Have you ever tried to make homemade yogurt? Or even thought about it? Maybe you’ve seen one of those yogurt making machines, or even added one to your “kitchen electronics” inventory? 😉 Well, I have been making yogurt for a few months now, and it is absolutely delicious! I am totally addicted, and I must admit, it will be hard to ever go back. I love how I can control the flavor, texture (especially thickness), and % milk fat. If you have never tried making yogurt at home, I am here to tell you it is fairly simple, doesn’t require much hands-on time, and is totally worth it! Just look at this creamy goodness.
The Inspiration for Homemade Yogurt
I can’t quite remember what first got me inspired to try making my own yogurt at home, but it was something I wanted to try for a while before I dove in. I think primarily it goes back to the ideal I have to make as much of what we eat from scratch as possible.
Originally, I investigated different temperature control systems that basically heat the milk up, hold it at a fermentation temperature, and then cool it down. This seemed like a safe solution for fermenting bacteria to make the yogurt … the last thing I wanted to do was to get the temperatures wrong and create something that would make us sick!
But then I stumbled upon an article by Cheryl Sternman Rule. She keeps a blog called Team Yogurt that has lots of great yogurt recipes. She is also author of one of my new go-to cook books, Yogurt Culture. Cheryl breaks down the process of yogurt making so that it is very simple and approachable, and takes any of the “scary” out of it.
You can find her recipe for homemade yogurt, as well as great detailed instructions, trouble shooting tips, and more at her Official Yogurt Culture Master Homemade Yogurt Recipe post.
I am going to share with you the method that I have found works really well for me, as well as some tips and tricks as we go along.
One of my favorite things about making my own homemade yogurt is that I can choose what milk fat % I want, and I can strain to get my perfect texture. I like a texture in between standard yogurt and Greek yogurt. Making it myself, I strain for 2-4 hours and it is just right!
Homemade Yogurt Explained
All you need to get started making your own batch of yogurt is 1 gallon of milk, 4 Tablespoons of yogurt with active cultures, a candy thermometer, and a pot that can hold temperature fairly well – I like to use my large double-walled stainless steel stockpot.
For the yogurt cultures, once you have made your first batch of yogurt, you can save some aside to use for your next batch. I like to freeze it to be sure the cultures are fresh when I make my next batch. If it sits too long in the fridge, they start to loose some of their activity.
Don’t worry though – if you don’t have any of your own cultures, you can just buy a small unsweetened yogurt at the grocery to use for your first batch. Just be sure it specifies that it has active cultures in it! I used a plain Chobani yogurt to get my own culture started.
Basic Yogurt Making Method
The basic method for making yogurt follows 4 main steps:
- Heat the milk to 180°F then let it cool to 115°F.
- Inoculate the milk with your starter culture.
- Ferment the culture.
- Finish up by whisking, chilling, straining, etc to get to your perfect homemade yogurt!
Notes, Tips, and Tricks
- When heating the milk – if it goes over 180°F, or holds at 180°F for longer than 5 minutes, it’s no problem. I even boiled it once and the end product was still fine, even though the pan was a little harder to clean 😉
- Waiting for the milk to drop to 115°F before inoculating with your culture is important. If the milk is too hot, it will kill off the good cultures and your yogurt won’t thicken very well or have the right tart flavor. I know because I did this once 🙂
- I usually end up fermenting the yogurt overnight, so it goes for about 10 hours.
- Don’t worry if the yogurt is a little lumpy when you first take it out of the oven. Give it a good whisk before you put it in the fridge to chill, after it’s chilled, and after you strain it, and it should get nice and smooth by the end.
- The yogurt is done when it is thick and looks like yogurt 🙂 It will collect a layer of whey on top, which you can either save or discard. I tend to discard this first batch of whey, but save whatever I collect after the straining processes. I’ve found that using a ladle to scoop the whey from the surface of the yogurt works well.
Some Notes on Straining Yogurt
If you want to get a thicker Greek style yogurt, you can strain it once chilled. To strain, transfer the yogurt to a nut milk bag in a colander set in a deep bowl. Then put the colander/bowl combo back into the fridge. The yogurt tends to loose a lot of whey early on when you strain. To be safe, I recommend you check the bowl and empty it if needed, part way through your straining.
I almost always strain my yogurt for a little thicker texture. I will typically check it after 2 hours – sometimes this is good, sometimes I’ll let it go for 4 hours. It all depends on what texture you like your yogurt to be, which is one of the many benefits of making it yourself!
If the yogurt gets too thick, you can always whisk some of the whey back in until the texture is to your liking. The whey that is the byproduct of this straining, I tend to keep. You can use it to thin your yogurt for specific recipes, or you can use it in your baking, etc. Take a look at this article to see ideas for how to use the left over whey.
Save a Starter Culture, and Eat the Rest
Save 4 tablespoons of the finished yogurt to use as the starter in your next batch. Cheryl recommends using it within a week, or else freezing for up to 3 months (thawing before use). So you see, once you’ve gotten started, all you need for a new batch of yogurt is to purchase the milk! So simple, and it will save a few dollars on the grocery bill to boot.
Aside from just eating yogurt, or adding it to cereal, fruit, etc, there are so many other great recipes that yogurt can play a part in! You can use it as a substitute for sour cream. Split any recipes that call for mayonnaise at least half-and-half with yogurt. Make frozen yogurt. Use it in meat marinades. And so much more!
So what are you waiting for? Time to start making your own yogurt!Jump to Recipe
Nutrition Calculations for Homemade Yogurt
The last thing I want to talk about is the nutrition profile in homemade yogurt, and how to calculate it. Figuring out how to calculate this was a bit tricky. You can start with the nutritional components in the milk, but then some of the whey is strained off. Which nutrients, and at what percent, are lost with the whey?
I finally found a couple good websites that helped me break down these calculations. This may not be exact. But I do feel pretty good about this being a decent way to estimate the final nutritional profile of my homemade yogurt. Since it took some work to piece together a good method for making this calculation, I decided to detail the process here. If needed, you could modify this based on your own ingredients, and still come up with a good estimate.
To start with, Wikipedia has a great post on Whey. It includes a description of what whey is and how it is made. It also provides a breakdown of it’s nutritional elements. I then found a second detailed post on the breakdown by weight of the different nutritional components in milk. I use 1% milk in my yogurt making, so the numbers below are specifically for 1% milk.
The basic formula is [MILK] – [WHEY] = [YOGURT]. The nutritional elements I like to track are calories, fat, carbohydrates, protein, and calcium (for this). I weighed the starting milk, and the whey I strained off at the end, and then calculated the % nutrients based on the total volume. You could easily adjust these calculations based on your own starting and final weights. So here is how it breaks down.
In 100g of Whey:
- 26.98 Cal
- 5.15g Carb
- 0.36g Fat
- 0.85g Pro
- 47mg Calcium
In 1 cup / 245g of 1% MILK:
- 100 Cal
- 12g Carb
- 2.5g Fat
- 8g Pro
- 314mg Calcium
Putting it together:
- 8 quart stockpot
- Large spoon or ladle
- Oven with a working light you can leave on overnight.
- 1 gallon milk
- 4 tbsp of yogurt with active cultures (to use as the starter)
- Fill the 2 cup glass measuring cup with water and microwave until it comes to a boil.
- Sterilize all equipment to be used by submerging in boiling water for one minute. Use only sterilized equipment for the remaining steps.
- To sterilize the stockpot, wash fresh with HOT soapy water.
- Run an ice cube around the inside of the pot to facilitate cleanup, see notes.
Heat the Milk
- Add the milk to the pot, attach the candy thermometer to the side of the pot, and heat the milk to 180°F.
- Turn the heat to low and hold at 180°F for at least 5 min.
- Remove the pot from heat, and let sit, stirring occasionally, until the temperature reaches 115°F.
Inoculate the Culture
- While the milk is cooling, pull the 4 tablespoons of starter yogurt out, transfer to the now-empty 2 cup measuring cup, and let sit out to come to room temperature.
- Once the milk reaches 115°F use ladle to transfer about 1 cup of milk to the measuring cup with the starter yogurt, and whisk well.
- Transfer the milk/yogurt mixture back to the large pot with the rest of the milk, and mix well.
- Place the lid on the pot, wrap in a towel, and put in the oven with the light on (use the proof setting if you have one), for 6-12 hours. Longer will result in a more tart flavor, so you can control this based on your preference.
- Remove the pot from the oven, uncover, and let cool slightly (20-30 minutes).
- Ladle off any whey that has collected on the top – save if wanted.
- Transfer the yogurt to a lidded container, and chill in the refrigerator for ~8 hours.
Make it Greek Style
- If you prefer a thicker Greek style yogurt, strain in a nut milk bag for at least 2 hours in the fridge, until desired texture is reached.
- Whisk well to smooth out the yogurt, and enjoy!