Healthier (and pareve! and vegan!) Dalgona / TikTok / Korean viral coffee


Unless COVID-19 has totally passed you by, you've probably tried Dalgona coffee. Made famous by a bunch of copycat TikTok videos like this one, the idea is that with just three simple (and pareve!) ingredients, you can whip up a delightfully foamy coffee base: 2 tablespoons each of instant coffee, sugar, and water. You whip the base until it's firm, which is magic in itself. Then you gently stir the base into milk so you don't lose the foam and you have a nice cool coffee drink you can serve over ice cubes.  

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Voila!  Dalgona coffee!

It got its name because the whipped texture of the base reminded people of dalgona, a sugary sponge toffee (honeycomb toffee to some) that's apparently popular in Korea (probably identical to the Canadian variety I've made often).
I first succumbed back in March, when I was blown away by the fact that unlike most viral food hacks, it actually worked. The coffee was rich, fluffy, just right.  It adds a step to whip the coffee, but since I often use a blender for my coffee drinks, it didn't take much longer than that. 
But it's not perfect. For a few reasons.
One problem with Dalgona coffee which I've heard from others is that the whipped part doesn't mix in very well. By the time you've convinced it to mix in with the milk, you've lost a lot of foam.
But the biggest problem is that instead of a LITTLE sugar, which most people use in their coffee, Dalgona coffee calls for a whopping 2 tablespoons of sugar, giving it the same sweetness as its sponge-toffee namesake.  No wonder it's so popular.
Since March, I've refined a 2-step method for making dalgona coffee, and this week, I set myself the goal of making it healthier, if only incrementally.
The 2 basic steps are:
  1. Whip the base
  2. Mix with milk
  3. Drink. This one doesn't count as a step!

For the base, I've cut the amount of sugar in half, to 1 Tbsp. This is still a LOT of sugar, so that's why I'm calling this "healthier" and not actually "healthy." Sorry.  My daughter says it will whip without any sugar, but that it doesn't hold its foam well after that.

For the milk, I've switched to no-sugar-added almond milk. Feel free to substitute any tasty milk you enjoy. Note that I'm not saying vegan milk is better than cow's milk. But this one has less sugar and fat than our usual cow's milk. Plus, I find that milk-based coffee drinks leave an unpleasant aftertaste which I don't get with non-dairy milks.

Finally, for the mixing step, I use a sports shaker bottle (mine's the Blender Bottle brand, only $3 from iHerb) with a little metal whisk ball inside. If you don't have one, anything you can cover and shake gently without it leaking everywhere will work.

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(Not sure why anyone would need a 2-pack, but here you go, on Amazon.)

 

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(iHerb branded version is exactly the same as the expensive Amazon one, for only $3 with any iHerb order…)

(note that these are affiliate links to products I actually like and use, meaning if you click through I may earn a penny or two – and thank you for it)

It's important to note that with this method, you're not going to get the stark "coffee on white" look of the classic dalgona coffee. But you're going to get something a whole lot drinkable. This isn’t my picture, and mine is fluffier than this one:

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(image © jamieanne via Flickr)
 

Another point: the quality of your final coffee varies based on the instant coffee you use, so I strongly recommend a good one. I've switched away from Starbucks Via Instant (which is crazy expensive on top of not being available here in Israel, so it made us dependent on the kindness of relatives). After a survey of the Foodies in Israel Facebook group, I eventually switched to Elite Platinum Brazilian, which -- unlike most instant coffees here -- actually tastes pretty good, even without a ton of sugar and window-dressing.

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(My coffee of choice. You can actually get this on Amazon.com, if you’re desperate to try it! I actually think it’s pretty good…)

So here's what you do:

Healthier Kosher Pareve Vegan Dalgona Coffee

  1. With a hand mixer, whip 2 Tbsp instant coffee, 1 Tbsp sugar, and 2 Tbsp boiling water until it holds firm peaks
  2. In the glass you'll drink from, add 3 ice cubes and pour milk to reach the top of ice cubes
  3. Transfer milk + ice cubes from glass to shaker bottle
  4. Gently spoon a little of the coffee foam base into the glass. This will be your "top foam," if you like that sort of thing
  5. Transfer the rest of coffee foam base to shaker bottle. Seal and shake VERY gently.
  6. Transfer cubes and coffee mixture from shaker bottle back into glass (you'll probably have some left over for later!)
  7. (optional) Sprinkle with cinnamon or cocoa
  8. Drink and enjoy!

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One final note: the first thing many people think of doing when they find out about this is add cocoa. It seems like such a natural combination!  But it was one of the first things I tried when I first went on this kick. And unfortunately, all that happened was that it killed the whip -- the base would not fluff up at all. Your mileage may vary. Let me know in the comments if you've found a way to make a mocha dalgona coffee. I'd love to try it!

Mmm… coffee! 

What’s your coffee looking like these days? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to find out!

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה

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