Homemade Yogurt (Plain and Fruit)

How to make homemade yogurt, plain or with fruit | photo by Zoë François

I find myself digging into the past recently and finding recipes. My grandmother’s rugelach, cheese blintzes from the Kiev restaurant (a childhood favorite) and fresh homemade yogurt my mom used to make. We lived on a commune in VT, where we grew our own vegetables and raised a cow for dairy. Everything was local and organic, because if we didn’t produce it, we couldn’t afford it. My mom was the one to milk the cow, which she then made into homemade yogurt, butter and cheese. The flavor of that homemade yogurt, made from fresh milk, was divine. 48 years later, in Minneapolis we are allowed to keep chickens, but the city hasn’t approved urban dairy cows, so I just buy milk for making yogurt. Not as romantic, but still tasty.

How to make homemade yogurt, plain or with fruit | photo by Zoë François

Now that I have started making my own, I may never buy yogurt again. Homemade yogurt is so easy and has such an incredible flavor. Even my boys like it better. I happen to love it plain and tangy, but I’ll also put a layer of preserves on the bottom when I am in the mood for something a bit sweeter.

All you need is milk (you choose the fat content), a bit of heavy cream (if you’re feeling decadent) and some plain yogurt to get started. 

Homemade Yogurt Recipe (Plain)

1/2 gallon milkpreferably organic, but I think any will do it. I used 2% milk, because that is what my family drinks, but you can use whole, 1 % or even skim milk as well. The more fat content the milk has, the creamier the yogurt will be. You can also use goat or sheep’s milk. I add a bit of heavy cream to the mix, for the silky texture.

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon sugar to keep the milk from scorching to the pan (optional) – the sugar prevents the milk proteins from adhering to the pot.

1/2 cup plain yogurtpreferably organic and without any gums or other crazy ingredients. I used whole milk yogurt, but non-fat or low-fat will also work. The yogurt has to say live active culture.

2 tablespoons preserves for the bottom of the jar. See my instagram video to see how I keep the yogurt and fruit separated. Or you can make it plain and add flavors after.

Equipment:

Non-reactive sauce pan

Instant read Thermometer

Cheesecloth, if you are going to make thicker or Greek Style yogurt

individual Jars with lids or a large bowl

See my instagram video to watch me make the yogurt.How to make homemade yogurt, plain or with fruit | photo by Zoë François

Over low heat, slowly bring the milk and cream (if using) to 200°F in a non-reactive sauce pan fitted with an Digital Instant Read Thermometer or candy thermometer. (You want to denature the proteins, so the milk will become more solid, in the form of yogurt. If you do not heat the milk or heat it too much, to the point of boiling, it will not set up properly.)

How to make homemade yogurt, plain or with fruit | photo by Zoë François

Once your milk reaches 200°F, turn off the heat and bring the temperature back down to 110°F.

How to make homemade yogurt, plain or with fruit | photo by Zoë François

Once your milk has reached 110°F, stir a little bit of the warm milk into the 1/2 cup of plain yogurt. The plain yogurt, with its active cultures, is going to act as a “starter” for your batch of yogurt. It will create the fermentation that sets the yogurt and gives it the tangy flavor.

How to make homemade yogurt, plain or with fruit | photo by Zoë François

Return the blended milk and yogurt to the pot and gently stir them together. Pour the yogurt into the containers of your choice.

For the yogurt to set up, it needs to remain warm, the heat created by leaving the light on in the oven, is just right for generating enough heat to keep the yogurt active.

Now you have the choice of making thin or thick style yogurt:

Thin, mellow yogurt: Pour the mixture into the individual cups or a large bowl and let sit in the oven with the light on for about 6-8 hours.

Thick, tangy yogurt: let sit in the oven with the light on for about 8-12 hours. The longer is sits, the thicker and tangier it gets.

Keep the yogurt covered, so it won’t develop a skin on the surface.

If it does form a skin, many people consider this skin a delicacy and eat it with a sprinkle of sugar or spread on a crusty bread. Think of it as yogurt butter.

How to make homemade yogurt, plain or with fruit | photo by Zoë François

For Greek-style Yogurt: Pour the set yogurt in a strainer, lined with cheesecloth, set over a bowl. This will remove some of the whey and make the yogurt thicker. Set the yogurt in the refrigerator. The longer you let it hang in the cheese cloth, the thicker your yogurt will be. Let it go for several hours for Greek-style yogurt. If you let it go over night you will make farmer’s cheese to use in your blintzes.

Once you have the yogurt at the desired thickness place it back in the bowl or into individual cups and return it to the refrigerator.

46 thoughts to “Homemade Yogurt (Plain and Fruit)”

  1. Zoe, I love making homemade yogurt! Delicious. I have been making vanilla yogurt lately, and it’s fantastic. After cooling the milk I add, along with the yogurt culture, 1/2 cup of agave & 1 1/2 Tbsp of real Mexican vanilla. (Like you, I make 1/2 gallon at a time.)

    I do have a yogurt maker, which makes it so easy, but as I’ve made it more, I’ve realized I could certainly make it without that extra appliance!

  2. Also–Recently I’ve been making my yogurt with 2% milk. Before heating, I mix 1 cup powdered milk with a cup or 2 of milk. I use a hand blender to get it mixed in really well. I then add the rest of of the milk, stir it all, and continue the process. I’ve also been using plain Greek yogurt as my starter. With this process I’m ending up with a thick, creamy yogurt–I think it’s thicker than when I used to make yogurt with whole milk.

    1. Hi C. Beth,

      I have not tried it with the powdered milk yet, but I have been reading a lot about how it can improve the texture. I’ll give it a shot, thanks!

      Zoë

  3. I love homemade yogurt. In India, we make yogurt everyday at night by reserving a little bit of the culture. Eating yogurt everyday is a part of Indian upbringing, your yogurts looks so good. yum!

  4. I too use a small soft sided cooler, but with steel thermos’ and wrapped in a towel overnight. We are going to rig a ‘yogurt’ draw in our house build. A super insulated box drawer that will hold 4 qt mason jars and a heated brick to keep temp overnight. Then the jars can go direct from drawerto fridge in the morning or strained to Greek style then fridge!

    1. Thank you all for all the suggestions of how to keep the yogurt at the right temperature. No fancy equipment needed, just some imagination!

      Cheers, Zoë

  5. I make my yogurt almost exactly like that. I use the same 170 bring down to 110 temp but only use two tbsp of active culture yogurt to mix in the milk. I’ve also never had a skin form on my yogurt…..and I’ve been making it since years. Perhaps you leave your container open and hence the skin? I close the container always. I also proof my yogurt in an icebox with a jug of hot water placed in the cooler. The temp is maintained at 105 for 12 hours easily. I let my yogurt sit for only eight hours since any more than that and it gets a little sour for my taste.

    1. Hi na,

      Yes, I left the bowl uncovered. I had read about the skin and wanted to try it. But, I should have told people that if they cover the bowl they won’t get this. I’ll update the post to mention this.

      Cheers, Zoë

  6. This was wonderful to read. I knew nothing about how to make yogurt but have been following many of the bloggers who make ricotta cheese. I would love to try this as I have recently become addicted to greek yogurt with honey.

  7. This post couldn’t have come at a better time- my family and I are on a 6 month stay in Belize and good, thick, plain yogurt has been hard to come by so I just started experimenting with making my own. Was surprised at how easy it was! I was wondering- have you ever cultured anything other than cow’s milk? I would like to attempt coconut milk yogurt for my daughter, who has a very restricted diet.

    1. Hi Sarah,

      I have not, but I am sure that goat and sheep will behave in a very similar way to cow’s milk. Coconut yogurt sounds amazing, but I am not sure how that will go. I’d start with a very small amount and see how it goes. Please let me know what you find out!

      Thanks, Zoë

  8. This is SO great. I was planning on doing a homemade yogurt post soon but the kind I make is very similar, in a crockpot and is the thin version after being insulated for 8-24 hours. I will have to see if I can thicken it with your suggestions!

  9. Zoe, I recall Alton Brown doing a Good Eats show about yogurt and cheese making and saying you should do minimal mixing/agitating after it’s been set – he said that would make it have a thinner and thinner consistency. Am I confusing that with a different show or does that jibe with your experience?

    1. Hi Don,

      Unless you are straining the yogurt in the cheesecloth, to create a thick Greek-style yogurt, you do not want to touch it or it will break down as you suggest.

      Thanks, Zoë

  10. One day I will really get around to doing this! I love yogurt and have always wanted to make my own. Thanks for the very helpful and illustrative post!

  11. I havn’t bought yogurt in over a year since making it myself. The taste and texture is amazing. My kids prefer it too. I make mine by pouring the warm cultured milk into ceramic crocks with a sealed metal lid. Cover the crocks with a bath towel. Works perfectly. I use several crocks of different sizes. the small one goes to work with my husband. The larger ones we use at home. I also use the smaller crocks to make cultured buttermilk, creme frais, fromage blanc…go to http://www.cheesemaking.com for cultures.

  12. I must say, that looks like a pretty in depth process. Though I guess if the batches were big enough it wouldn’t workout to be as much time, relatively speaking.

    1. Hi Juan,

      That is the risk I take giving so much information. It is really very simple and once you do it once, you will not have to think about it the second time. Do make a big batch, it goes quickly.

      I have a batch going now! Enjoy, Zoë

  13. An older lady I work with taught me the 10/10 rule for making yogurt. I put about 2 quarts of milk in a microwaveable container and put it in the microwave for 10 min. When the milk is cool enough that I can put my pinky finger in the milk for a count of 10, then it is cool enough to put the yogurt in. I keep out about a 3/4 of a cup of yogurt from the last batch and mix it in. I wrap it up in old terry towels and put it in a small Styrofoam cooler for over night. I usually make my yogurt after dinner is done and the kitchen is straightened. I put an old dish towel over a colander to strain it. I then rinse out the dish towel and throw it in the washer.

  14. Love your step-by-step guide to making yogurt and the gorgeous photos! We live in Tokyo where the only Greek yogurt is $20 for a small tub. Ouch! I have been straining the Japanese yogurt to get the thicker consistency, but think making my own would be even better. Is it possible to make the yogurt with long shelf life milk we have here? Or does it need to be raw?

    1. Hi Cheri,

      Our milk is not raw, in fact there are laws about raw milk in the US that make it very hard to find. Try a small batch with the “long shelf life” milk, but I bet it will work.

      Thanks, Zoë

  15. I make this almost every week in my crock pot with no candy thermometer and no cooler, I wrap a towel around the crock pot overnight. It works great! I love your jars.

  16. Hi Zoe
    I love this post. We make yogurt almost every night and it is the simplest thing in the world.
    I do not use any special gadgets – just a saucepan to warm the milk, my pinky finger to test the temp, and a large bowl to set the yogurt. Would love to use those pretty jars though. Where can I acquire those?

  17. To Sarah: Do some blog searching in the alternative sectors (gluten-free, vegan). You will find TONS of information on making yogurt from non-dairy sources.

    I use non-dairy acidophilus bifidus supplements to make coconut yogurt and cashew yogurt. It’s the exact same process as above, but the starter is the contents of 1-2 probiotic capsules. An extra helping of protein added to the coconut milk makes the process less delicate. For this purpose I use ground chia, or ground flaxseed. A tad of honey or sugar of your choice at the beginning will act as fuel for the bacteria, and won’t sweeten the final product because it will all be eaten up and converted to lactic acid.

  18. I made this only a few days ago and just polished off the last of it. Zoe, your directions are so easy to follow.

    I poured the mixture into a “half gallon” mason jar. (FYI, the jars are not really a half gallon, so I initially poured the milk into the jar up to the 7 cup mark, then poured that milk into the pan to heat. This left room for the starter, with no room left over in the jar.)

    I wrapped the jar in a full size bath towel then placed it in a small Igloo type cooler. It was a tight fit. I left it undisturbed for 10 hours. The yogurt came out perfectly, so no other warming aids were necessary. It may have helped that I mixed in the starter when the milk had just cooled to below 120 degrees.

    This homemade yogurt seemed to strain a lot faster than the commercial yogurt I’ve purchased. I may have ended up with yogurt cheese instead of greek yogurt, but it was wonderful.

    How long will the yogurt last in the refrigerator?

  19. Zoe, what makes homemade yogurt sometimes have a grainy texture? I have been incubating it in a turned off oven with the oven light on for 10 hours, in individual 6 oz. containers. Any help you could provide would be most appreciated.

    Also, after heating to 170, I have been placing the pot with yogurt in cool water in my sink to speed up the cooling………..could this be the problem?

    Thanks………..love your blog!

  20. I’m not sure if you can help me, since I cheated and bought a yogurt maker! The directions yield more “batter” than will fit in the machine, so I put the leftovers in the fridge. It is just par-boiled milk and starter culture (already mixed together), but I was wondering if I can warm it up and use it to make another batch of yogurt, or if the mix is no good since it’s already been warmed then cooled. Hope you can help! Thanks!
    Theresa

  21. Do you have a source for the denaturing proteins thing? I tried making it without preheating, and it’s been sitting in the yogurt incubator for 12 hours, still liquid.

  22. I made yogurt today following a different recipe and it did not set up. I think maybe I took it out of the incubating stage too soon. Is there any way to re-set the yogurt or am I going to be drinking a lot of smoothies this week? 🙂

  23. I am just starting with my own yogurt and want little imdv glass jars just like the ones in your pictures but can’t find any. Where did you get those?

  24. Hi Zoe,

    This post is so helpful! Beautiful photography and super instructive. Thank you. Its probably obvious, but I’m new at this – once you make your first batch, do you use yogurt from your first batch to make the second, and so on (so that you don’t have to buy any from that point on?) Thanks!!

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