Making homemade yogurt at home may sound intimidating, but it’s quite a simple process. I always thought you had to have a fancy yogurt maker to do it. But you don’t! With milk, a small amount of starter yogurt (that you can buy at the grocery store), a couple of tools, and a bit of time, you can have your own batch of delicious homemade yogurt. With less sugar and more live cultures than most store-bought yogurt, it’s better for you and less expensive!
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Yogurt starter – this needs to have live active cultures in it. I used Stonyfield brand from Walmart.
Whole milk – make sure it isn’t ultra-pasteurized; pasteurized is fine.
A large pot – I’ve found that the roast pot I inherited from my mom works best, but any pot large enough to hold at least half a gallon (8 cups) will work great!
A way to incubate your yogurt – we’ll get to this in a bit. I use a small space heater and a blanket.
A yogurt straining bag or cheesecloth (optional) – If you want to strain your yogurt, I highly recommend these bags. Cheesecloth is more challenging to clean but will work fine.
I’ve heard you can use a clean tea towel as well, but I haven’t tried that option.
How to make homemade yogurt in 10 simple steps
Put milk in your pot and turn the stove on to medium-medium high heat. You can use any amount of milk you like, but I generally do ½-1 gallon. Half a g
allon makes two pints of yogurt and one pint of whey, give or take a little.
Stir periodically, being careful not to scrape the bottom of the pan, and keep an eye on the temperature of the yogurt. You’re looking for 160-175 degrees F.
I like to keep the lid off during this part. It makes it easier to temp and lets the milk heat up a bit slower. If it heats too quickly, the yogurt will have a grainy texture.
Once your yogurt has reached 160-175, remove it from the heat and put the lid on, at least partially. I put it on vented a bit so that I can leave the thermometer on the side of the pan. Let it sit until it cools to about 110.
When it hits 110, scoop out about a cup and put it in a bowl or measuring cup. Add about ½ cup of your starter yogurt and stir, then dump the mixture back into your pot and stir, again being careful not to scrape the bottom.
At this point, you get to find the best way to incubate your yogurt. You want to keep it as close to 90 degrees as possible for 8-12 hours. There are a million ideas for how to do this online. You can put it in a cooler with a couple of containers of hot water. Some people have success putting it in their oven with the light on. Your crockpot or electric pressure cooker “warm” setting might also hold it at the right temperature. If you live in a warm climate, you might even be able to stick it outside or in your garage for the day.
The way I’ve found that works best for me includes a space heater, a large blanket, and my bathroom (a walk-in closet would work beautifully too).
I put the heater and the blanket in the bathroom while I’m waiting for my yogurt to cool so that the room and blanket can preheat. When step 3 is complete, I put the lid on my pot, take it to the bathroom (make sure you shut the door) and wrap it carefully in the blanket. I set it on the counter and point the heater at it as directly as possible from a few feet away. Our heater has a temperature feature, so I set the temperature to 80. It turns on and off as needed to stay right around 80 degrees. That’s not the 90 we were going for, but it seems to help the yogurt retain its heat long enough to thicken.
Let it sit for 8-12 hours. I always do steps 1-4 at night so I can let it sit overnight.
Remove the blanket from the yogurt and stick the pot in the fridge for 2-3 hours. This will allow it to thicken some before you strain it if you want to, or before you eat it if you decide not to strain it.
Set your staining bag in a bowl and pour the yogurt in. This part can be messy. I always enlist my husband’s help. Tie the bag on a cupboard handle and let it hang over the bowl. Leave for 1-3 hours, checking for desired thickness after the first hour and then every 30 minutes. Keep in mind that it will be thicker at the bottom than at the top.
When it reaches the thickness you like, move it to whatever containers you’ll store it in. I find it easiest to just store it in a bowl with a lid, but I have stored it in glass jars. Mason jars or jars leftover from alfredo sauce work well. Don’t use salsa jars, at least not with the lid from the salsa. Just trust me on that one. Pro tip: if you want a regular lid for your mason jar, save a peanut butter jar lid! Just the small plastic ones. They fit a regular mason jar perfectly!
You can flavor it if you’d like. There are lots of ideas online. We like to leave it plain and let everyone flavor it in their own bowl. My kids like it plain with frozen blueberries and crushed graham crackers on top.
The whey can either be tossed or put in a jar or container. There are plenty of ways to use it! Check some out here.
Have you made homemade yogurt? What’s your favorite way to flavor it?