Want to learn how to make yogurt? Here is how to make thick, creamy homemade yogurt, without any of the additives (guar gum, pectin, gelatin, etc.) that are used to thicken store-bought yogurts. You don’t even need a yogurt maker!
A few reasons why you should make yogurt
- It’s delicious!
- You can make it without any special ingredients or kitchen tools.
- It can be used to make all sorts of other cultured foods.
- Yogurt is a great way to get a dose of probiotics. Calcium helps lactic bacteria survive digestion!
- Almost everyone likes it. There are even vegan options for anyone who doesn’t eat dairy.
- It is so much cheaper than store-bought. Nothing is wasted, so a gallon of homemade yogurt is literally the cost of a gallon of milk. (Perfect for people who eat a lot!)
You don’t need a yogurt maker
You don’t have to own a yogurt maker. In fact, those fiddling little cups can be pretty annoying if you want to make a larger batch.
All that is required is to keep the milk warm for at least 2 hours (and up to 24 hours depending on how sour you want it).
Here are 5 options:
- I use a folding fermentation box so that I can make a large volume at once. I also use it to proof bread, make cheese, and tempeh! So a worthwhile investment if you get into fermented foods.
- Before I had my fermentation box I wrapped jars of yogurt in warm sweaters and left them on the shelf above my hot water heater. It took a little longer to set, but it always worked!
- Stash jars in the oven with the oven light left on.
- Place jars in an insulated cooler to keep them warm. You can even add a few extra jars filled with boiling water to help hold the heat for longer.
- Use a slow cooker or Instant Pot. Put a few jars of yogurt into your slow cooker with 2-inches of water to create a warm water bath, then use the keep warm setting.
Choosing and maintaining a good starter
The best starters are purchased cultures. You can find a number of different options at Cultures For Health. Alternatively, you can also just use store-bought yogurt for culture. It’s a great way to test how probiotic (or not) a particular brand is.
A vigorous grocery store culture should be able to make thick yogurt within 4 hours without the use of additives.
Here are a few things to look for when using store-bought yogurt:
- Only use plain yogurt. You don’t need the added sugar and flavor.
- Smaller, local brands are usually better than national brands.
- Look at the date. You want the culture to be fresh, so choose a long date over a short one.
- I’ve had great success with plain Greek Gods and Astro BioBest. (These are honest recommendations, and neither of these are an affiliate link).
Fresh is best when it comes to maintaining a vigorous culture. If you find that your yogurt starts to have issues, it’s probably because you are not culturing it often enough. Like all living things, dairy cultures need to be fed regularly in order to be healthy.
Here are a few suggestions for maintaining a vigorous culture.
- If you are keeping the culture in the fridge, it needs to be re-cultured every 7 days. Obviously, that’s quite a bit of work! So unless you’re very into making yogurt, I recommend freezing culture.
- Dairy culture freezes very well, and it will last in the freezer for at least 4 weeks (often longer). Whenever I make a batch of yogurt, I always freeze enough culture to make the next batch. You can freeze it in a plastic container, zip-top bag, or straight-sized mason jar.
- Defrost the frozen culture for 24 hours in the fridge before using it.
If you don’t have thick yogurt after 8 hours then it’s likely due to one of the following common problems:
- The starter didn’t have enough live bacteria in it. A definite possibility with supermarket cultures.
- It was an heirloom culture that doesn’t naturally thicken.
- You added the starter before the milk cooled to 110F (40C) and accidentally killed the bacteria.
- It wasn’t warm enough during the culturing. Though this is really rare, and unlikely if you made any effort to keep it warm.
How to Make Yogurt
Making yogurt is easier than you think! You don’t need a yogurt maker or special culture for a perfect bowl of thick, rich yogurt. Homemade yogurt is an affordable way to get a dose of probiotics!
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 4 hours
- Total Time: 4 hours 20 minutes
- Yield: 2 cups 1x
- Category: Yogurt
- Method: Fermented
- Cuisine: Probiotic
- Diet: Vegetarian
- 2 cups of milk (see notes)
- 2 Tbsp yogurt with live culture
- Options: 2 Tbsp skim milk powder
- Slowly heat the milk on the stove to 180 F (80 C). Whisk occasionally to keep the milk from scalding on the bottom of the pot. (Heating the milk causes the whey proteins to denature making for thicker yogurt. You could skip this step, but your yogurt won’t be as thick).
- Skim milk powder can be whisked in at this point. It is an easy way to add protein and richness to homemade yogurt, but it’s not necessary.
- Pour the hot milk into a glass jar. Leave it to cool to 105 F (40C).
- When the milk has cooled, stir in the culture. If you are using store-bought yogurt you may want to add up to 4 Tbsp yogurt as they tend to have weaker cultures.
- Maintain at around 110F (40 C) until it is set to a pudding-like consistency (for at least 2 hours, and up to 24 hours for really sour yogurt.) Place the yogurt in the refrigerator. It will thicken as it cools.
- If you don’t have a thermometer, then heat your yogurt until it whisks up nice and frothy, then cool it to just above room temperature. However, I recommend getting a thermometer if you want to make nice thick yogurt because accuracy in heating the milk is key.
- Feel free to use raw milk, goat’s milk, or regular cow’s milk. However, UHT milk may not thicken as expected.
- Homemade yogurt can be flavored just like store-bought yogurt. Add jam, fresh fruit, vanilla, or cinnamon! Just don’t add the flavors before culturing, or it may interfere with properly setting the yogurt.
- If you want to make cream-top yogurt, use non-homogenized milk. If you can’t find non-homogenized milk then add a few tablespoons of cream to the top of the jar before fermenting. It won’t be the same, but it will taste good!
- Here’s how to turn your homemade yogurt into thickened Greek yogurt or yogurt cheese.
Keywords: probiotic, healthy, affordable, easy, simple, breakfast, snack. lunch, dessert, waste free, gluten free, keto, anti-candida, goat’s milk, raw milk
This worked well! I did the ferment in the Instant Pot using the yogurt setting (my new kitchen toy!). I did have some trouble with the milk scalding on the bottom of the pot – turns out that my thermometer wasn’t working so the milk was actually much hotter than the thermometer was reading. I see some orange bits that I scraped from the bottom of the pot which are now in the yogurt, but they don’t seem to have affected the taste so I don’t mind.
My mom has the same problem with her instant pot. Sometimes it overheats, but it seems to happen randomly. I’m glad your yogurt worked out anyway!
What kind of milk should I use to make yogurt?
Whatever kind of milk you want! This recipe will work with goat milk, raw milk, pasteurized milk. The only kind of dairy that won’t work is UHT milk. Enjoy!
Thanks for writing up a simple no nonsense recipe.
I used organic “free range” milk and organic kefir. This resulted in a lighter consistency but have just refrigerated now so it probably will firm up a touch.
Glad it was helpful! Be well, Emillie
If we want to add fruit or flavorings, at what step would you recommend stirring those in?
I typically flavour my yogurt after culturing. So either when you’re serving it or right before putting it in the fridge. Enjoy!
hey thanks What about almond milk or others?
Yes! You can use these warming methods for non-dairy yogurts as well. My favourite is coconut, however, almond is nice too. It just needs a thicken: https://www.fermentingforfoodies.com/homemade-almond-milk-yogurt/
When do I put the lid on
Feel free to put the lid on right away. It won’t bubble as it ferments. Enjoy!