In the Kitchen : : Homemade Yogurt Tutorial

Update! I rewrote my yogurt tutorial in 2016 with tips and tricks to make your yogurt even thicker. You can find it here.

Did you try the butter or tortilla tutorial I recently posted? If not, maybe this one is more your pace. Yogurt. One of the easiest and most common fermented foods. And the cost is about half that of store-bought yogurt.

This recipe is nearly foolproof yogurt every time. No special equipment needed. Making yogurt is ridiculously easy. We make it three times a week.


 Homemade Yogurt Tutorial

1 Quart milk (raw is awesome but store-bought works great, too)

1 Tb yogurt culture (details on lively yogurt cultures are below)

Cooler, oven, heating pad or yogurt maker

Kitchen thermometer (optional)


Step 1: Heat

Warm 1 Qt of milk over medium-low heat until it is about to simmer. A skin will form on the top. Stir it in (my method) or lift it off (Pete's choice). If you are using a thermometer heat to 180 F/82 C.

Why heat? Heating the milk to nearly boiling kills anything living in your milk and gives the yogurt an unpopulated place to grow and thrive.

Remove from heat.


Step 2: Cool

Transfer your still hot (but not jar-breakingly hot) milk to a clean wide mouth quart jar. I do this little by little to ensure I don't crack my jar. Pour, swirl, wait. Pour, swirl, wait. Then pour the rest in.

Allow to cool until it feels warm but not hot to the touch (if you are using a thermometer it will be between 108 F – 110 F (42 – 43 C).) Cool adequately so that you don't kill your culture.


Step 3: Culture

Add 1 Tb of unflavored live yogurt.

How do you source good yogurt? Look local. Do you have a friend who makes yogurt? Ask for a bit. Is there a local or regional brand at your coop or grocery store? Try a small cup. Always choose unflavored yogurt because the sugars in sweetened yogurt weakens the culture and doesn't result in thick yogurt.

Blend the yogurt into a small bowl of milk or add to the jar and shake well (really well) to incorporate. Don't add extra. In yogurt making less is definitely more. I've experimented with different quantities for years, but only after reading Wild Fermentation did I find this perfect quantity. Our yogurt is now amazingly thick thanks to this minimal quantity of culture.


Step 4: Insulate

Place your quart jar in one of three places:

A. A cooler filled half way with very warm water. This method requires a bit of monitoring. Check the water temp a couple of times. Is it still warm? If not carefully scoop some out and replace with hot water.

B. A warm oven. Turn on your pilot light and place jar inside. This is our preferred method. We make yogurt in 1/2 gallon jars this way frequently.

C. A yogurt maker. There are styles with little glass cups that you can find second hand, or newer versions like the one above. I bought this one on Ebay for $8 including shipping. Score. In essence a yogurt maker adds heat and insulates to keep your yogurt warm while it cultures.

D. Heating pad on low heat. This can be tricky if your heating pad gets too hot, but can work beautifully. Place heating pat in the bottom of a cooler and cover with a thick towel. Set to low and place yogurt on top. Cover.


Step 5: Wait

Let your yogurt culture undisturbed for 4 – 12 hours. Four makes for mild, thick yogurt and the full 12 hours creates a more sour yogurt with no residual milk sugars – great for people sensitive to such things. Don't jostle your yogurt while it cultures or it will be thin and disappointing.

Step 6: Chill

Cool your yogurt before you scoop it out or it will separate a bit. My kids love warm yogurt and we use whey for lots of other things, so we sometimes scoop while warm, but if you want your yogurt to not separate pop it in the fridge for an hour.


Step 7: Enjoy!

Fill a bowl with your homemade yogurt, some fresh fruit, granola, or a drizzle of maple syrup. This yogurt is so good that I ate two bowls while writing this. Really.



39 thoughts on “In the Kitchen : : Homemade Yogurt Tutorial

  1. Jody says:

    I’ve made yogurt for a long time and never knew using less culture is one of the keys to making it thick! Thanks for the tip!

  2. Mary Jo, Five Green Acres says:

    Yeah – I second that ‘less is more’ tip.
    I make our yogurt after baking bread. I let the oven mostly cool, then set the jar in the oven on top of the bread stones, which have retained some heat, and let it culture overnight. It’s been pretty foolproof for me! Even more so now, if I don’t add so much culture.

  3. denise says:

    do you really make it three times a week? wow! we make it about every other week or so, but make a few gallons at a time…and use some for yogurt cheese. great pix!

  4. Denise says:

    Hey there lady – I love your little sugar bowl and friend that are peeking in at us in the photos – making sure everything is just right : )

  5. Denise says:

    Oh, and I discovered a new place to make our yogurt today – on the fireplace mantel near (but not too near) the heat vents!

  6. Anna says:

    Yum – I just started making my own, and I’ll have to try using less culture. I’ve been using two tablespoons, but it hasn’t always turned out perfectly.

    I’ve started putting my milk in my jar, and then placing the jar in a pot of water to scald – that way I don’t have to transfer any liquid.

    And then to heat, I’ve been putting the jar into my slowcooker filled with water. It takes some monitoring, as even on low my slowcooker gets to warm, but as long as I check it every hour and turn it off for while, it keeps it at a fine temp.

  7. Wendy says:

    We use Mason jars to make ours too. But then again, I use Mason jars for just about everything.

    We actually make our yogurt in a dehydrator (lidded, it doesn’t actually dehydrate, but just stays the perfect temperature) and I’ve heard of some people making it in a crock pot, which now that I read the post above, I see that Anna also does.

  8. Rachel Wolf says:

    We eat insane quantities of yogurt around here. Mostly Sage. He eats two bowls a day and then we make smoothies. Three times a week unless I do it a half-gallon or gallon at a time!

  9. Rachel Wolf says:

    The slowcooker is a great idea. How hot does your milk get scalding it in the jar? If it isnt reaching 180 F that may be why youve had spotty results. We use raw milk and for a while I wasnt heating it fully – just to 110 F or so. My yogurt was very thin. Happy yogurting…

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  10. Charmaine says:

    I’ve used the starter from the pouch before, never other yogurt, but am curious to give that a shot. I have to say the little jars are kind of a pain, I much prefer making in larger containers. Thanks for the tips, Rachel!

  11. Rachel Wolf says:

    I have better luck with a good local yogurt than the starter, but have certainly used the starter as well. And Im with you, Charmaine. The little containers equate more dishes around here so we moved up to the larger jar.

  12. Lisa says:

    I just made yogurt in my crock pot. I found a few tutorials on-line. It is a little thin, but it smells and tastes like plain yogurt. I will have to see if the kids like it after it cools in the fridge.

  13. Anna says:

    I do open the jar and check the temp of the milk while scalding, so it does get up to 180 degrees.

    But I’m definitely going to try less starter next time, that’s a great tip!

  14. Jillian says:

    What about using coconut milk instead of dairy? I see the VFC is carrying larger containers, by this I mean larger than individual cups, of plain coconut milk yogurt, although I’m not sure if they’re live or not. I’d love to make homemade yogurt, but half the family is casein-sensitive. Any thoughts?

  15. Jillian says:

    We’ve tried raw milk, but not to see if we could handle the casein. I was the only one who liked the taste, but I didn’t drink much of it because Serai was just a baby and SUPER sensitive to even the tiniest amount of dairy I ate. However, I had a thought on using dairy for yogurt. That film that forms on the top is the casein. So if I skim that off, then I’m, at the very least, significantly reducing the amount of casein in it. Breckin and Serai are slowly outgrowing their sensitivity, so I may just try it.

  16. Jillian says:

    Ok, that was a bit of a brain fart…lol. When you heat butter, the film on the top is the casein. So maybe I should be ASKING, when you heat milk, it is the casein that forms the film at the top?

  17. Rachel Wolf says:

    Gosh… I dont know much about the casein. Let me know if you find an answer! There is also the new naturopath in town who might be super helpful. Just a thought…

  18. Rachel Wolf says:

    Ha! I just popped onto my computer to shut it down for the night and saw your note. I came from the kitchen where I was just… MAKING YOGURT! See – it is meant to be. Go to it!

  19. Valerie says:

    I am SO excited! Just made my second batch of homemade yogurt and it’s perfect! I made the first quart in the yogurt maker, and 2 days later made 2 qts in mason jars cultured in my crock pot crock – full of warm water – in the oven with a warm pizza stone. The good news is that even tho I forgot about the second batch til this morning (12 hrs later), its still delish! My 7 yo ADHD grandson lives with us, so I’m just thrilled with the ability to control ingredients ( = limit sugar, w/o artifical sweeteners) AND the savings compared to fage greek yogurt is huge!!! The fact that my boy loves it and thinks its very cool that we can make our own is a big bonus 🙂 Thank you for making the whole scary process seem so achievable…I probly would never have tried it without your “you can do this….so not a big deal” post!!!

  20. Jeanine says:

    So glad you linked back to this post. I make my own yogurt but struggle constantly with where to keep the yogurt while it’s ‘doing its thing.’ Any place out and about has been off limits the past two years because of my 2.5 year old. Mischievous is the word I’ll state here. And in our oven isn’t consistently warm enough so i try to remember to turn on our propane stove and then shut it off a few minutes later but I keep ruining batches with that attempt. And the crockpot on warm stays too warm. I noticed the yogurt maker you showed there and am off to scour ebay. I can’t get myself to purchase another kitchen contraption, and yet we eat so much yogurt each week it’s insane. Anyhow, thanks for the wonderful tutorial. I love peeking into others homes and kitchens for new ideas and perspectives.

  21. Jean says:

    We eat so much yogurt in my household and is often the reason we run to the grocery store. I just bought starter the other day while feeling inspired but am curious now how a scoop of our usual Nancy’s would turn out.

    I was very excited to find your blog, especially since I knew you as a small child from my Brookside days. I vividly remember playing over at your house and eating popcorn out of wooden bowls. It is amazing what and how much we can remember from our childhood and sometimes how little we can recall from our recent adult years.

  22. Rachel Wolf says:

    Jean! Oh my goodness. I remember you switched schools or moved away and gave me a set of tiny hello kitty pencils as a goodbye gift. For years my name was Jean in every make believe game. You must have made a good impression. 🙂 Such a lovely surprise to see you here!

    As for the yogurt, Ive used Nancys before and had great results. Just be sure it is unsweetened as sweet yogurt is not as active.

    Lovely to hear from you!


  23. Rachel Wolf says:

    I would just add 4 Tb for a gallon. One thing I have noticed though is that the larger the jar the more whey will separate out. I suspect it is because whey separates when you disturb it (stir, scoop, etc). So that is something to keep in mind. I still do mine normally in 1/2 gallon jars.

  24. Renee' says:

    When I make yogurt I wrap it in a thick towel while warm and stick in the closet. I usually make it before I go to bed so that when I wake up in the morning there is a fresh batch of yogurt.

  25. Jess says:

    i just made yogurt last night with your recipe and had it for breakfast the morning. It was awesome! I just bought my first gallon of raw milk this weekend and used that and it is the best yogurt I’ve ever had!

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