Finding “Nirvana” in Homemade FroYo (With a Recipe!)

Within a mile of my home, you’ll find three frozen yogurt shops. Three. And one of them dishes out vegan froyo.
This information, by the way, may have played into my decision to purchase a home in the neighborhood. Location, location, location — am I right?
I love froyo. I love it with fruit, I love it with cookie dough, I love it with candy, and I love it with sprinkles. I love it in a box. I love it with a fox. I love it here and there. I love it EVERYWHERE!
Needless to say, the neighborhood froyo shops get a lot of my business. But lately, I’ve been trying to kick the froyo habit, especially once I started taking a critical look at what was in my froyo bowl. More specifically: there’s sugar. A lot of sugar. If I wanted to keep putting froyo in my face hole (and I did), I needed to find a healthier way to do it.
Which is why one of my favorite kitchen purchases in 2014 has been this little fella:

Hamilton Beach ice cream maker

Behold! The answer to all my froyo dreams!

That’s right — I started making my own treats. I bought this Hamilton Beach ice cream machine online for about 20 dollars (or about five bowls of vegan froyo). Its small size (only 1.5 quarts) means it takes up very little counter space, but more importantly, it whips up a small batch of froyo (just enough for two full bowls!) in 40 minutes or less.
I experimented with a lot of different recipes at first — some with coconut milk, some with heavy cream, some with homemade yogurt, and some with store-bought yogurt — but all of them required copious amounts of sugar just for the base. Adding flavorings and mix-ins just defeated the whole purpose of making my own, healthy treat. Surely there had to be a better, healthier way to make froyo, right?
I stumbled onto the answer completely by accident. The folks at Taste Nirvana e-mailed me one day, asking if I’d be interested in reviewing their latest offering — coconut water with Thai chili extract. My fellow FBG Kristen reviewed their original flavors back in 2012 (and loved them!), so I was excited to see if their new offering was as tantalizing as it sounds.
Coconut Water

Taste Nirvana Coconut Water with Thai Chili Extract

When the bottles came in the mail, I took a swig out of one and was pleasantly surprised. Though I was expecting something spicy — after all, it does have a Thai chili on the label — the flavor was more “spiced.” Ever have Captain Morgan Spiced Rum? Yeah, it’s kind of like that. And it’s delicious, y’all.
I looked at the bottle of coconut water. I looked at the ice cream machine. I looked at the bottle again. And then I got to work.
I told you I had a froyo problem.
Because coconut water freezes into a solid, it’s not the best candidate to be added directly to a frozen yogurt recipe. If you do that, you’ll get ice chunks. Cook the water down with agave nectar, however, and you’ve got a simple syrup that can easily replace white sugar in an ice cream recipe. (It’s also delicious in cocktails, but that’s a whole ‘nother obsession!) Light agave nectar has a mild taste, so when cooked down with the Taste Nirvana Coconut Water with Thai Chili, the “spiced” flavor of the coconut water becomes more condensed — sweet and spicy, all in one!
Mixed with traditional Thai flavors of fresh mango and toasted coconut, this is one big bowl of froyo Nirvana.

Coconut Mango Spiced Frozen Yogurt Recipe

3/4 cup Taste Nirvana Coconut Water with Thai Chili
1/3 cup light agave nectar
3 cups plain yogurt (any kind is fine — in different attempts, I used Chobani Fat Free Plain, homemade almond milk yogurt and So Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk Plain, and all the batches came out great!)
1 ripe mango, finely diced
1/4 cup unsweetened dried coconut
1. In a small saucepan, combine the coconut water and agave nectar. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then reduce heat and simmer. Cook until the liquid is reduced to a syrup (about 3/4 cup total), then remove from heat and transfer syrup into a bowl. Cover and store in refrigerator until completely cool.
2. Once cool, take out the bowl, add yogurt and combine thoroughly. Empty mixture into ice cream machine and follow directions for churning.
3. In a small skillet, toast the coconut until browned.Cool completely.

Shredded toasted coconut

Trust me. This step makes for some AMAZING flavor!

4. Add toasted coconut and diced mango to the ice cream mixture in the final 15 minutes of churning.
Ice Cream Machine Making

Resist the urge to start eating while it’s still mixing. You’ll get hurt. Go ahead, ask me how I know.

5. Serve immediately. If you wish, create a parfait with additional diced mango and coconut.
Mango Coconut Froyo

In a word: NIRVANA!

Are you a froyo addict, too? What are your favorite healthy mix-ins? What homemade froyo recipe shall I make next?  —Susan

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