Homemade Yogurt

homemade yogurt recipe

I was goofing around on social media the other night, conversing with someone and recollecting our fondness for our Salton yogurt makers from the 70s; bright yellow contraptions that you put white-capped jars that you’ve filled with milk and yogurt into, plugged into the wall, and waited overnight. Then, in the morning, you were magically rewarded with five pots of warm, barely quivering, just-made yogurt.

homemade yogurt

It was all so exciting at first and I couldn’t stop myself from making yogurt. But like most things teenagers get interested in, I eventually lost interest in it, most likely tempted by the rainbow of flavors at the supermarket, which were highly sweetened and were accompanied by a pretty brilliant ad campaign. And I switched to those.

whole milk

It wasn’t until I became a mature adult – although some say they’re still waiting for that day to happen – so I’ll say…it wasn’t until I moved to France that I developed an appreciation for plain, unsweetened whole milk yogurt. The yogurt aisle in a French supermarket is, indeed, a sight to behold, with rows upon rows of yogurt and dairy items in all sorts of colors, flavors (including chocolate, caramel, cheesecake, and lemon macaron), fruits, fat percentages, and lord knows what else.

homemade yogurt

However it’s become a bit more of a challenge to find plain, full-fat yogurt a flavored yogurts (and their relatives) are encroaching upon the space of yaourt nature (plain yogurt). And while you can still find them, they’re not prominently featured and sometimes you have to search around for them. (Usually on my hands and knees, as they’re often relegated to yogurt “Siberia”.)

sterilizing jar

Lately I’ve been using a lot of plain yogurt and in a recent post for Labneh, a reader rightly pointed out that I should be making my own.

washing yogurt jar

But since I DIY (do-it-yourself) on a number of other things, such as aging my own cocktails and brewing my own coffee every morning from scratch, I was okay on letting someone else make my yogurt for me. Then again, coming from a place where even the simplest task can be complicated (or I was trying to capture a portion of my lost youth) I gave in and picked up a bottle of milk and decided to make a batch again.

homemade yogurt

I now have a full quart of plain yogurt and I couldn’t be happier. I suspect some will be drained and made into Labneh and since there are strawberries showing up at the market, there may be some Strawberry Frozen Yogurt in my future. But for now, I’m enjoying it with some granola and jam. And a spoonful of nostalgia.

homemade yogurt  recipe

Homemade Yogurt
1 quart (1 l)

I use a heavy, heat-proof jar, and sterilize it by pouring boiling water into it and letting it stand, then draining it well before adding the yogurt mixture. Swaddling the jar with a towel is a good way to keep it warm if you don’t have a warm place in your house or apartment.

I’ve never made it with low fat or reduced fat milk because I like whole milk yogurt. People do say it works although I haven’t tried it. Be sure to use a brand of yogurt that has live and active yogurt cultures in it. Buttermilk won’t work, which I learned from experience the night before ; )

  • 1 quart (1 l) whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) plain whole milk yogurt

1. Clean a 1 quart (1 l) jar by pouring boiling water in it and letting it stand 5 minutes. Drain the water (carefully, as the water and the jar will be hot), and let the jar dry.

2. Heat the milk in a saucepan fitted with a thermometer, or use an instant read thermometer, until the milk reaches 180ºF (82ºC). Remove from heat.

3. When the temperature drops to 115ºF (45ºC), stir in the 1/4 cup of yogurt, then pour the mixture into the jar and cover it.

4. Put the yogurt in a slightly warm place, and leave it undisturbed for 10 to 12 hours. The longer fermentation will yield a more tart yogurt.

An oven that has a pilot light, is good. I have radiant heat (under-floor* heat) and put it in a warm spot.

5. Chill the yogurt thoroughly, at least three hours. The yogurt will thicken up once cool.



*For those concerned that I am putting it on the floor, I make sure there is a protective layer of glass between the yogurt and the floor.


Notes

Because it was a last-minute decision to make yogurt, I used regular, non-fancy milk for this batch. However using good-quality milk will result in the best-tasting yogurt. I spent a sleepless night while this batch of yogurt fermented, worrying that I didn’t use milk from the natural food store. (Please don’t tell me that I should get my own cow and make my own milk – at least until I catch up on my sleep.)

Some folks add dried milk powder and/or powdered yogurt starter. Others use slow-cookers to make yogurt. Here are a few posts below that discuss those methods and ingredients in depth:

Homemade Yogurt Recipe (101 Cookbooks)

DIY Greek Yogurt (Annie’s Eats)

Homemade Yogurt in a Crockpot (Our Life Simplified)

Healthy Homemade Greek Yogurt (Fat-free) (Salad in a Jar)


166 comments

  • i hate to sound all martha stewarty here but working yogurt making into your weekly cooking regimen is a good thing, especially since it requires so little effort.

    where i live the little danon yogurts cost about 11 cents/oz. i usually get a gallon of milk for about 1.80. which means, if you don’t pour off any whey, your homemade yogurt comes in at close to 1 to 1.5 cent/oz. a considerable savings, for almost no work at all. and the taste of just set fresh yogurt is a culinary delight.

    btw. today’s an incredible day for equality in france after 6 months of such non-stop ugliness. i wish i were in france today. i’d certainly be down in montpellier.

  • hii David, love your blog,love your recipes…
    I also make my own yogurt every week with this recipe…
    http://g2food.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/diy-yogurt.html
    will be keeping my eyes on your blog for new excitements ;)
    Gül Günizi

  • Thanks, again, for all the help. I’m sure I can get rid of the ropiness with all the suggestions I’ve received. I love my “thin” yogurt which I find creamy but not thick, and with a delicacy akin to a good crème caramel. Now that rhubarb is here, I’m in heaven.

  • Thanks so much for the microwave encouragement, Cosgrove. Your 18 minute estimate helps, especially as I have a little, old microwave. If I got to 15 minutes of heating and checking and heating and checking I’d likely despair of ever getting to temperature. I’ll stop for fresh milk on my way home from work and zap it tonight. I have Voskos brand greek yogurt for my starter – no pectin or gelatin, just milk and lots of live cultures. I love Voskos, but I don’t like all those plastic containers and lids.

  • Joan — OK! At the risk of TMI, a couple of other points about using the wave to best advantage: 1) I agree with Seth that higher initial heating makes for a better texture, and also (in principle) with those who like to simmer the milk for a while. You can’t simmer it in the microwave, but in fact you don’t have to. In my wave, 18 minutes takes the milk to about 200 degrees, and if I just leave it in there after the timer has turned it off, it remains above 180 all by itself for a nice little chunk of time. 2) Also, do yourself the favor of timing approximately how long it takes your usual quantity of milk to cool when you leave it untouched in the oven. (A thermometer with a probe is helpful for this.) If you know that it takes an hour to get to inoculation temperature, you don’t have to give it a thought between the moment you turn it on to heat and the moment when you put the starter in. Obviously this isn’t completely invariable — cooling time will depend on the ambient temperature — but it’s pretty reliable when the milk is left in the warm microwave, and the inoculation temperature itself is flexible enough to give you some leeway. For me, I know that I have about an hour and twenty minutes of total freedom before I have to check the temperature and put the starter in. At worst there’s five minutes or so of monitoring time. I’m a micro-skeptic, but the wave makes yogurt-making so much easier that I’ve stopped resenting the counter space that it takes up.

    Also, a note to Susan. Since no one else has mentioned it, let me just say that it’s very easy to control the tanginess of homemade yogurt. If you chill it as soon as the yogurt has “set up,” you will find that it is not sour at all. People who enjoy sourness like to let it culture longer, but you don’t have to. You can chill it while it is still milky and sweet-tasting. There’s a real difference between sourness and the intrinsic yogurt flavor, and you can easily keep the two separate when you make it yourself. Then if you want to sweeten it later you can, but you might not feel the need.

  • Hi David,

    My Mum (84) has been making yogurt like this for as long as I remember. She brings it to the boil, simmers for a few minutes and then leaves it to cool. Then she just dips her finger in to gauge the temperature. It really is not complicated as you have shown. I’ve tried it with soya milk in the past and it was fine – the milk had to be warmer I seem to remember for it to set and the culture had to be milk yogurt (I think).

  • I have been making yogurt for several years now, I make a couple of litres every week.
    I have developed my technique by trial and error. I use UHT (long life) organic milk and add milk powder in order to make a thicker yogurt. I warm the 2 litres of milk to 50 degrees centigrade and in a separate jug I mix 2 tablespoons of yogurt from previous culture, 150 grms dried milk powder and together with another cup of cold milk. I then whisk altogether well and then transfer to jars which I then place in my dehydrator tray set at a fairly low heat and covered with a cloth ( not covered completely – leave a gap) it is ready usually in 3-4 hours. I get a lovely thick yogurt with a custard like texture.

  • Your yogurt will be better if you use less starter–I use max 3 T. for a half-gallon. If you want to keep a starter going for any length of time, use less than you are currently using.

    We make 2 kinds of yogurt in our household–non-fat (1/2 gallon, enriched with ca 1/2 c. non-fat milk powder–organic, non-instant), and 1-2% depending on what’s available from our weekly dairy delivery (same proportions). With the enrichment, it’s incredibly good, and it also makes fabulous drained yogurt products (we do a lot of Turkish cooking for which this is invaluable). Whole milk yogurt is very uncuous, but if you are 60 yrs old and watching your diet, this is one way to cut without much noticing.

  • Cosgrove’s – Thanks for the additional ‘wave suggestions. I am too late from the office to make yogurt tonight but I’ll definitely do it tomorrow.
    I’ll report back soon.

    Love the idea of a yogurt schedule. It’s like making yeasted bread – a little work and then rest (or play). Then the payoff!

  • This brought back memories of my landlady when I lived in Angers as a student. She made yogurt regularly. We ate it with fruit from her trees, jam or a little sugar. She made a fabulous apple cake as well. She was well ahead of her time. An urban farmer before it was chic. I am inspired to start making my own

  • I’m totally addicted to Vietnamese yogurt these days. It’s what some other commenters have made described: yogurt made with sweetened condensed milk. Not too sweet with a lovely tang. I’m a Viet gal and have only started making and eating this in the last few years. We weren’t a big dairy family when I was growing up. So I’m trying to make up for lost time.

  • Thanks for the great prompt to make some yogurt again after decades!

    I found this nifty wide mouth insulated jar: http://www.target.com/p/thermos-stnless-micro-food-jar-12-oz/-/A-14386233#prodSlot=medium_1_28 It will make 12oz. which is enough for me for a couple days which means I’m sure I’ll use it before it gets too tart.

    I simply prepared and inoculated the milk and poured it into the container. I put the container in the microwave (a convenient insulated box which also makes a great proofing box so long as you put on a sticky note warning all and sundry that you kill them if they turn it on). Done!

    When it had fermented I put a paper coffee filter over it and turned it upside down into a flat bottomed coffee filter basket which was in a small cup. I returned that tiny tower to the fridge. After several hours I uprighted it and put the lid back on my thicker, Greek-style yogurt. But first I took off a couple tablespoons to start the next batch.

    I’m using the whey I poured off in some sourdough English muffin bread I’m making later today. Tomorrow I’m making more yogurt.

  • instead of pouring hot water to disinfect jars, i bake them on a tray @ 350F for 20min. i also boil all the lids, funnel, and utensils at the same time. once the jars are filled, the oven has reached the perfect temp for storage.

    my yogurt is good for a long time if i don’t open it.

  • straining the milk mixture before filling jars will help to get a silky texture.

  • Hi David, I’ve been making my own yogurt for years, mainly because it’s been so hard to find thick yogurts here in the Philippines. Greek-style have just entered the market, but a 200-gram tub is so expensive it costs more than a liter of whole milk. So it’s more practical to make some. I use carabao’s milk (Philippine water buffalo), which has the highest fat content, and results in very thick yogurts even without draining.

    I’ve seen those five-cup yogurt makers, but I just dump the milk-culture into my thick-sided pressure cooker and wrap it thickly with several towels to keep the warmth. I make yogurt in the morning so the heat of the day helps in the fermentation.In the evening I get viscous yogurt, which I refrigerate for a cold breakfast the following day with fruit and cereals. My kids love it with mini marshmallows and candy rainbow sprinkles.

  • Dear David, as a master baker, I presume you have made French yoghourt cake – a simple homemade cake, but with a nice tart touch, and great for adding sliced citrus fruit. The recipe I has substitutes almond powder for quite a bit of the wheat flour.

    http://lacuisinedagnes.com/?p=3151 Personally, I’d make this with olive oil, (not an expensive or assertive dark-green variety though) but do as you please, including butter!

  • I love making my own yogurt! You actually don’t even have to measure the temperature… just make sure you can hold your finger in the milk for at least 5 seconds! I just wrap it up in a towel all night and it is ready in the morning! Here is my method:

    http://www.simplyscrumptiousbysarah.com/2013/04/21/make-your-own-yogurt/

    It really is fun to make though isn’t it!?! :-)

  • Thank you for a great idea!

  • sorry, david. looks like i created a monster. i bet you’ve never received so much advice at one time in your life.

  • We make yogurt once a week and eat it with your awesome granola recipe (which we also make every week with all kinds of variations). We were actually inspired after visiting Paris and getting freshly scooped yogurt from the cheese shop near our hotel for our breakfast every morning at Fromagerie La Ferme de PLaisance 2657 Rue Delambre, 75014 Paris, France.

    (My husband thinks I’m crazy to tell you since you probably already know, but their yogurt and custards were so good I feel like it would be so sad if I didn’t say something just in case you hadn’t been…)

  • My baby loves plain yogurt! I use this method to make it for her every week, except I use a crock pot. I have the timing down so I know how long it takes to heat up and cool down. Yum!

  • Yay for homemade yogurt! Last year, my roommates and I made homemade yogurt for a few months before schoolwork took over our lives. I hope to start making it again this summer…

  • My mum made our yoghurt at home when I was growing up. She improvised a yoghurt-maker by putting an empty ice cream bucket in an insulated bag, then she put the jar of milk-mixture in the bucket and half-filled it with warm water and zipped up the bag. It worked beautifully, and the yogurt was so mild-flavoured and tender and delicious.

  • Hello David,

    I have a question, what happens when I add organic goat milk yogurt to cow milk? I would like to make some goat milk yougurt but I have no goat milk on hand. I know, but I love goat cheese and yogurt.
    Thanks!

  • Nada: I don’t know. But you should give it a try and see what happens, and let us know. I would imagine since it’s the same culture (perhaps?) it’d work fine.

  • I love plain unsweetened yogurt – I think I was converted to it we went on holiday in France and stayed in a farm house and they served some fresh yogurt which I literally could not stop eating!

    I made my own yogurt for a while but I could never get it to set hard enough….should really give it another try soon!

  • If you ever come back to the Bay Area again, try the Saint Benoît yogurt, if you haven’t already. They come in cute ceramic pots or Mason jars, and it’s made in Sonoma by a guy from France, partnered with local dairy farms.

    The yogurt is so rich. Last I tried them several years ago, I was able to turn in my ceramic pots for a discount on future purchases (at the Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Building).

    Anyway, it was hard to save some of this yogurt to use as a starter for my own yogurt (with Straus Family non-homogenized milk). But it was the best homemade yogurt I ever made.

    For everyday use, I didn’t bother heating up the (ultra-pasteurized) milk before mixing it up with yogurt to put in my Salton — it took longer to thicken up, but it was still good. I think ultra-pasteurized milk is the same as UHT? But we Americans are so used to refrigerating it.

    I have since discovered kefir and have been making that instead (because it takes less than 5 minutes, and no heating or extra equipment needed).

  • Sarah — can you give some details of your thickening technique? It looks like you don’t drain the yogurt, but you use cloths to mop the whey off from the top of the dish. Is that right?

  • Hi, I’ve recently been making labneh (inspired by your Lebanon posts) and it’s been delicious! Sometime I’m going to try making my own yogurt. I absolutely loved all of your posts on your trip to Lebanon – it really made me want to visit there someday. But in the meantime, I will have to satisfy myself with experimenting with some dishes.

    By the way, I would love to have you visit Thailand and to see our food through your eyes!!

  • Outstanding results. I used 2% milk but it was not ultrapasteurized. It is not possible in Ann Arbor to get organic milk that is not ultrapasteurized. I guess it is trade off that is worth it– keeping the bacteria that would be killed vs. organic milk. Your friends at Zingermans use the same milk at their creamery.

  • Thanks for this post David!

    I need to get back to making my own yogurt. I actually use the Easi-yo contraption without actually using their mix because it has as a weird aftertaste.

    I boil water, fill the easi-yo container with the boiling water, while my whole milk is simmering on a sauce pan until it reaches the right temp, then I let it cool and add a small container of natural yogurt. I pour it in the smaller easiyo container and seal it and leave for 8-12 hours inside the bigger container with hot water.

    The bigger easi-yo container acts as a thermos and keeps an even heat for several hours.

    When I wake up I have a very tart yogurt. I’m glad to be able to control the sugar in it as well as control the flavors.

    Hmm!

  • In India yogurt is part of most meals. It is very easy to make. it can be made with all type of milk cow, goat etc and any percentage of fat – but that also means taste and consistency will differ.more fat means thick n good youghart and low fat means it will not set very well will be runny.
    sometimes I use milk from which i have skimmed off the fat once. sometimes I use whole fat milk.
    most times I use earthen pot but steel containers also work well. the milk has to be lukewarm – i just dip my finger in it to check if its luke warm or not.. heat it in microwave or on gas then pour into the container add a spoon or two of youghart, mix well. cover and keep for 3-4 hrs. then check if set. if too wobbly cover n keep for more time. then reintegrate for 2 hrs for it to set well.
    In cold months (or places) heat milk slightly more hot than lukewarm. keep in warm place . I cover my container with an old woolen sweater of my son. Time it takes to set might increase slightly in winter.

  • You can also wrap your yogurt container in a heating blanket set on the lowest tempeture.

  • I make my own yogurt already a few years.
    According with experience and knowledge of food microbiology – it’s enough to heat the milk to 45C and, if yogurt maintained at 42 ° C – it is ready, and after 6 hours and after this exposition time – possible to put into the fridge (with smooth taste, without excessive sourness)).
    Before last year I ordered starter culture on-line from cheesemaking.com , and last year I became to use authentic Bulgarian strain ordered from Bulgaria http://www.lactina-ltd.com/eng/products-zakvaski.php
    and I ‘m very satisfied from this starter.
    Instead of fresh berries, which we haven’t here , I used freeze-dried fruit powders.

  • Cosgrove’s – Thanks again for the microwave tips. Your timing and my timing are very close. I set up the makings on Sunday evening and on Monday morning had four lovely half pints of tangy rich yoghurt. Just in time for peaches!

    Rainey – Thanks for the idea of straining the yogurt in small containers with coffee filters. I’ve always used the coffee filters in larger colander requiring re-arranging my refrigerator contents and messy repackaging. The little towers worked beautifully!

  • David, I’ve recently started following your posts and as much as I love all of the content you put up, I have to say this post struck a cord with me. I recently came back from Paris, and although it wasn’t my first time there, it was my first time that I actually went grocery shopping there, since I was staying in a rental apartment. I picked up milk from the store by the name of Candia grand lait frais, and I was pleasantly surprised when I drank it. I’m not a big milk person, as in I don’t pour myself a glass of milk to drink unless its got chocolate in it or chocolate chip cookies beside it. But this milk was so creamy, and so very delicious. I honestly couldn’t believe how fresh and authentic it was. Now I know why I don’t drink milk in the states…it’s not real milk here! You are right indeed that French dairy aisles are a sight to behold…and bow down to!

  • David, I have not yet made homemade yogurt, as there are many good brands where i live, but now I must try this. I’ve been wanting to. Heck, I am always “in” for making anything you can homemade. It is always better. What is fun about your posts is that so m any of your readers take time to post their thoughts and experiences. Great info and reading! Hard to believe 2/12 years since we met in Cancun. Whenever we use a color checker for photography I think of you! Memories are so funny.

    That was so much fun in Cancun! Food Blog Camp was great and it was a blast frolicking on the beach with cocktails, er..I mean, talking about the serious business of food blogging! : ) -dl

  • Janele…those cute Saint Benoit jars or mason jars of yogurt can be purchased at Whole Food Stores. If you return the empty mason jars to Whole Foods you will be refunded $1.50. This yogurt is the next best thing to making your own–absolutely delicious…..

  • Thanks for the great nudge toward yogurtmaking David! I’ve made three batches since you posted this recipe, including a batch of maple vanilla yogurt that probably won’t last long…My fiance and I got your book The Perfect Scoop and we love it. We’ve been making your recipes and experimenting for the past 2 years and always have fun flavors of home-made ice cream in our house.
    So, after these successes with yogurt I am wondering: is it possible to make an egg custard like you would for ice cream batter and then culture it like you would to make yogurt? I can imagine this making a deliciously rich and flavorful yogurt…but I can also imagine it going poorly and having a terrible texture or, worse, being contaminated with salmonella or other bacteria from the hours near body temperature. Have you ever tried something like this or heard of others doing it? Does anyone have an idea about whether this is a great or terrible idea? Thanks!

  • Hi David, love the blog but may I point out that your yogurt recipe is far to complicated! I used to do a similar one but over the past year I have streamlined it to a 5 min effort that yields perfect result without heating the milk at all. Check it out on my blog here http://travelsaroundmykitchen.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/quick-yogurt-in-oven-or-steamer
    I too had a strong nostalgia- now all my friends are making it and it works with goat, soya and even almond milk. Cheers

  • Dear David,

    You would be amazed to learn that in India, yogurts, especially homemade yogurts are made on a daily basis across households. Mainly because the temperatures are hotter and it acts as cooler meal component.

    Homemade yogurts are offen well stirred or whipped to get a buttery drink called “Lassi”. To add flavour, we may add sugar, black salt, dried peppermint leaves, or even safron. They are served chilled. All these adders give a soothing effect.

    So all followers, do try out this lovely drink – “Lassi” made from home made yogurt.

  • I started making yogurt regularly when I inherited my grandmother’s yogurt-maker with all the little cups you describe, but my results have been uneven, and I’ve already manged to break 2 of the cups. I tried Seth’s method above: heating it up to 190 for a few minutes first, and then mixing in the starter at 120, and putting the covered pot in the oven with just the pilot light overnight, and it came out amazingly thick and yummy! Best batch ever, no straining involved, and simpler than using that little plastic warmer and the cups.

  • BelleD- Thanks for the suggestion of adding condensed milk. I added a tablespoon or so to 12oz of hot milk with the culture and about a tablespoon of dried milk powder and what I got is silky, firm and the tiniest most luscious bit sweet. I just had some with sliced strawberries — nothing more — and it’s like a wonderful, light, desserty perfection.

    Joan- So glad the “little towers” worked for you too. But Belle’s Vietnamese style yogurt has such lovely texture I didn’t even need to do the straining with this batch.

  • I left the yogurt to yogurtify overnight, then forgot it to put it in the fridge! So it was doing its thing for 18 hours instead of 12. Will it have gone bad, or simply very tart?