organic soy milk
This brand does not come in a vanilla flavor, but maybe that's all for the better. Even strawberry could not mask the questionable mix of tastes. With an unappealing gloopy texture, this one needs a good stir, but that alone won't help it much. It has an off-pink color and tastes as if the filling from a pop tart had a love child with a jug of sour milk. Unless you are allergic to nuts, steer clear of this option.
First Ingredient: Filtered Water
Let's think positive. Not only is this made from "real almonds," but it also contains a pretty picture of vanilla on its package and.... wait, nope, I am out of compliments.
Not even a good stir can save the texture of this yogurt alternative. It's just clumpy and lumpy with the taste of poorly made pudding. The flavor is not offensive, but it has a weird aftertaste and should not be called yogurt—ever.
First Ingredient: Almond base (which is water-based)
So, should we buy 'em?
Loaded with sugar and often low on taste, non-dairy yogurt is nothing to call home about. The So Delicious products will do the job if you need them for baking or a recipe, and their product could also make for a solid breakfast. Otherwise, steer clear if possible. Stick to other vegan breakfasts and save your money and palate along the way.