A Recipe for Yogurt or How to Make Yogurt at Home

by Kristen on July 27, 2008 · 28 comments

in Grocery Savings, Recipes

Yogurt is a really inexpensive food to eat if it’s homemade. A quart of non-organic yogurt costs $2-$3 in my area, but I can make yogurt for $1 a quart, which is a large savings. Four quarts of grocery store yogurt per week would cost me between $416 and $624 a year, and this yogurt(from milk purchased at $4/gallon) costs me $208.

I make my yogurt with raw milk from a local farm, but it can be made with pasteurized, homogenized milk as well. The recipes requires no special machines…you probably have most, if not all of these items in your kitchen already.

For directions on how to make vanilla yogurt, see the bottom of this post.

Equipment Needed
2 large stockpots
1 thermometer
4 quart canning jars with lids and bands
1 medium-sized cooler

1 gallon of milk
1 cup yogurt starter(you can use a small cup of plain Dannon or Yoplait yogurt, or you can use a cup from your previous batch. I’ve had not so good luck with off-brand yogurts. Whatever starter you use, make sure you don’t open it until you are ready to use it.)

1. Place four quart glass canning jars, four lids, and four screw-tops in a large pot. Fill with an inch of water; cover with lid and heat to boiling. Boil for ten minutes. Leave the lid on the pot and move it off the heat until you are ready to use the jars.

2. Pour one gallon of milk into a large stockpot. One with a heavy bottom will make the heating process simpler(you won’t have to watch so carefully for burning). I use a Revere Ware copper bottomed stock pot. Heat the milk to 185-195 degrees Farenheit(90-90 Celcius).

3. Place the pot in a sink filled with cold water and let the milk cool to 122-130 degrees farenheit(50-55 degrees celsius)

4. Stir one cup of yogurt starter into the cooled milk, using a whisk. Stir well to ensure that the starter is thoroughly incorporated into the milk.

5. Pour the milk into jars, and put the lids and bands on. Place them into a cooler. To simplify this process, I pour the milk into a clean pitcher, because I can never manage to pour milk neatly from a pot into the jars.

6. Heat one gallon of water to 122-130 degrees F(50-55 degrees C) and pour into cooler. Note: Do not use plastic containers, because they float, as I discovered while making this particular batch. Ahem.

7. Shut cooler lid and leave in a warm place for three hours. When the three hours are up, place the yogurt in the refrigerator. If all went well, your yogurt should be thick like this:

Don’t worry if it’s not this thick right out of the cooler…sometimes mine isn’t thick until it’s become completely cool in the refrigerator.

The first time I made yogurt, I thought it was a total pain-in-the-rear and I was SO never doing it again. But, after I did it a few times, I realized that it didn’t really take that much hands-on time, and that I could get some kitchen tasks done easily while I waited for the jars to boil and for the milk to heat up. And of course during the three hours that the yogurt sits in the cooler, I’m free to do whatever I want to do as the yogurt requires no supervision. =P

To make a vanilla version of this yogurt, add 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar to the four quarts of milk when it’s cooling in the sink. Then stir in 2 tablespoons of vanilla(I use one tablespoon real and one tablespoon imitation) and proceed as usual with the recipe.

Leave a Comment

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 greenadine July 29, 2008 at 7:10 pm

a simple way to make healthful desserts; i prefer this one pot method to the little electric gadget sold with small glass jars and lids.
i let my yoghurt ferment for 24 hours for extra thickness.
i also have experimented with one spoonful of buttermilk added to a cup of Dannon, Yoplait or Activia. it seems to sweeten the mix. makes it more biologically European.


2 Kristen July 29, 2008 at 7:20 pm

Yes…my mom had one of those little yogurt makers, and it only made something like 8 little glass jars of yogurt. This method gives you a lot more yield for your time, which is great!


3 koko November 17, 2008 at 9:56 pm

I can’t believe you make your own yoghurt – props!


4 steve January 12, 2009 at 1:04 am

yogurt is very easy to make once you get the hang of it! I go in phases of eating/not eating yogurt, but I usually make my own when I’m “in” phase!

I freeze an ice cube tray of yogurt and pop the cubes in a ziploc, and use those as starter cubes. I have a 50s era styrofoam cooler that i culture the yogurt in. And I tend to culture it overnight, starting at a the high range of what the bacteria can tolerate–around 126 F. It has always worked for me, and I like the yogurt I make more than the stuff in the store.


5 steve January 12, 2009 at 1:06 am

PS. It’s easier to just scald the milk in a small metal pot, then culture it right in the same pot. I have one that doesn’t have a handle and fits right into the cooler. It makes 2 quarts. Then I either just refrigerate the pot or ladle the yogurt from the pot into jars for refrigeration storage.


6 WilliamB June 2, 2009 at 9:38 am

I started making yogurt a few weeks ago. Darn is it easy!
1. Heat milk.
2. Cool milk.
3. Add yogurt (2-4T per quart of milk).
4. Let sit in warm place, 3-12 hrs.

Why didn’t I start doing this years ago?

My process is simpler: I do everything in one pot, leave it in the oven with the light on, and store the finished product in a tupperware-type container. I’m experimenting with straining my yogurt. I used a thermometer the first time, to see how warm 115F felt, and how I do it by feel. Once I have that down, I’m going to experiment with adding fruit – juice? puree? we’ll find out. Why? Because out of necessity I made one batch with Yoplait peach yogurt and it was tasty stuff. Much to my surprise, as I don’t like commerical flavored yogurt. (I told you it was out of necessity.)


7 Joyce June 8, 2009 at 1:24 pm

The last time I made my yogurt, it was runnier than before. Does heating the milk all the way to 195 make a difference? Or letting it process longer? What would make it thicker? This really is a lot easier than the directions make it seem. I did make a mistake once of forgetting the milk was heating . Oops. I made it anyways, but there was just less. Tee hee Now I put on a timer to make sure I don’t forget it.


8 ksmedgirl June 15, 2009 at 8:34 pm

Do you ever have to strain whey off your yogurt? I have tried a few different methods with varying results. I will try this method next time.


9 Julie January 24, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Just moved my jars from the warm cooler into the fridge and so far VERY runny. I let it sit in the warm cooler 3 1/2 hrs. Is this normal? Anything I possibly did wrong for it to be so runny when transferring to fridge?


10 Julie February 11, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Just wanted to update that Kristen contacted me after this post and suggested that I might have heated the milk and/or cooler water to so high of a temperature that I killed the yogurt culture. I went and bought a new, faster thermometer and tried again with the result of very yummy, non-runny yogurt! Hooray! I went with the vanilla version of the recipe and everyone in my family has enjoyed gobbling it up! :)


11 Kristen February 11, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Excellent! So glad to hear the happy ending. :)


12 Jennifer January 20, 2013 at 8:13 pm

The Germans use a sugar called vanilla sugar, real vanilla :) I think it would be delicious in this. A healthier alternative. Also can be purchased easily at germandeli.com or at a local European market. It changed my baking habits too!


13 Jennifer January 20, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Also, do you add regular yogurt ? Like plain yogurt, or is there some special starter yogurt? I’m on my first step to understanding this process…. ANy help would be greatly appreciated! I see people saying to add yogurt culture and I keep wondering is that something different from plain yogurt?


14 Kristen January 20, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Yep, my starter is just plain old yogurt…nothing fancy. I like Yoplait or Dannon as a starter.


15 Kristy February 18, 2013 at 4:21 pm

So I attempted to make my very own yogurt today, and think I messed it up fairly well. I took my dear sweet time checking the temperature of my heated milk after it was in the cold water bath, and it got down to about 105. I went ahead and completed the recipe. Am I going to make myself sick if I eat it (assuming it looks/smells ok)?


16 Kristen February 18, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Nope, you won’t make yourself sick, but you’ll probably want to let it incubate for an extra few hours. Yogurt bacteria (the good kind) will still grow at 105, they just won’t grow as quickly. The reason we incubate at 120 is that the bacteria multiply faster then so we don’t have to incubate for as long (and a shorter incubation tends to produce yogurt that’s not as sour.)


17 Nan February 23, 2013 at 11:18 am

Stupid question, is the “starter” yogurt just a plain Dannon yogurt cup or is there something called starter yogurt. Sorry for being so dumb, I’ve always wanted to do this but thought it was much harder. This seems too easy.


18 Kristen February 23, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Nope, it’s just plain old, regular yogurt. Isn’t that lovely and simple??


19 Terri October 14, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Ok, made the yogurt this morning. Heated milk, cooled it, added whole yogurt & put it in crock pot in jars for 3 hrs. Refrigerated for 4 hrs. Really runny. Gonna put it out on the patio for a few more hours & see if it thickens up. If not, i may have killed the culture.


20 Kristen October 15, 2013 at 7:30 am

I’m not familiar with incubating jars in the crock pot. I always incubate mine in the cooler, so maybe try that method if your yogurt didn’t turn out this go round.


21 Aimee October 4, 2014 at 5:14 pm

If I wanyed to make lemon yogurt, would I add lemon extract at a certain point in the yogurt making procrss? I would like to try strung a flavoring besidrs vanilla. Thanks for sharing how to make yogurt!


22 Kristen October 4, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Yup, I’d add it at the same point that you’d add the vanilla.


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