Straining yogurt/photos by Donna Turner Ruhlman

Most weekday mornings I eat a bowl of homemade granola with a big dollop of homemade yogurt on top.  It’s hard to get over the amount of money you pay for granola at the store. Also, I find most granola too loaded with sugar; I don’t like it as sweet as it invariably is (here’s my strawberry-banana granola recipe). Yogurt is the same, both the quality and the cost make the home-prepared better and less expensive than what you can buy at the grocery store. Also, I want to make sure it’s got plenty of vigorous, gut-healthy bacteria.

I make a batch of yogurt about once every three weeks or so, using a spoonful of the previous batch to inoculate the fresh whole milk.

I usually make regular yogurt because I like the whey with the yogurt curds. But sometimes I want a thick creamy dense yogurt, usually referred to as Greek yogurt. Though I once made the Greek-style yogurt because we had a lot of milk right before a trip so I made the Greek style yogurt to preserve the milk (the reduced water content makes it more long-lasting).  See below slideshow for Greek-style yogurt pix.

You won’t always have a culture on hand, and will need to buy some to start your own. I recently used some Fage Greek yogurt. Read the ingredients list and make sure what you buy has an active culture.  Or you can also look for yogurt starter cultures.

Key points in making yogurt:

  • I’ve found the key to a solid, flavorful yogurt is to ferment it at about 104˚ F/40˚centigrade for 18 to 24 hours. I’m lucky to have a Sous Vide Supreme, which is perfect for this. But if you don’t, you can put your container in a pot of water and simply warm it up every now and then. I’ve also heated my oven to warm and stuck it in there. And in the summer I leave it in the sun all day.
  • An important step in ensuring a solid texture is heating the milk, which denatures the proteins and so helps the yogurt to set solidly.  Remember to let the yogurt cool after you bring it to a simmer.  Adding the culture to hot milk will kill the bacteria.
  • You can use 2% milk if you wish.  I prefer whole milk, but both will work.
  • Yogurt should keep for a month in the refrigerator.

Homemade yogurt

  • 3 or 4 cups/.750 to 1 liters milk
  • 1 tablespooon/15 grams yogurt with active bacteria, or yogurt start
  1. In a sauce pan over high heat, bring the milk to a just to a simmer, then remove it from the heat and allow it to cool to 110˚F/43˚ C or below.
  2. In a glass or other non-reactive container (I use a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup), combine the milk with the yogurt culture, stirring until the culture is completely incorporated into the milk.
  3. Cover with plastic wrap, and keep warm, ideally 104˚ F/40˚ C, for 18 to 24 hours (see post for suggestions on ways to do this), then refrigerate.
  4. For Greek yogurt, strain through an All-Strain cloth or cheesecloth for 8 to 12 hours.

Your yield should be slightly less than the amount of milk you began with.

 

If you liked this post on yogurt, check out these other links:

© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2011 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

 

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43 Wonderful responses to “Homemade Yogurt”

  • Sami

    I make my yogurt in a slow cooker. During the summer I freeze fruit when it is in season and then mix it all up in the fall, pack with my FoodSaver and refreeze. Then mix a handful frozen fruit in the fresh yogurt for a wonderful breakfast.

    • Celia

      That’s about what I do too. I rarely eat yogurt with anything but a little honey these days, but the slow cooker’s the way to go.

  • bbum

    104º; interesting — one of the lowest temps I’ve seen. Most recipes call for ~112º, under the assumption that the home cook won’t be able to regulate temperature precisely.

    After reading a few cellular biologist weblogs, I’ve been making yogurt at 122º. The biologist’s claim is that the bad critters really can’t reproduce above ~120º, but the good critters can survive up to ~125º. Thus, @122º, the good critters are less efficient while the bad critters simply cannot survive. The end result is 100% consistent yogurt with exceedingly little chance of off flavors produced by the bad critters.

    Interesting difference, too, in that I’m almost always starting with a Greek Yogurt live culture (a small container of the plain variety of whatever my favorite brand is at the moment or a spoonful of the previous batch, if my son doesn’t gobble it all up) and am producing a very consistently textured result with very little liquid and no need to strain.

    I wrote this up in detail at the end of http://www.friday.com/bbum/2010/11/04/precise-temperature-control-cooking-sous-vide-water-oven/. I need to add the links to the biologist’s site as it has a ton of information that is extremely useful at the intersection between precise temp cooking & microbiology.

    Not that I’m claiming 104º is wrong. If it works, it works!

  • Nancy

    You can also use some of your own homemade yogurt as a starter. I have read that it, over time, becomes less effective but I’ve never had a problem as a quart of yogurt gets eaten fairly quickly in my house. I was given a Salton 1 quart yogurt maker (a quart container – not the one with individual jars) a few years ago and it works great (note: Salton doesn’t appear to sell these any longer). Also, the Cuisipro yogurt cheese strainer is good and space-efficient (in the refrigerator) for straining yogurt.

    If you use lower fat milk, a couple of tablespoons of milk powder (not instant milk powder) added to the milk when you’re heating it up the first time will result in a thicker yogurt.

  • Mara

    Yum. I make my own yogurt, just started a few months ago. I have a gas oven, so the pilot keeps it a bit warm even when it’s off – I put my yogurt-in-process in there overnight and it keeps it at just the right temperature to be yummy in the morning!

    Also, I usually strain it to make Greek yogurt, but don’t toss that delicious whey after it’s strained out! My favorite use for it is to mix it with fruit juice (mango, guava and passion fruit are favorites) to make a drink similar to a lassi but not as heavy. That, and all the culinary uses for it of course.

    • Lauren

      I used goat milk and have found it to make a softer-set yogurt. It can also be a little goaty flavored depending on the milk. I get fresh raw milk, so if I make yogurt fast, it’s nice and if I wait a couple days then make yogurt it’s a little goaty. I like the more goaty stuff is savory applications.

  • Gabriel

    For those without fancy contraptions, a good insulated cooler (which most everyone has) works quite well. The trick is to use one that isn’t that much larger than what you’re using for your yogurt container (so that there’s not a lot of surface area left over) and to preheat the cooler so that it doesn’t absorb the heat from your yogurt batch; to do this, just fill it with hot water and let it sit while preparing your batch. Once your batch is ready to ferment, dump out the water, place the container in the cooler, and fill it back up with hot water (not over the top or you’ll risk getting water into your batch).

    I find the drink coolers work best as they are the same shape as mason jars (what I make my yogurt in) and the spigot makes it easy to drain off the water without jostling your batch if you need to add more hot water because it’s cooled too much.

  • Sami

    Michael, What do you do with the whey? I hate throwing it away but simply can’t seem to fit it into my routine.

    • SulaBlue

      The whey has SO many uses – including making lacto-fermented vegetables. A little bit of whey with active cultures in it added to homemade mayonnaise will give it a bit of tang, and also make it last longer.

  • Rainee

    Sami, You can knead the whey into doughs or add it to muffin batters

  • Michelle @ Turning Over a New Leaf

    I attempted making yogurt with goat milk, but it failed. Would the fact that the milk was ultra-pasteurized make a difference? I could have also gotten a bit impatient and added my culture while the milk was too hot.

    • jabbett

      Ultra-pasteurized milk cannot be used for making cheese, so I imagine the process kills it for yogurt, too. Ultra-pasteurization is only good for large manufacturers (extends pre-sale shelf life), no benefit to consumers. I will always choose a high-quality, local non-organic (and gently pasteurized) brand over ultra-pasteurized industrial organic.

  • Janna

    Those of you who use slow cookers – on low, warm? How long? Did you test the slow cooker’s temp somehow before you started using it for yogurt?

  • Paul C

    If you add a bit of salt and strain it for even longer you’ll get ( tightning up the cloth to squeeze out extra liquid ) you’ll get labne which basically a really soft cheese. You can then roll it into balls, fridgerate it for a few hours and then put the balls into a jar filled olive oil. keeps for ages.

    A good use of labne is Tzatziki, mix it with grated cucumber ( salted and strained to remove liquid ), garlic, lemon, olive oil, dill and a pinch of cayenne. Goes great on lamb.

  • rebeltruce

    What about using a dehydrator to keep at the correct temp…..I think I’ll be making a batch of yogurt this week!

  • John

    My understanding is that lactobacillus isn’t related to gut bacteria at all, and in fact is destroyed by the acidity in the stomach. Certainly the activa-style yoghurts have a different group than lacto. Any thoughts?

    • ruhlman

      I honestly don’t know, but people do put some stock in the fact that yogurt bacteria help. in india when you become ill, it’s customary to eat only yogurt until you’re feeling better. but i don’t know the science of gut bacteria.

  • Landen Bain

    I make kefir rather than yogurt, which makes at room temp. It comes out tangy and refreshing, but more liquid than yogurt. I’m going to take the suggestion to heat the milk to denature the protein to see if that firms it up a bit.

    Kefir makes delicious soft cheese when separated from the whey, which I use in bread dough.

    lb

  • Paul Kobulnicky

    Another reliable trick is to use a nice, glass, wide-mouth thermos. Put the yogurt and starter (at your preferred temp) right in to a pre-warmed thermos. Then, as they say on the TV ads, set it and forget it … for 24 hours.

  • Victoria

    I haven’t ever made yogurt, but lately I have been making homemade ricotta out of whole milk, buttermilk, and cream, and it is absolutely delicious. This yogurt is something I am definitely going to try soon.

  • subhorup dasgupta

    Not so sure that homemade yogurt will stay for up to a month in a refrigerator. I have tried keeping it in the container I set it in as well as in sealed jars. I find it going “martian” in about 2 weeks.

    In many parts of India, a meal is incomplete without a helping of yogurt. My favorite tweak is to spike the yogurt with a dash of tabasco or wasabi.

    @Paul C
    Thanks for the labne in olive oil and the tzatziki idea. I have to give it a try.

  • eric

    A great way to keep your yogurt at temp is to heat it in a dutch oven and then put it in an over-the-range microwave with the light on underneath. Same principle as Mara suggested earlier it’s a nice variation that works well.

  • Dee G

    Foolproof method – I heat and cool the milk in a 3 quart heavy pot and then place it on a heating pad set to medium for 7 hours. Into the fridge overnight then strain it. Strain it thick enough to be cream cheese consistency and then mix it with tahini for a spectacular dip.

    Re: whey – you can also use it to jump start lacto-fermented pickles (2 tbs. per quart and you can cut back on the salt a bit.) It acts as a natural preservative in things like hummus if you mix it in and let it sit at room temperature for a day or two.

  • allen

    I made a 2 liter Pyrex bowl in the oven at 104c on a large pizza stone to retain the heat, turning the oven on and off twice in 24hrs after reaching temperature. So easy, the yogurt came out great.
    I strained it with a weight on top for 24 hrs, added salt and covered with a fabulous Australian olive oil.

    I thought it was a waist of time when I saw how much yield there was after rendering the whey – until I took my first bite. Wow!
    I had a Tbsp over a fresh tomato slice with a drip of olive oil and some dried garden oregano, mint and a little black pepper. Thank you for the great post and inspiration.

  • Terrie

    I have homemade yogurt for breakfast most mornings. I like to strain it until it’s nice and thick, then I put it in individual serving size containers. In the morning, I add a spoonful of homemade jam and I’m good to go.
    We use the whey in bread and smoothies or in the garden to add acid to the soil.

  • Casey La Rue

    I’ve always despised yogurt but my kids like it so made your recipe today. Came out nice but still not for me.
    What is the microbial process? do you know what precisely the active cultures need to turn milk into yogurt? I suppose its not a fat/protein ratio if skim or 2% will work. Wanting to try coconut milk yogurt but need to do some studying.
    Thanks for the ideas!

  • Mitchell Webster

    Having grown up Old Order Mennonite, I well remember yogurt being made a gallon at a time, I have been buying yogurt for years and want to start making my own again (I know what is in it ) this way. I am so glad that I subscribed to your blog years ago, and right here in front of me it the recipe I wanted when I needed it. Thanks Michael.

  • KellyC

    At some times of the year I don’t eat up my yogurt as quickly as others and I wasn’t sure if my end of the batch yogurt would make a reliable starter so I started freezing 1/3 cup portions of my freshest yogurt or if I have to buy a starter I split it into parts and freeze it. Then I let my starter thaw in the fridge the day I’m planning to make yogurt. I have found my starter is not weakening with this method and I always have a starter even if I haven’t made yogurt in a while.

  • Darcie

    If the milk is already pasteurized, can you explain why you need to heat it up again past the incubation temperature?

  • Andy

    This is perfect as I won a CVap oven at this year’s Starchefs ICC and have been playing with it in different applications. I will try this today and eat the results tomorrow. Should go great with my modification of your granola recipe which I have been making and eating for the past two years. Thanks for the motivation.

  • Taylor

    THANK YOU MIKE! (Can I call you Mike? F* it, Mike it is.)

    I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay and there is a serious shortage of good dairy products here. Don’t even get me started on the issue of cheese. Prior to leaving, I too generally ate yogurt every morning, but the yogurt in Paraguay is super sugary and shamefully drinkable. I’ve been draining the drinkable yogurt to make it at least a little better, but it still is really too sweet and not very yogurty tasting.

    I just used this post to guide my own yogurt making endeavor and it turned out great. I clearly didn’t have an immersion circulator to sous-vide my yogurt, but I did have a hot sunny day. I put my yogurt in the sun all day to come back to super delicious yogurt that I then strained all night. I now am enjoying a wonderful breakfast.

    Thank you so much for helping this Peace Corps Volunteer have a little taste of home, when she really needed it.

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