Recipe: Homemade Yogurt

Yogurt-making is a regular part of our week. Why do we make our own? Cost and health.

You can make half a gallon of yogurt for just over $2 dollars and it’s much healthier than pre-flavored types. You get to control just how much (and what kind) of sweetener is added.

Plus, it’s simple. Super simple.

Yogurt basics:

Heat milk. Cool slightly. Add “live” starter. Keep warm. Wait seven hours.

Told you it was simple!

There are many ways to make yogurt: Jenni, from Life From the Roof, shares her deliciously creamy recipe that you can make in a quart jar. Your Thriving Family uses only a crockpot.

I used to make mine in a crockpot, but kept forgetting early enough in the day. My mother recommended this faster (though slightly more messy!) method. Find what works best for *you* and make yourself a bowl of healthy, inexpensive yogurt!

Strawberry Banana Yogurt

strawberry banana yogurt

Recipe: Homemade yogurt

Ingredients and supplies: 

1/2 gallon milk (I use whole, but any kind will work, though it won’t be as creamy)
1/2 cup yogurt starter (any yogurt with live, active cultures will work. I use Dannon Naturals but most yogurts will work. Just read the label to make sure it has live cultures!)
Large pot
Crockpot crock
Thick towel or blanket
Thermometer (optional, but highly recommended)

Instructions: 

Heat milk for yogurt

  1. Heat milk in pot over medium heat until it reaches 185 F. (At this point it starts to froth and steams heavily) Stir frequently to prevent burning as it reaches 185F. For thicker yogurt, hold milk at 185F for a few minutes.
  2. Remove pot from heat. (At this point I like to remove the starter from the fridge so it is closer to room temperature when added later.)
  3. Cool slightly (just enough to prevent the cold crock from breaking with the heat!) and add milk to crock. (Pour a little hot milk into the bottom of the crock to “heat it up” before adding all 8 cups.)
  4. Let cool to 120 F.
  5. Pour one cup of the cooled milk into the yogurt starter and mix well.
  6. Pour yogurt starter into the milk and stir gently.Keep warm in crockpot
  7. Cover crock with lid then wrap in thick towel or blanket overnight (or for at least seven hours)
  8. Refrigerate.
If you like your yogurt sweetened and flavored, add honey or sugar and crushed fruit. Top with granola for a yummy breakfast or turn plain yogurt into healthy refreshing smoothies.

Tips and tricks:

  • Once you’ve made a batch, you can freeze a portion of your starter to use next time (though I’d recommend replacing the starter every few batches, just to be on the safe side!)
  • If you want a thicker yogurt without adding extra ingredients, maintain the yogurt at 185F for up to half an hour.
  • Want to make Greek yogurt? Just pour your homemade yogurt into a strainer lined with cheesecloth or a thin drying towel. Let sit in the refrigerator while the excess fluid (called whey) drains out. Depending on how thick you want it, let it drain for 30 minutes or overnight. The remaining yogurt will be nice and thick!
  • Contrary to what I would have guessed, more starter actually makes for thinner yogurt because it takes less time for the cultures to permeate and thicken the yogurt! (Kind of like with sourdough.)

Nerdy yogurt facts:

The first step of making yogurt is to heat the milk to 185F. Why? Not to pasteurize. Most milk already comes pasteurized. You heat it to 185F because that de-natures the proteins and helps the finished product be thick. The longer you hold the milk at 185F (up to 30 minutes) the thicker it will be!

Then you cool the milk to 115-120, at which point you add the starter. 115-120 F is the perfect temperature for the active cultures (usually L. acidophilus) to thrive, grow and turn your milk into yogurt. Keep it at this temperature so the healthy little yogurt bacteria don’t get too cold and slow down their work.

Have you ever made yogurt? What’s your favorite way to eat it? 

Linked up at Healthy 2Day WednesdaysFrugal Days, Sustainable WaysWorks for Me and Natural Living Link Up.

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Comments

  1. says

    I made yogurt for the first time this weekend and was so thrilled at how it turned out! I made the crockpot variety and was very pleased! I’m definitely going to making it more often! I love yogurt!

    I love my yogurt plain with chopped fruit in it & or granola – I like it sour! :)

    Thanks so much for sharing this!

    Blessings – Tabitha

    • anna says

      Yay! How fun! Isn’t it so simple? I love it!

      Until having children, I never liked plain yogurt. I guess my tastebuds were so accustomed to having it overly sweet. Then one day my little ones starting eating before I’d sweetened it and didn’t say a thing. “If they can do it, surely I can too, I thought!” Since then I too have acquired a taste for plain yogurt!

  2. Kathy says

    Yay for homemade yogurt! I add 1/2 cup of fructose to the whole batch and 1 cup of homemade (almost sugar-free) strawberry jam. The kids like it better than store-bought now!

    Thanks for the tip about not using more starter than it calls for.

  3. Kasey says

    I’ve never attempted to make my own yogurt before. I almost never buy it, but I really like it. This seems simple enough that I just may have to give it a try. I’ll have to figure out where to get yogurt starter though…I’ve never heard of it! Have a super day!!

    • anna says

      Sorry, should have made that more clear! Any plain yogurt with active cultures in it will work as the starter. Just read the label at the grocery store. I use Danon Naturals, but most yogurts that I’ve seen contain live active cultures.

  4. says

    This is rather funny. Is it just the time of year to make yogurt? I had just read a post on Titus2.com about making yogurt and here you are telling me how to make it again. :) There is a bit of difference. I don’t have time to make any now, but I’d love to taste it.
    Have a lovely day!

    • anna says

      I prefer it to store bought but my husband doesn’t like it as much. If I turn it into shakes though, everyone eats it! :) They also like it topped with granola.

  5. Jessica@MakingHomeSweeter says

    I just stumbled upon your blog from seeing a comment you left over at Deep Roots At Home, and I’m quite happy I did :) Thank you for sharing this recipe for homemade yogurt, I can’t wait to try it!

  6. Bethanie says

    I just happen to be making yogurt when I came across this post. I learned to make yogurt from my mother in law. It never came out consistent until we learned about heating it up to 185 degrees first. Reading the website below helped my yogurt turn out much thicker. My yogurt turns out best incubated 3-5 hours. At 7 hours it looks like cottage cheese, rather than creamy yogurt.

    http://extension.missouri.edu/p/GH1183

  7. kathy says

    Okay, so I just tried the method with holding the temp at 185 (though it fluctuated between 180 and 190), and that was the best batch of yogurt ever!! Amazingly thick and yummy. With the blanket method (versus the oven light method), it doesn’t matter if you forget and let it sit for even 12 hours… it’s still just as yummy as ever. It must be because there’s no heat to interfere.

    Your siblings want it for a snack now, so I’m making it every few days ;).

    • anna says

      Wonderful! I’m so glad it worked well for you. :) Have you tried raita? It’s an Indian yogurt-based “salad”. Just mix diced cucumber or tomato into yogurt and season with a bit of salt and paprika. I LOVE it!

  8. says

    We love homemade yogurt. I make about 5-6 quarts each week as it’s consumed at an alarming rate in our home :-) We add strawberries and sweeten it a bit to make a delicious strawberry yogurt. If I can get the quarts to stay in the back of the fridge for a few days it thickens up even better.

    I love the ease of crock pot cooking. I normally let mine sit overnight and it’s ready in the morning.

    ~Cinnamon

    • anna says

      5-6 quarts! Wow! That’s a lot of yogurt. :) We go through about 2 a week, but I have a feeling once my kiddos get a bit older we’ll be going through a whole lot more.

  9. Kathey says

    question, if you place the finished yogurt in sterilized mason jars, will it keep longer in the fridge? Can you freeze it

    • anna says

      Hmmm… I’m not sure whether it would last longer in sterilized jars.

      Yes, you can freeze it! I often freeze some to use as a starter for my next batch, and that doesn’t seem to adversely affect the new batch at all.

  10. says

    Here in India, we’ve been making homemade yogurt for generations.. We’re not so strict about the temperatures though. I like the idea of using honey as a healthier alternative to sweeten the yogurt. I will be trying that out..

    • anna says

      Thanks for stopping by Sheena! I tend to over analyze everything. It’s a real struggle for me–thanks for the encouragement that it’s not necessary!

  11. Arlene says

    Thanks for posting this recipe. I have my starter and am ready to go! Can you clarify one thing for me please. Steps 7 and 8 – does refrigeration happen while it’s wrapped in a towel or after the towel comes off? Thanks.

    • anna says

      Hope you love it as much as we do!

      Good question! After it sits wrapped in the towel overnight, remove the towel and refrigerate. Usually I’ll transfer it to two containers. I leave one plain and add chopped fruit and honey to the other.

          • Arlene says

            Thank you, thank you! It has turned out great and I am thrilled. I need to freeze some – it makes a huge amount and will keep me well supplied. I love the simplicity of it all – no special gadgets/equipment necessary!

          • anna says

            Hurray! I’m so glad. Yes, it does make a lot… unless you have a 2-year-old yogurt monster like I do. :)

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