Yogurt and kefir are both cultured milk products but there are many differences between the two. This includes how they are made, the type of bacteria present, and the health benefits of each.

Incubation Type

There are two types of yogurt: those cultured at room temperature and those that the culture requires a specific range of temperatures to incubate.

Kefir can culture at room temperature. Many yogurt strains, however,  require some sort of warming device to properly culture.

There is also a difference in what is used to propagate the culture in the milk. Yogurt is made by mixing a bit of a previous yogurt batch into fresh milk. Once the new batch is complete you may use that starter again, or in the case of raw milk a separate starter is kept with pasteurized milk. Yogurt can also be made with a dried starter.

Kefir, on the other hand, is made with either a dried starter or a set of kefir “grains.” These gelatinous grains will multiply over time, leaving you with extra grains to use, give away, or compost after every batch. In making kefir, the grains are simply removed from a newly made batch of kefir and added to fresh milk to make the next batch.

Types of Bacteria Present

Yogurt and kefir contain different types of bacteria, each of which perform different tasks.

The beneficial bacteria found in yogurt help keep the digestive tract clean and provide food for the friendly bacteria found in a healthy gut. They pass through the digestive tract and are called “transient bacteria.”  You also have to make sure your yogurt contains “active cultures” or it will not provide the health benefits.

The bacteria in kefir, on the other hand, can actually colonize the intestinal tract. Kefir also contains a lot larger range of bacteria, as well as yeasts. So while yogurt may contain a handful of different strains of bacteria, kefir may contain many more than that.

Kefir Contains Yeasts

Both kefir and yogurt are lactic acid fermentations. On top of that, though, kefir contains beneficial yeasts that can also produce alcohol that give kefir it’s natural carbonation.

Texture and Flavor

Yogurt has a flavor that most of us are familiar with: tart, smooth, and creamy. Kefir is also tart, but it can have a touch of yeast or alcohol flavor to it due to the beneficial yeasts present in the culture.

Most varieties of yogurt are also thicker than kefir, given the same length of fermentation time. While yogurt is almost always eaten with a spoon, kefir can often be eaten with a straw out of a glass.

Both yogurt and kefir are beneficial cultured dairy products that can perform different, helpful tasks in the body.


noun: kefir; plural noun: kefirs
  1. A sour-tasting drink make from cow’s milk fermented with certain bacteria.
    2. Kefir, kefīrs, keefir, or kephir, alternatively kewra, talai, mudu kekiya, milk kefir, or búlgaros, is a fermented milk drink made with kefir grains and has its origins in the north Caucasus Mountains around 3,000 BC.
    3. Kefir is a fermented milk product similar to yogurt, which originated in Russia. This tangy, creamy milk product is sometimes referred to as the “champaign of milk” because of its fizzy effervescence. The natural carbonation gives kefir a light, foam, creamy texture, even when made with low fat milk.

    Kefir is made from milk that has been gently heated to eliminate possibly pathogenic bacteria. Next, a specific mixture of bacteria and yeast cultures are added to the milk to begin fermentation. The unique mixture of bacteria and yeast give kefir its distinct flavor and texture. The starter cultures for kefir are often referred to as “kefir grains” as they look like small, lumpy, granules, similar in appearance to cauliflower.

    The bacteria Lactobacilus caucasius ferments lactose in the milk into lactic acid, which provides a tangy flavor and also makes it a nice alternative for those with lactose intoleranceSaccharomyces kefir and Torula kefir, two yeasts used to make kefir, ferment lactose into a small amount of alcohol and carbon dioxide, which is responsible for the carbonation.



    There are many recipes for kefir, which differ based on the specific bacteria and yeast used to ferment the milk and the type of milk used. In European countries, kefir is often made from goat, cow, or even camel’s milk. Most kefir sold in the United States is made from cow’s milk.

    Kefir is available plain, which has a bright, tart flavor. To make it more palatable, many companies sweeten the kefir and add flavors like fruit or vanilla. Flavored kefir is closer in flavor to yogurt and may be more easily accepted by those who are new to kefir.


    Kefir can also be made with non-dairy milks, such as almond or soy. Kefir is most often consumed as a cold beverage. Most people consume kefir because of its enjoyable flavor and texture, but some feel it aids in digestion and calming an upset stomach. Kefir can also be mixed into smoothies, poured over cereal or granola, or used in baked goods.. These non-dairy kefirs are made using the same bacterial and yeast cultures, and offer the same pro-biotic benefits, making them an excellent alternative for vegan consumers.


    Kefir can be found in most health or natural food stores in the refrigerated dairy section. European markets may also carry kefir. Kefir making kits can also be found in specialty stores or online. These kits provide the kefir culture “grains” and instructions on how to safely ferment your milk.

    Because kefir is a fresh product with live cultures, it should be kept refrigerated. After opening kefir, it should be consumed within five to seven days.



Kaniwa is creating quite a buzz lately, with some people even referring to it as a “superfood.” Kaniwa is a seed grown in Peru and Bolivia that is eaten as a grain product.

It is related to quinoa, and is prepared and consumed in a similar fashion, but kaniwa seeds are half the size of quinoa. Unlike quinoa, kaniwa does not contain saponins and you do not need to thoroughly rinse it prior to eating.

Kaniwa often is prepared as porridge or served as a side dish alone or as a component of salad. It also has appeared in recipes for stir-fries, casseroles, soups, and stews and is sometimes used to “bread” meats and fish. Kaniwa flour is used in a variety of baked goods, puddings, and beverages similar to hot chocolate.


Kaniwa is high in protein and provides fiber, iron, calcium, and zinc. It is a gluten-free food.

A cooked ½-cup (C) serving (¼ C dry) contains:


  • 178 calories
  • 3 grams (g) fat
  • 29 g carbohydrate
  • 7 g protein
  • 6 g fiber

Kaniwa is also high in antioxidants, both in the extrudate and bran form. About 43% of the fatty acids in kaniwa are omega-6.

For the best flavor, toast kaniwa prior to cooking.  To prepare kaniwa: combine 1 C kaniwa with 2 C liquid, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer (covered) for 15–20 minutes. Allow to sit (covered) for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork and serve.


To purchase kaniwa, check your area’s health food store or in the bulk section at some Whole Foods locations. It can also be purchased online from a number of retailers, including Amazon.com.

kaniwa quinoa-grilled-vegetables-2



References and recommended readings
Dean & DeLuca®. Zocalo kaniwa flour. Available at: http://www.deandeluca.com/pantry/pantry-new/zocalo-kaniwa-flour.aspx.

Fitday®. Kaniwa: the next superfood? Available at: http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/kaniwa-the-next-superfood.html.

GoGo Quinoa™. Kaniwa (quinoa baby). Available at: http://www.gogoquinoa.com/products/grains/kaniwa-quinoa-baby/.

Repo-Carrasco-Valencia R, Acevedo de La Cruz A, Icochea Alvarez JC, Kallio H. Chemical and functional characterization of kañiwa (Chenopodium pallidicaule) grain, extrudate and bran. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2009;64(2):94-101.

Repo-Carrasco R, Espinoza S, Jacobsen SE. Nutritional value and use of the Andean crops quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa) and kañiwa (Chenopodium pallidicaule). Food Reviews International [serial online]. 2003;19(1-2):179-189.  Available at: http://www.mendeley.com/research/nutritional-value-andean-crops-quinoa-chenopodium-quinoa-ka%C3%B1iwa-chenopodium-pallidicaule/.