Have you noticed kefir in the dairy aisle? Are you wondering exactly what it is, why you should give it a try, and how to use it? Read on to find out the answers to five of the most common questions we get about kefir.
What is kefir?
Kefir is a cultured milk product, believed to be originally from the North Caucasus region in southwestern Russia, though it is used in or eaten alongside traditional dishes in many cultures. It is made by fermenting milk with yeast and a variety of bacteria. Like other dairy products kefir is a source of many nutrients such as protein, vitamin D, calcium, and potassium and due to the fermentation process, it also has probiotic properties.
What is the difference between kefir and yogurt?
Yogurt and kefir are both nutritious fermented milk products, but there are three main differences:
- Yogurt is cultured by adding bacteria to milk. Kefir is cultured by adding bacteria AND yeast to milk.
- Yogurt needs to be cultured at warm temperatures, whereas kefir is cultured at room temperature.
- Kefir is typically thinner than yogurt, and can be consumed as a beverage, although both make great additions to a smoothie!
Can people with lactose intolerance drink kefir?
Both yogurt and kefir are usually well tolerated by people with lactose intolerance because both contain live cultures that help to break down the milk sugar (lactose).
Where can I get kefir?
Kefir is available in the dairy section of the grocery store. Sometimes it comes in a jug like milk and other times in a container like yogurt. There are often plain or other fruit flavours available.
You can also make your own. Kefir starter kits or kefir grains are available in many specialty food stores or online. Since kefir grains are a culture of bacteria and yeast, they can multiply, meaning people will sometimes end up with more than they need. If you have any friends or family who make their own kefir, reach out to them, they may have some grains to share. All it takes is local milk, the starter or grains, a container, and space on your counter!
Interested in a homemade version? Check out this recipe to make your own kefir.
How can I use kefir?
You can drink kefir on its own as a beverage, add it to smoothies, pour it over cereal or use it in many of the same ways as yogurt or milk. For a simple smoothie idea, blend together 3/4 cup of frozen fruit with 1 cup of kefir and enjoy!
To find out more about the different dairy products you can find in BC, check out the Dairy Dictionary.
by Nicole Spencer, MEd, RD
Updated September 18, 2023