How to Make Homemade Yogurt

Photo by hollygon21

My kids and I eat homemade yogurt on almost a daily basis, and I am still here to tell you about it!
Homemade yogurt might seem overwhelming, or a little scary – you are culturing bacteria after all, but it really couldn’t be easier.  Plus it’s good for your wallet, it will definitely save you money, especially over buying the individual fruit flavored cups, and good for the earth because it saves on the processing and packaging of conventional yogurt.

I made my first batch of homemade yogurt just about a year ago, and I think I can count on one hand the number of times that I have bought yogurt since then.  Over the past year of making yogurt, I have come up with a few tips and tricks that help me to make the the best yogurt (in my humble opinion).

I’m sorry that I don’t have any of my own pictures.  I don’t usually think about taking pictures when I’m making, or eating for that matter, my homemade yogurt.

Easy Homemade Yogurt in the Crockpot

*Plug in a crockpot and turn on low.  It’s very important to do this first so you don’t forget, and so the crockpot is the right temperature when you’re ready to pour the milk in – can you tell I know this from experience?  

*Heat milk in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it reaches 190 degrees. (I use a candy thermometer I got at Meijer for $10). You can use whatever amount of milk you want – I usually do either 4 cups or 8 cups. You want to be careful not to let the milk burn on the bottom of the pan, and make sure it doesn’t boil over – so stir often and keep an eye on it.

Also, I have stopped checking the temperature during this step.  It’s just one less thing to have to do.  When the milk starts getting bubbly and frothy (or it boils over onto your stovetop) you know it’s done.

*Once milk reaches 190 (bubbling) remove from burner and run a sink half full of cold water.  Cover the pan and place into water in sink.  (This is kind of obvious, but make sure the water doesn’t go over the top of the pan, just part way up the sides.) You can add ice to the water as well, but I’ve found that it doesn’t really cool the milk down any faster, and that’s again one less thing to do.  Can you tell I’m all about simplifying steps here?!

*Let milk cool down, stirring occasionally.  Once milk has reached between 90 and 110 degrees (I’ve read different temps here, I usually do about 100 degrees), remove pan from water. 

*Put yogurt starter into a bowl (I use glass) and pour about a cup of the warm milk over it and stir together. Use 2 Tbsp of yogurt starter per 4 cups of milk. Meanwhile pour remaining milk into heated crockpot.  Pour milk and yogurt from bowl into the crockpot and stir it all together. 

*Put the lid on, turn off and unplug the crockpot and wrap a heavy towel around it.  Let sit for 6-10 hours. (I usually do around 8 hours).

*Place crockpot bowl in fridge to cool yogurt – this step is really important because it helps the yogurt to set better.  Since I started doing this my yogurt has been nice and thick and creamy.  If you don’t have room for your crockpot in your fridge, you can carefully ladle yogurt into containers and cool in the fridge.  Don’t stir too much, it needs to be disrupted as little as possible in order to set well. 

*Set aside about a 1/2 cup of yogurt to be used as yogurt starter for your next batch. 

A few more tips:
Your yogurt starter should be plain yogurt that specifically says “Live and Active Cultures” on the package.  I use Dannon, and have had success with both the regular (full fat) yogurt and the fat-free plain yogurt (that is all they sell in the small cups at my grocery store).

I use whole milk to make yogurt because we have switched to using all full fat dairy products.  But, I know that my sister uses 2% milk with good results, although she says it’s not as thick as when you use whole milk.

If you are having trouble with your milk burning on the bottom of the pan, turn your heat down.  It might take longer for the milk to heat up, but you should have less trouble with it burning.

It definitely depends on the price of your milk, but last year, I figured out that it cost me $1 to make 64 oz (8 cups) of yogurt, more than a $3 savings off Dannon plain yogurt on sale, and even greater savings compared to buying the individual fruit cups.

Our favorite ways to eat homemade yogurt are with a little raw honey and frozen fruit, usually blueberries, or topped with homemade granola.  Here is a great way to make your own fruit yogurt to-go cups, instead of buying the individual ones: just mix the frozen fruit and honey into the yogurt in a container with a lid, and the fruit will help to keep it cold but will have thawed out by the time you are ready to eat it.  Yum!

Have you considered making your own yogurt at home?  Do you have any questions about it?  

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This post is linked to:
Frugal Fridays at Life as Mom
Recipe Swap at Grocery Cart Challenge
Food on Fridays at Ann Kroeker

Comments

  1. Olivia says

    I've never made my own before, but I once visited a university in China where their university trade (most universities over there try to produce something to make money for the university–all the students are required to work a set amount of hours) was making yogurt. They made theirs from goats that they raised on campus. That was some of the best yogurt I ever tasted! I'm definitely saving this recipe to give it a try!
    suchakingdom.blogspot.com

  2. Ann Kroeker says

    I've read about making yogurt since I was in a vegetarian phase in high school, reading all kinds of healthy living books and baking my own bread.

    But I've never tried it.

    I'm a little scared.

    But my son and one daughter in particular really love yogurt, and I need to take in more calcium. Maybe now's the time to just go ahead and take the plunge?

  3. Debbie says

    I love homemade yogurt. I use a cooler to keep it warm instead of a crockpot, so I don't have to spend on electricity. I don't know if it's because of summer or what, but homemade yogurt seems to be in a lot of blogs lately. I've actually got my own how to post scheduled for next week :)

  4. livinginparadise says

    I have made my own yogurt in the crockpot as well. But I heated it in the crockpot with no transfering from stove to crockpot…one less step. :o) It just stays in the crockpot from start to finish. I used the recipe from the crock pot lady blog. It worked great!

  5. Jenica Cory says

    I may try this now that you have worked out all the kinks! I'll probably try and do a whole bunch at once and freeze some.

  6. Nikki says

    Thanks for sharing. I've been planning on trying to make my own yogurt. Now I have the incentive.

  7. Emily says

    So glad you all are so excited to try this – it really is so easy and so good!

    @Debbie – How do you keep it warm in a cooler? I'll have to check out your post next week to see how you do it.
    Also, I only use electricity to warm the crockpot up. Once the milk is in the crockpot you turn it off and unplug it, so it's not using electricity for the full 8 hours that it is "setting".

  8. Emily says

    @livinginparadise – I used to make yogurt completely in the crockpot the way the crockpot lady does, but I decided that this way worked better for me for two reasons. 1. I would often forget to put the milk in the crockpot with enough time for it to heat for 2 hrs, cool down for 2 hrs and then set for 8 hrs. I would wind up with yogurt that was done in the middle of the night. This way it only takes me 20-30 to get it ready to go in the crockpot so if I put it in at 2 in the afternoon, it's still okay.
    2. I think this method makes better yogurt, it's much thicker and creamier. The yogurt I made completely in the crockpot was always really runny.
    Just thought I'd let you know my reasonings for doing it this way! :)

  9. Queen of the House says

    I love the idea of homemade yogurt! I have been successful with homemade kefir, which is so easy and is great for smoothies and pancakes, etc. Thanks for the great tips! :)

  10. Kristy says

    I’ve wanted to make my own yogurt ever since I was a teen and my employer made her own. Thanks for a (seemingly) easy recipe! I have a question, though. My family will not eat plain yogurt, but will eat vanilla yogurt. Can I add vanilla when I add the starter, or would I have to add it after it sets?

    • Emily says

      Hi Kristy,
      I would not add the vanilla with the starter. I don’t know what that would do to the culturing milk. I have read of others stirring or blending in vanilla or fruit or sweeteners after the yogurt has set. I would think that would be the best way to try it. You’ll probably have to add some sweetener too, because store bought vanilla yogurt definitely has sweetener and not just vanilla added to it. My family would probably not eat just plain yogurt by itself either. We like to eat it with fruit, fresh or frozen, and honey mixed in. I, personally, have never tried adding vanilla to the yogurt. I’d love it if you would let me know how it works for you!
      ~Emily

  11. says

    Emily, What size crockpot do you use? I have a 7-quart crock pot, and wonder if this would affect the temperature. The recipies Ihave seen for crockpot yogurt have all been for 4-quart crocks. Thanks,

  12. JanaC2 says

    I have been using the crockpot method, but look forward to trying this recipe. As you mentioned, we have a problem with the final product being a bit runny…

  13. Andrea says

    What about Greek yogurt? Can you make it home made? This recipe sounds amazing. Will definitely try. Love your blog

    • Emily @ Live Renewed says

      Thanks Andrea! You can drain the yogurt through a cheese cloth or coffee filter, which will drain out most of the whey and leave you with a really thick, creamy Greek-like yogurt. Hope that helps! Let me know if you have other questions!
      ~Emily

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