How to Make Yogurt

October 26, 2011 5:00 am
Posted in: How to Make...
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Katie Kimball is the author of Healthy Snacks to Go and The Everything Beans Book (Get $3 off until 10/31 with coupon code FALL4BEANS). She blogs at Kitchen Stewardship, where she offers weekly “Monday Missions” with practical baby steps, healthy recipes, green living ideas, and prayerful encouragement. You can follow Katie on Twitter and Facebook.

Katie also teaches GNOWFGLINS Real Food eCourses and cooking classes, including an in-depth series on Cheese & Cultured Dairy.

I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Even when it’s not October #Unprocessed, I make a ridiculous number of things from scratch.

I tend to get a little pushy when it comes to making your own yogurt. Frankly, I think everyone should do it! If ever there was a homemade yogurt pusher, it’d be me.

I don’t need a trench coat (“Wanna buy some yo-gaht?”) to push this deal. Yogurt is one of the many from-scratch practices that saves a ton of money over buying it at the store. My family of four eaters, two of whom are under seven years old, goes through a gallon or two of homemade yogurt per week — no exaggeration.

With current milk prices of about $3-ish per gallon and a 32-oz. tub of plain yogurt ringing in at $2-3, I figure I save $600-800 per year just on this one food. Plus, I’m always pleased as punch to see healthful probiotics going into my kiddos, especially during cold and flu season.

Each batch takes only about 17 minutes, split up into four parts. I’m willing to teach you my secret method, but only if you promise to eat yogurt with as little sweetener as possible. ;)

The basic steps of yogurt-making…

…are easier than chocolate chip cookies:

  1. Heat to sterilize the milk (185 degrees).
  2. Cool milk to proper incubation temperature (90-120 degrees).
  3. Add starter yogurt.
  4. Incubate at warm temperature 4-24 hours.

Supplies

  • Glass jars (quart canning jars or empty mayo or spaghetti sauce jars work great)
  • Milk (any, from skim to whole – but skim will be very runny unless you add powdered milk, which seems a little #processed for this challenge. You could always just grab raw milk straight from the cows!)
  • Candy thermometer, but I can show you how to do it without one too
  • Pot large enough to hold your glass jars
  • 2 Tbs of plain yogurt per quart of milk (Buy the freshest yogurt possible at a store and make sure it has “live and active cultures.” I prefer Dannon or Stonyfield. I know they have the three top cultures that I’m looking for to help the gut.)
  • Picnic cooler
  • Bath/beach towel
  • Timer

Method

1. Put a dishcloth in the bottom of a large pot, and place the clean jars on the cloth.

2. Pour milk into your jars to about an inch from the top.

3. Place jars into the pot and fill pot with tap water around the jars.

4. Cook on high heat until boiling and get the milk to about 185 (you can’t burn it with this method, so if you forget it for a while, it’s OK!). Turn off the heat and put lids on the jars.

5. Put the pot in the cooler with the towel underneath and the lid on both pot and cooler.

6. Cool the milk. You can do it on the counter, in the garage in winter, or in a sinkful of cold water with ice packs.

7. Get milk to about 110 degrees. I know the milk is about ready when I can pick up the jars and hold them without burning my hands.

8. Stir in ~2 Tbs. plain yogurt for each quart of milk.

9. Get those lids on again and nestle your jars in the cooler. Keep them wrapped in one half of the towel and take the lid off the pot to let the heat out, then close the lid of the cooler to keep the heat in.

My yogurt jars happily nestled in the cooler, ready to incubate.
Before I close the lid, I’ll wrap the towel end from the right around the jars.

10. Incubate 4-24 hours. Shorter incubation makes sweeter yogurt, longer is more tart. Also lower incubation temperature makes sweeter yogurt and higher makes more tart. I’ve had good success at 4 hours and at 24 (add a teapot of boiling water at the 12-hour mark if going for the full 24, which gets rid of almost all the lactose in the milk).

11. When the time is up, put the jars into the freezer for about an hour to make a creamier consistency. Do not stir first. No room in the freezer? They can go right into the fridge.

That’s it! You have created yogurt!

More Information

32 Comments on "How to Make Yogurt"
  1. Comment left on:
    October 26, 2011 at 6:54 am
    jesser says:

    I’ve done this a few times and had great success. I do it all in my enameled cast iron dutch oven … heat and incubate. I’ve also had great luck by just leaving the dutch oven in my bottom oven while the top is on “stay warm” – about a 150 degree setting. But the cooler seems to be a more energy efficient method for sure!! I find that with the skim milk it will get thicker but it takes a bit longer and you’re right … more tart for sure – but I don’t mind that.

  2. Comment left on:
    October 26, 2011 at 8:00 am
    Valerie says:

    Would love to try this, but I’m the only one who eats yogurt at my house and I just have a little with lunch each day. How long does it last in the fridge?

    • Comment left on:
      October 26, 2011 at 7:36 pm

      Valerie,
      I’d say homemade yogurt lasts about a month, no problem. As a cultured food, the life of the original milk is extended. Plus, you can use this method to make just one jar if you want, which you could probably finish off in a week. You’ll find that you feel freed up to eat a bigger bowl when you make your own! ;) Katie

  3. Comment left on:
    October 26, 2011 at 8:17 am

    My mother-in-law in Brazil makes her own yogurt, but with a much longer process. (There is no store bought yogurt involved.) I was wondering just the other day if anyone here did that, and there is! Thanks for sharing, I am definitely going to try!!!

  4. Comment left on:
    October 26, 2011 at 8:43 am
    Teawench says:

    This sounds totally awesome & much better than buying one of those yogurt maker things I’ve been looking at. I’m definitely giving this a try on my next free weekend. Thanks!!

  5. Comment left on:
    October 26, 2011 at 9:24 am
    Sami says:

    I make yogurt all the time but much faster and easier. Put 1/2 gallon of milk in slow cooker on low setting for 2 hours. Turn off for 3 hours (just leave it sitting on the counter). Retain 8 oz yogurt from last batch and mix it until smooth in small bowl. Add 1 cup from the slow cooker into the starter bowl slowly and mix until smooth. Put starter into the slow cooker and mix. Wrap slow cooker in a blanket and leave on counter for 8 hours (sometimes needs longer). Yogurt made with very little effort on your part and it tastes SO good. I then put mine in a colander with a fine mesh fabric (I use voile) and allow it to drain the whey and end up with a good thick greek-type yogurt.

    • Comment left on:
      October 26, 2011 at 7:45 pm

      Sami,
      The slow cooker method works for many people. Me, I just hate dishes so much, and I couldn’t bring myself to wash the s.c. insert twice a week! ;) Katie

    • Comment left on:
      October 8, 2012 at 4:10 pm
      kitty says:

      how do u store this and how long will it keep. can i freeze it.

      • Comment left on:
        October 8, 2012 at 10:05 pm

        Kitty,
        It’s just like any yogurt, so you refrigerate it, and it will last about 3-4 weeks. You can freeze it, but the consistency won’t be very nice afterward, but okay for baking maybe.
        :) Katie

  6. Comment left on:
    October 26, 2011 at 11:11 am
    Amber Swift says:

    any recommendations on how to make dairy-free yogurt??

    • Comment left on:
      October 26, 2011 at 7:50 pm

      Amber,
      I’ve tried it with coconut milk once, but I wasn’t a fan. Then again, I don’t drink coconut milk nor eat coconut milk yogurt, so that may have been my problem. It was very runny, but it definitely fermented. Maybe good for smoothies? You can try with any “milk” you like, just remember that the probiotics need some sugar to consume, so in the absence of lactose (milk sugars) you’d need a suitable replacement – might mean adding some sugar of some sort. Don’t use raw hone b/c of the antibacterial properties. Good luck!
      :) Katie

  7. Comment left on:
    October 26, 2011 at 11:28 am
    BouMama says:

    can I do this with goat’s milk? and where do I get starter yogurt? I have some GM in the fridge that should be used asap!…thnx for the post!

    • Comment left on:
      October 26, 2011 at 7:52 pm

      BouMama,
      Yes, absolutely! I’m pretty sure goat’s milk yogurt can use the exact same method. You can get cow’s milk yogurt like Dannon or Stonyfield at any grocery store (just buy plain yogurt) or most health food stores will sell powdered yogurt starter (or online at places like Cultures for Health, but you’re in a hurry). :) Katie

  8. Comment left on:
    October 26, 2011 at 11:37 am
    Jenny Purath says:

    Ever try it in the crock pot? That’s how I do mine.

    • Comment left on:
      October 26, 2011 at 7:58 pm

      Jenny,
      I mentioned above to someone else that I know a lot of people who love the crockpot thing, but I am just too lazy to do dishes! I hate washing that insert, and I’d have to transfer the yogurt to my jars…so I like this method for my purposes. It keeps me in control, too – I’ve even incubated in the sun on my back porch and in a hot car in the summer!
      :) Katie

  9. Comment left on:
    October 26, 2011 at 2:11 pm
    Methyl says:

    Brilliant! Thank you. What do you do to keep the culture going … I presume keep 2 Tbsp from the old batch to start the new one, but what do you do when travelling, etc? How long will it keep in the freezer?

    • Comment left on:
      October 26, 2011 at 7:54 pm

      Methyl,
      Yes, I keep a bit from each batch to start new, and I usually buy fresh at the store every few months b/c it weakens. I’ve gone for far longer sometimes, so it just depends on circumstance. You CAN freeze plain yogurt and it will stay alive for a really long time to be used as a starter. If you’re just traveling a week or so, your yogurt will wait for you in the fridge. :) Katie

  10. Comment left on:
    October 26, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    I haven’t ventured into making yogurt yet, but at the rate I go through fat-free greek yogurt I may have to give it a try. I did post one of my favorite yogurt mix-ins on my blog – my homemade spiced peach butter & some blueberries.

    -the redhead-

  11. Comment left on:
    October 26, 2011 at 6:31 pm
    Grace says:

    I have tried to make yogurt, and it was a huge fail. I don’t know what I did wrong. :(

  12. Comment left on:
    October 26, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    Grace,
    I’m happy to help you troubleshoot, and there’s a “this happened/maybe that was the problem” list at the homemade yogurt tutorial back at my blog. Once you get it down, though, it’s easy!
    :) Katie

  13. .
    October 27, 2011 at 7:55 am

    [...] so knowledgeable about natural parenting & fooding! Her recipe is over at Eating Rules today, here. Her original recipe is posted here on her blog from a few Aprils [...]

  14. Comment left on:
    October 27, 2011 at 10:48 am
    Linda Mundy says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading your process and the following posts. I’ve been making my own yogurt successfully for years, and my ‘new’ favourite preferred incubator is a cold oven, place your covered jars of milk inside, turn oven light on…and voila in the a.m. (about 8 to 10 hrs) it’s yogurt. I look for homoginzed milk when it’s on sale 50% off….a couple of hours before going to bed…heat it to 185 degrees..takes about ten minutes so not to scorch…set aside to cool to the 110 degrees…I do add 2TBL of instant skimmed milk powder per litre of milk, and 2 TBL of room temperatured previous batch of yogurt…whisk..do my oven thing. I love it! I make one litre or three litres….what a bargoooon when milk is 50% off!

  15. Comment left on:
    October 27, 2011 at 3:09 pm
    Courtney says:

    I have been following Katie from nearly the beginning of her blog, and this is the one recipe I failed nearly every time on…Unfortunately as it saves dishes, it doesn’t save me money or time considering my failed attempts. I have much better success with the “milk heated to 185 on stove, cool in sink to 110, mix in yogurt “starter” and then cool/incubate in a warmed Crockpot for 8 hours method. It just works every time for me. Figure out what works best with your style/altitude/familytastes/etc and go with it. No matter which way you do it, it’s so much more affordable than store bought. I just found your 100 days challenge today with a link up from Katie’s webinar she did today. I’ll be back for sure!!

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