Homemade Yogurt

Homemade yogurt is a staple in our home.   Easy to prepare, inexpensive, delicious and nourishing, we manage to go through about a half-gallon of fresh, homemade yogurt each week.   A probiotic food, homemade yogurt contains live beneficial bacteria that help to colonize the gut with microbiota that are essential to the proper functioning of your immune system, digestion and the ability of your body to manufacture critical nutrients.

Homemade Yogurt: Rich in Beneficial Bacteria & Nutrients

In addition to a wealth of beneficial bacteria, homemade yogurt is also rich in other nutrients.   The process of lactic acid fermentation allows beneficial bacteria to metabolize lactose – a sugar naturally present in milk.   The end result of this process results in a dairy product that is lower in carbohydrates and higher in b vitamins including folic acid than regular whole milk.   Furthermore, many people who find they’re intolerant or sensitive to lactose find that they can eat yogurt and other cultured dairy foods without much reaction.   Theories behind this phenomenon vary.   Reduced lactose content coupled with the solidity of the milk product may both contribute to increased digestibility of yogurt and other cultured dairy foods.

Thermophilic Homemade Yogurt & Mesophilic Homemade Yogurt

Homemade yogurt can be either thermophilic or mesophilic.   That is, homemade yogurt is cultured either in a warm, heated environment (thermophilic) or a room temperature environment (mesophilic).   The yogurts you’re accustomed to eating are usually thermophilic yogurts; however, room temperature yogurt presents an easy-to-prepare alternative with many variations in texture and flavor.   For instance, piimä is a homemade Scandinavian yogurt with a runny texture and almost cheesy flavor while viili, another homemade yogurt cultured at room temperature, is mildly sweet and gelatinous.

Learn More about Mesophilic & Thermophilic Yogurts

homemade yogurt

By Jenny Published: August 25, 2009

  • Yield: 1 quart

Homemade yogurt is a staple in our home.   Easy to prepare, inexpensive, delicious and nourishing, we manage to go through about a …

Ingredients

  • 1 Quart Whole Milk (Raw preferred.)
  • ¼ Cup Starter Culture of Your Choice

Instructions

  1. If using pasteurized milk, scald milk briefly and then cool until it reaches blood temperature (about a ½ hour in the refrigerator).
  2. If using raw milk, bring milk to blood temperature slowly over a low flame. This step isn’t critical, mind you, but it is helpful.
  3. Mix in your yogurt starter with the milk. Take care to mix thoroughly, but smoothly. You want neither large glops of yogurt starter nor a fully whisked mixture as either can cause poor results in the finished version of your homemade yogurt.
  4. If using a mesophilic or room temperature yogurt, simply pour the mixture into a quart-sized jar, cap and leave on your counter for approximately 1 day or until the mixture cleanly breaks from the side of the jar when tilted.
  5. If using a thermophilic yogurt starter like a few spoonfuls of a plain, live culture yogurt purchased at the store, pour the yogurt starter – milk mixture into your yogurt maker or pre-warmed thermos and culture in this slightly heated environment for approximately 12 hours or longer for a tarter yogurt.

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What people are saying

  1. says

    I love how easy it is to make yogurt at home. And it’s much more affordable to make yogurt from organic milk than to buy organic yogurt.

    • Big Dave says

      Be careful to make sure the milk you buy is not ULTRA-pasteurized. Under this system, virtually everything alive in the milk is killed, and it will not work to make yogurt.

  2. Darren says

    Hi
    I recently bought several cultures (Viili, Piima, Matsoni, Fil Mjolk) and am finding it tricky.
    I’m trying to maintain a separate starter culture using pasteurised milk, then to use raw milk for the stuff I eat. So far I’m just making a starter but it seems to be thin as milk one minute, then curds and whey the next. Do Mesophilic yogurts thicken much in your experience? Also, do you culture with a lid on as I thought you had to have some airflow?
    Thanks for the time and effort you put into your blog – I always find it entertaining and informative.
    Darren.

  3. Jenny says

    Julie –
    I’ve never tried it in the crockpot, but I’ve heard great things.

    Darren –
    I find that mesophilic yogurts thicken depending on the type of starter used. Piima, for instance, is usually pretty thin but viili tends to become almost ropy and matsoni is syrupy. Raw milk yogurt tends to be much thinner than yogurts made from scalded or pasteurized milks. Food enzymes naturally present in raw milk which are neutralized by heat cause this effect. I do culture with the lid on – but LOOSELY applied. Other folks have success by simply covering with a cheese or butter cloth. Good luck!

  4. Darren says

    Jenny –
    Thanks for replying. I’m sure practice will make perfect, but it helps to have an idea what’s normal. Once I get the hang of it I’ll try using at least a quarter cream which should make for a thicker yogurt.
    Best wishes to you, Darren.

  5. says

    Love homemade yogurt. I have a half gallon going in the crockpot right now. Yogurt has taken the place of ice cream as our evening snack when topped with banana and pecan and then drizzled with honey. Yum!

  6. Gayle says

    Hi:

    Can yogurt be over cultured? What would happen if I used a hand mixer to mix the starter into the raw milk?

    Thank You For Your Help!
    Gayle

  7. Jenny says

    Gayle -

    Yogurt can definitely be over-cultured.  Indeed, if you let it culture for too long you the yogurt will become separated and unpalatably sour.  Similarly, I wouldn’t use a hand mixture as it will overaerate the yogurt and mi it to quickly.  All you really need is a simple sand gentle stirring to make yogurt correctly. 

     

    Take Care -

    Jenny

  8. Emily says

    Jenny,

    What’s your preferred starter? I want to try for the first time with raw goat milk. I’m thinking of the Matsoni starter from culturesforhealth. If you go through 1/2 gallon a week, I know yours is great and want to just do the same thing :)

    Thanks!
    Emily

  9. Jenny says

    Hi Emily -

    I LOVE matsoni; it’s definitely our primary yogurt starter. It is mild and exceptionally versatile.  Plus, it makes a fantastic yogurt cheese.  I also care very much for piima (which is my son’s favorite).  I’d recommend anything from Cultures for Health, though.  Julie is so on top of everything and she is a pleasure to work with.

    - Jenny

  10. Lori says

    What can I do with the milk if my yogurt batch fails? I believe it got too hot or the starter wasn’t well mixed. While I have had many successful batches, this one didn’t make it. I hate to waste 4 cups of expensive organic milk, but it was unrefrigerated for 12+ hours. Do I have to trash it? Any advice out there?

  11. Jenny says

    Lori -

    As long as your yogurt is not *funky* and obviously contaminated by molds or other off-putting bugs, you can use it for soaking grains or in cooking.  Does it smell pleasantly sour, like yogurt should?  Then it’s probably okay. 

    - Jenny

     

    • Matt says

      Try using the low temp. setting to heat the milk to 180 deg. Then let cool to 100 deg. and mix in the starter. I use a candy thermometer to keep an eye on the temp. and turn it off when it gets to 105 and turn it back on when it drops down to 100.

  12. Roseann Fisher says

    I was reading on another website that cultured buttermilk can be used as a mesophilic starter, so that’s what I’m using. I culture the buttermilk left over from making my own butter from the cream that comes straight from my herd of Jersey cows.
    Thank you so much for this website and the wealth of info contained here. As an 8 year cancer survivor, I’ve adopted a more healthy way of life and of eating and your website has certainly contributed a lot.

  13. Jamie says

    Hi,
    I was wondering if anyone could give me some advice on a yogurt starter? I picked up one called Yogourmet freeze-dried yogurt starter from the store, but not sure if that is a good one…I saw in another post that there are several different kinds of yogurt…does the starter used determine which type you will end up with?
    Thanks for any help!

  14. Donna4843 says

    First time I made it,fine. But this time it was runny(used oven after making bread overnight method) so I turned the oven on 170 for some hours and then left it out and forgot it over night. It thickened up and I see whey ,smells ok…so can I use it or will it make me sick?

  15. Sandy Smart says

    I made a batch of yogurt with raw milk last night and left it in the dehydrator for about 13 hours. The dehydrator turned off in the night so it was sitting for a few hours at room temp. When I looked at it this morn it is completely separated with about half liquid on top and half yogurt on the bottom and stirring it doesn’t seem to help much. Is this batch ruined? Where did I go wrong? The last time I made yogurt the same way it was great… Thanks

  16. Sandy Smart says

    If this batch is ruined can I salvage what’s left in any way? Use the whey for fermenting, use the bottom for anything? thanks

  17. Kelly says

    Hi Jenny, I’m very new to cooking with ‘whole foods’. Can you tell me what a starter culture is and where I might be able to get one? Is Kefir yoghurt the same. Thanks. Kelly

  18. Lindsay Long says

    In your response to a previous question you stated that yogurt can be over cultured resulting in unpalatable flavor & separation. Are there, however, any health concerns? I’ve accidently cultured a batch nearly 24 hours & have not sampled it because I was afraid it could make me sick. At the same time, I don’t want to just toss it out if it is in fact safe to eat & suits my palate. Your advice please.

  19. Oscar says

    Hi,

    Found your site and enjoy the information.

    I’ve been making yogurt for 20 years (approx)

    First – How I do it.
    I just buy milk and use some yogurt from the previous batch as the starter. I make a gallon at a time and lasts me a month. Just my own use.
    Heat the milk to scalding. 180 to 200 degrees. Cool to 105 degrees. Mix a cup or so of the milk with the starter and stir back into the rest of the milk. Pour into jars. I like pint jars but many times run short and use jelly jars. A 1/2 pint jar is ideal for the starter amount so I generally make at least 1 or 2 1/2 pints.
    I made a heater for my oven. It is essentially a trough warmer for farm animals to keep the water thawed in winter. (buy at a farm supply) Get one with an adjustable thermostat. I set it to 104 degrees against a digital thermometer and super glued the adjuster in place so the temp will never change. I put this in the bottom of the oven and run the cord across the stove top and plug it in. (important to have the cord very noticeable so you don’t turn the oven on) Set the jars on the rack(s), close the oven door and let it go.

    There is a routine for me. 8 PM heat the milk. That takes 20 minutes. (gallon) Let it cool till 11 PM. Stir in the starter. Pour into jars. Place in oven. Plug in the heater. The yogurt is done in the morning when I rise. I let it cool a while before putting in the fridge. (conserving electricity)

    I recently bought an induction cooktop and found that the pot no longer has the carmelized layer on the bottom of the pot to scrape out. It doesn’t save any time but it does save on the electricity. (there is no red hot burner under the pot to carmelize the milk – love it)

    If I don’t keep up with the gallon a month I will buy a 99 cent plain live culture yogurt at the store. Different brands have variations on the flavor and texture. Cobani – I don’t care for the texture. I like mine creamier I guess. One could buy a variety of single serves and find what is best for your palate.

    I don’t do anything extravagant, just make a batch a month.

    I hope there are some ideas you can use to make yogurt easy.

  20. Sheryl says

    So I have always been curious about making my own. I have access to both goat & cow raw milk but prefer goat just because of my stomach. I can buy a live culture yogurt from a health food store. Can I use that as a starter. I would rather do the kind where you don’t heat the milk. Thanks in advance I appreciate it

  21. NW Juliana says

    I disagree (based on experience) with this part of the instructions:

    “Mix in your yogurt starter with the milk. Take care to mix thoroughly, but smoothly. You want neither large glops of yogurt starter nor a fully whisked mixture as either can cause poor results in the finished version of your homemade yogurt.”

    I think it’s the NOT stirring once I add the warm milk on top of the starter in the bottom of my quart jars that has given me the consistently thick (throughout the jar, not just at the bottom) yogurt that I get. My yogurt is not runny at all; you can scoop it with a spoon and turn sideways and it doesn’t fall right off. It’s a glop on the spoon. I think stirring the starter creates a thinner yogurt. I should test that, but don’t want to have thin yogurt again, LOL. I think this (not stirring) and scalding the equipment/containers both work to create a thicker product.

  22. NW Juliana says

    Sheryl, I’ve tried to make yogurt twice with our raw goat milk. It always tastes awful (and we have good-tasting, sweet raw goat milk for drinking). I don’t know why, scientifically, but I imagine there’s just something about it sitting for so long at warm/room temperatures. I’ve not had access to raw cow’s milk, so use non-ultra pasteurized organic cow’s milk from the store.

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