Kefir, a fermented milk product, is not always easy to find but can be easily replaced in recipes. Depending on what you're cooking or baking, various other dairy products can be used in place of kefir. It can also be made simply at home if you have the starter handy.
Buttermilk, another tangy, drinkable milk product, can be substituted for kefir with a one-to-one ratio in recipes. Its consistency, fat and protein content are identical to kefir milk. Buttermilk can even be made at home by mixing 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar with each cup of milk. Whole or 2 percent milk works best for making buttermilk to replace kefir. After mixing the milk with the acid it takes about 15 minutes to complete the curdling process.
If you are substituting yogurt for kefir, choose a plain yogurt that is not too thick. Greek yogurt is much thicker than kefir milk and may alter the texture of the finished product. If using an especially thick yogurt, dilute it with milk until the desired consistency is achieved.
Milk or Cream
If you're willing to sacrifice the tang, milk can be used as a substitute for kefir. Choose 2 percent or whole milk -- or better yet, cream -- to maintain the desired texture within the recipe. If you are making a recipe that includes an acid ingredient, such as vinegar or citrus juice, keep this in mind when substituting milk or cream for the kefir. The dairy product will most likely curdle if it is mixed directly with the acid. For controlled curdling, make the milk or cream into buttermilk before mixing.
Substitutes for Kefir Cheese
Kefir cheese is a different product than kefir milk and is much thicker, therefore different substitutes should be used for it when cooking or baking. Soft goat cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese or ricotta can be substituted for kefir cheese. Choose your swap-out dairy product with the finish product's texture in mind. If it needs to be smooth, ricotta and cottage cheese can be put through the blender or food processor to smooth out the curds. These two products can also be placed in cheesecloth to drain out extra whey, reducing the liquid within them.
Making Kefir At Home
If kefir isn't available at your local food stores you can make it at home. You can even order the kefir "grains," or cultures, online. Kefir grains are required -- kefir milk can only be made with existing kefir bacteria. However, once you have kefir grains you can use them repeatedly to make fermented milk or cheese. To make kefir milk, simply stir 1 tablespoon of kefir grains into 1 quart of milk. Leave the mixture at room temperature, covered with a breathable material like cheesecloth. Stir the mixture occasionally, and after 24 to 48 hours you will have thick, tangy kefir milk. Then, pour the kefir milk through a strainer. Collect the grains and store them in a container covered with water for future use. Never use metal utensils or containers when making kefir, as this will inhibit the culture's ability to grow.
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