Making Homemade Yogurt

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Yep, you read that right. Homemade yogurt, in our crock pot.

Of course, before we get started, it’s worth noting that I’m sharing something we do routinely in our own home, and if you choose to do this in your own home, I assume no liability over the results. We’ve done this many times and have never had a problem, but if you were to use unclean equipment or use old milk or something, you could create something inedible in this process. Clean your stuff thoroughly before making anything like this – or cooking anything in your kitchen, for that matter.

The reward? We made this much yogurt using just $2 worth of material.

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We actually made ten containers – Sarah and our children were sharing the first container while this picture was taken. Each container contains about twice as much yogurt as a typical store-purchased yogurt container.

So, how did we make it?

Our procedure was very similar to the crock pot yogurt recipe at Crock Pot 365.

You’ll need a functional crock pot, a clean towel, half a gallon of milk (preferably whole milk, though it works with soy milk), 1/2 cup store-purchased yogurt (any kind will work – even soy yogurt), and any flavoring you wish to add – vanilla, fruit puree, etc. You may also want to add a single packet of unflavored gelatin (for thicker yogurt) or a cup of nonfat milk powder (for a creamier taste).

The procedure itself is simple. Just put the milk in a cleaned crock pot and let it cook on the low setting for two and a half hours, then unplug the crock pot and let the milk sit for three hours (covered), for five and a half hours total.

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At that point, remove a couple cups of warm milk from the crock pot and add the yogurt to that cup, stirring them together thoroughly.

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Add the milk-yogurt mix back to the crock pot and thoroughly cover the crock pot with a towel. If you’re going to add nonfat milk powder or gelatin, do it now, stirring it in thoroughly. Then, let the crock pot sit (unplugged) for eight more hours (we left it overnight).

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In the morning, you’ll have plenty of yogurt!

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You’ll want to flavor the yogurt at this point. I strongly recommend being conservative with the flavoring, as it’s surprisingly easy to overdo it. I also recommend using smaller individual containers like the ones you see above.

Yes, this even works if you’re a vegan. You can use Stonyfield Farm O’Soy soy yogurt as your yogurt starter and use soy milk or almond milk as your milk.

The yogurt lasts for about seven days, so expect to be eating it as a snack pretty heavily after you make a batch. If you’re like us, where yogurt is a regular part of meals, this is easy to do.

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63 thoughts on “Making Homemade Yogurt

  1. Be sure that the store bought yogurt you add has LIVE culture. Just read the ingredients, if it’s live, the ingredient list will say so.

    Yogurt will last a lot longer than 7 days – at least a my house. Be sure to save a bit to use in your next batch.

  2. I make mine essentially the same way, but use the stove instead of a crockpot. I stir in 1/2 c. powdered milk while heating 1/2 gallon or so skim milk to 180°F in a stainless steel soup pot, and always use Stonyfield Farm plain as the starter. The starter really makes a difference in the texture and taste. After cooling to 105°, I stir in the yogurt, wrap the pot in towels and put it in the oven (heated to “warm” then turned off) overnight. It can even stay until I get home from work just fine. The powdered milk makes it thicker and creamier. Yum.

  3. Very nice. I haven’t done it with a crockpot but that is a good idea.
    Thanks.
    Do make sure that the store yogurt still has live cultures. Tried it once and didn’t check the package, Oh, that was bad.

  4. A major tidbit of information was left out. Rather than “any kind of yogurt will do,” you must use a live/active culture yogurt. Years ago I ended up with something resembling a giant cottage cheese curd in whey until someone told me that many yogurts are pasteurized.

    I’m glad Trent included a link to the source of this yogurt recipe. It is basically the same post in much more detail.

  5. Never thought about using a crock pot. One thing that I do is heat the milk to 180 degrees. Once it cools to 100 degrees, I add the starter. Has worked everytime for me. Good article! (BTW, I just wrote up my process on my blog yesterday)

  6. I like the idea of doing this in a crock pot! I have been making yogurt in the microwave (I use old peanut butter -glass- jars) with good success and it takes less culturing time, but this would allow for BEEG Batch! Thanks Trent!

  7. Can you freeze it? I’m single. No whey (lol!) I can eat that much yogurt in 7 days. Also, I assume works with goat milk and yogurt too?

  8. Oen more thing: Can you use both the milk powder and the gelatin or are they mutually exclusive?
    Thanks!

  9. “A major tidbit of information was left out. Rather than “any kind of yogurt will do,” you must use a live/active culture yogurt.”

    I came to post this. I wish Trent read the comments so that there would be a chance a casual reader would see it.

  10. @ Lurker Carl: Actually, any kind of yogurt will do. Likely what happened was that you might have let it sit too long and it soured, or you didn’t let it cool enough before you added the culture. I’ve made yogurt with just about every type of yogurt under the sun.

    And you don’t even need a crock pot. I make mine in a pot on the stove, using Harold McGee’s (of On Food and Cooking fame) method.

    I make mine by letting 1 qt of milk come to a low simmer for about 10 minutes on the stove (to set the matrix), letting it cool for almost 1 hour at room temperature (to about 115-120 F) and then adding the culture. I divide it into two clean (but not sterile) jars, and keep them under a blanket for at least 4 hours (you can let it go up to 8 hours, but it gets really tart). It keeps for at least a week, if you don’t open it.

  11. Trent,
    This is great! I would love to give this a try, as I really like healthy yogurt with minimal sugars and such added, but it’s a surprisingly large part of my grocery budget.

    I do have a question for you – if I were to accidentally mess up or have it contaminated or gross in the process, how would I know? What signs could I look for to indicate that I had messed up and created something inedible or that would make me sick?

  12. Great idea. I’ve tryed the recipe at A Year of Slow Cooking and had great results. I strained the yogurt with a collander lined with paper towels to make it thicker. I have to say, it was way too much yogurt for 1 person! I wonder if you could freeze something like this.

  13. @ Elaine: I honestly don’t think there’s a way to screw up yogurt, short of dropping a slab of raw chicken into the milk. People strain their yogurts using cheesecloths (for Greek style yogurts), and do all manners of weird things to them. So as long as your milk is fresh, your containers are clean, and you don’t stew a piece of raw meat in the milk, I think you’ll be all right :-D

  14. I’ve been making yogurt for a while and i wanted to add one piece of advice. This will work great with organic milk. If you use regular milk, bring it to a slow boil for 2-3 minutes. Regular milk can contain residual antibiotics. The heating denatures them. If you do not boil and the antibiotics are present, the yogurt will not set up properly.

  15. Thank you so much for posting this! I have been considering making my own yogurt but I don’t own a heating pad or can put my oven on low. I DO own a crockpot AND a beach towel! Hopefully this weekend will be the great experiment.

    Where in the process do you add in some vanilla flavoring?

    Another way to thicken it, as I’m sure at least one commenter has mentioned (sorry, I skimmed), would be to strain it. I’ve seen other yogurt recipes that suggest you use the leftover whey in bread baking.

  16. I’m concerned about the two hours of crock pot energy used for this method. You can get the same effect much more quickly by heating the milk to just on boiling and then letting it cool to blood temperature (either use a thermometer or estimate by dipping your finger in – it’s blood temperature when it feels neither hot nor cold.) The boiling means that you’ve killed any pathogens, though it’s not a real worry with pasteurised milk. Then add the yoghurt and keep it warm overnight.

    Even easier, cheaper and less energy intensive is making yoghurt with powdered milk. Mix up milk powder using 2/3 of the recommended water – i.e. if it says 3 cups of water to one cup of milk powder, only use 2 cups of water, to make a thick milk. Then add boiling water to bring it up to blood temperature. Add the yoghurt and keep it warm overnight.

    You can keep using your own yoghurt as a starter, but you will find it gets sourer as time goes on. To avoid that I buy a small pot of plain yoghurt as a fresh starter ever six batches.

    @ #8 Elaine: it’s pretty hard to mess up to the point that it would make you sick, but you’ll know if it’s not right because it will taste and smell awful – like off milk. Like off milk, though, it’s not really harmful. Generally the only reason it won’t work is because you’ve let it get either too hot or too cold. The live culture for yoghurt only works within a limited temperature range. If it fails to set it’s too cold and you can just warm it up and try again; if it’s too hot, you may find that it’s separated and the yoghurt is very dense. In that case, pour off the whey, strain it through cheesecloth in a sieve with a weight on it for a day or so in the fridge, to make a kind of yoghurt cheese called quark.

  17. Actually it’s not hard to make yogurt. Indians make their own yogurt all the time. And you don’t need a crockpot.

    Just boil the milk in a saucepan on the stove top and take it off when it boils once. Transfer the milk to the container in which you want the yogurt and let it cool (I usually use the same vessel) Then add a spoon of yogurt to it and set it aside for about 8 hours. And viola you are done!

  18. @ Suzanne:

    If you’re using a bean, then steep the bean when you first cook the milk. If you’re using an extract, then add the vanilla when you add the culture.

  19. I used to make my own yogurt, but the problem I ran into was running out of milk.

    Yogurt has a longer shelf life than milk.

  20. Could you freeze this after you make it, to get frozen yogurt? I quiet like frozen yogurt as a substitute for Ice cream.

  21. I’ve read that kefir is even easier to make than yogurt, since you don’t even have to heat it. You just add the kefir grains to milk and put it in a closed container for a set amount of time.

  22. Thanks for this great recipe, we’ll have to try it! I’m sick of the expensive prices of soy yogurt, and silk live yogurt (the only large container I’ve found) has a very strong acrid/bitter taste that I can’t stand. We’ll be trying this sometime soon!

  23. @ Jules – It’s very possible I messed it up but that problem never occurred using live culture yogurt. I didn’t use a crock pot either as we didn’t have electricity yet. Yogurt was another method for preserving milk, as does cheese and custard and cottage cheese.

  24. Thanks Trent. My neighbor is Indian and cooks many dahl dishes using yogurt.

    Even though I appreciate that she rarely uses meat when cooking, I thought I could never use her wonderful vegetable dishes because of the yogurt.

    Now that you tell me I can use my rice milk, I’m going to give this a try. This is very exciting for me.

    BTW, this Indian woman makes her yogurt around once per week and she just takes a culture from the previous week to put in her new batch. So it’s self continuing.

  25. @ mike crosby, my daughter cannot handle dairy or soy, so I made this same recipe about two weeks ago using coconut milk and it worked out very well, so I would think you can use rice milk as well. Though you may need to use guar gum or tapioca powder to thicken it.

  26. I just saw that post on the crockpot blog the other day and was wondering if you would post something about it. I think I’m going to have to try this!

  27. I use a copper-bottomed pot, heat the milk til it steams, cool to 115 degrees, add the culture, and put it on a heating pad on “low” overnight. Then I filter it through coffee filters in a collander. Also, I use skim milk, one of the private label brands from Aldi, and it works perfectly. Dean’s milk didn’t work for me, so it must be brand-dependent.

  28. Interesting recipe. I use a similar incubating method, but the prep is different.
    My wife and I started making yogurt about a year ago with great success.
    We use 2% milk, and usually Cascade Fresh Plain Yogurt, as it has no added ingredients or sugar. This makes plain yogurt that we add fruit to before we eat it.
    We purchased a thermometer to use as we wanted to be sure of the temperature.

    Crock Pot Prep
    Crock pot has 3 heating levels, warm, low and high. Low is too warm, so we cycle between off and low.
    While heating milk on burner, turn crock pot on warm, and add water

    Here is our process.
    1. Heat 1/2 Gallon 2% milk to ~185F in large pan on stove.
    2. Take 8oz container yogurt out of fridge to raise to room temp.
    3. While heating milk, whisk in 1/3 cup powdered milk.
    4. When milk is at temp, keep there for 2-3 minutes. Have read that this helps activate the proteins in the milk and makes less whey in yogurt
    5. Remove milk from burner, place in sink filled with cold water, add blue ice packs to water, cool milk to ~110F
    6. Pour milk into Pint Mason Jars. Should split evenly between 5 jars
    7. Add 1oz yogurt to each jar, stir in
    8. Lid jars and place in crock pot.
    Crock pot by this time should be about 90-100 degrees. If it is a bit lower than 90, no matter, adding the jars which are still warm, will warm up water.
    10. Place thermometer in water in crock pot. The more water, the better insulator, so fewer on off cycles necessary. Set alarm on thermometer for 109Degrees, turn crock pot on warm. Set timer for 8 hours
    11. When temp alarm goes off, turn off crock pot. Remember to check temperature and turn on when it gets down to ~98 degrees F
    12. After 8 hours, take jars out of crock pot and put in refrigerator overnight.
    Next day, open jar, stir thoroughly to incorporate any whey and serve as you like. Has nice tangy flavor, and we usually add fresh or frozen fruit. 1 jar is good for 8oz for each of us, so this makes a work weeks worth of yogurt.
    We are still working on finding a set it and forget it method of temperature control.
    It is very satisfying to make the yogurt, taste it and know that it is less than half what we would pay for an equivalent amount of store bought yogurt!!

  29. Forgot to add that the yogurt lasts a long time. It has still been perfectly good after 2-3 weeks. My support for this is that I am very picky about stuff going bad, so if it was suspect, it would be out of here! :)
    The amount of whey varies, and we haven’t figured out how to control it. A quick stir and problem is solved.
    Active culture is definitely necessary. Using part of the yogurt you make as starter for the next batch works, to a point. From what I have read, and we tried it once, the culture loses strength after a couple of successive batches, so you have to renew it with fresh yogurt.
    @S01 – You probably could freeze it, but I think the texture would be off. Like if you had milk sugar etc for ice cream and just froze it without the mixing process, it would not be the creamy smooth texture because it would not freeze evenly. You may, however, be able to add the yogurt to an ice cream freezer and it might just work. Not sure, but now I need to try it. :)

  30. This is a great money saver. I’ve been making my own yogurt for about six months now. I got a lot of weird looks from friends and family when I started, but after showing people the results and the savings, I’ve got my family and several friends making their own homemade yogurt.
    The leftover whey is great in soups and bread. Or you can add it to the bath and soak, it’s great for the skin.

  31. For those who like to be exact, a thermometer is helpful. Heat the milk any way you like to 185* F, then cool to 110* or so before adding the starter yogurt. The temp range for the yogurt bacteria to grow is 105-115* If the bacteria get too hot, they will die and you won’t get good yogurt.

    Like Rita #18, I make it with Coconut milk, and it’s delicious. Extremely low carb. I use 2 cups coconut milk, plus 1 cup each: Hemp milk (!) and heavy cream. Strained through coffee filter it becomes so decadent.

  32. Hi,
    I am surprised to see that you could do a whole post on how to make yogurt at home.
    I am from India, and here almost 95% of households do make their own yogurt (or curd as we call it)since ages. And as Mike Crosby (#17) rightly mentioned, we use a spoonful from last batch, so the cycle is self continuing. We generally do it DAILY, and use a big bowl that holds sufficient to consume in a day. My mother would take not more than a minute to prepare the mix every evening and keep it aside.
    Another tip is to keep the container in a slightly warm place (not hot). we observe that the yogurt is thicker and better if surroundings are warm (never experimented if artificially warmed rooms provide same benefit :))

  33. Hey It says it only lasts 7 days? What if you freeze it and then take it out as needed, how long does it last then?

  34. I have a cheap yoghurt machine. It looks a bit like a baby bottle warmer. In fact, I think you could use such a warmer to make small portions.

    I use a good quality yoghurt as a starter. Most yoghurts have 2 different cultures, this one has three. I eat most of the yoghurt, leaving 2 spoonfuls. Those I mix with the cheapest milk I can find, fat free in my case. No heating necessary.
    The machine holds a liter. I eat all except for two spoonfuls. Those I use for making a new batch. I have to buy new yoghurt after 15 batches or so. The more you use it, the more saur it gets. I like that.

    You can taste if yoghurt has turned bad. It tastes bad.
    I use a washable coffeefilter to strain the yoghurt. Thick for greek yoghurt, and even creamy for a kind of cheese spread. Try it with chives and pepper on rhye bread.

  35. To #14 SO1: Yes, you can use this to make frozen yogurt, but you’ll have to strain the extra whey out first using cheesecloth. You can use the leftover whey for baking if you like. Here’s the recipe (it is from 101cookbooks dot com, but you can’t link to things in these comments:

    3 cups (720g) strained yogurt
    3/4 cup (150g) sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

    Mix this up until the sugar dissolves completely, and freeze in an icecream maker. This is not very sweet- it’s like Pinkberry Style yogurt, so you may want to up the sugar if you’re after something more ice-creamy.

  36. Thank you Tren! I’ve made soy yogurt before but not this way. Definitely going to try this as it is much easier than the method I used. :)

  37. Amy Dacyczyn published a great yogurt recipe in issue 62 of The Tightwad Gazette. My wife and I have used it for years with no problems ever. Any milk will do: whole, 2%, 1%, or skim, and you can use yogurt from the batches you make as starter for future batches. Her recipe seems a bit simpler than the crockpot one, using only the stovetop, a candy thermometer, and a heating pad.

  38. I tried the crockpot technique and wasn’t terribly happy with it … but it could be that I’ve got a smallish crockpot (since it’s just me) and I kept the heat down during the winter. I may try it again now that it’s warming up. My normal technique requires a thermometer (as others have mentioned) using the same proportions of milk at yogurt.
    Heat the milk to 185 degrees F., Cool to 110. While it’s cooling, preheat a big thermos with hot water (just run hot water from the tap into it and cap it, and let it set). Once the milk is 110, then mix in the starter yogurt. Pour out the hot water in the thermos, then pour the milk-yogurt mix into the thermos, cap it, and put it somewhere warm (I’ve had good luck with the laundry room). Leave 4-6 hours. You can tell if it’s done my giving the thermos a little shake. If it’s still sloshy, you’ll hear it.
    I prefer to keep “fake foods” like nonfat dry milk powder, or additives like gelatin out of my yogurt (whether I’m making it or buying it), so I thicken it by draining it in a coffee filter. Also, I’ve experienced less-than-good results with ultrapasteurized milk. YMMV. And sorry to nit-pick, Trent, but Stoneyfield Farms O’Soy isn’t technically vegan. The cultures they use are dairy-based. Perfectly fine if you eschew dairy for health/nutritional reasons, but if you’re a vegan for ethical reasons, it’s a no-go.

  39. Trent, there are recipes that use yogurt as a dressing, like falafel or curry with chickpeas, that you might try out. Just another way to use all that yogurt!

  40. My dad used to make yogurt all the time and it was very good. The one suggestion I have is to mark the date on the containers so you know how old the yogurt is. Looks very tasty.

  41. I’m excited to give this a try as we eat a lot of yogurt (expensive!) and would love to be able to control the amount of sugar that is added. I find most yogurt a little too sweet, but won’t buy the ones with artificial sweeteners because of the extreme health risks of aspartame, etc.

    In our area in southwestern Canada, a gallon of milk is between $4.40 and $5.00, so with the 1/2 cup of yogurt for this recipe the cost would be at least $3, I think I need to come buy groceries in Trent’s town!

  42. I don’t think the Stoneyfield O’Soy yogurts are vegan. I think the active cultures in them are milk-based. But there is a very good vegan yogurt out there by Moosewood Farms (or something like that name). It says “vegan” on the container…

  43. Thanks Trent! I have not conquered making yogurt yet, but this gives me great hope I can do it.

  44. What is the difference between regular yogurt and Greek yogurt? I know the taste difference (I eat no-fat Greek), but what else?

    Ever day I have a cup of plain greek yogurt with a bit of baking splenda and cut up fruit. It’s terrific! But Greek yogurt is expensive. Is it really just a difference in how to drain it that make it Greek yogurt?

  45. Kristine – that’s pretty much the difference. Greek yogurt is just strained so that it has more cheese like texture. You can strain regular yogurt to get the same result. You’d just need to strain it through cheesecloth or muslin.

    Also because it’s more concentrated it has a little bit more protein.

  46. #21. Thank you. I came to post the exact temperatures- this is very easy when you use a thermometer.

    We made yogurt this way a gallon and a half at a time for many weeks on end when I was using yogurt in smoothies everyday. Full-fat milk will make the best texture of yogurt but you can use anything. We strained it through cheesecloth to make thicker yogurt instead of mixing in gelaten or milk powder.

  47. hi – all this talk of crockpots and other heating devices makes things unnecessarily complicated. cover with a damp tea towel and put it in the oven overnight with the light on – works every time (also great for rising dough but watch it, cause the dough can get pretty lively in there).

    if you have forced-air heat, you can put it on one of those shoe racks over a register (the hotter the air, the higher it needs to go – you don’t want custard).

    make it in the morning and leave it, covered, in a sunny spot, it’ll be done by dinnertime.

  48. @Teenie – Put cheese cloth or basket paper coffee filter in a colander or strainer. Place a bowl or something underneath to catch the whey which drains out.

    I’ve also up yogurt in the center of cheesecloth, tied all 4 corners together over a chop stick and then laid the chopstick over a bowl so the yogurt didn’t touch the bottom of the bowl.

  49. I bought a $60 yogurt maker from King Arthur Foods because I either made runny yogurt or stiff yogurt. It works well, but of course it wasn’t cheap. I had never tried making it in a crockpot, though. I use skim milk, and the directions with this yogurt maker say to add a little powdered milk to thicken it. Works well.

  50. Ok, I made this last night. I used Vanilla soy milk and vanilla silk live yogurt. This morning it was like yogurt at the bottom but milk at the top, maybe 1/3 yogurt and 2/3 milk. What did I do wrong? Does it need to sit out longer? Was using vanilla soy milk a bad idea, should I have used the unsweetened kind?

  51. Its few days later. I put my “failed” yogurt in the fridge and thought it would work on cereal instead of milk. Got it out this morning and it had set up!!! I’m straining it now. Tastes like vanilla pudding. I did some research on trouble shooting and I think my towel didn’t keep it warm enough overnight, so I’ll adjust that next time. Thanks for passing this along!

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