Beijing Yogurt Recipe – Sweet & Tart Drinkable Yogurt

February 2, 2018Van
Blog post

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 15 hours

Serves: 6

I love yogurt. Whenever I see a new form of this cultured treat, I have the urge to test it out and compare it to my list of all time favorites. Beijing Yogurt requires no spoon because it’s a drinkable yogurt, it’s sweet and tart at the same time – absolutely delicious! In China its often served in adorable little clay jars with paper tops that you insert straws into. Life moves pretty fast in modern China, and theres no time for sitting leisurely with a spoon—this is yogurt on the go!  Actually in China,  you have to drink it very quickly because you have to return the clay jars back to vendors!

I was perusing the aisles of my local Japanese Market and spotted these cute plastic cups with a vivid blue top in the refrigerated section. Turns out it was “Beijing Yogurt” or “suan nai” that was made in the U.S. Needless to say I was at the checkout stand within a few seconds! I used this Beijing Yogurt as my starter, but any plain yogurt with active cultures will work for this recipe. I found the adorable milk bottles on Amazon (link here).

The original version (nai lao) of this was first learned by the imperial chefs in the 1800s, the recipe transformed into a more mild and sweeter version that caught on in Beijing in 1950s when it became a hit among the health conscious and hip. In fact, its true debut was in the theater district where artists and actors gravitated towards this delicious drink. Each time I make this, I imagine sitting in a bustling corner of Beijing, watching all the people go by as I take comfort in this sweet & tart yogurt drink.

If you’re curious about the ingredients in the Beijing Yogurt that I used as my starter, here they are: Cultured Pasteurized Milk, Non Fat Milk, Sugar, Contains Live & Active Probiotic Cultures (L. Bulgaricus, L. Casei, L. Acidophilus, B. Bifidus, S. Thermophilus)

Beijing Yogurt Recipe Ingredients

Click on the image of the bottles to purchase them on Amazon
Beijing Yogurt Recipe

Yogurt Recipes

Print Recipe

Beijing Yogurt Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 hours
  • Serves: 6

Recipe for the Instant Pot or Yogurt Maker

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Ingredients

  • ½ Gallon Pasteurized Milk
  • ½ Cup + 2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
  • ¼ Cup Plain Yogurt with active cultures
  • ½ Cup Cultured Buttermilk

Method

  • 1)

    In a bowl, mix ¼ Cup Plain Yogurt and ½ Cup Cultured Buttermilk with a whisk until the mixture is complete smooth and there are no yogurt lumps and set aside.

    Almost any plain yogurt will work for this recipe, but I would avoid using Oui and Fage brand yogurts because they don’t get tart enough for this recipe.

  • 2)

    Add 1 Cup of Milk and ½ Cup + 2 Tablespoons of Sugar to a sauce pan or pot. On medium low heat, stir the milk and sugar until all the sugar is dissolved, this should take about 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and pour in the rest of the milk.

  • 3)

    Add the Yogurt and Buttermilk mixture last, give it a few good stirs with a whisk to ensure the cultures are evenly distributed.

  • 4)

    Pour the mixture into the Instant Pot and seal the Instant Pot with the lid. Use the Yogurt button and set it for 15 hours, make sure that it’s on the “Normal” Yogurt setting. Or use your yogurt maker and set it for 15 hours.

    ***If you have the glass milk bottles you can incubate the yogurt in the bottles, the yogurt ends up being a little thicker so I prefer this method. Fill the bottles with the mixture and place the bottle caps on them. Fill the Instant Pot with 2 cups of water and place the bottles into the Instant Pot. Use the Yogurt button and set it for 15 hours, make sure that it’s on the “Normal” Yogurt setting.

  • 5)

    Once the yogurt is done, take the liner out of the Instant Pot and place it in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, try to not disturb the yogurt during this time (don’t stir or transfer to another container)

    If you incubated the yogurt in the glass bottles, remove the bottles from the Instant Pot and refrigerate for 6 hours.

  • 6)

    After it’s been refrigerated, transfer to your bottles, jars or cups. Enjoy with a straw!

 

Supplies to make this recipe






 







26 Comments

  • kathryn

    February 9, 2018 at 8:30 am

    Is it necessary to use ultra pasteurized or ultra filtered milk, since this is a cold start recipe?

    1. Van

      February 9, 2018 at 8:44 am

      It doesn’t have to be ultra pasteurized or ultra filtered, you just use regular pasteurized milk for this recipe. I actually tried it with ultra pasteurized and it’s too thick to be a drinkable yogurt.

  • Kat

    February 28, 2018 at 7:48 pm

    Can I make it for 8 hours in the instant pot instead?

    1. Van

      February 28, 2018 at 7:56 pm

      Hi Kat, yes you can – it probably won’t be as tart after only 8 hours so you may want to cut back on the sugar a little.

  • CHRISTINA

    March 6, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    Hi! Do you think this would work by just placing the mixture in the oven with the light on? I don’t have an instant pot/yogurt maker but I’ve seen other yogurt recipes recommend that.

    I went to Beijing last year and was OBSESSED with the yogurt there. Truly a treat.!!

    1. Van

      March 7, 2018 at 5:35 pm

      Hi Christina, if you want to try the oven method, heat the mixture to 110F first before whisking in the yogurt and buttermilk – use a thermometer so you don’t accidentally kill the yogurt cultures. Leave it on the top shelf with the oven light on, turn on your oven for 30 seconds every 3 or 4 hours just to keep it warm.

  • Daniel

    March 15, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    I use an Annova sous-vide machine to warm the milk gallon jug to 110F. This seems to work well. I go back and forth about cooking the milk to 180 on the stove first for protein. I also use the same Beijing yogurt as a starter from this article, it is the best one. My attempts have been not quite the same as the original qualities, however reading this article it seems I have been missing the buttermilk, so I will try this. Exciting.

    1. Van

      March 15, 2018 at 9:46 pm

      Hi Daniel, when I first tried making this yogurt, I ran into the same issue – I tried it with just milk, sugar and the starter, but it didn’t taste like the original one at all, the flavor was flat and lacking that nice tang that Beijing Yogurt has. I realized that they use cultured milk as one of the ingredients so I tried buttermilk and the flavor is very close to the original now. Good luck with your yogurt making adventures!

  • Erica

    March 25, 2018 at 11:15 pm

    Can I use sweentend original Beijing Yugurt as a starter ?

    1. Van

      March 25, 2018 at 11:35 pm

      Hi Erica, that works perfectly, that’s actually what I use as my starter.

  • March 27, 2018 at 3:28 am

    Hi Van. Have you tried making this yogurt drink using condensed milk instead of sugar? I have been making Vietnamese yogurt and my kids like the taste. It is probably sweeter using the same formula as Vietnamese yogurt plus the buttermilk. Do you think it will work?

    1. Van

      March 27, 2018 at 1:48 pm

      Hi Ha, I havne’t made it using condensed milk, but I think it would be delicious, you should give it a try, the condensed milk will make it slightly thicker as well.

      1. April 10, 2018 at 5:32 pm

        Hi Van. Thank you so much for your recipe. I’ve made it with condensed milk and it was too thick to drink (just like what you thought). I’ve made it a couple more times with your exact recipe and they are delicious. My kids love it and drink it everyday.

        Have you ever tested your yogurt for probiotic content? Since we consume it everyday, I am wondering how good this is in term of probiotic. Have you experimented with different source of yogurt starter? What is the purpose of cultured buttermilk? Is that just for taste or for good bacteria too?

        1. Van

          April 10, 2018 at 8:06 pm

          Hi Há, I’m so glad your family is enjoying this recipe! I have never tested the probiotic content, I’m not even sure how to do that without a lab. I would guess that this has more probiotics than store bought yogurt from the long incubation time & how fresh it is compare to store bought. You can use other yogurt starters, I have used many different ones – I would avoid using Oui or Fage because they do not get tart enough for this recipe. The buttermilk is to enhance the flavor – I’ve tried making it without buttermilk and the flavor is a little flat. If you found a plain yogurt starter that’s quite tart, you could probably skip the buttermilk.

  • Calvina

    March 28, 2018 at 9:25 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. Can’t this childhood love of mine anywhere in the USA. I am soooo happy to finally be able to make it in my own home.

    1. Van

      March 28, 2018 at 9:40 am

      You’re welcome Calvina! I hope you enjoy it 😀

  • Heike

    April 3, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    If I use bottles, can I use a slow cooker instead of the Instant Pot?

    1. Van

      April 4, 2018 at 8:37 am

      Hi Heike, yes that should be fine. Does your slow cooker have a setting that will keep it around 115F?

  • Katie

    May 6, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    Can I use fairlife in this? And since it’s ultra pasteurized, would it end up being thicker too?

    1. Van

      May 6, 2018 at 4:15 pm

      Hi Katie, you could use Fairlife for this recipe, but it won’t be drinkable yogurt, it will be quite thick so you can just eat it with a spoon like regular yogurt.

  • Li

    August 18, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    Hi thanks for the recipe. Can I not use Cultured Buttermilk in this recipe?

    1. Van

      August 18, 2018 at 9:35 pm

      Hi Li, you can give it a try without the buttermilk, but use a full container of yogurt instead. I did try it without the buttermilk originally, but the balance of flavor wasn’t right.

  • Helen

    August 20, 2018 at 2:26 am

    Oooh I love this! I remember having the deliciously tart, drinkable yogurt visiting family as a kid in southern China, and never ever being able to find yogurt as good in the US (which is all about the sweet heavy thick yogurts, not for me). You didn’t mention in the recipe; about how long will this keep in the refrigerator? I know that generally the longer you leave yogurt/labne to ferment it just gets tarter rather than going bad, but there must be an upper limit somewhere, right?

    And it would be okay to use a whole container of Beijing yogurt to start in lieu of the buttermilk?

    Thanks for sharing the recipe!

    1. Van

      August 21, 2018 at 12:42 pm

      Hi Helen, homemade yogurt usually lasts around 2 weeks in the refrigerator. You can try 1 whole container of Beijing yogurt for the starter instead of the buttermilk, I haven’t tested it yet so I’m not sure of the flavor. I’ll actually try it that way the next time I make it.

      1. Helen

        August 25, 2018 at 2:36 pm

        Hi Van, well I tried my first batch with the recipe as written and the results are bomb! Thank you for sharing how to make this deliciousness. I’m not sure the amount of yogurt I made will last two weeks, since my mom likes it too haha. I’m going to try not to finish it all off and save some of the current batch to start my next batch and see how that goes. Do you do that or start with a new container of Beijing yogurt every time?

        1. Van

          August 27, 2018 at 3:30 pm

          Hi Helen, you can save some of yogurt from this batch for your next one – you should be able to do this 3-4 times before having to buy a brand new starter.

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