How To Make Yogurt


I’ve got a quick one here from Larry, the Keep It Simple Engineer. He’s the same guy who did the sourdough bread recipe. Today he shows how easy it is to make your own yogurt. Take it away, Larry.

Hi Drew and all…

Yogurt is a breakfast staple for me, and I buy quality yogurt in 64 oz (half-gallon) containers.  The price recently has risen to over $6, and the store doesn’t always have what I prefer in stock.  It is not lost on me that whole milk runs around $3 a gallon.

So I took the leap and bought a automatic yogurt maker even though I thought it over priced.  The first results were impressive.  Looks like I’m going to be saving around $15-20 a month, and get great yogurt.

Here’s what I did.  Poured half-gallon of whole milk into a large glass bowl and heated in my microwave (which has a temperature probe) to 185F – 23 minutes,  Then I placed the glass bowl in a larger bowl, ran tap water in the larger bowl and stirred gently until the temperature dropped to 110F.  Then I added about half a cup of my store bought yogurt and mixed it thoroughly, poured it into the yogurt makers container.  Placing it in the yogurt machine’s water bath for 4 hours, the into the refrigerator overnight.  The next morning I had excellent yogurt!  Expectations exceeded!

I had originally thought to add instant dry milk powder to make a richer yogurt, but the store only had outdated powder.  If you use store-bought yogurt as a starter, make sure it contains “live” cultures.  Another plus, the tartness of the yogurt depends on the time spent in the yogurt machine.  The yogurt machine maker also sells starters, but I found them unnecessary (and expensive).  I think I might try making kefir, too.

So if you use yogurt regularly, you might consider this.

Larry, the KeepItSimpleEngineer


  1. thanks for posting this! i always thought it was such a mystery. now i know better.

    i make yogurt from fresh goats milk (from our farm), warmed to the appropriate temp, mixed with a starter from a previous batch or some store-bought yogurt, then held in a water bath in my crock pot on the lowest setting. it works great. to thicken you can strain thru cheesecloth.

    hey Drew – while you are on dairy, why dontcha let the folks now how easy it is to make buttermilk?

    • I don’t have a yogurt maker but I do have a crock pot. Can I do this with cows milk, heated to 185 and then water bath on low in the crock pot? How long does it stay in the crock?

  2. Well, I did cultured butter a while back, and got buttermilk in the bargain. If that’s not the method you’re talking about, do you have an easier way?

  3. Good technique, but I see a typo:

    “Poured half-gallon of whole milk into a large glass bowl and heated in my microwave (which has a temperature probe) to 185F – 23 minutes,”

    That’s an awfully long time to have the milk in the microwave. Unless I’m wrong. I have been know to be wrong, a lot. :)

    Off topic: I went to the link about the cultured butter, and I wanted to tell you that my 1st grader did “Cream into Butter” for his science experiment a few weeks back. He told me that some kids liked his better than store bought. Also, I had mounds of fresh butter in the house for a while. :)

    • Hi Stephanie…

      I should have been more detailed in my description. The 23 minutes is the time required for the microwave to heat the milk from the refrigerator’s temperature to 185°F. That is from 38°F to 185°F. It is a 850 watt microwave. Since fat changes microwaves to heat better than plain water, I would expect non-fat milk to take a little longer.

      Larry, the KeepItSimpleEngineer

      I have heated milk before in a double boiler, and a smaller amount took about the same time.

      In another vein, I finally found some not out-of-date powered milk and made a batch with it. ½ cup powered milk to 2 quarts of whole milk. The resulting yogurt was noticeably richer.

  4. Hi Drew!

    Yep – making buttermilk is a snap. But first, there are two kinds of buttermilk – the kind you get after making butter (which is really the whey) and the cultured kind that you buy in the store which can be made from a dried starter or plain ol’ buttermilk.

    How’s about if I send a quick email with the ‘how to’s’?

    Wendy – you can use your crockpot like I do, but the trick is to hold it at 110-115* until the magic happens and you get yogurt. Your pokey pot may or may not be too warm so you kinda have to keep an eye on it.

    Also, remember that ultra-pasteurized milk may not work for yogurt making – too much of the good stuff has been killed off.

    To thicken ‘too thin’ yogurt you can strain thru a cheese cloth to get a more ‘greek style’ yogurt – or you can add a tablespoon of dried milk at the beginning of the process before you heat it up.

    Happy yogurt-ing!

  5. Amy, thanks for the answers. One thing about the crockpot, I can almost guarantee it’s going to get too hot. Any new ones are designed to cook to a “safe” temperature, which means you can’t possibly undercook and get sick from something. It doesn’t take much thinking to figure out the only way to guarantee it’s not undercooked is to overcook it. So “Lo” on new crockpots is hotter than “Hi” on old ones.

    For straining yogurt, I didn’t have cheesecloth, so I set my colander inside a pot, put a paper towel in the colander and dumped the yogurt in. Left in the fridge overnight, and took it out the next day. I was surprised how much water settled out.

    • My crockpot has a warm, low and high setting, do you think that I should use the warm setting then?

      • PS I also have a crock pot thats over 20 years old in addition to the above mentioned one. Maybe the old crock would be better?

      • If you’ve got three settings, then yes I’d start with warm. If you want to be really thorough, you could put a few cups of water in each one (same amount in each), turn them on their lowest setting, and check back in a half-hour to see which is warmer. Or stick a thermometer in and check back every so often to make sure it’s not getting too hot.

        All of that is why the yogurt maker is so convenient. It’s actually designed to hit the exact right temperature and stay there.

  6. I make 1/2 gallon of yogurt weekly, my family eats it for breakfast and some of it is used to replace sour cream in recipes. Easy & delicious.
    We use a crock pot (ancient!) and 2% milk from a local dairy. ( Be SURE you do not use Ultra-Pasteurized milk… will not work!) I thought I’d have to stay with whole milk, but after experimenting, the 2% worked just fine.
    My starter was a major brand plain yogurt – did use whole milk & organic – and after that I reserved a 1/2 cup of each batch to start the next.

    I pour the 1/2 gal. into my crock pot & turn it onto low (this was before temp. controls). Leave it 4 – 6 hours, turn the heat OFF. Wait 4 – 6 hours, add 1/2 c. starter – mix with some of your warm yogurt-to-be so there’s not so much temp. difference – and cover/wrap with a beach towel & leave in a warm, quiet place for 24 hours.

    Ta-da! Yogurt for the cost of a 1/2 gal. milk & your time. Nice and in-exact (sorry to you engineers) for “us folks” whose lives are less regimented.

    Kathleen in TN

    • I don’t have farms near me, can you get the right kind of milk that is not ultra-pasturized in the store? If it says pasturized on it at all, is that too much?

      • Ultra-pasteurized is a different process than “regular” milk. It’s shelf-stable much longer since it’s been heated to a higher temperature. And it tastes “cooked”. Your regular milk should work fine.

        But if you want something better, if there’s a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe’s near you, they’ll carry a few different varieties of milk to try.

        Check out this article for much more detail.

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