How to make your own yogurt at home

Do you like yogurt?

Would you like to learn how to make your own delicious yogurt at home, just the way you like it, without having to buy a yogurt maker?

Up until yesterday, I always bought yogurt at the supermarket – Beatrice, Danone (or Dannon, apparently, as it is known in the States), Breyer’s, Activia, and my latest love, Stonyfield Farms. Then it dawned on me that as a trained microbiologist, it’s probably just as easy as starting a bacterial culture like I routinely do in the lab. Okay okay… don’t worry, you don’t need to have experience working with bacteria to make your own yogurt. I’ll write a more detailed post with step-by-step photos next time, but I’m so excited that I made my own yogurt that I wanted to share this really easy and inexpensive way to make your own yogurt at home.

Making yogurt at home

This sort-of recipe is for a 1/2 gallon (8 cups) of yogurt. You can scale up or down depending on how much you want to make. Properly stored, the yogurt can last for at least a week. You’ll need:

Equipment

Make sure these pieces of equipment have first been washed with hot water and dried. Otherwise, if they’re dirty with germs and such, you’re providing the bad boys with food and a nice, warm place to grow –> spoiled yogurt –> a batch of yogurt that you’ll have to throw away.

– A pot that holds at least a 1/2 gallon (8 cups) of liquid, which will become your new favourite yogurt.
– A wooden spatula.
– A thermometer that can read from 100 – 180F (~37-82C). I bought a candy thermometer on sale at the grocery store for $4.00. It’s handy because it comes with a clip so I can clip it onto the side of my pot and not have to hold it as the milk is heating.
– A working oven. More on this in a bit.

Ingredients

– 1/2 gallon of milk.
I used whole milk because I love Stonyfield Farm’s whole milk french vanilla yogurt, but I’ve read that lowfat can also be used, or even reconstituted nonfat dry milk.
– 1/3 cup nonfat dry milk, optional.
I added this because I like thick, creamy yogurt and read that the addition of nonfat dry milk a.k.a. milk powder helps make the yogurt thicker. If you don’t use it, you’ll still be able to make yogurt but it will be a bit thinner. Keep in mind that because the yogurt is homemade, it will be slightly thinner than what you buy at the grocery store since no thickeners like cornstarch have been added.
– A yogurt starter.
Think of this as a “seed” for your batch of yogurt. What this means is to make your own yogurt, you’ll first need to introduce a bit of yogurt to the pot of milk. The bacteria in the yogurt will convert the milk into fresh yogurt. Some people buy dry yogurt starter (available in packets), but you can also just buy a small cup of yogurt. Buy as plain and natural a yogurt as you can. I cheated and used the aforementioned Stonyfield Farm whole milk french vanilla yogurt and it still worked, but the main point is to try and avoid using yogurt with fruit as your starter. The extra fruit or toppings might affect the resulting taste, consistency and quality of your yogurt.

Directions

1. Pour the milk into the pre-washed, clean pot and mix in the dry milk powder if you are using it. Heat up the milk (and milk powder) to 170-180F (~77-82C), stirring as you do so. Hold the milk at this temperature for 2-3 minutes. Apparently this prepares the proteins in the milk for the magical transformation into yogurt. Avoid heating the milk to higher than 180F/82C because this will ruin your yogurt.

2. Turn off the heat, and cool the milk to 105-110F (~41-43C). I put the pot over a bowl full of cold water to cool it faster. You can probably even use ice to cool it faster still. You want to bring the temperature down so that when you add the yogurt starter, you won’t kill it because the milk is too hot. Once the milk has cooled, add your yogurt starter and stir it into the milk. Some people say to use ~3 tablespoons, some say use the entire cup of yogurt (~6 oz)… I happened to add 3 heaping spoonfuls of yogurt.

3. At this point in time, you can divide your yogurt into cups/bowls/containers (washed first with hot water and dried) for individual servings. I just left it in the pot and figured I could divide it into smaller portions as needed. Incubate your milk and yogurt – this means let the milk/yogurt mixture sit in a warm place where it won’t be disturbed. The more you move it around and jiggle the pot, the less likely it will set. Some ideas for a makeshift incubator are a big cooler with some containers of hot water and towels to keep the environment nice and warm, a hot plate, a heating pad, or an oven. I chose the last option because I didn’t have any of other items. I turned the oven to 350F for a few minutes just to warm it up a bit before I put in my pot of yogurt.

4. How long do you let your yogurt sit? It depends on how tangy you want it to be. I tried 4 hours at the recommendation of a friend, but found it to be a bit mild in taste, almost like tofu pudding (豆腐花) if you’ve ever tried it… which is not entirely a bad thing🙂

Next time I think I will try letting it sit for closer to 6-7 hours. The longer you let the yogurt sit, the tangier it will be.

5. Test and see if your yogurt has set! You can tilt your pot slightly to check: the yogurt shouldn’t move as you tilt the pot. You can also try scooping out the yogurt like so:

Success! The yogurt has set!

Success! Voila, yogurt!

6. However, there is still one last step before you’re done. This fresh batch of yogurt needs to firm up in the refrigerator before it’s ready – I left mine in the refrigerator overnight. Then, dish it out in a bowl and enjoy. I had a bowl of newly made yogurt with some blueberry jam and maple almond granola.

This is good stuff.

7. Save some of your homemade yogurt to use as a starter for your next batch. Generally this only works for 4-5 batches before having to start again with some store-bought starter. I have heard that you can freeze a part of your yogurt too, to use for a starter as needed.

Update 10/24: Made another batch using the last spoonfuls of my first batch, and incubated for ~6 hours in the oven. This gave the exact “sour” taste I was looking for in yogurt but I noticed that even though I kept my first batch in the refrigerator, it progressively got more sour over the course of a week. I’m wondering how this second batch will behave in a few days…

If you have any suggestions or ideas for homemade yogurt, please give me a shout.🙂

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21 Responses to “How to make your own yogurt at home”

  1. em Says:

    This post makes me crave some good, clean food, and it’s almost 1 am…. That last picture is so tempting! I could use some granola right now. I’m excited that your yogurt worked without a yogurt maker😀
    I see many yummy yogurts in your future. WOO.

  2. toxobread Says:

    Hey Em,
    I just remembered that I have bags of frozen berries in the freezer. It’s smoooooooooothie time! WOO😀

  3. Ellie Says:

    Oh, MAN!! I can’t wait!, Toxo, have you tried Siggi’s yogurt, I wrote it up on my blog awhile a go, It is the greatest, creamiest yogurt i’ve ever had, it comes from Iceland and its tough to find, but if you ever see it, pounce.

    El

  4. food librarian Says:

    Wow! Thank you for the great detailed instructions. I will have to try this soon!

  5. Kate Says:

    I’m definitely going to try this tomorrow. I’ve been looking for a good recipe for yogurt without too much extra equipment and this is it! I’m tired of buying individual containers of yogurt with all those additives for too much money. I hope Greek yogurt will do as a starter… guess we’ll see!

  6. toxobread Says:

    Food Librarian: Good luck! Yogurt making is fun and the results are fantastic.

    Kate: I hope this post will help with your yogurt making project. I always thought it was going to be a lot of work (or require a yogurt maker) and it really isn’t. This is such a simple, easy and inexpensive way to do so that I am going to try and stick with homemade yogurt. Greek yogurt will work for sure; if anything, it will make a wonderful batch of homemade yogurt! Good luck!

  7. Mary Says:

    This is my first visit to your blog and I’m eager to read more of your posts. I’ve been making my own yogurt for some time now. I, too, use whole organic milk. I actually heat my milk just to a boil and let it cool to room temperature. I haphazardly add whatever bit of last week’s yogurt I have left and whisk it all together. I then pour that into a regular old Rubbermaid container. I’m fortunate enough to have an electric canning kettle so I set that for 110 degrees, pour a bit of water in the bottom and set the yogurt/milk mixture onto a rack in the water. I just leave it overnight and it’s perfect. It’s quite firm and mild in flavor. It helps to keep a couple paper towels on the top of the yogurt as it sits in the fridge to pull up some of the excess moisture. Mary

  8. toxobread Says:

    Hi Mary: Thanks for sharing your yogurt-making tips with me. It makes the process sound even easier than what’s in my post! I’m finding that my first batch is starting to produce some whey but the paper towel trick should come in handy.

  9. Clara Leung Says:

    Woo … we can’t wait … save some for us ah ! looks great.

  10. toxobread Says:

    Hi Mom: ha ha I think this batch will be *all gone* before you and Dad come to visit, but don’t worry, there will be many more batches of yogurt in the future!

  11. Mike Says:

    This is a great recipe for vegetarians, have you noticed that all the low/no-fat yogurts have gelatin in them?
    My dad has been making yogurt at home in little glass jars the past few months as well!

  12. toxobread Says:

    Hey Mike!!!
    Well, I can’t say that I’ve noticed the addition of gelatin in low-fat / fat-free yogurts because I’ve been pigging out on whole milk yogurt goodness. However, I have tried some fat-free yogurt in the past that tasted like powder. Yuck.
    I really like the idea of making my own yogurt and am on the hunt for little glass jars to do it with. One of my friends recommended the Starbucks Frappuccino bottles and they look to be the perfect size. What does your dad use?

  13. nồi niêu Says:

    Great tips! Thanks for sharing.

  14. toxobread Says:

    Thanks, Van! I hope they help if you decide to try making yogurt at home.

  15. Oikos Greek yogurt… oh, Lordie. « a foodie from the boonies. Says:

    […] bought two little tubs of Oikos Greek yogurt a week or so back so I could make my own yogurt at home. I intended to use it as starter, but when I got to Kroger and saw both vanilla and honey […]

  16. gaga Says:

    Wow, yogurt is something I would’ve never even considered making on my own! This is really impressive and looks great too.

  17. toxobread Says:

    Hi Gaga:
    Thanks! Yeah, I was a little apprehensive about making something like yogurt at home, but heard from so many other people that it was easy and delicious, and it is! (Even without a yogurt maker!) I’ve been averaging a batch i.e. 1/2 gallon a week to bring to work as a snack, or to make fresh smoothies for breakfast. It’s a lot cheaper than getting yogurt at the grocery store, and you can put exactly what you want to eat in it.
    Let me know if you decide to try it out, and how it goes!

  18. Buttermilk Cluster « Toxo Bread Says:

    […] buttermilk: I actually used 2 1/4 cups of really thin homemade yogurt and it worked well. If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, some helpful substitutions that […]

  19. BBD#17 - Baked Potato Bread « Toxo Bread Says:

    […] original recipe calls for 3/4 cup water and 1/2 cup sour cream. Since I make my own yogurt at home, I simply skimmed off the whey (liquid) to substitute for the water and used plain whole milk […]

  20. anj Says:

    I am trying to make a batch as we speak, but it is just not thickening up and its been 6 hours. Still looks like milk😦
    The oven temp is running around 95 with the light on inside. Is this my problem?

    • toxobread Says:

      Hi Anj,

      Sorry to hear you are having trouble with your batch of yogurt. I’m not sure what the exact problem is, but here are some ideas:

      – Did you heat the milk to a high enough temperature?
      – Did you cool the milk down enough before you added your yogurt?
      – Was your yogurt fresh, or were you using some that had been in the refrigerator for a while? (Fresh and active yogurt is best. The longer it’s been in the fridge, the less active it will be and so it will take a lot longer for your batch to turn into yogurt.)
      – If you didn’t add the dry skim milk, it will turn out soupier than if you did use it.
      – Whole milk will yield a thicker yogurt than 1% or skim.
      – The oven temp sounds about right to me – you do want to keep it around 95F/37C because that’s the optimal temperature for the yogurt culture to grow.
      – They say that you should try to leave the batch alone while it’s thickening and not disturb it too much. Moving it will make the process take longer.
      – I usually make my batch around this time (going to in around half an hour, in fact!) and leave it undisturbed overnight, which will make the overall incubation time closer to 7-8 hours.

      Hope this helps, and best of luck!

      Jackie

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