The Bengali sweetened yogurt dish, Mishti Doi, is literally one of the most delicious things you can ever eat, and it couldn’t be simpler to make. Today I have for you my recipe for a blissfully vegan Mishti Doi. It has probiotic cultures, tastes just as good as the real thing, and it makes a stunning, and even healthy, dessert–or breakfast.
Indians around the world are about to launch into festival mode. The months between August and November are packed with some of the biggest religious celebrations in a country that loves celebrating year-round, beginning with Ganesh Chaturthi, the birthday of the elephant headed god Ganesha, this week, and ending with Diwali, the mother of all Hindu festivals, in November.
These months will also see many other popular Indian festivals, including Navratri, a raucous community celebration that involves a lot of dancing in circles with batons to celebrate the goddess Durga in western Indian states, and Durga Puja, celebrated in states in the east, including West Bengal and Odisha.
Mishti Doi is a popular Bengali sweet that’s often made at festivals like Durga Puja and Diwali, and today I have for you a delicious but vegan version of this beloved dessert.
What is mishti doi?
Mishti Doi literally translates from Bengali to “sweet yogurt.” It is a yogurt-based sweet that’s often made during Bengali celebrations, including Durga Puja and Diwali. Its beauty, to my mind, is that it’s stunningly simple, relying on the natural deliciousness of yogurt combined with caramelized sugar or natural palm sugar to create amazing flavor.
But making mishti doi involves more than stirring sugar into yogurt. There’s some boiling and stirring of milk involved, although it doesn’t take too long, and you then set the milk with yogurt, wait overnight or for however long it takes for all of it to set, and then eat it. Mishti doi is traditionally set in small terracotta ramekins, which help absorb moisture from the yogurt, because you want your mishti doi to always be very, very thick with no apparent whey.
Mishti doi, in its authentic form, is made with palm jaggery–domed lumps of brown, unrefined sugar. But more modern versions use sugar. I love coconut sugar in this recipe, when I have it, and it gives the vegan mishti doi a more authentic flavor. But this time I used cane sugar, which I had on hand, and to add that rich flavor I caramelized it. You can use any vegan sugar or, if you have jaggery, use that. The method will differ slightly if you use jaggery, and I’ll describe it for you in the FAQs below.
Why you’ll love this vegan mishti doi
- It’s delicious. It’s hard to believe that sugar and yogurt can create such tremendous flavor together, but cooking the milk (nondairy milk in this case) and the sugar together and then letting it ferment with a probiotic makes all the difference. You get a sweet, thick, caramelized yogurt with striking, tangy notes.
- It’s simple. There’s not much skill involved in making a mishti doi, but be sure to follow directions or you may not get what you wanted. If you have an Instant Pot (you don’t absolutely need one for this recipe), your job’s that much easier.
- It’s everyone-friendly. If you, or have someone in the family, cannot tolerate lactose, this is the recipe for you. It has all the flavor and none of the milk. It’s also soy-free, gluten-free, and you can make it with full-fat coconut milk for a nut-free version (although I do prefer the flavor of mishti doi made with cashew milk). See FAQs below on how to make this with coconut milk.
- It’s nutritious. There is sugar here but this is not a cloyingly sweet food. The probiotic yogurt packs in lots of benefits–and protein, if you make it with cashews.
- It’s great anytime. Mishti doi is usually classified as a dessert sweet but it makes a tremendous breakfast or anytime snack.
- It’s compassionate. Festivities in India are typically accompanied by lots of sweets, most of them dairy-based. But there’s no reason for animals to suffer when we humans celebrate and what better time can there be to show compassion?
- Sugar. Coconut sugar is great here and gives a more authentic flavor, or use vegan cane sugar, turbinado sugar or any sugar of your choice. You can also use jaggery. See notes in the recipe card if using jaggery for instructions on when to add it.
- Raw cashews. We will use these to make cashew cream. Don’t use storebought cashew milk or any other nut milks, which tend to be too think, in this recipe–you want homemade cashew cream for the right consistency.
- Two vegan probiotic capsules. I use the PB8 vegetarian probiotic capsules (in the green bottle). If you already have a cultured vegan yogurt that’s thick (like my vegan Instant Pot yogurt), use that instead, although the probiotic capsules will result in a thicker mishti doi, which is the result we’re going for. If using a yogurt starter add it at the same time as you would the probiotic capsules.
- Superfine almond flour or powder. Buy storebought almond flour or make your own, but make sure it’s a fine powder. It helps thicken the yogurt and adds more depth of flavor.
- Pure vanilla extract. This is not a traditional ingredient and it’s optional, but I like it in here to add a bit of depth and sweetness to the cashew milk.
How to make vegan mishti doi
You don’t, and you can absolutely make the vegan mishti doi the traditional way, by placing it in a warm spot in your home. The mishti doi will take a little longer to set than regular yogurt would. In my cool September kitchen with daytime temps in the 60s and 70s it took more than 36 hours. An Instant Pot makes quick work of this and is quite foolproof, but it is not necessary.
Cashews work really well in a vegan version of mishti doi because they are a great thickener and they create the perfect consistency. However, if you are nut-free, you can use full fat coconut milk. Add a couple of tablespoons of cornstarch to the coconut milk (when you’d add the almond flour) to thicken it. Skip the almond flour if you are nut-free.
Definitely, and I suggest a range in the recipe card below, from ⅓rd of a cup, which is the amount I use, to ½ a cup. You can add even more sugar if you prefer, although mishti doi shouldn’t be cloyingly sweet.
Mishti doi tastes at its best when it’s at its simplest. But a bit of cardamom stirred into the cashew milk before you set it with the probiotic would be nice.
You can also garnish the mishti doi with nuts and saffron before or after it sets.
Terracotta bowls are traditionally used to set mishti doi and their porousness helps thicken the dahi or yogurt nicely. But I wouldn’t use a terracotta ramekin or bowl inside an Instant Pot unless the product specifically says it is oven-safe. If you are not using an Instant Pot, however, and plan to set the yogurt in a warm spot in your home, you can definitely use terracotta or clay bowls.