How to make your own yogurt

When I was growing up, my mom made her own yogurt using a specialized yogurt making gadget that worked something like this one. These days I make yogurt for my family too, usually about a gallon every week or two. Some folks think of yogurt-making as a difficult process, but this method is so easy that if you can remember two numbers and a one word, and do this recipe a time or two, you’ll probably be able to make it next time without even following a recipe. The numbers are 170 degrees and 120 degrees, and the word is overnight. Here’s how:

Ingredients

1/2 gallon milk (whole milk will make the thickest yogurt)
2 tablespoons plain yogurt with live cultures

Supplies

2 quart-sized canning jars (or 4 pints)
heavy pot big enough for 1/2 gallon of milk
candy thermometer

Procedure

1. Heat milk over medium heat until it reaches 170 degrees F. For the first 5 minutes or so, you can basically ignore it. But as it begins to heat up, keep an eye on the temperature and stir it frequently. (This is the most complicated part of the whole recipe, but don’t worry, it only takes 15 minutes or so!) You don’t want the milk so hot it boils. All you want is for it to start to get tiny frothy bubbles around the edges and start to steam. I prefer a thermometer just to be sure, but if you don’t have a candy thermometer or a meat thermometer, you can get by without it if you just watch carefully for tiny frothy bubbles and steam.

2. Once temperature has reached 170 degrees, remove from heat and let cool to about 120 degrees F. This part takes 30-40 minutes or so, depending on the temperature in the room. I find that the temp is about right when I can hold my hand on the outside of the pot for 10 seconds without having to remove it. But again, your most reliable gauge is probably a thermometer.

3. When milk has cooled to the right temperature, it is time to add the yogurt. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of plain or vanilla flavored yogurt until well combined. You can use any store-bought yogurt, as long as the container says, ‘contains live cultures’. (Once you’ve made a batch of your own, save a couple tablespoons of homemade yogurt to start your next batch.)

4. Turn on oven and preheat to 170 degrees for 5 minutes or so. Pour the cultured milk into the quart jars and tighten on traditional rings and lids, or plastic storage caps like these.

5. Turn off oven. Then place jars in warm oven to sit for 8-12 hours, or until milk is set and looks like yogurt. I like to make this recipe at bedtime and let it sit in the oven overnight. Once yogurt has set, place it in the refrigerator to cool and thicken a bit more.

6. Sweeten your yogurt with honey and fresh fruit. Or – easiest yet– just add a spoonful of jam to each serving. My husband likes to take yogurt to work each day, and portions it out in half-pint jars for easy transport. Yum!!

Pin It

{ 37 Comments }

  1. Can’t thank you enough for this post. I have been trying to remember what I did years ago to make yogurt–to no avail. That was a time in my life where I made yogurt, tortillas, bread, soups, pasta, and everything else by scratch.
    I have been spending quite a bit on yogurt in recent months because of the many recipes and ways you can substitute with it.
    I can hardly wait to try making my own again. Hopefully will get it to taste as close to the Greek yogurt I have come to love.

    • Here’s an additional step to make greek-style yogurt. http://www.owlhaven.net/2010/02/23/recipe-greek-style-yogurt/
      However, I find that if I just use whole milk and let the milk sit in the oven for at least 10 hours, it gets plenty thick.

      • Robin Hernando says:

        Hi Mary!
        HELP!

        I loooooove Greek Style yogurt and couldn’t wait to try your recipe! All went exactly as described ….. until I hung it in the cheese cloth. :-(
        Initially, it made about 5 pints, and when I hung it, it lost 2 pints in volume and turned curddly, looked like watery cottage cheese. I’m sure I must have done something wrong, but not sure what- do you have any ideas? I’d love to try this again.
        Thanks so much!

        Robin

        • HI Robin, You definitely will lose volume when you strain it, which is why instead of straining these days, I just make it with whole milk and let it sit in the warm oven for at least 12 hours. The richer milk and the longer incubation time gets me yogurt that is nice and thick, while skipping the cumbersome cheesecloth step.
          As far as it being curdy, did you by any chance stir the yogurt while it was incubating? It works best to incubate undisturbed, cool well, and then hang in the cheesecloth.
          Hope that helps!
          Mary

  2. This is probably the simplest recipe I’ve seen. Today is grocery day, so I’ll get what we need and start tonight!

  3. I’ve been doing it in a similar way for the last couple of years and it works great.
    I don’t have a thermometer, so I heat it in a double boiler until it froths up, cool it until I can hold a finger in it for 10 seconds.
    Then the jars go in a cool box stuffed with cushions for 6-8 hours to brew.
    Definitely a great frugal skill to know!

  4. I’ve been making yogurt in a crockpot for the last couple of months. It works great, too, and is much less expensive than buying yogurt each week at the grocery.

  5. Thanks for the inspiration. We really need to try this!
    How long will the yogurt stay fresh?

  6. How funny! I’m doing this right now. Sometimes I use the crock pot. It doesn’t heat the milk as quickly, but it keeps it from scorching on the bottom of the pot. I also cool it more quickly by setting the pot or crock in a sink of cold water.

  7. I have been overwhelmed at the thought of makig yogurt, but this, I can do!

  8. I am definitely trying this! I have been thinking about it for a while, but I didn’t want to buy the gadget, and the other method I found involved a crockpot and a cooler with towels ect. It seemed too complicated. This I can do!

  9. In a crockpot, HOW?

    • I use my crockpot too. I put the milk in on low until it’s up to 170, then turn it off to cool. Then I stir in the yogurt, put on the lid, cover with a towel for extra insulation and turn it on warm. I cycle it on and off of warm for 6-7 hours (I check it every hour or so and try to keep it between 105-120). The I put it in the fridge overnight. (move to smaller containers in morning) It takes all day, but only on and off during the day.

      I went to this method because it is “one-pot” and you’re less likely to burn your milk when you don’t pay attention!

  10. I have been researching homemade yoghurt recipes for awhile now and was just about to use one of them, but yours looks much simpler. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Is the texture similar to that of storebought yogurt?

  12. Hi Dawn,
    I’ve found that using whole milk and allowing it to culture for 10-12 hours works the vast majority of the time to develop a nice thick texture, very similar to store-bought. Occasionally I’ll get a batch that is a little thinner, but even thinner yogurt is great for use in smoothies or in recipes that call for sour cream (like beef stroganoff).

  13. ShackelMom says:

    Our oven is not reliable in the temperature department, especially low temps, so I just use a picnic cooler, put in the bottles and pour hot water (170?) to cover the jars. I close it and it is done over night. Works great! Also if you want thicker yogurt, add some powdered milk to the pot when you begin.

  14. My husband uses a styrofoam cooler with a hole cut in the top and a small lightbulb inside (it has to be a regular lightbulb that produces heat).

    Also, if you have a fail, experiment with the brand of milk. My husband has had best success with certain brands of organic milk and limited success with commercial milk treated with antibiotics.

    He’s also found that, over time, he can’t reuse his yogurt as starter (it seems to get weak) and needs to start over with fresh store yogurt for the 2 T.

    He’s been doing this for years and our kids love it.

    Mary, you share the best stuff!!

    Blessings,
    Sandwich

    • I was just going to ask if you can reuse the yogurt as starter for the next batch. Looks like the answer is yes-but it will weaken with time.

  15. Your yogurt looks nice and thick! I use the crockpot method as well and I don’t have to check any temperature. I have a large crockpot so I pour in a gallon of whole milk and 1 cup of plain yogurt. Here’s the url of the recipe I use: http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/10/you-can-make-yogurt-in-your-crockpot.html

  16. I have been experimenting with yogurt making too! If my yogurt comes out thin, I will add a packet of Knox gelatin (soften gelatin in cold whey, then add some very hot whey to it before blending it into the yogurt). I usually strain the yogurt for a thicker product, and blend in 1/2-1 cup homemade jelly (a GREAT use for those batches of jelly that don’t set as firmly as intended). What a love about making yogurt at home is the ability to control how sweet it is, and how it’s sweetened. My kids eat it up just as happily as store bought yogurt.

  17. I have been making your recipe for yogurt lately (from your greek yogurt postm just without the straining step). It is so easy! Thanks for the recipe. In Arizona where I live I can almost always get milk for under $1.60 a gallon so this is definitely a money saver.

  18. I’m trying my first batch right now. Do you know what happens if you let your milk cool to less than 120 degrees before you add your culture to it? That’s what I did by accident – I’m hoping it won’t make a difference:}

  19. I did it! It’s very good with 1 Tbsp sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla per cup. Yum! Thanks for the recipe, Mary. I pinned it.

  20. Amber N says:

    I did this with SOY milk, and soy yogurt (with live vegan cultures) and it worked perfectly!!! DD has a milk allergy and the 1+ per yogurt (which dd would want to eat 2 or 3 at a time) this will save us lots of money and only takes me a little bit of time. Well worth it! Thanks so much!

  21. I’m getting ready to put this to the test, am wondering if I could add the vanilla and sugar to the milk while heating?
    Thank you, Mimi

  22. I just made a gallon of yogurt, according to your directions, opened it tonight, it is like water, the cream all rose to the top of the jars, I’m just sick, I used whole milk, and at $8.00 per gallon, you can imagine what a shock it is to open this up and it be just like water…..having read the comments before mine, a person said your starter will not be productive after so long of a time. I was given this starter, so have no idea if that isthe problem,but the gal that gave it to me said she has used this source many times. She suggested I may havekilled the yeast,but I cooled it to 120 degrees like you said….can I re-use the milk and try again or is this a total waste….
    Mimi

    • Mimi,

      Do you have a cheese bag? I’d put it in the bag, then drain the liquid off til the bag stops dripping, then let the bag sit for a few hours with a stack of heavy plates on it to get more liquid off. You will end up with a soft feta-type cheese that you can put in lasagne or crumble over a salad, etc….
      That way the milk won’t be wasted.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] a couple years ago I came across a recipe for homemade yogurt on a blog. It looked easy. I decided to try it. It was easy, and the yogurt was great. I could flavor it any [...]

  2. [...] is usually saved for Sunday morning. I also plan to make a batch of granola, and we usually have homemade yogurt in quart jars in the fridge. Lunch is our leftover meal. I pull recent leftovers out of the fridge [...]

  3. [...] and moved on to D-Mannose capsules that I mixed into homemade yogurt for her every day or so.  Homemade yogurt has stronger and better cultures than store-bought, since it is cultured longer, and D-Mannose is a [...]