Making Homemade Yogurt

Written by Emily, Contributing Writer

I’ve been making homemade yogurt for just about two years now, and I love the convenience, quality, and savings of making yogurt at home.

Yogurt is one of the most basic traditional foods, and even if you are just getting started with real food, including yogurt in your diet is an easy way to reap so many of the health benefits of cultured dairy. One of the main health benefits of yogurt, besides the protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals, are the probiotics.  Probiotics are the good bacteria that inhabit our guts and help to promote better digestion and increase our immune systems.

Yogurt is an easily digestible food, and even people who have trouble with lactose intolerance can often eat yogurt because most of the lactose has been “eaten” by the good bacteria during the culturing process.

Making homemade yogurt really is easy, but it can seem kind of overwhelming because it does have a lot of steps.  I’m going to walk you, step by step, through my method of making homemade yogurt, and after you’ve done it once or twice, you will be able to figure out what that works best for you and be able to provide your family with fresh made yogurt on a regular basis!

How to Make Homemade Yogurt Using a Crock Pot

Step 1: Turn your crock pot on low to let it heat up. It is important to remember to do this step first so you don’t forget, and so the crock pot is the right temperature when you’re ready to add the milk. Also, take your yogurt starter out of the fridge so it can warm up a little before you add it to your milk.

Step 2:  Pour your milk into a saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it reaches 185 degrees. (I have used a candy thermometer I got for $10). You can choose the amount of yogurt that you want to make at a time – I usually make 6-8 cups of yogurt per week.  Be careful not to let the milk burn on the bottom of the pan during this step, and also make sure the milk doesn’t boil over – so stir often and keep an eye on it.

*Tip: 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.

*During this step I usually get ready for step three by getting the sink of cold water ready.

Step 3: Once milk reaches 185 degrees (bubbling) remove from burner, cover with a lid, and place the pan in a sink half full of cold water. (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.

Step 4: Let the 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.  This usually takes just about 10 minutes for me, so set your timer, so you don’t forget and the milk gets too cold.

*Tip: You can also do this step without a thermometer. After washing my hands, I stick my pinkie into the milk.  If it’s painfully hot to the touch, I let it cool a bit longer.  If it’s very warm, but not painfully hot, it is about the right temperature.

* While the milk is cooling, get ready for step 5

Step 5: Measure 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.

Step 6: Put the lid on, turn off, and unplug the crock pot. Wrap a heavy towel around it. Let sit for 6-10 hours. (I usually do around 8 hours).

Step 7: After the yogurt has finished culturing, place the crock in fridge to cool yogurt. I have found this step to be really important because it helps the yogurt to set better.  Since I started doing this my yogurt has been nice and thick and creamy. Don’t stir or shake your yogurt, it needs to be disrupted as little as possible in order to set well.

When your yogurt has finished cooling and set, you can ladle it into a glass jar to keep in your fridge.  I hope you can tell in the picture that this is finished yogurt, it has set, and is definitely more “solid” than milk.  I have found that yogurt will keep for at least 7-10 days, and often it’s still good at around 14 days, if there’s any left of it by that point.

What is yogurt starter?

It is basically just yogurt.  You can use the yogurt you just made as starter for your next batch.  I usually set aside 1/2 cup of yogurt for starter into a separate small bowl right away, to keep the starter separate from the jar that we are dipping in to eat from every day, and also so we don’t end up eating all the yogurt and I’m left without a starter!

You can also use store bought yogurt, of course, especially if this is your first batch of homemade yogurt or you feel like your homemade yogurt starter is getting weak.  Just make sure that your store bought yogurt is plain, unsweetened, with nothing added, and it should save “Live and Active Cultures” on the label.

Stephanie’s note: Though I also generally do the same as Emily, starting with plain store bought yogurt and then saving some each time to make my new batch, you can also purchase yogurt starter cultures for some unique types of yogurt or just regular yogurt, from Cultures for Health. Once you’ve used these to get started, then you can continue to set aside your homemade yogurt for making more.

Our family’s favorite way to eat homemade yogurt is with a drizzle of raw honey and fresh or frozen fruit. Yum!  It’s also great with a sprinkle of nuts, or on top of homemade granola.

You can also use homemade yogurt in lots of different kinds of recipes.  Here’s a few for you to get started with:

What’s your favorite way to enjoy homemade yogurt?  Do you have any questions about the process of making yogurt?

All photos by Emily @ Live Renewed
Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links.

About Emily McClements

Emily is a blessed wife and mama to three little ones. She is passionate about caring for God’s creation and people by being a good steward of the resources He has provided. As part of her journey towards living more “frugally green” she blogs about the things she is learning and the changes she is making at Live Renewed.

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Comments

  1. I’ve tried your recipe twice in the last two days and it didn’t work either time…very frustrating! The first time I
    used organic 1% milk and no thermometer (I used your tips) and the second time I used organic whole milk and and instant read thermometer. Both times I used 2% yougurt.

    Can you help??

  2. How much yogurt does this produce? Thanks!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    Your tip about the foam doesn’t seem to work at high altitude. My milk foams at about 150F. (Water boils lower than 100C as well…) So those of us living in the mountains need a thermometer. But I follow this process every time. I keep a starter from my previous batch in the freezer. And I love turning this yogurt into frozen yogurt. Delicious with blueberries!

  4. I’m really interested in making this since my kids love yogurt! It is for my kids so I would need to sweeten it close to what it’s like in stores. Do you have any suggestions on what to use and how much? Thanks!!

  5. Can I use lactose free milk?

    • Elizabeth says:

      From what I understand of the process, the cultures actually eat the lactose. You would probably have to add an additional sugar for them to eat in order for this to work. However, because the cultures process the lactose, yogurt usually contains less lactose than milk. I know some people who can eat yogurt but not drink a glass of milk. You can try it and reply here. Or use half lactose free and half regular milk. humm. Now I’m curious.

  6. Hi! I recently found your blog doing a search for homemade yogurt. I have made it before but it was really runny. Following your directions has really helped. It’s actually the consistency of store bought natural yogurt!

    I have started a routine of making it in the morning (around 7ish) and then it’s “done” by dinner time. Like you suggested, I stored it in the fridge and it has the whole night to set. I love it!

    I first tried sweetening it with vanilla extract and agave. I wasn’t too crazy about it. This time I only sweetened it (without the vanilla) using Sun Crystals (half sugar in raw, half stevia) and it’s awesome! I sweetened the whole batch at once.

    I want to try those syrups that starbucks uses to flavor coffees. I THINK they are all natural, not sure though. I have to look at them, they are in the coffee aisle. There is also flavored agave that I would like to try along with trying to make my own “fruit on the bottom” yogurt…I wonder if you can just use fruit preserves? Would it taste just like jelly though? Not sure.

    Anyways! Thank you SO much for posting this. I stopped buying yogurt because we couldn’t afford it. But now I can make my own! A gallon of milk is cheaper than buying a container of yogurt…and you get so much more!!!

  7. We use and drink only raw milk because it is readily available to us. Could this recipe also work for raw milk? I can’t wait to try it. We seem to spend over $40 a month just on yogurt alone. My kids can’t get enough!

  8. I’m sorry if this has been mentioned already, but can I use 1% or 2% milk? The recipe I have been using calls for half and half and whole milk.

  9. Thank you my first batch of yogurt came out beautifully. If I want to add vanilla and honey can I do during the process or do I need to wait until it’s set?

  10. This is my favorite homemade yogurt recipe EVER! I actually jumped up and down and squealed with delight when I saw how thick it turned out. Thank you!!

  11. I followed the directions EXACTLY and ended up with something that smells like yogurt, but is the same consistency as milk. Extremely frustrating. I warmed up the crockpot, used 4 cups of milk and two tablespoons of starter, checked the temp with a thermometer to make sure it hit 185* on the stove and then 100* in the sink. I put two heavy towels around the unplugged crockpot, let it sit for about 9 hours, and then let it cool in the refrigerator. What did I do wrong?

    • Maybe something is wrong with your thermometer? Try using her tips instead (milk starts frothing and bubbling, put clean pinky in milk)

    • Jamie, did you add the starter to the four cups of milk and then heat it to 185 degrees on the stove? If so, that is the error. Heat the milk alone , then let it cool down to between 100-110 degrees before adding the starter and then letting this all sit in your crockpot. I have also added a tablespoon or two of powdered milk to my milk before heating it, if it was non fat milk, to increase the protein and firm up the yogurt. Hope this helps.

      • The same thing happened to me and I followed the recipe, I heated the milk alone and followed the tips instead of going by the exact temperatures. Any other suggestions?

  12. I’ve been using reserved home-made yogurt for my starter, and my yogurt seems to get thinner as I go (it’s always been thin, but now even moreso, and it doesn’t seem to be straining at all). This last time was my 3rd batch after re-starting with store-bought yogurt. Any ideas?

  13. Annie in Indonesia says:

    Thanks for the crock pot yogurt recipee! Where I live in Indonesia it’s about $8.50 for a quart of plain imported yogurt, or 150ml (2/3cup)-containers of local-made yogurt for about $1 each. Last night I found and followed this recipee, using 7 cups of recontsituted full cream powdered milk, one cup fresh milk, and 1/2 cup yogurt starter ($4 of milk). My yogurt in the past always needed straininng, but this morning 8 cups of lovely thick yogurt filled my crockpot! New, local, yummy, economic way to live. Terima kasih!

  14. If the yogurt says contains active yogurt culture, is that still good?

  15. Jennifer Norman says:

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve never made yogurt but I followed your recipe and it turned out perfectly. I drained it and have the thickest and creamiest Greek yogurt. For under two dollars!

  16. My favorite way to eat yogurt is to mix it with an organic granola and eat it as a breakfast-like cereal. I can’t wait to try this recipe with my home-made granola!

  17. sally dana says:

    I’ve read through you recipe several times and don’t see the amount of milk you use. I’m guessing it’s a quart. I’ve been trying to make yogurt using an electric yogurt maker and it never gets thick in fact the combined ingredients are thicker at the start than the finished product. If I strain the yogurt I end up with mostly whey and very little yogurt. (I use 1 qt of milk).

    Any advise is greatly appreciated.

    • I also would love to try this but do not see how much milk. This would be my first time to make homemade yogurt so have no clue :)

    • Mothering4Him says:

      She didn’t write an amount, because it really doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the proportion of “starter” yogurt. Somewhere up there she says it. I have made it so many times now, I just take a huge spoonful of yogurt to every quart I’m making. I like to pour my “pre” yogurt into canning jars before I put them into the crockpot overnight. So to know how much milk to use, I pour milk into the jars that will nicely fit into my crock pot, THEN pour that amount of milk into my cooking pot to start cooking. Then when I pour it back, there is no waste…it’s exactly the amount I need. Best wishes! This is a great recipe! I have it marked in my “favorites” and come back often as a refresher.

  18. I just made your yogurt recipe. It came out wonderful, thick and tastey. How long will the starter last before it goes bad. I’m thinking in 14 days it will be no good. I will need to start another batch before then. Is this right? Thanks for the infor. Love your site, so full of interesting things!

  19. This recipe sounds great & i’m very excited to give it a try. I have some vanilla flavored yogurt right now I could use as a starter but I saw you said it needs to be plain, is there a reason for that?

  20. Thank you so much for posting this very helpful article!! I made yogurt at home for the first time with my family this weekend. It was absolutely fabulous and a lot easier than I thought it would be. Thank you so much!

  21. I FOLLOWED THIS RECIEPE TO THE LETTER AND IT TURNED OUT RUNNY. WHAT DID I DO WRONG?

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