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May 2, 2013 06:14 AM

Using Kefir

I've been trying new recipes that incorporate Kefir. So far, I've found the light, tart flavor compliments well. How do you enjoy this product? Do you ever use Kefir in recipes?

My guidepost has been this brand and the recipes are delicious! The icebox cake, scones and caramel all came out better than I expected.

I'm still trying to find a source for Kefir butter:

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  1. I've been making kefir at home for the last two years and usually drink a glass of it in the morning mainly for its health benefits though I like the tangy taste. In cooking I use it instead of buttermilk which I never have on hand.

    30 Replies
    1. re: herby

      I was just wondering if you could use kefir in place of buttermilk or sour cream in baking. Thanks for answering before I asked! How do you make your own kefir at home?

      1. re: AmyH

        I use kefir grains to make kefir - this is the only way to make it that I know of. I got them from a friend who got them from someone... Ask around or check your local listings for someone selling them. You need to feed the grains to keep them alive and since I am away a lot it is always a concern; managed so far and hope to continue :)

        1. re: herby

          I'll ask at our local healthy foods co-op. What do they look like?

          1. re: AmyH

            They look like oversized cheese curds. Let me know if you have trouble finding them and maybe we could meet up - I frequently drive between Ottawa and NYC or Sloatsburg and could bring some for you.

            1. re: herby

              Oh, that's not what I was expecting at all! I figured they'd look like small seeds or yeast granules. That's very nice of you to offer to bring some but I'll try to find them here first, and will do some reading up on the amount of effort required for this kind of project.

              1. re: AmyH

                Once you have grains the rest is easy. I have a dedicated container for kefir making. In the morning I'll strain grains, put them back into the container, pour 2% milk right out of the fridge, cover, leave on the counter till next morning and repeat. The finished kefir I keep in another container in the fridge adding to it and drinking from it (first pour in a glass, of course). And this is it! You'll find lots of info on the web and I remember a site dedicated to kefir with lots of information on its benefits, etc.

                1. re: AmyH

                  This is the site where I originally bought my grains, there's a ton of great info.


                  1. re: weezieduzzit

                    Wow, thank you herby and weezie for all the great information! This definitely sounds doable. I guess I'll be visiting the co-op this weekend!

                    1. re: AmyH

                      I have no immediate plans to make my own Kefir but I've really enjoyed your discussion about how to. Thanks for sharing it within the thread!

                      I'll keep experimenting with the product in baking. Tomorrow it's going in a coffeecake recipe to use up what I have on hand.

                      1. re: HillJ

                        After reading through the website that weezie shared, I think I am going to try making my own! It looks incredibly easy. Just mix it with milk, let it sit out for a day, then strain the grains, drink the kefir, and add more milk. And at nearly $3 for a bottle at the store, it'll pay for itself very quickly.

                          1. re: HillJ

                            I also read in Art of Fermentation (have to buy this book already!) that what is sold commercially is not the real kefir as it is not possible to produce for mass market. Do not remember why but it is explained.

                            1. re: herby

                              I haven't read that book but I've heard it's both because it's pasturized after culturing which kills off most bacteria (including the good,) and because it has been standardized so the product is consistent.

                              Store bought and home fermented are totally different.

                              1. re: weezieduzzit

                                I looked at the bottle of Trader Joe's kefir in my fridge this morning and it specifically said "cultured after pasturization." That's only one brand, of course, and it still only has a limited number of organisms compared to the home fermented, but at least the ones it does have are live.

                              2. re: herby

                                They talk about it on the website weezieduzzit shared, too.

                                Here's what they say:

                                Like most things in life, a good thing just cannot be packaged or processed. It always ends up taking away some portion of the quality or essence of the food when creating something 'safe' and with a shelf life. Commercial Kefir found in stores is limited by the bottling process. Companies need to suppress or halt yeast fermentation and culturing in order to prevent continued carbonation or the bottles could explode. This process leaves you with commercial kefir which, while still good, typically has mild and/or suppressed culture, and less varieties of bacteria and yeast.

                                • Although most all of the commercial kefir contains live probiotics, the companies have limitations as to how they can process kefir so that it can be 'standardized' and regulated. Some companies have a 'mother batch' with live grains, which they then take kefir from, to use as the starter (instead of the grains), to make their kefir. Others combine carefully chosen strains of bacteria and yeast to mimic the flavor of genuine kefir. While both are still healthy choices, you are not getting the full spectrum at the full potency (some brands advertise 10 strains, genuine kefir has upwards of 40-60 strains) that home-made kefir with kefir grains will give.

                                They give a lot of other reasons for making your own, too. The page is:

                                1. re: herby

                                  So to all of you helping me out here,,what you're saying is that I really haven't tasted the true Kefir...and I'm missing out!

                                  Now that gets my immediate attention.

                                  1. re: HillJ

                                    That's the message I'm getting, too. I'm getting more and more excited about making my own. The co-op has the freeze-dried kefir grains. I may try that after I get my jars and other supplies. Or should I just get the live culture from yemoos or take the very generous herby up on his/her (?) offer to share some with me?

                                    1. re: AmyH

                                      I'd take herby up on the offer a) to met a CH and b) to sample before you commit $.

                                      1. re: AmyH

                                        I would get freeze dried as a last result only, they'll take a while to get "working." I'd take herby up, it's an awesome offer- you know they're healthy grains and you can find out exactly what they're "eating" now so you can make sure they'll adapt and culture right away. You'll also learn very shortly that it's nice to be able to find people to share them with as they grow... and grow... and grow.... :)

                                        If you cant meet up with herby, I can't say enough nice things about Yemoos. I'm totally happy with both their products and service.

                                        1. re: weezieduzzit

                                          OK then! Herby, please let me know when you're coming by Albany. I hope you'll have a few minutes to share some hints on making kefir. We even have a few chow-worthy places I can take you for a bite to eat, if you'd like.

                                          1. re: AmyH

                                            I am in NY now, going home next week and back here June 12th. Not sure if I'll be driving through Albany but we'll meet regardless. I recently bought meat at McEnroe Organic Farm and everything was top quality - I made the best lasagne ever, chicken soup that was inhaled and lamb was very good too. All to say that the farm is midway and I would go there for sure - we can meet in between, talk kefir, have lunch :) Email me in June and we'll plan.

                                            1. re: herby

                                              Sounds good! What town is McEnroe Organic Farm in?

                                              1. re: herby

                                                OK, I've googled McEnroe Organic Farm and that looks like a great place! I'd love to get some hints on how to make better compost. And it's just down the road from Harney & Sons tea, but I don't know if they have a retail outlet at their headquarters. The only problem is that June 12 is a Wednesday and it might be tricky for me. I'll have to check my work calendar.

                                                1. re: AmyH

                                                  Amy, we could meet on Saturday, June 15th. I was saying that if I need to drive through Vestal instead of Albany (which is indeed the case this time), we could meet at or around the farm.

                                                  1. re: herby

                                                    I'm pretty sure June 15 would be fine. I'm looking forward to visiting the farm and starting my homemade kefir! What kind/size containers do you use?

                                                    1. re: AmyH

                                                      OK; I wrote "you" in my diary for the 15th. We should stop clogging the thread with personal messages - email me :)

                                                      1. re: herby

                                                        I did, but you might want to notify me here when you reply to my email because my work system blocks a lot of major email providers and I don't have access to what it thinks is spam.

                                                        1. re: AmyH

                                                          Just send a reply - busy-busy today getting ready for a complicated trip home.

                                  2. re: AmyH

                                    I just got some both dairy kefir and water kefir from a lovely friend here on CH (thanks again!), and have been using them for just about a week....

                                    So far, both my housemate and I have been drinking kefir, mixed with pureed melon (left from a catering job so good way to use it up) for a melon smoothie.

                                    I used some plain in place of greek yogurt in some pancakes this morning.

                                    The water kefir has been mixed with cucumber, lime or ginger, and or rhubarb syrups.

                                    Looking forward to baking more with it, and am going to try a 'kefir - ranch' dressing idea later today as well :)

                                    1. re: gingershelley

                                      I knew you'd make delicious things with them, GS! :)

                2. Milk kefir can be used in smoothies, in place of sour cream, in place of buttermilk, strained further and turned into labneh, strained and turned into a firmer cheese that you can spread (or even kind of slice if you really let it drain,) in place of yogurt in Indian marinades, in creamy salad dressings, to make ice cream, in cream soups.... I'm sure I'll think of more ways I use it if I think about it.

                  I know I've seen directions for making your own cultured butter online (I haven't done it yet, still looking for a better quality cream source.)

                  I haven't found any other uses for water kefir other than turning it into ginger soda (and other flavors... I just love the ginger!)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: weezieduzzit

                    I just found a source locally weezie, for raw cow's and goat milk - was going to try making cheese as part of a cookbook project I am working on with a friend, but her editor has ixnayed cheese as a topic for us - so may get some raw cream and 'kefir' it, and try for cultured butter - that would be cool!

                    1. re: gingershelley

                      I make crème fraiche with kefir grains; it tastes just a touch sour but not like sour cream and last much longer.

                  2. I used this marinate with Chicken Thieghs.... really good. Other than that - I've just used with the odd asian stir fry... these are a hit for sure.


                    4 Replies
                    1. re: sparky403

                      OP is asking about kefir (fermented dairy,) not kaffir (lime.)

                      Different item, both delicious!

                      1. re: weezieduzzit

                        Thanks weezie. I didn't want to appear unappreciative. The recipe looked good :)

                        1. re: weezieduzzit

                          Oh jeeze--- buy him book and send him to school he still doesn't read... I actually knew that - it's a good recipe if you have Kaffir Lime leaves about..

                          Sorry about that...

                          1. re: sparky403

                            Don't be sorry, that recipe really looks good! I think it might be the excuse I need to buy that dwarf Kaffir lime tree I've been eyeing at the local nursery.....

                      2. I use Kefir in many savory recipes...most any that call for cream, sour cream, yogurt, or buttermilk. I have used it in cream sauces for fish or chops, meat loaf, tuna casserole (with homemade mushroom kefir sauce, and my absolute favorite... cornbread!

                        My Favorite Cornbread

                        2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
                        2 cups yellow or white stoneground cornmeal
                        3 tablespoons dark agave nectar
                        1 teaspoon baking powder
                        1/2 teaspoon salt
                        1 large egg, beaten
                        1 1/4 cups unflavored kefir

                        Preheat the oven to 450°F. Place oil in a 9-inch cast-iron skillet or similar-size glass baking dish and transfer to the preheating oven.

                        Mix cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add egg, agave nectar and kefir, stir until just combined. Remove the pan from the oven and swirl the oil to coat the bottom and a little way up the sides.

                        Very carefully pour the excess hot oil into the cornmeal mixture; stir until just combined. Pour the batter into the hot pan.

                        Bake until the bread is firm in the middle and lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before slicing.

                        (Adapted from

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: LiveRock

                          Thanks, I haven't tried cornbread with Kefir yet. Good to know.

                        2. My kefir making journey has begun! herby and I met up yesterday so she could give me the grains. We had a wonderful Salvadoran lunch and a fascinating conversation. Hopefully we'll get together again when she comes through Albany.

                          The kefir seems to be doing what it's supposed to do. I can't wait to taste it. I think it'll be ready tonight.