Zero dishes, no special equipment! Making homemade yogurt is a simple 4-step process. Photos show every step for how to make yogurt successfully! This is how we weaned off sweeteners, from white sugar to sucanat!
Making homemade yogurt is like tying your shoes.
If someone tried to explain the shoe-tying process in spoken word only, you’d have an awfully hard time figuring it out.
But as long as a kind person shows you how to tie your shoes, and then you get some practice in, by the time you’re an adult, it’s brain-dead easy.
Such is homemade yogurt.
It sounds intimidating and scary, a real challenge, if you just talk about it with someone, or perhaps try to skim the easy homemade yogurt post. I had a couple friends in real life tell me so this year, that they were overwhelmed by my post and couldn’t imagine completing the task.
One of them also said that “If you show someone once and they can repeat it, it’s a task worth doing.”
That’s my hope for homemade yogurt, that after I show you once, you’ll be brave enough and feel confident enough in the method to accomplish yogurt all by yourself.
To prove how easy it is, I visited one of these friends who couldn’t get it online. We made yogurt together while our kiddos played, and she is now a regular yogurt maker extraordinaire.
She decided that making homemade yogurt is like baking bread – you don’t need that much time and it’s not that hard once you figure it out, you just have to time it right to get all the little parts into your day.
A few readers/fellow bloggers have let me know that it turned out easier than they thought, too:
from DynoMom, who has 10 children: “I have had a horribly hectic month and still made yogurt, Katie has the hook ups to a stupid easy method!”
from Meg at Everyday Miracles: I’ll join the “OMG Katie’s yogurt method is AMAZING” chorus if you’d like. Your original instructions were what finally got me over the fear of trying it & once I did, I don’t know what took me so long. I’ve recommended it to a number of people since then, and I’d be happy to share with your readers how much I love it. :)”
And you get paid quite handsomely for your time, too — about $35/hour. I save well over $1000 on the food budget every year just by making this ONE food from scratch. Here’s the math. What are we waiting for? Let’s make yogurt!
Basic Homemade Yogurt Instructions
- Heat to sterilize the milk. (160-180 degrees F)
- Cool milk to proper incubation temperature. (90-110 degrees F)
- Add starter yogurt. (2 Tbs. per quart)
- Incubate at warm temperature 4-24 hours.
It really is that simple. Now let’s look at what that comes out to be in reality…
Photo Tutorial of Making Homemade Yogurt
- Glass jars (quart wide mouth canning jars or empty spaghetti sauce jars work great) – make sure they are clean and were completely dry before capping.
- Whole Milk (skim milk will create thinner yogurt, every time – click for more on what milk to use to make homemade yogurt)
- Candy or meat 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 have used Dannon, Stonyfield, and Fage. Your previous batch of homemade yogurt will work for the next time.)
- picnic cooler
- bath/beach towel
1. Put a washcloth in the bottom of your pot to cushion the jars.
2. Fill jars with milk.
3. Place jars in pot; fill with tap water (I use hot because I’m impatient, but a wise reader pointed out that COLD water and cold milk reduces the chance of breaking jars).
4. Lid the pot for faster cooking time.
5. Turn burner to high.
6. Set a timer so you don’t forget. My pot takes 10 minutes to get to 110F.
7. Heat milk to 160-180F for pasteurized milk or raw milk you want to pasteurize (raw milk yogurt is tough to get smooth and creamy without heating the milk to at least 160F. My friend Wardee has a free guide to getting raw milk yogurt the thickness you’re used to).
For truly raw yogurt, heat to between 100-110F. If it gets higher than 118F, you’ve killed your enzymes and may as well go up to 160F. The photo above was pushing the limit, but still okay!
If you don’t have a thermometer, 160ish looks like this with a “skin” on top. The water in the pot will be boiling.
8. Remove jars from pot. I usually lid them and use an oven mitt so I don’t spill – they’re very hot!
Q: “Ack! One of my jars broke! What did I do wrong???”
A: Nothing. Sometimes jars just break, unfortunately. Low-quality glass jars break more often than canning jars, but it just happens sometimes.
9. Put a lid on the pot of boiling water and nestle it into a picnic cooler like this:
Close the lid of the cooler so it gets toasty for when you’re ready. (If making raw yogurt, bring the water TO a boil while you’re mixing yogurt into the jars, since it won’t have boiled yet.)
10. Allow milk to cool down to about 100-110F. (Skip this step if making raw yogurt. If your raw milk heats to above 110F, allow it to cool back to 100F.) I think the best yogurt is made at about 100 degrees.
You can let the milk cool in a number of ways:
- On the counter (will take 1.5-2 hours, depending on room temperature)
- In the fridge (but that will add heat to the fridge, compromising the food you have stored – I no longer recommend this, but it takes about 45 minutes)
- Outside in the cold
- If you’re in a real hurry, put the jars in an empty sink, then add cold water slowly to about halfway up the jars, then ice packs or ice. They’ll cool in 15-20 minutes (watch closely), but you risk jar breakage.
11. When the milk is at temp (feel on your wrist for “just warm, not hot” if you don’t have a thermometer), stir in 2 Tbs. plain yogurt (2.5-3 for raw yogurt). I just use 2 heaping scoops with a regular flatware Tablespoon. You can also get dehydrated yogurt starters at your local health foods store or Cultures for Health.
12. Stir well.
13. Place the jars in the cooler next to the hot pot.
14. Wrap the towel over the jars and tuck it between the jars and pot if you can – you don’t want the hot pot getting the jars TOO hot, especially if you’re making raw yogurt and the pot has just boiled.
15. Take the lid off the pot to let steam out (I just leave it in the cooler out of my way; yours may or may not fit.) If you had just boiling water, let some steam out for about 5 seconds; if it’s been in the cooler for a while, slam the cooler lid right down to trap all the heat.
16. Allow the cooler to sit and incubate your yogurt for you for 4-12 hours.
Could you incubate elsewhere? Sure! Anywhere you can keep the jars at about 100-110F, including your oven with the light on, perhaps resting in the pot of warm water, wrapped up in towels with a heating pad plugged in, in a hot car, or in an Excalibur dehydrator set to 100 or 110F. I like the cooler because then it’s not in my way if I need the oven and doesn’t use any energy like the dehydrator.
17. Take out the jars and put them in the refrigerator. Done!
Just pour the water out of the pot and flip it upside down to dry.
Notice: no dishes. How cool is that?
Be sure to save a half cup of this batch to be a starter for the next batch. I like to put some in a little container right away after the yogurt has cooled fully and set, so then I don’t have to worry about someone finishing the last jar and eating my starter! This practice also avoids contamination problems if someone dips into your serving jar with a dirty spoon…
If you’re on the SCD Diet or similar, you may need to incubate your yogurt for 24 hours. After 8-12 hours, just boil a few cups of water and pour it, steaming hot, into the pot. That should add plenty of heat to keep at incubation temperature for the next 8-12 hours. Depending on your room temperature, you might need to add boiling water once or twice.
See it to Believe it
If you’re a very visual person and want to see the whole process on video rather than still photos, I do have a guest lecture in the Seeing in the GNOWFGLINS eCourse on Cultured Dairy and Cheesemaking. Becoming a member in the eCourses really is invaluable – you spend a little money to save money in the long run. With access to everything all at once with any level of membership, you can sign up for a month, glean what you can, and wait a while before signing up again.
Just as many, many people were encouraged to make water kefir after seeing my 3-minutes-a-day water kefir how-to video, I know that when you see how easy homemade yogurt is, you’ll know you can handle it!
Even if you only take away a confidence with homemade yogurt, the $11-12 you’ll spend for one month’s membership will be offset quickly by the hundreds of dollars you’ll save making it, as long as you would usually buy at least ONE 32-ounce tub of yogurt per week. Just one.
From a Rookie’s Kitchen
My dear friend Tiffany of Don’t Waste the Crumbs saw my exhortation to make yogurt.
She had some excuses about why to not make yogurt.
However, she overcame and shares her yogurt making method!
I have a confession. When I saw “making your own yogurt” on that list of baby steps, I thought Katie had lost her marbles. Never in a million years did I think that I’d EVER make yogurt. Nor did I want to. It was daunting and downright scary.
Eventually I gave the idea of making yogurt a second chance. Maybe it was more of a mental hurdle than anything else, because once it was done, I realized how simple it everyone was claiming it to be. Leading up to the actual making, however, I employed every excuse imaginable.
- Katie’s recipe uses a big cooler. Nope, don’t have a cooler. Guess I can’t make yogurt.
- She calls for quart jars. Don’t have those either.
- Her pot is big enough to hold four quart-sized jars. Besides not having the jars, my pot is too small.
- Some people add powdered milk to make it thicker? Nope, not taking the chance on that one. Something about oxidized cholesterol when the milk goes through all the tiny holes. Not sure what that means, but it doesn’t sound good.
- Some have had success using a heating pad? Wait, I have a heating pad…
- Whole milk can make it thicker without using powdered milk? Um…
- Any size jar will work. Well shoot.
Officially out of excuses, I (reluctantly) put on my big girl panties and psyched myself up to make yogurt.
Making Yogurt – Heating Pad Method
Since the cooler, crock-pot and oven methods were ruled out, there was only the heating pad method left. This is a good thing for beginners like me though, because it’s practically fool proof!
- scant two quarts whole milk (equivalent to a half gallon, an easy measurement to halve or double to suit your own family’s needs. I use organic, but again, decide what’s best for your family.)
- 4oz plain Greek yogurt, room temperature (full fat, remember, to be used as the starter culture)
- 2 quart-size jars, or 4 pint-sized jars, or a combination of these (but no more than four jars total), clean and sterilized
- small glass bowl
- candy thermometer (instant read meat thermometer should work too, Katie says)
- large pot (the biggest pot that comes in a typical set is the ideal size)
- bath towel
- heating pad
- Pour starter yogurt into the small glass bowl. Set aside.
- Measure the milk by pouring it into your glass jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace at the top. This may sound silly, but your total volume will increase at the end with the addition of the starter culture. Measuring this way prevents the waste of ready-to-be-cultured milk!
- Pour the milk into the large pot.
- Warm the milk to 180 degrees F, stirring occasionally. It’s ok if it gets a degree or two warmer, but you don’t want to walk away and let the milk boil. Take my word on this one.
- Turn off the stove and let the milk cool to no warmer than 115 degrees F. If left on the burner (with the burner turned off), milk cools at a rate of approximately 1 degree per minute (or roughly 65 minutes). Cool it quicker by setting the pot on top of a cooling rack, like you would for cookies. The temperature drops to the desired range in about half an hour.
- While the milk is cooling, set up your incubation station. Fold your bath towel in half, long ways, and lay it on top of the kitchen counter near an outlet. Set your heating pad on top of the towel, folding in half if necessary.
- Pour 1-2 cups of the cooled milk into the small glass bowl. Whisk heartily for about 30 seconds to thoroughly combine the yogurt and the milk.
- Pour the milk/yogurt mixture into the big pot of warm milk. Whisk heartily for one minute to thoroughly combine the mixture.
- Carefully pour the milk into the glass jars, leaving about 1/2″ of headroom in each jar. Use a measuring cup, ladle or funnel if you’re pouring-challenged. If there is milk left after all the jars have been filled, slowly add the remaining milk to the jars. Take care to not overfill. (This is when you’ll be thankful you measured into the jars in the first place.)
- Cover with the lids and set on top of the heating pad. Quickly rinse and wipe out the pot (you can wash it later.)
- Wrap the towel over the jars.
- Turn the pot over and place it over the towel.
- Turn the heating pad on low.
- Come back in 8-24 hours to homemade yogurt! Store in the refrigerator and enjoy!
Nothing “magically” happened that we suddenly eat more yogurt, but knowing the incredible health benefits it offers certainly helped (and realizing we bought 98 ounces of yogurt in two weeks was the firm kick in the pants I needed make our own). Now that we have ample in the fridge nearly all the time, it’s easy to eat even more!
Every single one of the “how to use” suggestions above has been tested and approved in our kitchen. Yes, the we-don’t-eat-yogurt family now eats (and loves!) yogurt!
More Yogurt Posts
- new homemade yogurt troubleshooting guide
- how to thicken up raw yogurt
- the huge “how to make homemade yogurt” everything post
- raw milk yogurt escapades – what not to do at home!
- How to make yogurt cheese and whey – this is also how to make Greek style, super thick yogurt; you just don’t strain as long, only about an hour
- If you really aren’t up to making your own, see why storebought really is a good option.