We know you’ve seen it in your supermarket next to the yogurt, so what the heck is it? If you said “Some sort of yogurt that’s maybe also a beverage,” you’re almost there. Let’s dive a little deeper, though.
Whereas yogurt is basically just milk that’s been mixed with a bacterial culture and allowed to ferment, kefir is made by inoculating milk with what are called kefir grains. These grains, which resemble miniature cauliflower florets, are actually a symbiotic matrix of lactic acid bacteria and yeasts bound together by proteins, lipids, and sugars. The actual process of converting milk into kefir is a little too complicated to discuss here, but the end result is creamy, slightly buttery in flavor, mildly carbonated, and slightly alcoholic from the yeast fermentation. Much of the kefir you see in the supermarket, however, is made with a mixture of bacteria and yeast instead of grains to ensure consistency.
Kefir is lactose-free and is loaded with probiotics, vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids. It can trace its origins to the Caucasus Mountains, where it’s still very popular.