I’m a big fan of dairy products with live cultures from all around the world, whether it’s German quark, Icelandic skyr, or Greek yogurt. So when I first heard about kefir, a fermented dairy drink from Eastern Europe that’s touted as a source of probiotics, tastes like yogurt, and has a sippable texture, I knew I had to get my hands on some.
Kefir has been consumed all over the world for centuries for it’s alleged health benefits, and it’s become really popular in the U.S. over the past few years. About those supposed health benefits: A 2017 review published in the journal Nutrition Research Reviews notes that while there are many potential health benefits of kefir, thanks to the microbes (bacterial and yeast) and variety of vitamins and minerals it contains, more research needs to be done to determine how it may impact the gut and as a result, improve health in any specific way. Most studies, while promising, have been done in vitro (in a lab) or in animals, so the study authors note that more research needs to be done in humans before we can really know if kefir makes any meaningful impact on human health.
While the jury’s still out on the benefits, kefir typically has the same amount of protein as a glass of milk (but with less lactose) and is a good source of calcium, potassium, and magnesium. It also contains a variety of B vitamins and vitamins A, K, and C. When I finally did have the chance to try it, I found that while I loved the sour, tangy flavor, I wasn’t a huge fan of it’s texture. So I started to search for other ways to work with the ingredient so that I could enjoy the taste in a different way.
I didn’t have to look for long, because, as it turns out, there are so many creative ways to cook with kefir. It’s sourness makes it a great source of acid for things like salad dressings and marinades. And its texture becomes silky and soothing when you heat it up for a soup. You can even use it to make sourdough bread (no sourdough starter required).
If you spot kefir on your next grocery shopping trip, add a bottle to your cart and use it in these 14 recipes. Muffins, oatmeal, popsicles, and more will prove that you don’t need to actually drink kefir to enjoy it.