Instant Pot

The One Instant Pot Feature You're Not Using—but Should

Homemade yogurt costs a fraction of the price of store-bought (and tastes better, too).

by:
January 31, 2020
Photo by Bobbi Lin

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.

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Top Comment:
“I love making vegan yoghurt in my instant pot! Instead of dairy milk, I use soy milk (this has to be a brand that doesn't contain any stabilizers or preservatives - I use Trader Joe's) or Ripple pea milk. As a starter, I either use shop bought non-dairy yoghurt or some of my previous batch. I tend to make smaller batches, just a single mason jar at a time (which also has the benefit of being easier to steralise!) which I put inside the inner pot. I also use a slightly longer incubation time - 11-12 hours - though haven't tried it with shorter, so it might be fine with 10 hours as well. ”
— Alice H.
Comment

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.


How to Make Yogurt in the Instant Pot

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.

Directions:

  1. 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).

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.


^The “Boil and Cool” Method

Do you make yogurt in the Instant Pot? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • AntoniaJames
    AntoniaJames
  • lauren
    lauren
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    OnionThief
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    SKK
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I am a retired Chiropractor turned food blogger with 3 published cookbooks. I live 30 minutes North of NYC with my family and a rescued Shih Tzu. I like playing the piano, knit, and read when I'm not tinkering in the kitchen.

15 Comments

AntoniaJames February 11, 2020
I always use the Instant Pot for yogurt. I go through a lot of it, as Greek yogurt is a superb source of protein, which I need because I work out / cycle a lot. My primary reason for making yogurt myself is not so much the cost (mine costs 65% of comparable quality from the stores), but because it cuts down on the amount of plastic I consume. Yes, plastic can be recycled, but the cost of producing the plastic and then the cost of transporting, sorting, etc., and then of recycling, are unnecessary. I buy my milk from a local dairy that delivers excellent milk to my doorstep in glass bottles. (They milk on Monday morning what they deliver to me on Tuesday. Bonus: the cows graze near many of the places here in Boulder County where I cycle when out on longer rides.) Buying milk in returnable glass bottles reduces one's plastic use for yogurt to zero.

My method is not just wonderfully simple, it produces Greek yogurt that's better than even the most expensive brands one can buy:

Put 7 cups of milk in a 2 quart Pyrex pitcher and microwave to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. In my microwave, it takes 18 minutes. Meanwhile, create an ice bath. I use the small side of my double sink and put lots of ice in it. When the milk reaches 180 degrees, I remove it and cool it in the ice bath, until it reaches 108 degrees. That takes less than 10 minutes, mostly hands off, of course, though I do test after about 5 minutes and then frequently after that, as the milk tends to cool quite quickly.

Meanwhile, I set up the IP and put it on "Yogurt" setting, which on my Ultra means medium temperature for 11 hours.

When the milk has cooled to 108 degrees, I remove the skin on the top and pour the milk into the Instant Pot. I whisk in 1/2 cup of non-fat dry milk powder - very important for the best texture, in my experience - and 2-3 tablespoons of starter, from my current batch. I put a tea towel and then a metal lid on top, press "start" and let it run for 9 - 11 hours. Then I strain the yogurt through a thin flour sack towel or butter muslin, until it's thick, the way I like it.

Hope this helps. ;o)
 
lauren February 9, 2020
I followed this recipe but it seems like after 9 hours in the instant pot my yogurt is still just milk? Any ideas what I could have done wrong?
 
Pamela_in_Tokyo February 10, 2020
I don’t use an instant pot to make yogurt so I can’t help you with those particular functions, but I wonder if your starter was fresh enough or if you used enough of your starter. I believe the recipe says just a tablespoon, but it wouldn’t be wrong to put in several tablespoons I feel. The only other thing that I can think of is that your Instant pot was set up too high a temperature, that would kill the starter. I think you can use the milk again and start over with new starter.
 
Author Comment
Karen L. February 10, 2020
I'm sorry your yogurt didn't set. It could be the starter issue or the temperature issue. I had great results with just 1 tbsp but it has to contain LIVE culture. What kind of yogurt starter did you use? Did you set the IP setting to Yogurt and not BOIL? I'd need specific info to determine what went wrong. FYI. You could still make yogurt with your failed milk if you add the right yogurt culture and set it at the right temperature.
 
lauren February 10, 2020
Thanks for your reply! I used 1 TBS of Fage 5% yogurt and set my instant pot to the yogurt setting.
 
Author Comment
Karen L. February 10, 2020
I don't have an experience in using 5% fat yogurt. I always use whole fat milk and whole fat yogurt as described. Did you use low fat milk? That might be a reason too. Low fat milk and yogurt do not produce thick yogurt and possibly not even activate the culture to ferment the milk. Try adding LIVE whole fat yogurt culture to the milk if you still have it.
 
Pamela_in_Tokyo February 3, 2020
In the boiling and then cooling method, you don’t really boil the milk at 183°F, which is about 83°C, to kill bacteria. What you are doing is changing the milk proteins with the heat which makes making yogurt easier.

And you don’t really need an Instapot to do this. I’ve been making yogurt for 30 years with a 1 qt jar in a Styrofoam box. Heat the milk to 183°F (83°C) and cool the milk to 115°F (46°C), the perfect temperature for yogurt making, then add the starter (saved from the last batch) and then set aside in the styrofoam box for 8 to 12 hours. After that refrigerate it.

And I can do all this while making my morning tea. I start my tea and at the same time I put 1 L of milk into a pan and literally within 4 minutes maybe 5 minutes it reaches the temperature of 183°F, I can tell by the small bubbles starting to form around the edge of the pan. And I have been doing it for 30 years so you get into a routine. I take the pan off the heat and set my timer for 25 minutes because I now know that the milk will cool down to 115°F in 25 minutes. By that time, I’m done with my tea and I pour the milk into the jar and add the starter saved from the last batch. (Don’t put the 183°F milk into the jar until it is cooled or you will break the jar possibly.) I put the jar in my Styrofoam box and leave it there for 8 to 12 hours. After that, it goes in the refrigerator to cool down. It doesn’t take any extra time or any special knowledge or any special technique. Just heat the milk, cool it, add the starter, put it in the jar, wait 8-12 hours, refrigerate it.
 
Author Comment
Karen L. February 5, 2020
I know you don't need an Instant Pot to make yogurt. However, this post is about how to make it in the Instant Pot for those people who have it. Thanks for your instructions on making it without it.
 
OnionThief February 2, 2020
Yogurt is the primary reason i bought an Instant Pot.
Just an FYI regarding straining: Cheesecloth is a pain in the ass, and not necessary. I use a smooth woven cotton kitchen towel. It's sturdier, reusable, and the finished strained yogurt slips out clean and completely.
 
Author Comment
Karen L. February 5, 2020
Any fine cloth for straining works - even nutbags! I find washing and drying cheesecloth to be much easier than a kitchen towel. Whichever method people likes to strain - if they want to even strain it, that is -works!
 
SKK February 1, 2020
I use my Instant-Pot all the time to make yogurt and the recipe I use is much simpler.
Use the glass cover that Instant-Pot sells
quart of whole milk
Yogourmet Culture
Pour milk into pot, hit yogurt, then either time or boil will show on screen If it is time it once more and hit boil. Cover on.
When prompted boil is over, let cool to between 108-112 F. This takes about 30 minutes.
Then add Yogourmet Culture and stir.
Hit time for 24 hours.
When yogurt is complete drain through cheesecloth.
It is tart, and wonderful with honey and fruit.
 
SKK February 1, 2020
Three additional notes:
Take glass lid off while milk is cooling. Whisk every so often while cooling so skin does not form on milk. Once you have added the Yogourmet culture and set the timer do not take the lid off the Instant Pot as you will change the temp.
 
Author Comment
Karen L. February 3, 2020
I agree! Making yogurt is so easy and 'safe' in the IP! The "Cold Start" method that I describe in this post is even simpler than the "Boil and Cool" method you're describing. There's no boiling and waiting for it to cool in the "Cold Start" method. If you read the post and use a certain type of milk, you don't need to boil to 185 degrees and wait to cool. That's the beauty of this method. And if you have some leftover yogurt from your previously made yogurt, you don't even need a yogurt starter. Easy peasy!
 
Alice H. January 31, 2020
I love making vegan yoghurt in my instant pot! Instead of dairy milk, I use soy milk (this has to be a brand that doesn't contain any stabilizers or preservatives - I use Trader Joe's) or Ripple pea milk. As a starter, I either use shop bought non-dairy yoghurt or some of my previous batch. I tend to make smaller batches, just a single mason jar at a time (which also has the benefit of being easier to steralise!) which I put inside the inner pot. I also use a slightly longer incubation time - 11-12 hours - though haven't tried it with shorter, so it might be fine with 10 hours as well.
 
Author Comment
Karen L. February 3, 2020
The "Cold Start" method works for dairy free yogurt too! We like coconut cream/ milk as well. And like you said, you have to find pure milk/cream.