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A stroll through the dairy section of your local supermarket reveals nearly endless varieties of yogurt. But pick up a container, scan the ingredient list and nutritional information, and you’ll see that choice of flavor and fat content are almost the only control you have.
When you make yogurt at home, you control everything about it — quality and quantity of ingredients, thickness, and tartness. You can keep the ingredients simple and your yogurt will taste just as good, if not better. A standard 6-ounce portion of purchased plain yogurt often contains 12 grams of sugar, while a 6-ounce portion of this homemade yogurt has just 8 grams. Many national yogurt brands add corn syrup, cornstarch, and pectin to their products, which you can choose to leave out.
All you need to begin your yogurt-making journey are a few ingredients, a heat source, and a thorough guide (read this one fully before picking up that milk!).
The Science: What is Yogurt?
Yogurt is simply fermented milk. While that may not sound appetizing, the same types of bacteria that already exist in your gastrointestinal system are added to the milk to make yogurt, which is why yogurt is considered a probiotic food. This bacteria, in the form of a yogurt culture or starter, feeds on the sugar in milk, fermenting or souring it.
The bacteria in the cultures are finicky and are most comfortable dining (or incubating) for five to 10 hours (seven is average; the longer the incubation, the tangier the yogurt) between 98°–130°F. Temps above 130° kill the bacteria and those below 98° cause them to be sluggish, resulting in yogurt that’s still milk-like because the bacteria hasn’t consumed the milk sugar to turn it into yogurt. (If this happens, throw it out and start over.)
What You Need for Making Yogurt at Home
Starter: Plain, store-bought yogurt or freeze-dried packets of yogurt cultures, are inexpensive starters. Use fresh yogurt (that’s far from its expiration) and one touting at least three live active cultures. Stonyfield Farm, with six live active cultures, is an excellent starter. After your first batch, reserve some homemade yogurt to use as the starter for your next batch.
Different yogurt cultures produce different yogurts. Commercial yogurts used as a starter, like Stonyfield or Dannon, produce mild-flavored, thinner yogurts. Freeze-dried cultures tend to yield thicker, tangier yogurt, and will state on the package what type of yogurt — thick or thin — they’ll produce.
Milk: Nearly any type of dairy milk with any fat content will work to make yogurt. In the Test Kitchen, low- and whole-fat cow’s milk was preferred, but goat milk works, too. And we found that organic milk or that from local dairies that hadn’t been ultra-pasteurized produced the creamiest yogurt. The ultra-pasteurized milks sometimes produced a sticky, stringy yogurt.
Thickeners: Many commercial yogurts use pectin to make them thick and creamy. You can add pectin to the yogurt you make, but nonfat dry milk is an excellent (and inexpensive) thickener. It gives the yogurt more body, making it creamier.
Heat Source: Machines made just for incubating yogurt are convenient, but plenty of options exist to “MacGyver” comparable incubators from items you already own (see our “DIY or Buy” guide, below). If you choose one of the DIY methods, keep a closer eye on your yogurt than if you use a machine purchased specifically for yogurt making.
The Yogurt Maker: DIY or Buy?
Yogurt Makers: Designed only for incubating yogurt, these machines come with six to eight glass or plastic containers with snug-fitting lids that pop right into the machine. A good choice is the Euro Cuisine Yogurt Maker. Once turned on, these machines will maintain the precise temperature of 122°F for the entire incubating period. Some come with bells and whistles, like timers and automatic shut-offs at the end of the preset time.
Heating Pad: A heating pad used for common medical ailments makes a great yogurt incubator. It allows the use of a variety of containers for incubating. Simply set the covered container(s) of yogurt on a preheated heating pad, then cover the yogurt with a towel and incubate for the preferred amount of time. To double check that the temperature isn’t too high or too low, place a thermometer under the bowl to get a reading and adjust the heat settings accordingly. In the Test Kitchen, we found medium heat kept our yogurt in the ideal zone, and jotting down the time we started incubating was a good idea.
Slow Cooker or Instant Pot: Convert an 8-quart slow cooker into an incubator by heating it on the warm setting. We like slow cookers. Insert yogurt-filled jars, and pour warm water in the cooker so it comes halfway up the sides of the jars. Cover the cooker and check the temperature of the water every hour or two to see that it stays at 115°–125°F. If the temperature climbs above 125°, turn the machine off, and wrap it in a large bath towel to maintain the temperature for the duration of the incubation time.
The Instant Pot also makes incubation easy with a special program just for making yogurt. Simply place yogurt-filled jars into the Instant Pot, close the lid, and push the “Yogurt” button. The display will show 08:00 for 8 hours of incubation (or push the “+” or “-” buttons for more or less time). The Pot will automatically hold the correct temperature.
How to Make Yogurt at Home
Grab our recipe for Homemade Yogurt and follow along with the steps below.
Step 1: Heat milk with nonfat dry milk to 185°F in a double boiler. Heating milk kills microorganisms in it that can compete with bacteria in the yogurt cultures you'll add to it.
Step 2: Chill milk to 115°F. Milk cools fastest in an ice bath, but cooling at room temperature, stirring periodically, works too.
Step 3: Whisk in yogurt or yogurt starter when milk cools to 110°F. Whisk starter into the cooled milk just until incorporated, then transfer mixture to airtight incubating containers.
Step 4: Incubate yogurt between 98°–130°F for the bacteria to feed on the sugars in the milk. The optimal temperature is 122°F. Incubate for five to 10 hours (seven is average; the longer the incubation, the tangier the yogurt).
Step 5: After the yogurt ripens during incubation, you need to chill it so the bacteria stops feeding and the yogurt thickens. Refrigerate yogurt at least 8 hours before eating.
Step 6: When you open chilled yogurt, you’ll sometimes notice a yellowish liquid on top. That’s the whey. Either simply stir it back into the yogurt, or pour it off and discard.
How to Make Greek Yogurt and Yogurt Cheese
Strained yogurt, such as Greek-style yogurt and yogurt cheese, is very popular. Make it at home by separating the whey from the solids in one of three ways:
- Buy a yogurt cheese maker or Greek yogurt maker, a simple contraption that looks like a coffee filter and costs about $15–25. Pour the yogurt in, and place it in your fridge.
- Pour yogurt into a cheesecloth-lined colander and set the colander in a bowl so the whey drains into the bowl.
- Gather three layers of cheesecloth, tie it with kitchen string, and hang it from your faucet so the whey drips down the drain.
For Greek-style yogurt: Strain yogurt 2 to 3 hours to achieve the pudding-like consistency Greek yogurt is known for. It’s a great stand-in for sour cream.
For yogurt cheese: Strain yogurt 8 to 24 hours (in the fridge) to remove nearly all the liquid. The solids will be spreadable like cream cheese.
How to Add Flavor to Homemade Yogurt
Plain yogurt is just the beginning. After you discover how easy yogurt is to make, you’ll be ready to flex your “flavor” muscles.
If the pucker power of plain, unsweetened yogurt is too much, add a tablespoon or two of honey or maple syrup to the milk before heating it.
Stir liquid flavoring agents like pure vanilla or almond extract and instant espresso powder or concentrated coffee into the milk (to taste) just before heating.
Jams, jellies and preserves introduce flavor and simulate the “fruit on the bottom” of commercial yogurts. Add them to the bottom of the jars just before incubating. (Check out our article on How to Make Homemade Preserves.)
Add fresh fruit to yogurt only after it’s ready-to-serve.
Check out our recipe for homemade yogurt, plus our favorite yogurt applications:
- Homemade Yogurt
- Tropical Fruit Salad with honeyed yogurt
- Cherry Frozen Yogurt Sundaes with root beer syrup
Like this article? Check out all of our .
How yogurt is made simple? ›
Yogurt is the most popular fermented milk in the world and can be made with any type of milk by following simple steps of (1) heating the milk, (2) adding yogurt starter, also known as a “mother culture,” which is the source of bacteria, and (3) then allowing the milk to incubate for 6-8 hours.What are the main ingredients of yogurt? ›
The production of yogurt requires only two ingredients: milk and live cultures. However, producers may also include, dry milk powder, stabilizers, fruit, and sweeteners. Milk is the main ingredient used when making yogurt. It can be cream, whole, low-fat, or skim.How much starter do I need for 1 gallon of yogurt? ›
You can make excellent yogurt with only a couple of tablespoons of starter in a gallon of milk. ¼ cup of starter per gallon is the maximum for best results.What happens if you don't boil milk before making yogurt? ›
While yogurt can be made from room-temperature milk, for the best, most consistent results, most experts recommend first heating the milk to at least 180°F or the boiling point. Heating the milk makes for a richer end product, and also kills any bad bacteria in the milk.How do you make yogurt without scratch from starter? ›
Homemade yogurt without starter
Just leave it until it is barely warm similar to milk used for making bread. Culture - Add the citric acid or freeze-dried culture to the milk and combine well with a whisk. Pro tip - Adding citric acid to hot milk will cause it to curdle so make sure the milk is at room temperature.
The nomads carried their milk in animal skins, creating a ripe environment for bacteria to grow and cause fermentation, producing yoghurt. In all likelihood, yoghurt was discovered in this way in different places at different times, and probably originated in the Middle East and Central Asia.What milk is best for yogurt making? ›
Pasteurized milk is a great choice for making your own yogurt at home. UHT or Ultra-pasteurized milk is heated to 284ºF for 4 seconds. Ultra-pasteurized milk is actually sterilized milk, giving it a shelf-life of several months, with no refrigeration required.Is it cheaper to make your own yogurt? ›
Making your own yogurt is way cheaper than buying yogurt at the store. Depending on the milk you buy and the kind of yogurt you like, homemade yogurt costs 60 to 80 percent less. It's easy to calculate the savings, because one litre of milk makes a 750-g tub of yogurt (plus some).What is starter for yogurt? ›
A traditional yogurt starter is a carefully balanced blend of bacteria which consume the lactose in animal milk. These bacteria convert the lactose to lactic acid, which changes the protein structure of the milk, creating a unique tangy taste and a thicker, creamier texture.How long does homemade yogurt last? ›
Once you've activated the starter culture and started making yogurt, your homemade yogurt is generally good for eating for up to 2 weeks, when stored in the refrigerator. For re-culturing, we recommend using the yogurt within 7 days to make a new batch.
What is the first ingredient in yogurt? ›
Yogurt is produced using a culture of Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus bacteria. In addition, other lactobacilli and bifidobacteria are sometimes added during or after culturing yogurt.Can you put too much starter in yogurt? ›
Do not use more starter than recommended. Using too much starter can crowd the bacteria, causing the bacteria to run out of food before the yogurt completely ferments the milk. The result is often a thinner, sometimes bitter, yogurt.How many times can you reuse yogurt starter? ›
Usually, you can make 3-4 batches before you start over with store-bought yogurt. However, traditional yogurt starters for sale online are reusable for a much longer time. Read more about yogurt starters for homemade yogurt here.What happens if you use too little yogurt starter? ›
Too little starter makes runny yogurt, but too much (more than 2 Tbs./quart for pasteurized or 2 1/2-3 Tbs. for raw yogurt) makes things separate into whey and thick cheese.Can I stir yogurt while making? ›
Don't vigorously whisk or stir at any time during the yogurt making process. Not while heating the milk, not while cooling the milk, and not while adding the yogurt. Vigorously stirring interrupts the science at work in the yogurt making process.How do you know when yogurt is done? ›
How do I know my yogurt is done? You know your yogurt is done when, after culturing it for the recommended period of time (6 to 12 hours for thermophilic yogurt, and 24 to 48 hours for room temperature yogurt), it pulls away from the sides of the jar when you tilt it.Can you incubate yogurt too long? ›
Incubated at 115°F/46°C, yogurt will coagulate within about three hours, but if left too long it can easily curdle.What temp kills yogurt starter? ›
Some yogurt makers do this through insulation that keeps the milk in the correct temperature range, and others do it with electric thermostats that heat the milk during incubation. The yogurt maker can lose temperature over the 8 hour incubation but it should not start below 113°F (45°C) or end below 97°F (36°C).What is the best way to make yogurt without a yogurt maker? ›
Large dehydrators are a great alternative to yogurt makers and are easy to use. Put the milk from the yogurt culture in well-sealed glass jars and place them in the dehydrator. Set the temperature to 42°C, and you're done!Can I use sour cream as a starter for yogurt? ›
When the milk has cooled to the right temperature, Lucia adds three or four tablespoons of sour cream as a starter for her homemade yogurt's culture, slowly mixing it in. She could also use the right amount of yogurt, taking advantage of her own homemade yogurt if she already had some on hand.
What can be used to make yogurt starter? ›
Plain Greek yogurt is the best choice. Furthermore, homemade SCD yogurt can also be used as a starter for another batch. Simply reserve ½ a cup to inoculate the milk. Over time the probiotic strains will weaken so this is not a process to be repeated indefinitely.What milk is best for making yogurt? ›
Pasteurized milk is a great choice for making your own yogurt at home. UHT or Ultra-pasteurized milk is heated to 284ºF for 4 seconds. Ultra-pasteurized milk is actually sterilized milk, giving it a shelf-life of several months, with no refrigeration required.How much yogurt will a gallon of milk make? ›
(Note that a gallon of milk won't yield a gallon of yogurt. It will yield about 2 quarts of yogurt depending on how long you strain it.)How to make yogurt from raw milk without starter? ›
- Step 1 – heat and cool the milk. Add the milk to the pot and set on the stovetop. ...
- Step 2 – add yogurt. Once the milk has cooled to 115 degrees F, uncover the pot and scoop the film that (most likely) formed on top of the milk. ...
- Step 3 – hang to drain. ...
- Step 4 – store the yogurt.