It was a lot more difficult than it sounds.
When I tell my friends and family that sometimes my job consists of tasting food and providing my cutthroat critiques, they become very jealous. “Wait, you mean to tell me that you’re getting paid to eat?!” Yes, I know—it’s pretty cool, and I am extremely lucky. However, that sentiment does not apply to the vegan yogurt taste test that the MyRecipes staff endured for the purpose of #service #journalism. I believe “brutal” is the word I’m looking for. From the ehhhh, I-could-maybe-get-down-with-this flavors to the OMG, where-is-the-nearest-trash-bin flavors, we worked through some of the most popular alt-dairy yogurts on grocery store shelves and are here to talk about it.
The four brands that we sampled were Kite Hill (almond milk), Forager (cashew milk), Good Karma (flax milk), and So Delicious (coconut milk). For each brand, we selected three different flavors, and Kite Hill had two bonus flavors in the line-up from their Greek-style line of yogurts. Here’s what we thought.
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Overall, the brands that we preferred were So Delicious and Kite Hill (regular-style). We found So Delicious to have the best texture of all the brands—it didn’t clump, wasn’t too watery, and there was no lingering starchy, mouth-coating sensation. The unsweetened variety didn’t deliver a very strong coconut intensity, and it still possessed a relatively mild, tanginess reminiscent of a typical plain dairy yogurt. The other two chosen flavors of So Delicious, vanilla and strawberry banana, definitely had an artificial taste to them (in the same way that many flavored dairy yogurts do), but because there wasn’t a strong aftertaste or undesirable texture, this was overall one of the better yogurt-eating experiences.
As far as Kite Hill’s regular yogurt, there was definitely an underlying bitterness that wasn’t present in any of the other yogurts sampled. The plain flavor was sharply tangy, whereas the sweetness from the other two flavors we tried, vanilla and strawberry, surely cut the bitterness, creating a more palatable flavor. The strawberry variety tasted like almost exactly like strawberry milk! The texture was not as true to classic yogurt as So Delicious, as it was slightly clumpy (before giving it a good stir) with a somewhat chalky/pasty mouthfeel. All in all, we’d probably stick to the flavored versions for breakfast or snacking, but the plain flavor would be great mixed into to other savory applications, such as soups, oatmeal, and alongside fried eggs. I’ll admit that I took the leftovers from this brand and have been adding them to my morning smoothies, and they’ve added a subtly delicious nuttiness and creamy consistency.
The Kite Hill Greek-style fell in the middle of our general ranking. We definitely preferred its regular-style counterparts, but we much preferred it to the bottom two brands. It definitely achieved a thicker texture… as well as a more pronounced bitter flavor, but because the regular-style Kite Hill is already so bitter, the bitterness of the Greek style seemed excessive. One staffer compared the flavor to a blend of play dough and vinegar—it was very, very acidic, okay?! Like the regular-style yogurts, the plain flavor on its own is notably sharp, but used to top soups, chilis, or curries, this could be a great non-dairy, creamy component.
Now, onto the brands that didn’t go over as smoothly (pun very much intended). The Forager yogurts were not our favorites. The plain flavor possessed almost no recognizable flavor (yet still managed to have one of the most indescribable, unexpected aftertastes), while the other two, vanilla bean and lemon, had such foul aftertastes that we almost forgot that we were eating “yogurt.” Multiple staffers describes experiencing the flavor of smoked fish. So, yeah...it got weird. Between the oddly thinned-out glue consistency and straight-up offensive aftertaste, we’re going to pass on this one.
And now, our absolute least favorite: Good Karma. I do not know what flax milk tastes like, but I can assure you that it does not translate well to yogurt. The texture was so chunky, overcooked-custard-like, and generally off putting that we were borderline disturbed this product made it to shelves. The flavors of all three varieties sampled, plain, vanilla, and blueberry, were so artificial and bizarre that one staffer wrote that “It tastes like it’s going to poison me.” If we had to choose one of the three, the blueberry was probably the most edible, but we all agreed that we’d be very happy if we never had to consume that, ever again.
All in all, this taste test illuminated one very clear fact of life: Dairy yogurt cannot be imitated. As we trudged our way through each brand and flavor, we found ourselves simply comparing them all to each other and trying to decide which is the least foul. Had there been a container of Chobani or Fage there, it would have been like chasing a glass of Korbel with a glass of Veuve Clicquot—sure, they technically fall in the same category, but there’s truly no comparison. However, if living a dairy-free or vegan lifestyle is something that you’re choosing to do for medical or personal reasons, there are viable options out there. While they’re not nearly as good as their cow’s milk counterparts, they could certainly fill a void.