Welcome to Set It & Forget It, a series about all the ways we rely on our slow cookers, Instant Pots, and ovens during the colder months. Whether it’s a long braise on the stove or a quick burst in the pressure cooker, one thing’s for sure: Comfort food means comfort cooking.
At first you might think, like I did, that yogurt-making is mysterious and technical. But actually it's surprisingly simple, since yogurt is basically just fermented milk with gut-friendly bacteria (which means you only need those two ingredients).
There are many things in life that don't make sense to cook from scratch all the time like this, index foods like artisanal bread, cheese, and homemade beer. But after I discovered the Instant Pot, I started making yogurt regularly at home because it costs a fraction of the price of the store-bought stuff.
Even more, the Yogurt function on an Instant Pot takes the guesswork out of the process completely. I love making Instant Pot yogurt because it’s easy, sure, but also because I can control exactly what goes into it. The fact that the IP does all the work for me while I work or sleep makes it that much more enticing to make a habit of it, and to keep homemade yogurt as a staple in my family's diet.
There are two ways to make yogurt in the Instant Pot. One is the "Boil and Cool" method, and the other is the "Cold Start" method. The "Boil and Cool" method involves boiling the milk to 185°F to kill any bacteria, then cooling it to 111°F and adding the yogurt culture to incubate. The "Cold Start" method, which skips the boiling and cooling of the milk, is my preferred way to make homemade yogurt in the Instant Pot—and what I’ll be walking us through today.
Ingredients & Special Equipment:
2 cups of water, a measuring spoon, a whisk, a small glass mixing bowl, a silicone spatula, and (if you want a thicker Greek-style yogurt) cheesecloth.
6-quart Instant Pot with Yogurt function. All Instant Pot models, except the Lux model, have a Yogurt function, so any of them will work here. This is not to say, however, that you can't make yogurt in the Lux; you'll just need to use the "Boil and Cool" method. See below for how to do that.^
1/2 gallon ultra-pasteurized whole milk. This is the essential ingredient for the "Cold Start" method. The “ultra-pasteurized” is important here; any milk that has gone through the ultra-pasteurization process (and not just regular pasteurization) has already been sterilized, which means the extra boiling step is not necessary (hence “Cold Start”). Pro Tip: I like using whole milk since higher fat and more protein content produce thicker, creamier yogurt. Low-fat or skim milk will work too, but be aware that it will make thinner, less creamy yogurt.
Unflavored whole-milk, full-fat yogurt or yogurt starter. All you need for incubating the milk is 1 tablespoon of yogurt that has live active cultures like L. Acidophilus and Bifidus per 1/2 gallon of milk. Homemade yogurt's consistency and taste depend on the starter culture, so use your favorite brand of plain unflavored yogurt. Or you can buy a yogurt starter culture online.
Any lid or cover that will fit on top of the inner pot. You could just use the lid that comes with the Instant Pot, but my point here is that pressure cooking is not necessary for the Yogurt function. Also, when you turn the lid to open after the yogurt is done, there's a chance that water will drip down into yogurt. So any lid (or even large plate) big enough to cover the inner pot will suffice.
A spare silicone ring and inner pot (optional). If you make yogurt often, you may want to have a separate silicone ring and inner pot designated for yogurt or odorless food. Trust me; you don't want chili-flavored yogurt (or maybe you do!).
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (optional). Bacteria feed on sugar to ferment and multiply, so adding sweetened condensed milk helps the fermentation process along. But most of the sugar will be used up, resulting in a subtly sweet and not tart or tangy yogurt.
Sterilize the inner pot and tools. Pour 2 cups of water in the inner pot and place it in the Instant Pot. Put the measuring spoon, mixing bowl, and silicone spatula inside the inner pot. Close the lid and turn the steam release handle to Sealing. Press the Steam button and set the timer to 5 minutes. When the timer ends, turn the steam release handle to Venting and release the steam manually. Take the tools out to cool. Pro Tip: Sterilizing the tools like this is highly recommended (but between you and me, I've washed them in hot soapy water and have never had any issues).
Combine 1 tablespoon of yogurt starter and 1/2 cup of milk in a mixing bowl. Whisk together the yogurt and milk until well incorporated. Pour the yogurt mixture into the inner pot, along with the rest of the milk, and whisk well. If you don't combine the yogurt culture well with the milk, you will end up with clumpy or grainy yogurt. If you are using sweetened condensed milk, mix it well with about 1 cup of milk first in the mixing bowl, and then add to the inner pot to whisk everything together at this step. Pro Tip: I always keep cubes of frozen yogurt from my last batch in the freezer to use as a starter. And yes, frozen yogurt culture works well as a starter culture!
Cover the pot with a lid and press the Yogurt function. The panel will show "Yogt" and numbers indicating hours. Set for at least 8 hours to incubate undisturbed. I usually start the yogurt-making process around 10 p.m. and set the timer to 10 hours, so when I wake up and have finished my morning routine the next day, the yogurt will be done.
- When the yogurt is finished, refrigerate for at least 2 hours or longer until it's cooled. The longer it cools, the thicker it will get. After the yogurt has cooled, the consistency should be like regular yogurt. If you want a thicker consistency, like Greek yogurt, strain over a double cheesecloth–lined strainer for a couple of hours or overnight in the refrigerator. The longer you strain, the thicker the yogurt will become.
Congrats! You've just made Instant Pot yogurt.
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