How to Make Homemade Yogurt

Yogurt is something you can easily make at home.

I wanted to make yogurt because I wanted to know how it was made, and I wanted to see if I could do it. Learning new skills is my favorite hobby. I’m no yogurt-making expert, but the good news is I can still make delicious yogurt in the kitchen, and so can you.

Yogurt is the result when you add a starter to milk and let it sit. A starter is a nice word for a bacteria culture. I’m sure that’s why more people don’t make their own yogurt; it sounds risky. After decades of marketing from anti-bacterial cleaners and hand soap, bacteria is something we’ve been told should be out of our kitchens! No wonder we view it with suspicion, and at the very least, uncertainty. Perhaps it is something better left to professionals?

No, truthfully, generations of people have been making yogurt in their kitchens long before industries packaged it into convenient little containers for us (along with all the added sweeteners and thickeners). And just like anything else you make at home, it does taste better. More fresh, and not so sharp.

Make-It-Yourself Directions

1. Heat 1 quart of milk on the stove to 180 degrees F. (A thermometer helps to ensure food safety.)

2. Let the milk cool to 110 degrees.

3. Add 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt to a quart jar. Make sure the yogurt has live, active cultures. It can be store-bought plain yogurt or the last spoonfuls of your most recent homemade batch.

4. Add a bit of the cooled milk to the yogurt in the jar and swirl it around. Then pour the rest of the milk into the jar.

5. The jar needs to stay warm for about 8 hours while the cultures do the work. Options:

  • Put the jar inside the oven with the oven light on.
  • Put the jar inside a cooler, and fill the cooler with hot water.
  • Buy a yogurt maker which will keep the jars warm.

6. After the yogurt has thickened, cool the yogurt in the fridge and enjoy!

7. The yogurt is more thin than store-bought, but it’s ideal for smoothies. If you like thicker yogurt, pour it into a colander lined with cheese cloth, coffee filters, or paper towels, and let the excess liquid drip into a bowl below.

A note on milk: I’m biased. When I drink milk, it’s whole milk every time. Can you make yogurt using skim milk or two percent instead of whole milk? Um, yes, I suppose.

The rest of my family is dairy-free, so I no longer make quarts of yogurt to eat all by my lonesome. I’ve heard people say dairy-free yogurt could be made at home…could it be possible? It seems that everyone who actually tried it reported failure, so maybe it’s the holy grail of dairy-free food. I want to find out for myself.

Making dairy-free yogurt at home is my next experiment, and whether it succeeds or flops, I’ll tell you how it goes.

Once you’ve made homemade yogurt, you can eat it to your heart’s desire with any kind of toppings: honey, maple syrup, fresh fruit, granola… I like to stir in about 2 teaspoons of vanilla and 1 teaspoon almond extract (per quart of yogurt), with some brown sugar.

How do you like your yogurt?

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.

Comments

  1. LOVE homemade yogurt and love making it! And you are right that it is easy. Since I started making yogurt we’ve enjoyed lots of it including in smoothies. So yummy and so healthy!

    If you like a thicker yogurt, you can add some unflavored gelatin. Here’s a link to my recipe that is almost identical to Small Notebooks, but has gelatin, sugar and vanilla added.

    http://thriftyfrugalmom.blogspot.com/2009/10/tasty-tuesday-homemade-yogurt.html

    Lydia´s last post…Printable Coupon Roundup: Sargento, Lance, Reynolds & More

  2. I like mine with maple syrup and sometimes with fresh blue berries.
    I started making and eating yogurt when my toddler was born. At first, I bought it from the store, but when I discovered blog land, there’s a wealth of info on how to make your own yogurt. I chose the easiest method – crock-pot yogurt. I have written a step by step how to make it in my blog, if you or anyone is interested in checking it out. :) http://ourlives09.blogspot.com/2010/01/home-made-yogurt.html

    Our Lives´s last post…Minimize it Monday: Bathroom Medicine cabinet

    • Denise says:

      This is AWESOME!!! I love yogurt and have made it before with microwaving and then in the oven wrapped in towels. It was always hit and miss. This will be fun to try and I have faith that it will be wonderful. Thanks for sharing. God Bless you!!!

  3. check out this post from A Year of Slow Cooking so get instructions on how to do it in a crock pot.

    http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/10/you-can-make-yogurt-in-your-crockpot.html

    • I’ve seen that method, but my concern with using a crock pot is getting the milk hot enough (180 degrees F) in the first step to kill any potentially harmful bacteria before you introduce the culture and let it sit.

      • Rachel,

        I maintain a homemade yogurt website (link below), and found your entry via StumbleUpon today. I would offer that the heating of the milk to 185F is not really about killing bacteria. Most of them die at a much lower temperature, and I suspect that and most of your viewers are using pasteurized milk. Instead, heating the milk to 185 will denature the proteins in the milk, enabling it to sequester more of the liquid (whey), resulting in a thicker set. If you were to hold the 185F for thirty minutes (I don’t), you’d get a a thickness very similar to store bought. Something else your readers might be interested in, is using a heating pad to keep the milk warm during incubation. Also discussed here:

        http://www.makeyourownyogurt.com/

        Thanks,

        Michael

  4. Denise C. says:

    I’ve been enjoying plain yogurt these days. Sometimes I’ll add a bit of agave or maple-agave syrup (from Trader Joes). Now I’m hungry, I think I know what I’m going to have for a snack!
    Have a happy Monday! ;)

  5. You can make coconut milk yogurt for the rest of your family, and it is SO yummy! It will take longer to culture, but otherwise it’s identical to the way you make dairy yogurt.

  6. How do you know if the starter had active cultures in it? I keep store yogurt a long time sometimes – do they die/diminish?

    • It says on the label “live active cultures” in the list of ingredients. I would try to find one with the latest expiration date. I don’t know the answer if they die or diminish, but my guess is fresh is better.

  7. Yoghurt can be considered one of the staples of Indian cuisine. My personal faves are yoghurt gravy and raita- its basically a cucumber salad with onions and tomatoes with generous serving of yoghurt as the dressing. i recently discovered more varieties of raita and am enjoying yoghurt more than ever!

    http://www.talimpu.com/category/raita/

  8. All I can think of is the old folk tale of the last two “known” barn elves in Germany,(the kind with the pointy ears), are cossetted through the winter by the Goodwife with a bowl of yogurt each morning and evening. That was their reward for a prosperous calving season and good harvest. Yogurt is truly a sustaining food. All the better for the homemade appeal. Now, frozen yogurt….

  9. I’m still trying to figure out coconut yogurt, given that none of us eat dairy. From what I understand it’s entirely doable!

  10. I have been making homemade yogurt by getting raw milk available locally.

    I just put however much I want into a Pyrex dish, cover it, and stick it on top my computer for a couple days. The heat from the computer gives it enough warmth, and since it is raw milk, all the enzymes and bacteria needed are present, so I don’t add anything.

    I stir it once or twice a day. After about 2 days, it is thickened and has a nice consistency. I put it in the fridge then, and start using it. It continues to work in the fridge, only slower, and will get sharper tasting as time goes by. I like the flavor best when its pretty new.

  11. We use and love the crockpot recipe… they have you cook it for many hours (and we use pasturized milk), so I feel comfortable with the method, and it is much more fool-proof than other yogurt methods we’ve tried. Here’s how we do it:
    http://simplelifemusings.blogspot.com/2010/03/homemade-yogurt.html

    Adele´s last post…Weekends are for…

  12. I am making my own yogurt as I have seen my mom make it through out my life, it is almost like second nature now. I bring milk to boil, let it cool completely, add 2 spoons of live culture yogurt and mix it with fork or whisk and let it sit overnight on warm day and next day it is done. During winter time, I have to make sure it is sitting next to warm oven or so. I do not add extra milk and it turns out fine.

    Zengirl: Happy Heart and Mind´s last post…101 changes: Change 2: Getting to e-mail Zen

    • Wow, this sounds so easy! Is it a larger amount of milk than a quart? Is it tablespoons? I like how you can let it cool completely, rather than use the thermometer. Thank you for posting this!

  13. I am glad to read this post! Making yogurt is on my LIST! Our city only recycles plastics #1 and #2. We love yogurt and I have figured out how to reconcile all of my previous issues about too much sugar, etc. (http://readytowait.com/journal/2009/9/27/the-yogurt-dilemma.html) But I HATE putting those tubs into the trash. I am giving this a try and I hope to be finished with the landfill-guilt.

    Emily from ReadyToWait.com´s last post…Signs of spring

  14. another totally easy way to keep it warm is to put the jar on a heating pad set on low, wrap the jar in a towel and plop a stock pot upside down over it. I just leave it that way for 8 hours and voila! yummy thick yogurt! and i make mine with skim and some powdered milk added and it is very thick and yummy!!!

  15. Now that gives me hope! My kids are hopelessly addicted to the little kid yogurt cups by Yoplait with Diego & Dora because those are the two without HFCS and lower sugar than the others (even my 6yo & 10yo read labels), and trying to make the switch over to plain yogurt isn’t working well. I’ve been adding applesauce to it, which helps, but they still want more. I also hate yogurt because of the sharp twang that always reminds me of soured milk. But if homemade is less sharp, even I might like it, and I know the kids will enjoy making their own and want to eat it more! Thanks!

    • The longer you let it sit to culture, the sharper it will be, so just check it at 6 and 8 hours to see how you like it.

    • Darcy, I know what you mean about the Yopait Dora and Diego yogurt. My 3 y/o BEGS for it, and then we get it home and she remembers she doesn’t like it… so we feed it to the baby. I wish they put Dora and Diego on green vegetables! I’d pay big bucks for it if it would get her to eat veggies!

  16. Another well written and informative post! Looking forward to putting this link up on “My 5 links for the week” next week. Thanks!

    Meeks´s last post…My 5 links for the week

  17. My husband made yogurt before too and it was a hit with our family.

    We’re a whole milk family too!

    Jenn @ Beautiful Calling´s last post…Made-Up Mommy

  18. I can’t wait to hear about your dairy-free yogurt adventures. I’m currently dairy-free while I nurse my baby who is allergic to milk.

    Alison´s last post…Fifty-Three Cents

  19. We started making yogurt last year, for the same reason as you: I just wanted to know how it was done. But turns out we love homemade yogurt. Here’s the rub: I have ruined countless pots of milk because of losing track of the heating or cooling process.
    Still, it’s worth it!

  20. My dairy-free soy yogurt never fails. I use a small container of Stonyfield O’soy vanilla and mix with either Silk or WestSoy brand soymilk that has been heated to 95F. Often I add 3 or tablespoons of soy or vegan protein powder for added thickness. The mixture is kept warm for about 8 hours in a Euro-Cuisine yogurt maker (one of the best birthday presents ever). Then it’s chilled overnight in fridge. Mmm so good with fresh fruit.

  21. Hi! I gave you the Sunshine Award on my blog today – check it out here
    http://shehathdonewhatshecould.blogspot.com/2010/03/sunshine-award.html

  22. We make yogurt in the crock-pot as well. We use a temperature gauge to confirm that it’s at 180 degrees. We’ve never had any problems getting our crock-pot to 180. Once it’s cooled to 117 degrees (more or less) we add the active bacteria. I’m sure this is not rocket science and any where close to 110 would work. You’re right: Yogurt is Easy.
    Then, we wrap the crock pot in a towel and let it sit on the countertop for four hours. A thick towel is a perfect way to keep the yogurt warm. The yogurt get a bit thicker after it’s been in the fridge.

    on the eastern journey´s last post…14 days of Single Parenting

    • I’m glad to hear that your crock pot can reach that temperature. It does get thicker after it cools, I forgot to mention that.

  23. I thought that I was the only grown person on earth that drinks whole milk! I can’t even have tea with skim milk in it ;) We eat plain yogurt with a bit of sugar. I’m going to try to make this, even if it’s it’s easier to find the good stuff here in France ;)

  24. I don’t think I ever would have thought to make my own yogurt but my family loves it so I think I’ll give it a try. Especially since I’m a whole milk fan!

    Tina@RideOnToys´s last post…The Power Wheels Harley Davidson Rocks!

  25. I’m looking forward to your recipe for dairy-free yogurt – I just recently ran into trouble with dairy products (my baby is allergic to my milk if I indulge!), so I’m just starting to learn how to survive without it.

  26. I’ve also been making yogurt in the crockpot. It’s incredibly easy…so easy it seems crazy not to make it! I love making whole milk yogurt. We use it for everything we can think of…eating with honey, maple syrup, cooking Indian food….

    Astrid´s last post…Weekend Adventures: Easter Egg Hunt 2010, Garage Walls, Cookies & More

  27. Your instructions seem so simple! I wrote a blog about making yogurt a couple months back. Now the only time I buy yogurt is for a starter, because I often get too greedy and eat all the homemade stuff before I remember to keep some aside!

    My blog about it is here: http://moorethanfine.blogspot.com/2010/02/yogurt-you-can-make-it-yourself.html

    It has become second nature, almost a habit. I try to make it once a week. I also make at least a half gallon at a time, so I don’t use a quart jar…but that sounds really simple!

    Nikki (Trexel) Moore´s last post…everyone’s afraid of something…or several things

  28. Thanks for the recipe. My sis-n-law is on a special diet, no corn products, and she’s always giving me new ideas to try. This might be our next adventure. The coconut milk yogurt sounds dreamy!

  29. I mentioned this to my mom, who grew up on a farm in Germany, and also made yogurt for us as kids to save money. She said she would put the jar in an insulated cooler/lunch box to stay warm without having to use any extra energy. She made this good point: if you have to plug in an extra appliance or light in the process, then you are losing some of the enviromental and cost benefits of making your own. (they didn’t have much money after the war, so learned to do things as frugally as possible!)
    I haven’t tried it yet, but we are going through so much yogurt these days thatI’m going to. I’ve gotten really into smoothies: the kids love them and with so little fruit in season right now, I’m using a lot of frozen berries and peaches to get us a nicer variety. Frozen blueberries, yogurt, milk and a bit of honey = yum! Also tried frozen bananas with yogurt, milk and peanut butter – wow, yum, and kept us all totally full until lunchtime. Not to mention getting a little more protein into my toddler.

  30. I’ve never done this but I will be trying it this week!
    Thanks!
    ~marie

  31. My husband and I have made it in a stone crock with a lid and just wrapped it in a sleeping bag or quilt overnight. Worked like a charm! I prefer homemade yogurt because it’s less sour. There’s nothing like it!

  32. Should I put the lid on the jar while it sits? Thanks!

  33. I’ve not ever considered this before, but making yogurt doesn’t seem hard. I’m thinking I might try it. Thanks!

    Meredith from Penelope Loves Lists´s last post…When Penelope Gets Sick: there must be a lesson here

  34. Thank you for the inspiration! I made my first batch last night!

  35. this sounds so easy! We are serious yogurt addicts so this would be great for us!

    Kait Palmer´s last post…Drinking Wine From a Dixie Cup

  36. Fix Me a Snack is blogging about 101 ways to serve up yogurt:

    http://www.fixmeasnack.com/category/yogurt-101/

  37. Lynnette says:

    I’ve done the crockpot yogurt once but it was too think after transferring it to the jars. I will be doing it on the stove next time. I will start with Mountain High Plain Yogurt and if I can make it taste close to theirs I will be happy. I like mine with a small spoonful of jam or a tiny bit of honey, delicious. I think I would choose it over ice cream!

  38. I had a flash of inspiration this weekend after reading this informative post. I think I’m going to try to make yogurt in my food dehydrator (which has been underutilized lately). The beautiful thing about the dehydrator (I have an Excalibur) is that I can set the exact temperature between 100-150 degrees F and it has a timer!
    I’ll report back. Linking to this on my site too. Doing a series about eating plain yogurt and have gotten a few questions about how to make your own.

  39. Great post! I’m going to try the Specific Carbohydrate Diet to help manage my IBD, but I didn’t want to have to buy a yogurt maker. I’m going to try this — thanks!

    Betherann´s last post…Euphoric

  40. If you succeed in a dairy-free yogurt PLEASE share! At a dollar a pop my sons soy yogurt habit is expensive!

  41. I think I just hit the jackpot, Yogurt is a staple at home, well store bought yogurt that is. It just helps with my tummy, which is great. Homemade yogurt is something I never really considered, and then here comes your site. I would definitely like to try this out! I love my yogurt especially with fruits like blueberries and strawberries and sugar free. As for the dairy free yogurt – well it honestly sounds weird, but hey, lots of people have started making bread without wheat, so I guess yogurt without milk could be possible.

  42. I am so happy to find this page and all the people making their own yogurt, or willing to give it a try, in the comment section! I made yogurt for my family for years when the little ones were growing up, then gave it up when I was working 60-80 hour weeks outside the home.

    Now I’m home, I’m enjoying making my own yogurt again, and surprised to find it is easier than ever. I make mine in a thermos. You can see my super-easy process here: Easy homemade yogurt in a thermos.

    I’ve tried a number of ways, and the thermos is easiest. Best thing about it, besides the perfect, slim, non-electric incubator, is that you can make any quantity you need. No bulky appliance on the counter top!

    I’ve used half a dozen different size thermal coffee mugs. I list all the different sizes that have worked best for me on the link above.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Homemade tastes so much better than store-bought, don’t you agree?
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