Is Kefir Vegan? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

Kefir is a fermented drink that originated in Eastern Europe (including Russia). It’s made with kefir grains, which are basically a catalyst for the fermentation process in the same way that barley or wheat grains are catalysts in beer-production. Kefir is better known for being a potent, probiotic source that is superior to regular yogurts.

Want to know if Kefir is vegan? Well, Kefir is not vegan because it’s usually prepared by adding kefir grains to dairy milk so that the microorganisms present in the kefir grains multiply and ferment the sugars in the milk, turning it into what we know as kefir. However, that’s simply how it’s prepared traditionally, but you can also prepare it using non-dairy beverages or even sugary water. 

In this article, I’m going to explain in detail how kefir is made, and I’m also going to show you how you can make non-dairy kefir at home using plant-based beverages and water. Interested? Keep on reading!

How is Kefir Made?

Before we get into how kefir is made, it might be a good idea to know what kefir grains actually are.

According to information taken from Nourish Kefir (a kefir producer), kefir grains are complex microorganisms created through a perfect symbiosis of bacteria, yeasts, and enzymes. No one knows exactly when or where kefir grains first appeared, but it’s been speculated that they emerged in the Northern Caucasus Mountain region of the former USSR in a naturally occurring manner.

kefir grains

Kefir grains look like little pieces of cauliflower and feel spongy to the touch. When mixed with milk they grow and multiply, and small pieces break off the big cluster, which also starts to grow. However, it’s important to note that kefir grains are not only used in milk, even though that’s how it’s used traditionally.

Water kefir, for example, is also a fermented, carbonated beverage that is produced using water kefir grains. Unlike the regular kefir, which is made from cow, sheep, or goat milk, water kefir is made by combining sugary water with water kefir grains — also a type of grain-like culture of bacteria, yeast, and enzymes.

Very much like regular kefir, that combination of ingredients is left to ferment for 24-48 hours until a probiotic beverage rich in beneficial bacteria is produced.

What’s more, since water kefir is made using sugary water, it’s a good option for anyone who wants to avoid dairy products, namely vegans like you and me.

How to Make Water Kefir At Home

To make it yourself you have to combine a 1/2 cup of hot water with 1/4 cup of sugar in a jar and swirl the mixture together so that it dissolves. Then you need to add about 3 cups of water (at room temperature) to the jar, along with your water kefir grains.

Once that’s done, you cover the jar in a warm area with a temperature between 68–85°F (20–30°C) and let it ferment for 24–48 hours. The water kefir grains can be removed from the mixture and used for a new batch, while the water kefir is prepared and ready to be enjoyed. What’s more, you can add different flavors like fruit juice, vanilla flavoring, frozen fruit, among other things to make it more flavorful.

Also if you prefer making your vegan kefir with coconut water, you may do so.

In fact, EcoVeganGal (YouTuber) actually shows you how to make your own organic, vegan coconut kefir:

Does Kefir Have Any Health Benefits?

1. Kefir Is a Powerful Probiotic

Probiotics are powerful microorganisms that may impact your health in several ways, namely in terms of improving the state of your microbiome and aid in digestion.

Kefir is actually a more powerful source of probiotics than yogurt, which is essentially why kefir is gaining a lot of popularity in the West. Kefir grains contain up to 61 strains of bacteria and yeasts, making them quite a rich and diverse probiotic source, even though that may vary from grain to grain.

If you’re interested in probiotics, I also have a blog post where I list out some of the best vegan probiotic supplements currently on the market.

2. The Probiotics May Help With Digestion Problems

Probiotics are known for helping restore the balance of friendly bacteria in the gut, which is why they’re considered effective in treating different forms of diarrhea.

More importantly, there’s a lot of evidence suggesting that probiotics and probiotic food can alleviate digestive problems, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), ulcers caused by H. pylori infection, and others.

For this reason, taking the time to make your own vegan kefir might be a good idea.

3. It Contains Antibacterial Properties

Certain probiotics within kefir are believed to fend off against harmful bacteria and protect your body against infections, more specifically the probiotic Lactobacillus kefir, which kefir uniquely contains.

Kefir also contains a carbohydrate called kefiran that has antibacterial properties.

4. It May Protect You Against Cancer

Unfortunately, cancer is one of those conditions where some are fortunate enough to avoid it, and only a few people are lucky enough to survive it. It’s one of the leading causes of death in the world.

It’s believed that the probiotics present in dairy products can reduce tumor growth by stimulating your immune system, which means that the more potent probiotics in kefir would be able to do the same.

In fact, one study found that kefir extract reduced the number of human breast cancer cells by 56%, compared to 14% for yogurt extract. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a lot of these studies cannot be validated until actual research is conducted on humans.

It’s sad, as a vegan, but a lot of these studies are conducted on animals, more specifically mice.

Summary: Regular Kefir Is Not Vegan

Unfortunately, regular kefir is not vegan because it’s usually made from a combination of kefir grains and dairy milk from animals like cows, sheep, and goats. However, the good news is that you can now find it available in plant-based varieties such as water, coconut milk, and even rice milk and oat milk. 

While I have yet to find vegan kefir available in popular stores, you can pretty much find resources that will help you come up with your own vegan kefir by mixing kefir grains with a plant-based beverage. Other than the time it takes to ferment (minimum 24 hours) the process is pretty quick and simple.

If you believe this blog post has helped you in any way, please share it with someone that may also find it helpful or interesting. Thank you for reading!

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than five years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

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