make yogurt!

I’ve long wanted to make yogurt. Sometimes folding a new something into my life — no matter it’s ease and efficiency — is like trying to recite the alphabet backwards. I can do it but it requires rewiring my synapses and wrinkling my forehead until it snaps into habit. With yogurt-making I had to talk about it for a few years before shoehorning it into my weekly rhythm.

And now that I can wave my homespun probiotic flag, I get to be one of those people who says it’s so easy and affordable! Because it really is both of those things. Also, it’s fun, nutritious and very tasty. And, holy smokes, the waste we are saving! The towers of white plastic tubs are no longer in our reuse or recycle piles. What a relief.

A simple google search will yield a billion DIY yogurt posts. Basically, there are many different ways to do this:

  1. Heat milk to about 175 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Cool milk to about 115 degrees.
  3. Stir a bit of yogurt into the milk.
  4. Keep it warm (95-110 degrees) for six hours or overnight.
  5. Voila, yogurt.

I tried using the crockpot method but found it to be too runny so I switched to the stovetop which I can more easily control. It was better but I still wanted it thicker. After several tweaks, here’s my method of damn perfect yogurt.

You will need:
a big pot
food thermometer
wood spoon
1/2 gallon of whole milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt with live cultures (buy it for your first batch; then use your yogurt for subsequent batches)
4 pint-size canning jars with lids and rings (widemouth is best)
bath towel
cheesecloth (optional)

I make 1/2 gallon or one gallon of yogurt per week. If you make a gallon, double your jars or use 4 quart jars instead. Yogurt will keep for a while in the fridge so don’t be afraid to make a batch and enjoy it over the course of three or so weeks. We love it plain and use it instead of sour cream, and in cooking and baking. We also add to it, after it’s made: maple syrup, honey or a spoonful of jam. I pack yogurt nearly every school day for Margot and feel great about the healthy protein punch she gets during her action-packed day.

Pour milk into pot and turn on medium-high. Stir regularly to bring temperature up to 175 degrees.

Turn heat off and allow to cool to 115-120 degrees. Either let it sit or cool it in an ice water bath. I just let mine sit. It doesn’t take long.

Turn oven on low for three minutes. Add one tablespoon or so of yogurt to each jar. Pour milk into jars. Apply lids and rings. Shake the jar once or twice to just combine yogurt and milk. And then don’t shake anymore.

Turn oven off. Turn oven light on. The oven light will create all the warmth you need! Place jars in oven and wrap them in a towel.

Wait. Six hours later (or over night): Yogurt! Put it in the fridge and it will firm up even more. Stop here if you’re happy.

Or, make it thicker.

After yogurt has cooled, remove lids. Give yogurt a little stir to loosen the whey. Add two layers of cheese cloth and screw on ring. Place jar upside down for an hour or so. I use my over-the-sink strainer but many things would work like cooling rack over pan. I find that if I move the jar every so often, it drains faster. You can easily reuse the cheesecloth: just rinse and drape over sink to air dry.

Yogurt, before drained. Give it a little stir.

And, the facts:

* Previously, we purchased 1/2 gallon (64 ounces) of Nancy’s Whole Milk Yogurt per week at $9.19.
Annual cost: $477.88.

* Now, we purchase one gallon of local, hormone-free whole milk (Kalispell Kreamery) for $4.69. So that’s $2.35 per 1/2 gallon. Annual cost: $122.20.

And, an annual savings of 52 plastic tubs!

Will you give it a go? I can say with confidence that if you love yogurt, you’ll love everything about making it.

61 Responses to make yogurt!

  1. Ellie says:

    You may have finally given me the push I needed to try this…a dear friend of mine, who is a major foodie, swears by homemade yogurt, and I have always been skeptical about her claim that it is “easy,” since many things are easy for her that are either impossible or very time-consuming for me. I grew up in Eastern Europe, where flavored yogurt did NOT exist–really!–and my grandmothers made most of the yogurt we consumed (from milk produced by the cows and goats in the village where they lived). Since breastfeeding was not all that popular, I was weaned off to plain yogurt (not formula or milk) at age 3 months! If you told me today that I’d be left on a lonely island for a certain period of time and I needed to bring with me one food, plain yogurt would be it. I can’t imagine life without it. So, thank you. I think I am finally going to try. You do make it sound easy.

  2. Nikki V says:

    I can’t wait to try this! I’ve considered it in the past but was certain it would be more difficult. Thanks!

  3. Maggie says:

    I’ve been waiting for this post! So excited to try it– and I’m trying to convince Judd to let me have a milking goat to cut out the middle man! We will see 😉 xo

  4. Dakota says:

    Oh yes, I’m definitely going to try it. I’m currently on an “eliminate as many processed foods as possible” crusade and yogurt-making has been on my mind. (I need to come up with a better definition for “processed”… I don’t intend to grind my own flour, as much fun as that might be!) Thank you for this – this makes it seem so much easier than so many of the other recipes I’ve looked at!

    • dig dig says:

      I get it! Simplifying our food is better for us and more affordable. And, as if that wasn’t enough, it tastes better! Win.

      Maybe instead of processed, pre-made? Hmm.

  5. Barb says:

    This has been on my list for a long time too-maybe this is the time to try it. Questions-Do you ever add vanilla for flavoring? When you drain it does it become more like greek yogurt?

    • dig dig says:

      It is more like greek yogurt when you strain. The longer you strain, the thicker it gets. I haven’t added vanilla but I am sure it’d be great! You want to add flavors AFTER the yogurt is made and cold.

    • I think that is the joy of homemade yogurt, you can flavour or sweeten your own bowl :)
      mmm maple syrup comes to mind…vanilla would be lovely too, canned fruit…ideas are endless!

  6. Courtney says:

    Do you think this would work with Greek yogurt? What about Honey Greek yogurt? Curious! I’ve heard it’s healthier and the taste is intensely different (to me)! I use it as sour cream (regular) and yogurt for eating, smoothies, etc (honey flavor).

    • dig dig says:

      Do you mean as a starter? Yes. The main difference, it seems, is the thickness. I don’t think it is a different set of cultures? I could be wrong. But when we strain ours it gets super thick and greeky. And with fresh Montana honey on top? Oofta.

  7. Amy says:

    We have been doing this also for about a year and LOVE not having to deal with the stacks of plastic (though I think the kids miss having containers for treasures always handy)! I like your draining tip, thanks. If you have a microwave, we have done well just putting the milk in a quart jar for 10 min in the microwave, the setting it on the counter for an hour to cool before adding the starter. I also started cooking the starter in a smaller jar with everything else because I will not eat from my starter jar, so I will never be without my starter! Thanks for posting!

    • dig dig says:

      Literally, I just got home from running through a hail storm to fetch 3 tablespoons of yogurt from a neighbor because I was short! Love your starter jar idea!!

  8. Bee girl says:

    Huge fan of home made yogurt. I add a splash of vanilla and a bit of powdered milk to my mixture. Just started straining it too for thicker yogurt. Love your straining method! I was lining a small hand held strainer with cheese cloth, then scooping it out. Your way looks so much easier and less messy. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Shannan says:

    Two questions – do you think nonfat milk (or really any fat milk besides whole) would work? Second, the liquid that is drained off to make it thicker – is that kefir?

    I’m like you – I make pretty much EVERYTHING from scratch for y family, but haven’t made yogurt yet. Think this post is my jumping point. Thanks!

    • dig dig says:

      Yes, lower fat milk works. I think it is runnier and would require powdered milk and/or straining to get a good consistency. The strained liquid is whey. It’s clearish.

      Kefir requires a different starter which I’ve actually purchased! That’s up next for me. We love Kefir ’round here.

  10. Jackie says:

    I got a yogurt maker a few years back as a Christmas present. I have tried all different methods but also like to add everything AFTERWARDS. The little womb-machine I have is so handy, my oven is gas and kind of sketchy so the machine was $30 and works like a charm!

  11. Tammi Salas says:

    Okay, I’m going to give it a go again. We go through three large containers a week and it hurts my brain to use to much plastic. I’ve made several batches in the past, but they were never quite thick enough. I’ll give your method a try. Thanks for the motivation, as usual.

  12. Awesome and straight forward recipe. Thank you! You always find ones that seem so daunting and intimidating, but this one sounds simple to make, and a fun activity for little’s to join in. :) New follower, loving your blog. Take care xx

  13. Abby says:

    You can save the whey and use it later. It keeps in the refrigerator for weeks and you can add it to oatmeal, soup… practically anything for an extra shot of protein.

  14. “Sometimes folding a new something into my life — no matter it’s ease and efficiency — is like trying to recite the alphabet backwards. I can do it but it requires rewiring my synapses and wrinkling my forehead until it snaps into habit.” EXACTLY. This is me when it comes to yogurt and bread making. I want to include both into our weekly sched and just haven’t rewired my brain yet. Also, my oven doesn’t have a light so even though 6512 Rachel had me convinced on the ease of yogurt, I *still* haven’t done it. I’m considering purchasing the little yogurt incubator thing…I can’t think of anything else that would give me just a bit of heat….

  15. kellyn says:

    yeah! way to go! And I wish my local milk source was as cheap as yours…I spend $4.75 for a half gallon! Ohh…the perks of living in the crowded and expensive northeast!

  16. SmithShack71 says:

    This would be so cool if I could actually pull this off. mmm… mmmm… Throw some strawberries in there. mmm… Forget-about-it! (my best Joe Pesci)


  17. Anke says:

    I’ve tried making yogurt in the crockpot before and even though we liked the taste, found it to be very runny. I will give your method a try, sounds easy and looks delicious. Thanks for sharing it with us!

  18. As always, when I see a new email from dig, I stop whatever I am doing to read it because I can’t wait to see what you have to say–and yogurt! How fabulous. Like many others have said, its been on my to do list, and now this will help give me the extra ‘umph’ to intertwine this into daily life. Thanks for the wonderful pictures, very helpful, and I love the tea kettle!

  19. Cassadie says:

    SOLD! I am doing this! So what if I have three kids and work full time- I am sick and tired of all of those plastic tubs! Thank you for a DIY I can trust. Off to find some cheesecloth!

  20. carrie says:

    my friend and i have been wanting to make yogurt together – thanks for the post! i like your method of making it thicker as i’m not a big fan of runny yogurt. i’ve recently gotten in to making granola (so easy, no idea why i didn’t do it before). homemade granola on homemade yogurt, with local honey?
    i love life.

  21. says:

    Hi Nici! I love you’re blog! I have a quick question about the starter. I’ve been making yogurt off and on for a few years with my yogurt machine and find that after a few batches I have to use fresh yogurt from the store again because the consistency becomes too runny. Are you doing this as well? Or have you found another way to make your starter yourself? Thanks!

  22. Caroline says:

    I can’t wait to try this! I love Lifeline Milk (they returned my call about their humane policy and were willing to answer all of my questions satisfactorily) and they don’t make yogurt – this solves the waste problem and the local-yogurt problem! Hooray!!!

  23. Thank you!! Absolutely PERFECT TIMING!! I’ve been scouring around for the right yogurt post, I will be making this soon and linking you up!

  24. Jacki says:

    Wow! We are starting to dip into making things at home – pickles, wines, and cheeses are on our list – I’m thinking we’ll give yogurt a try as well.

  25. Kelly says:

    Wow. So easy. I can’t wait to give it a try. Looks like a fun project for the kids too. Thanks for sharing and for the inspiration.

  26. Sara says:

    Love this trick on straining whey! I’ve been making my own yogurt for is it almost two years now? I too use mason jars and dump the yogurt into a cheesecloth lined salad spinner to strain out the whey, put the jars in the fridge, and then scoop back in when ready. But this is a cool way at it as well! New fan of your blog thanks to Marisa at Food in Jars!

  27. Sara says:

    Also thanks for posting the cost savings. I am feeling really good about myself right now!

  28. Rhett says:

    Hi Nici. I’m excited to try making my own yogurt so thanks for the push! We are going through about a gallon of Nancy’s every week and a half. Just wondering, in your cost section, did you mean you buy two half-gallons of Nancy’s at a cost of $9.19? I think there’s a typo.

    • dig dig says:

      That’s right…that’s the cost of the 64 oz organic whole milk yogurt at our market!

      • Rhett says:

        Holy Moley! No wonder you wanted to make your own. I haven’t looked at the Organic Annie’s for awhile since I’ve always thought it was too pricey. I didn’t remember it being that pricey! I was talking with a friend about your post (before I commented) and she also wondered if it was a typo. I buy the Natural because it’s about half the price (at the GFS) and I feel pretty good about eating it. Still, I want to try the homemade since it would save us money and I LOVE Kalispell Kreamery milk. Thanks for the response.

  29. Finny says:

    Yep. I’m in. I have the same How Can I Smash One More Thing Into My Life thing, but yeah, I eat so much yogurt that just having to go to the store for it is so time consuming, that being able to make it at home will justify the time spent. The cost savings is an awesome bonus. Thanks for this post.

  30. elizabeth says:

    I really want to try this, but I think we only have ultra-pasturized organic milk here in the Butte area, will it work? You could save your whey for your pets, I bet they would love it.

  31. Y’all are saving the whey for fermenting veggies, right?

    Another great site for all your dairy fermentation needs:

  32. Jennifer says:

    I use a Lebanese recipe for yogurt. And to make thick like Greek yogurt, I pour it all in. Flour sac towel to let drain. Or you can double up the cheese cloth. It is fun to do and great with pita and hummus!

    Love your making it all homemade! Inspiring me to do so again as my husband loves Greek yogurt and it is $1 a container.

  33. Amy says:

    Thank you so much for this! Tried it last night–it worked perfectly!

  34. I like your straining technique.

    Given that the yogurt is touching the metal lid while straining, do you find that the lactic acid in the yogurt begins to corrode the metal after many uses?

  35. Sommer says:

    I love making our own yogurt! I’ve been making it for about a year now for all the same reasons as you- so glad that you are enjoying it. :-) Two things to add: Save the whey- you can use it for fermentation or just put it in ice cube trays and freeze and then add that to smoothies or whatever. It’s super good for you! I’m sure that the are other uses, too, but it’s definitely worth keeping. Also, if you continue to strain the yogurt, you’ll end up with ah-mazing cultured cream cheese! Not any more difficult, just requires a bit more waiting…

  36. Jennifer says:

    My husband leaned over my shoulder, read for a moment and told me that his Armenian grandmother used to make yogurt weekly. And his grandmother was one of my heros next to my mom and my own grandmother.

    And here my two bucket list/goals to knock off this year were learning to crochet and making butter with my daughter. Add yet another project gladly. I. will. MAKE. this. fit.


  37. monica says:

    OK, this was just the push I needed to give it a try. Ada and I conducted our little microbiology experiment yesterday afternoon and are now enjoying a wonderful breakfast. It really was so easy and fun :) I especially love that there is no plastic, no waste, lots of control over ingredients and saving money. Thanks for the tutorial…now I just need to be brave enough to try pickling and making marmalade!

    P.S. Next time you’re in the bay area pick up some orange marmalade from Happy Girl farms – there’s a kiosk in the Ferry Building. Heaven, I tell you. I can eat the entire jar with a spoon. I took their marmalade workshop and still haven’t gotten up my nerve.

  38. Stephanie says:

    I have been making yogurt in my crockpot for a while now. This recipe sounded so good that I now have my jars in the oven! I need to finish the jams I canned last season so this will be so good together! Thanks Marissa from Food in Jars!

  39. Lisa says:

    Thank you so much for posting! I made it this weekend and it’s AMAZING. Not as thick as my usual Greek yogurt, but creamier and just awesome. My kids asked for seconds! I’ve been combining it with the local honey I buy and it’s like dessert for breakfast :) Thanks Nici.

  40. Maheen Ott says:

    Well hon, you have pushed me into the cult(and cultured) world of yogurt making. Our maiden batch is in the oven now, and as I sail off to sleep I hope the morning yields a new ritual! Thanks for the tip, timely for Earth Day! xo

  41. Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it. Look advanced to far added agreeable from you! By the way, how could we communicate?

  42. elizabeth says:

    This didn’t work for me. I used raw goat milk and followed the directions exactly, but I have an electric oven, not gas, so maybe that is the problem? Do you have a gas oven? I’m thinking a gas oven with pilot light is maybe warmer than electric with light? I kept it in the oven overnight, but it didn’t set up, should I keep in longer?