updated: March 2020
How do I make homemade yogurt?
People who know me, also know I’ve made my own yogurt for years (decades) now. Some have asked in passing about a yogurt “recipe”, but for some reason I never got around to it. So, as Laura recently told me “give the people what they want!”.😂
Making your own yogurt is easier than you think, and the taste can’t be beat! My family of four goes through 1-2 batches (a batch being eight, six-ounce jars) a week through the winter months and 2-3 batches per week through the spring and summer. In the spring and summer there is so much fresh fruit available to mix in, plus we make a ton of smoothies, and I use the yogurt in place of mayo and/or sour cream in some recipes, especially dips and sauces. Everything you need to make homemade yogurt, you probably already have on hand (with the exception of the yogurt maker, if you go that route). Simple recipe, simple ingredients. In some of the pictures you’ll see the Donvier Yogurt Maker and jars. The Donvier is now away at college with Thing 2, so I now use my oven and canning jars, and prefer it. There are a lot of different methods out there, this is mine…
Items you will need to get started…
- clean, sterilized jars(*) I use 1/2 pint, and pint canning jars
- milk (6 cups for this recipe)
- yogurt starter (2 T.)
- a large bowl that is easy to pour from (I use an 8 cup Pyrex glass measuring cup)
- a small bowl
- candy or other cooking thermometer
- a consistently warm place such as an oven with a light you can leave on (optional: yogurt maker)
note: If you choose to buy a yogurt maker, it will most likely be your only real expense in undertaking your own homemade yogurt. If you buy a yogurt maker, get extra jars, you will need them. Otherwise you will have to empty all of your jars every time you want to make a new batch, and it’s a pain. Yogurt makers can generally be found at specialty kitchen stores, and of course, online. I originally chose the Donvier yogurt maker because:
- 1. it was recommended to me (I’m big on listening to people I trust)
- 2. it held 8 jars instead of 6 or 7
- 3. it has very simple operating instructions
Milk: use what ever milk you usually drink as long as it is pasteurized. You must use pasteurized milk because yogurt is all about growing the specific yogurt bacteria, and you don’t want to grow anything unintended. I drink fat-free milk, so that is what I use.
Yogurt starter: you need about 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt. This is probably the most important part of this process. If you want to make yogurt you like, you need to start with yogurt you like. Novel concept, huh? 🙂 If you don’t like it when you start, you will not magically like it when you’ve finished. You MUST select a plain yogurt with NO artificial anything. NO added sugar or fruit, nothing. PLAIN yogurt. That means the ingredient list should consist of cultured pasteurized milk, and live and active cultures. That’s it. Personally, my favorite is Chobani Plain Greek(**). I LOVE the flavor of this yogurt, and I really can’t overstate the importance of finding a yogurt you like. You can also find a selection of powdered starters in some specialty stores (or order online). While this is a perfectly viable option, it is not the course of action I would recommend unless you really have no other choice, since you have no idea how this yogurt will taste until you’re done.
Bowls: a large bowl that will hold at least 6 cups of milk plus a couple of tablespoons of starter and leave you plenty of room for whisking it all together. Unless you are extremely talented at pouring liquid from bowls, I would advise something with a spout. You will also need a small bowl to mix the starter and milk. You can use one of the yogurt jars for this, but I prefer to just use a separate bowl.
Whisk: any medium to large size whisk will do, as long as it fits in both of the bowls you will be using.
Thermometer: any cooking thermometer that will register as high as 185ºF and as low as 110ºF.
Step 1: you will need to scald your milk (bring it to 185ºF-190ºF). You can do this on the stove-top with a double-boiler, but most of the time I just use my microwave. If you choose to use your microwave, it will take a little trial and error on your part to figure out the exact timing. My microwave is rated at 1100 W and I heat my milk for 5 minutes, take it out and stir it, and then another 6 minutes, and stir it again, to reach the necessary 185ºF.
Step 2: once your milk has reached 185ºF, remove it from heat, place it on a hot pad or trivet, and put it in a safe location to cool down to 110º-115ºF, stirring occasionally to keep a skin from forming. Make sure you check frequently so you don’t miss the “temperature window”. For me this takes about 40 minutes in a 68º-70ºF house.
While the milk is cooling spoon about 2 tablespoons of your chosen yogurt starter into the small bowl and let it come up to room temperature. This is also a good time to set out your jars, and make sure everything is ready.
Step 3: when your milk reaches the 110º-115ºF temperature window, pour a small amount of the cooled milk – just a couple of teaspoons- into the yogurt starter and gently whisk until you have a smooth even consistency.
Repeat this step until the yogurt/milk blend is a very runny liquid.
Step 4: slowly add your starter/milk blend to the remaining milk, whisking constantly until it’s fully incorporated. Whisk enough to blend well, but not so much as to create foam.
Step 5: pour your milk into the jars and place the lids on top.
Step 6: place jars into a baking dish with 1-2 inches of hot tap water, and place into oven with the light on <or> put the jars into your yogurt maker, and select the length of time you wish for the yogurt maker to run and press Start! It’s that easy! 🙂
Step 7: when your yogurt has finished, place it in the refrigerator to chill for 8 hours or overnight.
Step 8: enjoy! Stir in your favorite fruit… make a smoothie… use it on your tacos instead of sour cream…
- making your own yogurt has all sorts of awesome benefits, which I’m sure you already have looked into. But one amazing benefit that no one tells you about…? how amazing fresh, warm yogurt smells! Mmmm… It’s almost as good as the smell of fresh bread.
for reasons I have yet to understand (freshness of the milk, cycle of the moon…) occasionally my yogurt has more whey separate than usual. Whey is a thick, clear-ish liquid along the sides or on top of the yogurt. If it bothers you, you can strain it off (but you will lose the protein contained in it), or just stir it back in when you are ready to eat. Remember, you just made fresh yogurt without all those chemical interventions, it might look a tad bit different than you are used to. 😉
- when you are ready to make your next batch, just use 2-3 tablespoons of your last batch as the new starter.
- when I get an unexpected result, I buy a new container of yogurt for starter, and start over.
- if you want to use your yogurt to replace mayonnaise or sour cream, you will want to strain it first to give it a thicker consistency. I place a coffee filter set into a mesh strainer, spoon in the yogurt, and set it all in the refrigerator until it’s reached the right thickness. I don’t use yogurt to replace ingredients that need to be cooked as it tends to break down.
- yogurt will get tarter and firmer the longer it develops so if you like a softer, sweeter yogurt, you might want to ripen your yogurt for about 7 hours and see if that’s about right for you. If you like your yogurt a little firmer and tarter start at around 10 hours. I really don’t like sweet yogurt, so I let mine go for 12 hours.
- I frequently let my yogurt develop overnight, and it’s ready to pop in the fridge the next morning.
- fresh, plain yogurt can be stored in the refrigerator for about two weeks.
So that’s it. Pretty easy huh? I’ve never created a recipe for something I just “do” before, so if there are any steps that need a little clarification, please ask! I’m happy to answer any questions you have, and hope you tell me all about your first batch of yogurt! Oh, and send pictures of course! I’d love to add any of your experiences to this post. 🙂 Thank you to those of you who requested this, it was a lot of fun to put this all together for you!
keep the green side up,
* I sterilize my jars by running them through the sanitize cycle on my dishwasher.
** Greek yogurt is yogurt that has been strained of its whey for a thicker consistency and higher protein. Unfortunately, as greek yogurt becomes more popular some companies are cutting costs by using thickening agents and protein powders to mimic the taste, texture and high protein. The latest information I can find says Chobani and Fage still make their greek yogurt by straining it.
*** If you have the Donvier Yogurt Maker it comes with a handy-dandy little thermometer that has two little lines to let you know when you’re in the right range.
originally published March 2013