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How To Make Yogurt

by: Jill Richardson

Wed May 06, 2009 at 12:00:00 PM PDT

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I made yogurt! It was my 2nd try and this time it worked! Wow! And it's delicious. As you can see here, two out of three yogurt experts say that homemade yogurt is awesome:

The third yogurt expert says "Never mind yogurt, I want to go outside." To be fair, she's my picky eater and turns her nose up to all kinds of kitty treats, including tuna.

Reasons for making your own yogurt include:
1. It's cheaper than buying it.
2. You no longer generate plastic waste from yogurt containers when you make it and store it in reusable glass bottles that you personally re-use.
3. It tastes great.
4. You're in total control over the ingredients that go into the yogurt.
5. It's really, really easy.

Jill Richardson :: How To Make Yogurt
Last time I used a recipe that, well... didn't work out. Part of the problem is that I didn't know what to expect, so when I discovered my totally-not-yogurt result (a.k.a. spoiled milk), I wasn't sure if I had succeeded or failed. After all, the recipe said the resulting yogurt might be runny and lumpy. Was my runny and lumpy result yogurt? Turns out it wasn't.

One of two things happened the first time around. Either the yogurt I used to introduce the live cultures into my milk did not have any live cultures OR I did not keep my yogurt-to-be at the right temperatures so that the live cultures couldn't do their job. Either way, it was a total failure. So here's what I did this time.

Ingredients: Yogurt starter + milk
Equipment: Saucepan, thermometer, ladle, mason jars.

1. Preheat the oven to 200F. You can also just use the warm oven that results from baking something else. In my case, I had been making jam and that required heating the jars to 200F in the oven before filling them with jam so the oven was already heated.

2. Heat 1 quart + 1 cup of milk to 180F.
You can use whatever quantity you want but here's my rationale. Lately when I buy a half gallon of milk (2 quarts), it goes bad before I can use it all. So if I use about half of it for yogurt, then I can drink the rest in my coffee before it goes bad. I made 1 quart to eat as yogurt, and 1 cup to use as yogurt starter in the NEXT batch of yogurt.

3. Cool the milk to 108F-112F. Just let it sit and stir it every so often.

4. Mix in the yogurt starter.
You can use yogurt instead of yogurt starter if you want.

5. Ladle the yogurt into mason jars. Do NOT put the lids on.

6. Turn the oven off.

7. Put the uncovered mason jars in the oven.
Check the clock as you do this. Your jars need to stay in the oven for 4 hours.

8. Heat up 1 quart of water in a kettle.
It doesn't have to be boiling. You're not making tea. But heat it to hotter than 112F.

9. Fill an empty mason jar with the hot water. You can put the lid on this one. (As noted in the comments, don't tighten the lid too much because it will be VERY hard to get off once the water cools.)

10. Put your jar of hot water in the oven with your yogurt-to-be. Once the temp of the oven starts to go down, your hot water will keep things nice and toasty.

11. And... that's it! You're done. In four hours, you've got yogurt. At the halfway point, I turned the oven on again (I set it to 200F) and let it heat up for a few minutes. Then I turned it off. You REALLY don't want to heat it too much and kill your cultures, but liquids heat up very slowly and the air in your oven does not conduct heat very quickly. So the odds are on your side. Still, the guesswork involved here makes me think that perhaps I should invest in a yogurt maker that will keep the temp constant for me.

12. After four hours, put the yogurt in the fridge. At this point, I put the lids on my mason jars.

And the result:

That's my 1 quart jar AFTER I ate some of the yogurt. It was full when I took it out of the oven.

You know how the instructions I read the first time around warned me that my resulting yogurt might be runny and lumpy? Well, sure, this was a bit lumpier than creamy smooth store bought yogurt. But it STILL looked like yogurt. And it tasted like yogurt. I am sure I could have bothered with straining it through a cheesecloth to remove the whey if I had wanted to, but it tasted just fine as it is. It tasted like yogurt. In fact, it tasted so much like yogurt that my cat Molly (the tabby) could barely contain her excitement while I ate my first bowl of it because she knows that she gets her turn after I'm done. I guess the lesson here is: When in doubt, trust the cat.

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How To Make Yogurt | 29 comments
I love this! I used to make my own yogurt (4.00 / 6)
back when those yogurt makers that make four one-cup servings were all the rage. (I bought two at thrift stores back around 1980 or so.) These instructions look pretty straightforward. I might have to go order an extra half gallon of milk and an oven thermometer next week and see what happens.

Let me make one minor addition to your instructions, though. You can bypass the yogurt starter by using plain, non-flavored yogurt off the shelf from the store. If you do this, though, make sure you're careful about the kind you get. You definitely do not want flavored yogurt, and you should avoid the kind that's had gelatin or some other stabilizer added. You want pure, 100% yogurt with active cultures. I think I used to buy Dannon for the purpose, although these days there are lots of organic and other unprocessed yogurts that will work as well.

Also, I'm not sure what to do about the whey. I would think you could just whip it back into the yogurt proper, which might also break up the lumps, but I'm not sure. I do remember that I once tried putting a cup or two of my homemade yogurt in some cheesecloth and draining it for a day or two in order to try to make yogurt cheese. I was pretty underwhelmed by what came out; there were only a couple of tablespoons or so of the finished product, not even enough to do justice to a bagel, I don't think. I'll have to try that too one of these days.

I have succumbed to the Twitter craze. @Omir55

Oh, about that mason jar of water . . . (4.00 / 5)
You might want to be careful about the lid. The hotter you heat the water, the harder the lid will be to get off once the water cools. Vacuum seal and all that. :)

I have succumbed to the Twitter craze. @Omir55

I've found that holding the lids (4.00 / 4)
under hot water (the water from my tap is pretty darn hot!) makes them loosen right up. I have the tight lid issue with some of my canned goods.

[ Parent ]
uh, yeah, I found that out (4.00 / 4)
the hard way. Of course.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
I thought I was going to crack (4.00 / 5)
some of my jar tops trying to get the lid off. I kept setting them aside in frustration until I remembered the hot water solution. It mostly happened with my canned tomatoes for some reason. Perhaps I was heavy handed with the lids since I did them all around the same time period? I'm just thankful my brain worked and I remembered because the lid grip they give you was what was making me think I was going to crunch up the glass under the lid. {note to self: work out the problem before massive canning this year}

[ Parent ]
I would just boil the water in a teapot or saucepan (4.00 / 1)
and put the teapot in the oven.

[ Parent ]
ok youre totally right (4.00 / 1)
will do NEXT time :)

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
That's too cool! (4.00 / 5)
I can't do yogurt, Harold's deathly allergic to it. I want to start making cheese. I think I have a line on milk I can get locally. I really want jersy milk, but I think that dairy is already selling everything they produce. There are a couple of goat producers/dairies in my Mulino CSA Network, and I want to buy some of their milk for cheese making, but I want some jersy milk for butter making. I've read about sepperating goats milk, cow milk is much easier.....

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....

awesome! (4.00 / 5)
I've been contemplating making my own, since often the kind I buy goes bad, plus it seems like a good use for some of the fresh fruit coming my way courtesy of summer.

my question tho is how do you sweeten it?  I like my yogurt sweet, altho not as sweet as yoplait - that stuff's like a dessert once you've been eating the organic kind.

I mean, I know i could stir in some honey and fruit, but I really don't love the taste of honey, and I don't think adding a tablespoon of sugar and stirring is quite the right solution.  (maybe it is tho?)

also, i'm concerned that adding sugar and fruit will make my yogurt runny, and I really like a thicker yogurt.

any ideas??

Awesome diary, Jill.  Thanks!

Rather than stirring in the fruit (4.00 / 5)
you might try just sprinkling sliced/diced fruit on the top rather than mixing it in, and sprinkle more on as you eat. I don't really remember the results of any experiments I might have done with my own version, except that I would occasionally put a tablespoon of honey at the bottom of my cup o' yogurt, which you said you don't want to do.

I have succumbed to the Twitter craze. @Omir55

[ Parent ]
Oh, me too! (4.00 / 5)
I thought I was the only one around here -

but I really don't love the taste of honey

Honey, meh...


[ Parent ]
Ooooo. (4.00 / 6)
I take umberage to that comment. I love fireweed honey.

I wonder if you could use a simple syrup to flavor the yogurt? How about molassas or sorghum? Can you still get sorghum? I know you can still grow your own, press it and boil it, but I can't remember if I've ever seen it at the store.

Perhaps you could reduce your favorite fruit juice, sweeten with sugar and use that?

Normal people scare me. But not as much as I scare them.....

[ Parent ]
Sorghum... (4.00 / 4)
I think (like 90% sure) that I've seen it at People's CoOp in the bulk section, but I might be mistaking that with something else...

I never knew you could use it as a sweetener?

I've heard you can use the grains like popcorn, gonna have to try that one day...

[ Parent ]
I was wondering if you could find it (4.00 / 5)
at some farmers markets. I was going to check our big one out of curiosity.  

[ Parent ]
I can some of my fruits in a simple syrup (4.00 / 6)
in 1/2 pint jars. Perfect for yogurt (and other things!). I have also canned them using a honey simple syrup. A different type of sweet, but it might work even for the non-honey eaters. Also did some with Maple syrup/molassas and bourbon ({grin} I was having fun experimenting!) I personally don't do refined sugar and use an evaporated cane. I really like it for the simple syrups. You could also use vanilla sugar for yogurt or perhaps just plain vanilla. Instead of fruit juice, you can also just use fruit to reduce and make a syrup. I did that with some very ripe berries.

Lordy, 2 more months before my fruit share kicks in . . .  

[ Parent ]
that may be a solution (4.00 / 5)
adding in fresh fruit and simple syrup, or reducing some fruit/sugar to a syrupy goo.

Thanks.  :)

[ Parent ]
I have been mixing it with strawberry preserves (4.00 / 5)
that I made. I made the preserves by mixing about 1.5 quarts of strawberries with 1.5 cups of sugar, so they aren't too sweet. I added some lemon juice (maybe 1/4 c.?) too. I didn't use pectin so the preserves are really liquidy and I just mix it in with my yogurt and let that be the sweetener.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
Nice! (4.00 / 5)
Jill, nice job making yogurt!  Thanks for the detailed instructions...  definitely something I'll put on my to-do list.  --Dennis  

has anyone ever made soy yogurt? (4.00 / 6)
thought I would try as my daughter the vegan is home from college for a month before shes off to India.

i haven't done that (4.00 / 5)
I have eaten coconut milk yogurt though, although I haven't tried making it, and I preferred that to soy yogurt.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
I haven't done it either, but (0.00 / 0)
How to Make Soy Yogurt uses plain yogurt starter.

How to Make Soy Yogurt in Your Slow Cooker uses non-dairy yogurt culture.

[ Parent ]
Dehydrators work well too (4.00 / 5)
You might want to consider getting a dehydrator.  We have an Excalibur-- you can pull out the trays, and put mason jars of yogurt in the dehydrator instead of the oven or a yogurt maker.  It works great!  And we can also use it to dry whatever produce is in season -- whether it's fall apples (with cinnamon sprinkled on them) or a big batch of onions, it's an easy way to preserve food for eating out-of-season.

Protect our farms - Stop NAIS!  Go to for more information.

That is an absolutely GREAT idea (4.00 / 3)
Dried heirloom tomatoes are mmm.

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
I read something a few weeks ago... (4.00 / 2)
Can't find the link, but I read something a few weeks ago that made me want to pick up a dehydrator to use for "cooking" raw veggie patties and a few other things.

Mmmm, dried heirloom tomatoes...


[ Parent ]
Jill, after your first yogurt essay, I found an article (4.00 / 3)
that reported the results of testing done on a few brands of yogurt. The lab found that bacterial activity varied widely among brands. I'm pretty sure the variation was between billions and tens of thousands of bacteria per volume unit (whatever the unit was - I don't remember that.)

I was astonished.

I'm not the yogurt police, but it seems that perhaps more testing results like this should be readily available to consumers. On the other hand, maybe the only thing that matters is whether or not we like the yogurt?

whoa... (4.00 / 3)
I think you're onto something there. I think some consumers only care if the yogurt tastes good but others eat yogurt for the probiotics and would be very upset to know that some yogurts aren't really delivering. You still have the article?

"I can understand someone from Iowa promoting corn and soy, but we are not feeding the world, we are feeding animals and soft drink companies." - Jim Goodman

[ Parent ]
I'll try to relocate it. nt (4.00 / 1)

[ Parent ]
Links (4.00 / 2)
Testing bacteria levels

Tests for a few products available in Canada. Yogurt test results are per gram.

We tested two supplement products and four yogurt products for live active cultures.


1) Swiss Capsule
Claim: 6 billion active cultures

First test
1.7 billion
Second test
460 million

2) Udo Capsule
Claim: 1 billion viable cells

First test
2.1 billion
Second test
692 million


1) Liberty
Claim: Contains active acidophilus and bifidus

First test
Second test

2) Organic Meadow
Claim: Contains active yogurt cultures

First test
100 million
Second test
6 million

3) Astro Biobest
Claim: Contains Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium

First test
794 million
Second test
260 million

4) Danone
Claim: Contains active yogurt cultures

First test
180 million
Second test
120 million


Obtaining yogurt-like lactobacillus in capsules is possible.  These are for sale at many health food stores, but they are more expensive than yogurt and a small amount of research suggests that they are not as good.  Two out of ten such preparations purchased in health food stores in British Columbia did not have any viable bacteria, five grew no lactobacillus, and on average they had only 10% of the viable bacteria as claimed on the label (Can Fam Physician. 2004 Apr;50:583-7).  Similar disappointing results are reported in South Africa (S Afr Med J. 2004 Feb;94(2):121-4).

Most Yogurts 10-20 Times as Many Active Colonies as One Capsule: Swiss label lactobacillus capsules claim 6 billion live cultures per capsule. But the first Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) test showed 1.7 billion. Two weeks later, 460 million were still alive. Udo's Choice promised, and delivered, more than one billion in the first test. It started at 2.1 billion and ended with 692 million bacteria alive. European studies found the same kind of results. Astro BioBest yogurt started with the most - 794 million live bacterial cultures per gram (175 grams per container or 139 billion per container). But near the end of shelf life, almost two-thirds had died (794 to 260 million per gram or falling from 139 to 50 billion per container). Organic Meadow (100 to 6 million per gram) and Danone (180 to 120 million per gram or 32 to 21 billion per container) stayed above the million mark on each test. Liberty yogurt fared the worst, starting off low at just 118,000 live bacterial cultures per gram - and dropping to just 4,000 after two weeks. CBC News 9/9/03 Ed: Lactobacillus capsules cost $.11 per capsule and up at Thus, 3 to 5 capsules would be the same price as a container of yogurt. Thus, capsules might be an acceptable alternative to yogurt for those who can't stand the taste. However, I worry that capsules in some stores might be a lot older than 2 weeks.

Not Enough Bacteria

Ibrahim and his group bought 58 different products off of grocery stores shelves that claimed to include bifidobacteria. However, when he tested them under normal household conditions only 75.9% contained viable cultures and "only a few provided health benefits." Almost a quarter of the yogurts didn't contain any viable bifidobacteria at all. "During processing the number of active and alive cells tends to decline," Ibrahim revealed.

[ Parent ]
For the Canadian yogurt tests, (4.00 / 2)
Multiply by approx. 250 to calculate the amount in one cup.

[ Parent ]
How To Make Yogurt | 29 comments
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