Kefir is one of the major food groups... at least it should be!
It's so versatile and delicious. Is there a more useful and healthy food out there? Here's a list of a few ways to use kefir, other than just drinking it.
Replace Plain Yogurt Yogurt is wonderful, especially simple raw yogurt, but you can make thick yogurt-like kefir and enjoy the extra nutrition of kefir, by using it in place of yogurt in any of the recipes below, or any of your own favorites.
Creamy Salad Dressings Ranch, Mango, Strawberry Poppyseed, Maple Apple Cider, Creamy Italian, Honey Mustard. Use thick kefir for these salad dressings. If you would like your dressing thicker, use kefir cheese.
Ranch Dip 1 cup kefir cheese and 1 Tbsp. RealTaste Hope Seasoning, or to taste.
Avocado Dip Mash an avocado, stir in kefir and RealTaste Hope Seasoning to taste
Peanut Butter Yogurt Dip Mix together 1 cup kefir cheese, 2 1/2 Tbsp. Organic, Pure Maple Syrup, or honey, 2 Tbsp. of Nut Butter, 1 tsp. vanilla and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon. Here's an easy nut butter recipe.
Fruit Flavored Dip or Spread Stir fruit preserves into kefir cheese to taste.
Salted Lassi My kids aren't real fond of this, but it is very popular in parts of the Middle East. Here are a bunch of other Lassi recipes from BuzzFeed and Food.ndtv
Cream Cheese Substitute Soft kefir cheese. We love this spread on pancakes/waffles/and crepes with fruit or fruit preserves.
Hard Cheese Drain the whey off of thick kefir just as you would when making soft kefir cheese. Season the soft cheese with salt and any other add-ins you desire, such as herbs. You will then need to press it with increasing weight to obtain a hard cheese. The more weight you apply, the harder your cheese will be. Here is a simple pressed cheese from Cultures from Health that does not require any special equipment. The recipe does not instruct you to season the cheese, but it will be very bland if you do not. In fact, you will need to over-salt it, as much of the salt will be lost in the whey that is pressed out.
Sourdough Starter Here are instructions for a kefir sourdough starter from Cultures for Health. It may be ready in as little as 12 hours, so keep an eye on it. This is a great way to get a sourdough starter going in a short amount of time and with little effort. To maintain it, feed and care for it as you would a traditional starter, which it will become in just a few feedings. The common yeasts in kefir just give your sourdough starter a little head-start. Here are some basic instructions for maintaining your starter.
Bread Leavening You just learned above that kefir and sourdough have some common yeasts. I am a little hesitant to offer this information, because for health reasons, I prefer to keep dairy raw; however, a fun tidbit of information is: you can leaven bread with kefir! It really works and it's kind of a cool experiment. Just substitute kefir for the liquid in your recipe. Similar to sourdough, it will take longer to rise. The hard part is, I can't really tell you how long it will take. It all depends on how much liquid you replace with kefir and how active the yeasts required for leavening are in your kefir. That being said a couple loaves I recently tried took about 18 hours for the first bulk ferment. After that they were shaped and had a final proof of 1 hour.
Artichoke Dipping Sauce I haven't tried this recipe, but we are big artichoke fans, especially my 6 year old, I think we'll try it soon!
Chicken Salad I haven't tried this, but it's my friend's recipe and I bet it's a winner! Use thick kefir in place of Greek Yogurt. I think I will also substitute celery for cucumber and add some organic dijon mustard, because it makes everything better... almost.
Caramel Frosting Check out this recipe inspired by my friend Janna.
Drizzle Replace whipped cream with this yummy drizzle. Sweeten thick kefir to taste and drizzle over fruit, over pancakes/waffles/and crepes with fruit or fruit preserves.
Mayonnaise Substitute Use thick kefir in chicken salad, potato salad etc. Favor with salt and dijon mustard, or basil or tomato pesto and use as a spread in place of mayonnaise.
Sour Cream Substitute Use thick kefir to top soup, potatoes and any time you would normally use sour cream.
Buttermilk Substitute If your kefir is thin, it can be substituted 1 to 1 for buttermilk. If it is thick, you can thin it out with milk or water to the right consistency.
Kefir Ice Cream Yup, you can make kefir ice cream. Google to your hearts content and find one that suits you.
Popsicles Kefir popsicles are another great probiotic treat. Use thick kefir in any recipes that call for yogurt. Try using thick kefir the first time you make the recipe. If you would like a creamier consistency, use kefir cheese next time you make it. This mango lassi recipe makes great popsicles.
Frozen Yogurt Use kefir in place of yogurt in these two recipes: Mango Lime Frozen Yogurt and Instant Frozen Yogurt
Chilled Yogurt Soup The internet abounds with chilled yogurt soup recipes from savory to sweet. Find one that suits you and substitute thick kefir for the yogurt.
Parfaits I think I could eat this every morning for breakfast!
Cultured Butter Cultured butter is the creme de la creme of butter! It's probiotic too. Who could ask for more? This is an old and a little bit embarrassing video, but it's the best I have for now. The video doesn't give instructions for cultured kefir cream, but you will need to culture cream with kefir grains, or just keep a jar in the fridge with the cream scooped off each batch of kefir until you have enough to make butter. Then proceed as usual. If the cream gets to thick to spin in the blender, just thin it out with a bit of milk until it will process as normal. First you will get whipped cultured cream and then it will start sloshing around as the whipped cream turns to butter and thin buttermilk.
Mock Hollandaise Sauce I haven't tried this recipe, but we love our poached eggs. Use thick kefir in place of yogurt.
In mashed potatoes My makes excellent mashed potatoes. Her magic ingredient is sour cream. Use a bit of thick kefir when mashing potatoes along with some raw milk and butter.
Creamy Chocolate Dessert I'm working on this recipe. Check back in a few days:)
No Bake Cheese Cake Dessert
Smoothie bowls We love smoothie bowls topped with Einkorn Berries, or another grain, fruit and nuts. Use kefir in place of water, juice, or milk. Make it thick with lots of frozen fruit. Spoon the thick smoothie into a bowl and top with desired toppings. The healthy fat in raw dairy kefir will help balance the natural sugar of the fruit and keep you satisfied longer.
Flavored Kefir This post is about other ways to use it besides drinking, but I'm at the end of my post and I can't help but include this idea for flavored kefir. I flavor my kefir by adding 2-3 Tbsp. of fruit preserves and 2-3 Tbsp. of organic, pure maple syrup per quart jar of kefir. Shake it up and enjoy. The amount of sweetener you use should be to taste, depending on who you are trying to please. If it is a child, or a finicky family member, go ahead and add a little more. Just chalk it up to an effort to convert one more kefir drinker at a time.
Sweetened Kefir When I'm in the mood for something sweet, I stir in about 1/4 cup of organic, pure maple syrup per quart jar of kefir. It seems like a lot, but it makes you realize how much refined sweetener is used in commercial kefir. Smoothies, flavored and sweetened kefir are nice ways to change up your kefir drinking routine, especially if you have kids you are trying to please, or don't like the flavor of plain kefir.
That's all I've got for now, but check back again
and I'll keep adding to my list.