Monday, July 11, 2011 Post By: Grayne Wetzky

Cooking with kefir

I just can't seem to get enough of kefir. I love the flavor and I drink it plain every day. I think I could drink it with absolutely any meal and at any time of the day. I think it is amazing as a thirst quencher when it gets really hot, but it's also a great comfort drink when it's cold and dark outside.

I realize however that not everyone will have the same insatiable appetite for kefir as myself.  If you make your own kefir many people will soon end up being able to make more kefir than they can comfortably drink. Luckily kefir is as versatile as it is delicious so it is no problem to find alternatives way to eat it other than drinking it plain.

Here are some great alternative uses for kefir that should get your mouth watering.

 The most obvious idea for using kefir in cooking is as a base for smoothies. The consistency is great for making think creamy smoothies and the tangy taste works very well with sweet berries and fruits. I am partial to mixing kefir with blueberries or strawberries, but frozen mango is also a sure winner.

Another great use for kefir is as a buttermilk substitute. You can pretty much use kefir in any recipe that calls for buttermilk. Typically kefir is great for biscuits, but it will also add flair to pancake and waffle batter.

Another less obvious way to use kefir is as a very simple sourdough bread starter. Since kefir already contains yeast a sourdough can be started very easily. Try mixing 3 cups of flour with a cup and a half of kefir. Let is sit for a day or so and you have yourself a super simple sourdough bread. This can be a great way to use excess kefir if you start building up a sizable kefir culture.

Yet another way to take advantage of the great flavor of kefir is to use it over oatmeal. I love oatmeal with milk and a sprinkle of sugar, but substituting the milk for kefir adds another dimension to this breakfast classic. In general, kefir sprinkled with sugar is a pretty great combination. When I was a kid back in Norway, we would often eat Norwegian flatbread with kefir and sugar.

Probably the most traditional kefir dish however is cold borsch. This is a cold beet soup based on kefir that is originally from Lithuania. I've never had borsch myself, but if you are interested in some authentic East-European kefir cooking you can find a good recipe here.

  1. Whole Grain Kefir Pancakes (milk kefir)

    Makes about 12 small-medium pancakes. Kefir (an effervescent fermented milk drink) is the secret to these fluffy pancakes. The recipe is easily doubled to serve more people, or to ensure leftovers for snacks later on.


    2/3 cup all-purpose flour

    1/4 cup whole wheat flour*

    3 Tb fresh wheat germ

    1 tsp unrefined sugar

    1/4 tsp salt

    1/2 tsp baking powder

    1/4 tsp baking soda

    1 large egg

    1 cup kefir (OR buttermilk OR yogurt thinned with a bit of milk)

    2 Tb unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted, plus more for frying

    Maple syrup, jam, preserves, fresh fruit and/or yogurt for serving

    *You can substitute different whole grain flour for the whole-wheat flour.

    Examples: whole spelt flour, whole barley flour, whole oat flour, buckwheat flour, or fine corn flour.

    You can also try amaranth flour, quinoa flour, or millet flour.


    In a medium bowl whisk together the all-purpose flour, the whole-wheat flour (or other whole grain flour), the wheat germ, the sugar, the salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a separate large bowl, beat the egg. Add the kefir and whisk well. Slowly whisk in the melted butter until evenly blended. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the wet ingredients and mix well. You can mix the wet and dry ingredients more thoroughly than regular pancake batter because the wheat bran and germ will prevent the batter from getting gluey. The batter will be a bit thicker than regular pancake batter. Let the batter sit for at least 5 minutes before cooking (this allows the whole grain and wheat germ to absorb liquid).

    Start heating two frying pans over medium-low heat. Put 1 to 2 teaspoons of butter or coconut oil in each frying pan and let melt. Using 2 to 4 tablespoons of batter per pancake, drop or pour batter onto the heated pan. The batter will seem quite thick when you look at it, but it should be aerated with lots of bubbles when you spoon it onto the pan. You should fit 3 to 4 pancakes per pan. When bubbles just begin to show on the surface, flip pancakes and cook on the other side for a minute or two (this is a bit earlier than you normally flip pancakes, but it essential to the fluffy end texture). Adjust the heat, as you need to prevent the pancakes from burning or undercooking.

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