Editors' Picks

Homemade Yogurt

March  1, 2011


- Merrill

A few weeks ago, Amanda and I met up with Mireille Guiliano, the author of Why French Women Don’t Get Fat. Over lunch, we chatted about everything from being the CEO of a large company to Magnolia Bakery cupcakes. Mireille also told us about her yogurt maker, which she turns to on a weekly basis instead of buying yogurt at the supermarket. Listening to her rave about how easy her yogurt maker is to use, and how well it works, I began to think that this was something I might like to have around the kitchen.

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So, I asked for this yogurt maker from my husband for Valentine’s Day. (Super romantic, right?) And, because he's a wonderful, thoughtful husband, he got it for me -- along with a few packets of yogurt starter. Sigh.

The contraption is hardly a feat of high technology -- it consists of a base, a plastic cover and a simple heating mechanism, and it comes with 7 lidded glass yogurt jars -- but it fits easily on my counter and does the job of evenly and gently heating the yogurt for a sustained period of time (mine has an automatic shut-off timer, but you may want to opt for this simpler version if you’re better at keeping track of time than I am).

The manual provides basic instructions and proportions for a few types of yogurt (plain, with jam, with syrup, etc.), and it’s easy to use these as a jumping off point for other recipes. I tested out my yogurt maker for the first time last week, whipping up a few jars of plain, a few flavored with honey and vanilla, and a couple infused with espresso.

I sweetened the vanilla and espresso yogurt lightly; feel free to adjust the sweetness to your taste. And I used organic 2% milk. The yogurt had great flavor, with a nice delicate tang, but there was a little more whey swimming around the edges than I might have liked, and the texture, while smooth, could have been a bit creamier. I'd go with whole milk next time.

All in all, I'm converted. The yogurt base is easy and quick to make, and eating your own homemade yogurt out of little glass pots feels so very French. Plus, the yogurt really is good, and the flavor possibilities are endless. If you don’t have --or don't want to invest in -- a yogurt maker of your own, here is a great resource for making homemade yogurt without any extra equipment.

Homemade Yogurt

Makes seven 6-ounce jars

  • 9 cups (40 ounces) milk (you can use low fat or skim, but I recommend organic whole milk for the best results)
  • 1 tablespoon starter or 1/2 cup yogurt with active live cultures
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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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william_huebl October 22, 2014
I make a gallon at a time in 4 quart jars with my yogurt maker which I have adapted to the larger jars by placing a large towel over the top because with the larger jars, the top doesn't reach the base. I don't worry about bad bacteria because everything is sterilized first. Heating the milk or other dairy to 190F gets rid of any stray backteria from that souce. A good place to learn about alternatives to machine yogurt makers can be found here - thefrugalgirl.com/2009/10/how-to-make-homemade-yogurt-2/ you will need to copy and pasted that link into your browser.
ginam October 21, 2014
Ok...hoping someone still sees comments on this thread. I continue to use my lovely Donvier machine, but now my family really likes to eat yogurt every day. I'm grateful, but find that the 8 little cups don't last long among 3 of us, so I'm making it frequently. Any ideas for bigger batches? Here's the catch: I live in Northern Japan in a house with questionably climate control. Oven can't be counted on to keep an even temperature either, and I don't know about my crock pot because most of my electronic equipment (including my current yogurt maker, which is surviving somehow) are on US electricity standards (120), but our Japanese electricity comes in at 100. Any and all suggestions are welcome. I'd be glad to forgo the equipment IF I could guarantee the safety of my family. All of these microbes/bacteria growing at a random temperature with my help make me nervous if I can't control anything. Any ideas? Currently, I'm making a new batch about every 3 days. Thanks!
deanna1001 October 21, 2014
If you can find a heating pad that works on your current, it's easy. In a pot with a well fitting lid, bring however much milk you want up to 188º (or thereabouts). Cool to 110º (either fast by putting the pot in a sink full of cold water, or just let it come to lower temperature naturally). Put 1-2 tbs. of yogurt into the warm milk and whisk until incorporated. Lid pot and place on heating pad set at medium for approximately 7 hours or until set. Hope this helps.
deanna1001 October 21, 2014
Oops - meant to say 1-2 tbs per quart of milk...
mosteff October 22, 2014
I have another variation: Bring milk almost to boiling on stove top, cool to 112 (or my Turkish friend would stick her finger tip in and announce that when was just warm enough not to burn her finger, and that worked too somehow). Then add powdered culture or a few spoons of yogurt in and mix well (I usually added milk a few teaspoons at a time to the yogurt until it was "dissolved" then I'd dump that in the bigger pot). Then you can add the milk to bigger jars or even a larger earthenware pot and cover with a cloth and plate. Then I'd do one of two things which both worked: put it on the hot water heater if it is one of the old school kind, OR put the oven light on and put the jars or pot right up against it and leave it there for 6 or 7 hours. Make sure oven isn't cold inside first (keep it on "warm" setting or warm it up if you have to). Any place in your house that is consistently warm will work (like deanna1001's heating pad). Good luck!!
Mary E. October 27, 2013
Hi, I have been making yogurt in a 2-quart electric device, rather than the small individual cups. It's available from King Arthur Flour. Then I use their "Greek Yogurt Maker" to strain off most of the whey. I use 2% milk, and the result is thick and creamy (and much less expensive than store-bought greek yogurt). You can strain it with a cheesecloth bag,too, but it's a bit messy. Here are the links for the King Arthur products: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/large-electric-yogurt-maker
deanna1001 October 27, 2013
You can strain it through a cotton handkerchief lining a mesh strainer - costs even less.
Xiang July 7, 2011
Hello, coming in late to your discussion but appreciate the information. Just returning from extended China visit where fresh yogurt is plenitful on the street in earthen jars and more sweet than in the states. I found more drinkable yogurts than those used with a spoon and became very accustomed to it.

What is your opinion on the element of sweet/tart instead of just tart? What might I do to imitate the creamy sweet/tart variety without adding sugar? The French also have a more sweet variety and I miss it....
akuma01 March 16, 2011
Easy Recipe but Still needs attention to check temperature
Warm milk in a pyrex bowl in microwave till it above 185degrees (per alton brown). Cool milk to 112-117 degrees and use yogurt cultures (2 tbsp per quart of milk) and place in a warm oven after you have cooked your dinner or with the oven light on overnight. The yogurt should be ready in the morning but needs to be cooled prior to eating. I do transfer milk to a stainless steel bowl with a tight lid to avoid getting off flavors from referigerator. May be able to use your yogurt for cultures for next 3-4 batches although my yogurt sometimes is slimy if I keep using my cultures. Dannon works best for cultures and did not have good luck with stony....I try to avoid powdered milk as it may leave a grainy texture unless you strain it, not worth the extra work to me.
You already perform the work of heating and cooling the milk, so the extra expense and buying another gadget to occupy the kitchen counter whose only purpose is to keep milk warm is not worth it. This task can be easily and cheaply performed in the oven, heating blanket, etc.
infojules March 7, 2011
I do better with non-cow dairy and have been wondering how to make with goat's milk. I'm guessing there isn't that much difference in the technique, but I'd love to see your recipe too!
infojules March 7, 2011
(I meant this in response to Minimally Invasive's comment below!)
GoodFoodie March 7, 2011
Big Thanks to ChrisBird for th Qwark recipe. After living in Germany, we came to love it. But it is outrageously expensive here. I couldn't figure out how it differed from yogurt. It's the buttermilk!

I make yogurt weekly. Ditched the machine with those little containers and listened to my Indian friends. Since my oven seems to be on the cold side so I put my jar of yogurt on my water heater to ferment. Perfect!
stinkycheese March 6, 2011
I've been making my own yogurt for the last several months. I use a heating pad on low. I simply microwave 1 quart of whole organic milk until it's just above body temp (finger test!) -- about 3 minutes. Then I add 2 tbs yogurt, stir, wrap it in a heating pad and go to bed. By morning it's thick and creamy. I don't bother with scalding the milk.
stinkycheese March 6, 2011
Oops sorry for double post.
stinkycheese March 6, 2011
I've been making all our yogurt for the last few months. I experimented and found the simplest and best tasting is to just heat 1 quart whole organic milk to just above body temp in the microwave (no scalding), then add 2 tbs yogurt as starter, wrap in heating pad on low and go to bed. This has been foolproof so far. It's thick and creamy in by morning.
Panfusine March 6, 2011
I've been heating & cooling the milk so far, I shd try this warming technique, thanks!
Panfusine March 6, 2011
There is a traditional version of sweet Yogurt made in in the indian state of Bengal Called 'Mishti Doi' which is made using Milk & Palm sugar & set in porous earthen ware cups.
the tricky thing is to find the exact culture to use for setting the yogurt. using commercial yogurts ends up kinda slimy! anyone with a helpful suggestion to overcome this please help! thanx!
Nozlee S. February 29, 2012
Hi Panfusine -- my mom has been making yogurt for our family for years and had this advice to give -- I hope it's helpful!:

Using most store bought yogurt for starter, you get a slimy product because of the gelatin/starch in most commercial yogurts. I make my yogurt with the Lifeway brand Kefir drink. It has no starch and the added benefit is that it has 12 active cultures and you end up with a probiotic yogurt. For my later batches, I use my own yogurt and thin it with a little of the warm milk before mixing it in with the milk. Otherwise, the starter rises to the top and forms a somewhat curd-like yogurt on top which is not a problem per se, but thinning the culture produces a more uniform yogurt.
mosteff March 6, 2011
I've always made yogurt without the equipment (just the thermometer) and put the milk/culture mix in a covered ceramic bowl on top of my boiler, which is in a closet. It is never too hot on the surface of the boiler and it warms the ceramic bowl up just enough. If you set it there in the morning, come home at the end of the day and put in fridge overnight to set, it will be ready for the next morning's breakfast.
Sally March 6, 2011
I love the 1-quart yogurt maker that I purchased in 2008. I looked up the current price on Amazon and it is now selling for ten times what I paid for it 3 years ago. That's right, ten times!! I could not believe it and went back to check my old Amazon order. So I guess it is now a more popular item than it used to be, and they're capitalizing on that (!)

If I had to buy one today, I would definitely buy Merrill's version because it is just much easier and more consistent to make yogurt with a machine than by wrapping the jars in towels, etc. In addition, if you buy one with an automatic shut off, it makes your life easier.

The method I use yields perfect results, always. I heat the milk to about 180 degrees and let it cool to 112-114 degrees. Then I stir in a little powdered milk (about 1/3 cup for a quart of milk) and the starter. I strain it into a quart jar (sometimes there are little lumps from heating the milk and the powdered milk) and put it in the yogurt maker. Voila! The powdered milk gives the yogurt some body, and it makes it almost as thick as Greek yogurt without the straining. I make it every single week and rarely buy yogurt from the grocery store!
jenny_mcchesney March 4, 2011
I made yogurt in a Salton yogurt machine in our galley kitchen in college - I liked the simple milk-glass jars it came with, lids and all. Cheap, wholesome, delish - and no carton waste. I am re-convinced I need one, thanks!
Elias March 3, 2011
I am not sure why you would really need a machine. I have made yogurts all my life and with nothing more than just milk and a started yogurt... I would say in 1 out of 10 I will have a "fix" it by reheating. I tend to like mine thick, so I strain it for a few hours using a cheese cloth afterwards. I find that temperature at which you stir in the yogurt is key... the milk needs to be cool enough (I use what my mother taught me which is: insert your finger slightly in the milk: if you can count till ten then it is cool enough :)
MyCommunalTable March 3, 2011
I was taught how to make yogurt from my Iranian friend and she taught me the exact same way as you. Now I need to make some! Sounds great.
anne_shelton_crute March 6, 2011
LOVE the finger method for assessing the temp of the milk! Thanks you!
ChrisBird March 2, 2011
I make a quark (soft fresh German cheese) like product using the same techniques as I do for yogurt. No special equipment needed. The recipe for the quark is here...


just substitur commercial yogurt with live basilli and it works like a champ. In our house we both prefer 2% for this. However when I can get raw milk from the farm, then I use whole milk!
Merrill S. March 4, 2011
Cool, thanks for sharing!
jenmmcd March 2, 2011
I've been tempted by this for a long time (and this is about to push me over the edge), but I've always wondered... If I love greek yogurt and not the "regular" stuff, will I like homeade yogurt?
ginam March 2, 2011
jenmmcd, I've used grerek yogurt as my starter (it must be plain to be a good starter...no flavorings). You could do this and then strain your homemade yogurt through cheescloth for the consistency you like.
chris_coyle March 6, 2011
If you're concerned about the texture, when you first heat the milk, add a little powdered milk for more body.
jeanmarieok March 6, 2011
What Chris_Coyle says - 1/2 cup powdered milk adds more body to the yogurt, and makes it more like Fage Greek yogurt. Also, I don't use a yogurt maker - I use a cooler with mason jars filled with hot tap water, and I stick my yogurt jar in the middle of all the other jars. 18 - 24 hours later, I have perfect yogurt... I make a quart at a time, and I use raw milk (so I only heat to 120, so I don't kill my raw milk cultures).....
ginam March 2, 2011
Once you get the hang of it, you'll find yourself becoming a bit of a yogurt snob...at least if you're like my daughter who won't have anything to do with store bought stuff, even though that is our starter every few batches. I have the Donvier model, and I like it but question the sense of having healthy food stewing in plastic for hours, so may have to switch to the model you mentioned. I must use a machine, though. I dread what would happen if I had to rely on our mixed up electricity in Japan to keep my oven or heating pad at an even temp.

If anyone hesitates, though, the real reason I wrote is to encourage others to take the plunge and buy a machine. If you get regular brands of yogurt, you might not find it worth it for awhile (except that yours will contain no cornstarch). But if you want organic yogurt for your family, this machine pays for itself in about 4 batches. Not to mention I'm never throwing away or trying to recycle pounds of plastic. Anyway, thanks for the great article.
Merrill S. March 4, 2011
You're welcome! And so true about the economical value of this. For <$40, you can't go wrong.
Mamamia March 1, 2011
What a great post. My mom used to make yogurt without a machine. She boiled 1/2 a gallon of milk, allowed it to cool completely, added two tablespoons of good yogurt and blended it throughly, and then poured the mixture into a lovely container and put the whole thing in the oven at 100 degrees overnight. So wonderful every time.
For some reason skim milk provides an extremely rich and creamy yogurt, however counter intuitive that may sound.
Merrill S. March 4, 2011
Thank you! I'll try it with skim and report back.
namesmatter March 1, 2011
It's Guiliano, not Giuliano.
Merrill S. March 1, 2011
Thank you very much for catching that and letting me know.
Eliana60 March 1, 2011
When I was in college or right after we used to make yogurt using the crock pot. Here are a couple of posts & a video about making your own yogurt in a crock pot.
Merrill S. March 4, 2011
Cool, thanks for sharing!