How To Make Homemade Yogurt

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Eating yogurt is an easy and delicious way to get healthy probiotics into your system. Enjoy the freshest possible yogurt by making your own at home.

Homemade Yogurt Benefits

Go to any supermarket and you'll find an endless variety of available yogurts. So why make your own at home? Actually, homemade yogurt comes with a lot of perks, including:

  • Affordability: Have you looked at the price of yogurt lately? Making your own will bring significant savings on your grocery bill.
  • Control of ingredients: When you make your own yogurt you'll be sure that it's free of artificial additives, colors, fillers and preservatives, and you get to decide how much (if any) sugar goes into each batch. Additionally you'll choose the percent of fat for the milk you use, and the types of healthy yogurt bacteria you'd like in your starter.
  • Freshness: You can't get any fresher yogurt than the batches you make at home, so you know you're getting maximum nutritional benefits.
  • Taste: Fresh, homemade yogurt just tastes better.
  • Sustainability: When you make yogurt at home, you eliminate packaging waste.

Yogurt Making Supplies

Making yogurt is easy, but you will need some basic supplies. Here are a few things you'll want to have on hand:

  • ½ Gallon of milk: Choose whole milk for the richest, creamiest yogurt. For heart healthier yogurt opt for 2 percent, one percent or skim milk.
  • Starter: Use ½ cup of plain yogurt with live active cultures. The first time you make yogurt, you'll need to buy commercial yogurt for your starter. After that, just save ½ cup from the yogurt you make to start your next batch.
  • Large saucepan or Dutch oven with lid: Make sure this is large enough for a half gallon of milk with a few inches left on top.
  • Thermometer: Either a candy thermometer or instant read thermometer will work.
  • Spatula and whisk: You'll stir and move your yogurt to other containers with these.
  • Incubator: This is the place the milk becomes yogurt. It doesn't have to be anything fancy, in fact your Dutch oven or saucepan will do just fine. You can also use a commercial yogurt machine for an incubator.
  • Storage containers: Unless you want to store your yogurt in the incubator, have some clean jars or airtight containers for storing smaller portions of yogurt.

how to make homemade yogurt

Making Your Yogurt

To create your own fresh, homemade yogurt, follow these simple steps:

  1. Pour milk into saucepan or Dutch oven and heat to just before boiling (200 degrees) on your stovetop. Gently stir the milk while it's heating to make sure it doesn't burn on the bottom, and be sure not to let milk boil over.
  2. Allow milk to cool until its temperature falls between 112 and 115 degrees. Pour off about a cup of warm milk into another container and whisk in your starter yogurt until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Pour the milk/starter mixture back into your saucepan of warm milk.
  4. Now the mixture needs to be maintained at a temperature of about 110 degrees for four to six hours. This is the temperature range where the bacteria in your starter will best be able to feed and multiply in the milk. You may want to try maintaining this temperature by keeping your yogurt covered in a warm oven, with the heat of a light bulb or in a commercial yogurt maker.
  5. Cool your yogurt by refrigerating without transferring it from your incubation container.
  6. Once yogurt is chilled, transfer to smaller containers if you'd like and add any desired flavorings or fruit. Homemade yogurt stays fresh in your refrigerator for about two weeks.

Yogurt Variations

Although plain yogurt is tasty, healthy and versatile, you'll probably want to try some flavorful variations. Don't worry about formal recipes; just mix ingredients you like into chilled, cultured yogurt. You may want to try mix-ins such as:

  • Fresh cut up fruit
  • Fruit preserves
  • Granola or other breakfast cereal
  • Chopped pecans, walnuts or other fresh nuts
  • Honey and vanilla
  • Cinnamon
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Chocolate chips
  • Coffee
  • Cucumber, cumin and mint.

Yogurt Making Tips

Here are a few tips to help you solve any potential snags you may run into in the yogurt making process:

  • Don't panic if your milk temperature drops a little below 110 decrees while it's incubating; the bacteria in the yogurt will protect the milk from spoiling. Your yogurt may come out a little looser and take a bit longer to set if this happens but it will still be tasty and safe to eat.
  • Make sure to wash all equipment thoroughly before making yogurt. Any mold or bad bacteria left in your incubator will give your yogurt a strange, "off" taste.
  • Be very sure your starter is fresh and contains active cultures. If your starter is too old, the active cultures may have diminished or died off and then your yogurt won't set at all.
  • Watch your temperature during the incubation period. While you've got a little wiggle room with temperature, if your yogurt gets too hot or cool it won't set.

So get ready to save money and enjoy the best yogurt of your life! When you make your own yogurt, you'll have an ongoing supply of amazing, healthy yogurt that you can enjoy as is or use to create unique snacks, desserts and condiments.

Last Updated: June 20, 2012
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About Roberta Pescow Roberta Pescow holds a bachelor's degree in communications from City University of New York, Queens College and is a freelance writer and editor in the NJ area. The author of "A Life In The Service" and "A Monster's Tears," she enjoys writing informative articles, personal essays, fiction and music.  Roberta is a proud mother of two. Her other interests include fitness, photography, sculpture and meditation. She is a voracious reader and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Roberta enjoys decorating her hectic, but happy home and garden in original and affordable ways.  

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