Last Updated on July 29, 2020
Homemade yogurt is an incredibly simple beginners project that can save you big bucks on a super-healthy kitchen staple! Learn how to make yogurt in just minutes a week to save hundreds of dollars on this probiotic-rich treat perfect for adding to smoothies, eating with fresh fruit, or putting in baked goods.
Are you intrigued by the idea of home fermenting but are intimidated by the process and things that might go wrong?
I was, too, but homemade yogurt turns out to be a *really* easy beginner’s project. Here’s how to make your own yogurt, and some great reasons to give it a try.
This streamlined homemade yogurt recipe takes me about 10 minutes per week and saves us over $1000 per year on organic yogurt!
I’m pretty new to home fermenting, and I have a really strict standard for what is easy enough to make it worth my limited time and bandwidth. Too many steps, any new equipment, too many ingredients, and I just can’t be bothered.
If you’re reading a how-to here, you know it’s GOT to be super-easy to master!
Why learn how to make yogurt?
Sure, yogurt is easy to pick up at the store, but if your family goes through yogurt at a decent clip, there are some very compelling reasons to make your own yogurt.
1) Homemade yogurt saves money. A lot of money.
Homemade yogurt can save more than half off buying it already made, in some cases up to 70%. If you have a lot of yogurt eaters, you may be going through multiple quarts per week. At $5 a quart for organic yogurt, that adds up! A gallon of organic milk, on the the other hand, is only about $6, and makes 4 quarts of homemade yogurt — only $1.50 each. That’s 70% off!
Multiply that by 52 weeks per year, that’s over $700 savings on yogurt! My two kids can go through nearly a quart a day, so my weekly yogurt making has saved some big bucks, easily $1000 per year. (Yes, if you buy yogurt on sale it can cost less, but that’s only occasionally. Your savings may be different if you’re not buying organic. Or if you’re lucky enough to have your own cow!)
The best part? Making 6 quarts of yogurt each week takes maybe 10 minutes of hands-on time.
Given how much money that saves us, that’s like earning $100 per hour! How awesome is that?
2) Homemade yogurt saves plastic.
Though you still need to buy the milk, which more often than not comes in plastic containers, a gallon container took considerably less plastic to make than 4 quart containers of yogurt. And far less plastic than if you’re buying smaller tubs. If you can get your milk in glass, better still!
3) Homemade yogurt tastes better (and may be better for you!)
When you make your own yogurt, you control the ingredients, and also the amount of tang it has. No additives, and you can culture it longer or shorter for different flavors. A longer culture time also means you’ll get a bigger dose of those healthy probiotics — great for gut health!
If you’ve only tried pre-sweetened yogurt, you may have an adjustement period till you get used to using plain yogurt with toppings or mix-ins. But the pre-sweetened stuff should really be considered dessert anyhow — read the label of your favorite yogurt and you may be shocked to see how much added sugar it has compared to the plain variety.
The American Heart Association recommends that women restrict added sugar from all sources to just 100 calories per day, or 25 grams of added sugar. (150 calories, or 37.5 grams for men). I compared the labels of one popular yogurt, and the honey-vanilla flavor had 18 grams of added sugar, more than 2/3 of your sugar budget for the day! And way over the day’s budget for the little folk in your house.
Topping plain yogurt with fresh fruit is a far healthier way to enjoy it. Or if you really want sweeter yogurt, a drizzle of honey or a swirl of all-fruit jam can mean that you can still enjoy your healthier homemade yogurt. We use a lot of our yogurt in daily smoothies, sweetened only with fruit.
4) Making homemade yogurt is WAAAAAAAAY easier than you think!
I know, making your own yogurt sounds like it ought to be a big production, but I promise it’s ridiculously easy. Here’s the short version of how to make yogurt:
- Heat milk
- Pour in jars and let cool
- Stir in a spoonful of yogurt
- Stick in a cooler till bedtime
- Put finished yogurt in fridge
Incredible to get paid $100 an hour for this, but there you go! I bet right now you’re thinking to yourself, “Even I could do that!”
So now that you’re sold on homemade yogurt, here are the slightly more detailed instructions for how to make yogurt at home in no time flat.
Homemade Yogurt 101: How to Make Yogurt in No Time
I read around about making homemade yogurt and have refined my technique to make it as streamlined and energy-saving as possible. Some methods call for an ice bath to cool the milk, or using a machine or oven to keep the milk warm while it cultures. No thanks to more equipment, wasted electricity, and fuss!
If you have a cooler, you’ll be all set. If you don’t have one, you can probably pick one up through Freecycle or at a garage sale for a few bucks. Or you could get by with some towels and a plastic bin, but you may have to do more to regulate heat.
Now, while hands-on time is really just a matter of minutes, you do have to pay attention so you can catch your heated milk at the right temperatures, though there’s a good deal of wiggle room. If you mess up, you can always reheat it. Homemade yogurt is pretty forgiving.
This is a project for a morning you’ll be home for a few hours, unless you try a hurry-up method for cooling, which will make the process a bit more complicated and may make it less energy-efficient.
How to Make Yogurt: Equipment
- Cooler. I have a small one with a handle that fits 6 quart mason jars, but any cooler will work
- Quart-size wide mouth mason jars, as many as you plan to make quarts of yogurt, run through the dishwasher and dried
- Large stockpot — a rim that sticks out makes for less messy pouring
- Instant-read thermometer
- Clean bath or beach towel
- A large spoon or ladle with a long handle for stirring in yogurt
- Whole milk (lower-fat milk doesn’t congeal as well, and full-fat is probably better for you anyhow. You can use lower fat milk, but your yogurt may come out runnier. You can add dry milk or gelatin to low fat milk if you prefer.)
- Starter yogurt (A fresh tub of yogurt from the store, or some from a jar you haven’t been eating out of from your last batch. Be sure when you buy yogurt the ingredients include “live active cultures.”)
Notes before you get started on homemade yogurt:
– Always make sure your equipment is clean, and wash your hands well before handling. Don’t place anything that will come in contact with the milk on the counter where it can pick up unwanted bacteria.
– I’ve found it easiest to heat the milk first thing in the morning and leave the yogurt culturing all day, but you could start the project anytime and leave the yogurt overnight.
– Make sure your starter yogurt is uncontaminated, meaning no one stuck a dirty spoon in it. I usually make the next batch of yogurt before I get to the last quart of yogurt from the prior batch. Or you can take some fresh yogurt off, put it in a clean jar, and tuck it in the back of your fridge if you want to make sure no one gets into it. Label it “starter yogurt” and write the date. Yogurt starter should still be active enough to work for about two weeks. If you go longer than that without making a new batch of homemade yogurt, you may want to buy a new tub of yogurt to act as your starter.
To keep your homemade yogurt warm while it cultures: The heat of the yogurt will stay trapped pretty well in the cooler, but if your house is cool, it’s helpful to add heat, which it’s easy to do without wasting energy. On hot days I place the cooler outside on our covered porch so it loses heat less quickly, on moderately warm days I might put it in the sun for a couple hours. When it’s 45-60° out, I often put the cooler in a car for a few hours to absorb the solar energy trapped there. In winter, I put the cooler on a heat vent. We have a geothermal system that puts out heat at a steady 110°, just right for incubating yogurt. Conventional forced-air systems send out 130° air, so you may want to leave on the vent for shorter periods of time. If you have radiators, just place your cooler next to one, and you’ll get the added heat you need.
Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 148Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 24mgSodium: 105mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 0gSugar: 12gProtein: 8g
To keep your homemade yogurt warm while it cultures: The heat of the yogurt will stay trapped pretty well in the cooler, but if your house is cool, it’s helpful to add heat, which it’s easy to do without wasting energy.
On hot days I place the cooler outside on our covered porch so it loses heat less quickly, on moderately warm days I might put it in the sun for a couple hours. When it’s 45-60° out, I often put the cooler in a car for a few hours to absorb the solar energy trapped there.
In winter, I put the cooler on a heat vent. We have a geothermal system that puts out heat at a steady 110°, just right for incubating yogurt. Conventional forced-air systems send out 130° air, so you may want to leave on the vent for shorter periods of time. If you have radiators, just place your cooler next to one, and you’ll get the added heat you need.
Just heat some milk, cool it, add your yogurt, and voilà! Super-easy, money-saving, healthy homemade yogurt is yours!
If you try making your own yogurt, leave a comment and let me know what you think!
What to do with your homemade yogurt?
- Top with fresh or frozen fruit for a healthy breakfast or snack. This rhubarb sauce tastes wonderful swirled into homemade yogurt.
- Add to smoothies. Pump up the vitamin C with some orange peel!
- Use in dips, like this healthy yogurt dip
- Add to baked goods for moisture and protein
- Use in marinades
- Put in overnight oats
- Make yogurt cheese or labneh
The best resource for yogurt making techniques and trouble-shooting I’ve found is Katie at Kitchen Stewardship. If you’re making only four jars at a time, I think her idea of heating the jars of milk submerged in water in a pot is genius, eliminating the need for cleaning a pot. The hot water also provides extra heat in her cooler, great if you’re using a larger cooler and don’t want to move it. She also explains how to make yogurt without a thermometer if you prefer, and what to do if your yogurt isn’t coming out right.
If you can spare your instant pot for the day, here’s how to make yogurt in it. It will require electricity, of course, but devoted instant pot folks may want to go this route is it’s not going to mess up your dinner plans 🙂
And if you prefer Greek yogurt, you just need to add the step of straining your homemade yogurt. Here are some suggestions for what to do with the whey you’ll have when you’re done. It’s great for soaking grains in to make their nutrients more available, or you can just add it to homemade soups.
Have you made homemade yogurt before? If not, now that you know how to make yogurt, think you’ll give it a try?
Pin to save these instructions for how to make yogurt for later!
Photo credits: TerriC, RitaE
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.