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How to Make Yogurt

If you love yogurt, you make it your own way. It takes just a few minutes to make, and the payback is huge: a pot of soft, silky yogurt, made with ingredients you can control and to your taste.



  • A good, heavy-bottomed saucepan to heat the milk evenly.

  • While everyone was making yogurt before they were invented, a good digital quick-read thermometer takes the guesswork out of it.

  • Wooden spoon or spatula, for stirring. Cheese and fine sieve or sifter, to thicken and thicken. Insulate bins with tight-fitting lids, for storage.

  • If you have a yogurt maker, a slow cooker, or multiple pots with a yogurt stopper, you can make yogurt directly in that appliance. Check your manual for instructions from different brands and models.


Basics of yogurt

Yogurt is simply milk that has been mixed with specific types of good bacteria, then left to ferment. Good quality, store-bought yogurt made without additives can be expensive - if you can even find it. Dairy eaters can find some at farmers' markets or in gourmet stores, but good yogurt alternatives are much harder to come by. Make your own guaranteed supplies, and, over time, you'll make even better yogurt than fancy brands for less money.

To make your own, you'll need good quality milk (milk or not) and your favorite plain yogurt. Milk is heated to 180 to 200 degrees (as soon as it boils) to denature or unravel its protein structure, allowing it to thicken in the presence of bacteria. (Simply unused milk is boiled here to activate the starch.)  Then, in both cases, the milk must be cooled to 110 to 120 degrees before the bacteria (also called starter culture) be added. This step is very important: Anything hotter than 130 degrees can injure bacteria; anything cool will not encourage its growth. The milk is then set aside to ferment in a warm(ish) place for 6 to 24 hours, during which good bacteria multiply, and the milk increases body and texture. Finally, the yogurt is cooled, to prevent fermentation while the yogurt thickens.


You can't make yogurt without cultures, that is, specific types of friendly bacteria to trigger fermentation.

Two commonly used bacteria are Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus turns lactose into lactic acid, creating a sour or tangy flavor. Streptococcus thermophilus also breaks down lactose into an acid - a digestible fatty acid.

For milk yogurt, the easiest starter culture is any plain raw yogurt: Look for the words raw, raw, or raw in the ingredients list. You'll also want to choose a starter yogurt that's preservative-free, but with a flavor you like because you'll be tasting it in your batch. You can use homemade yogurt in subsequent batches, but keep in mind that it will weaken over time. After the third or fourth use, it is best to use a fresh starter culture. (Note: Homemade yogurt cannot be used as a starter culture.)

Yet another option is heirloom yogurt, available at some health food stores and online. The yogurt you make from these strains can be used as a starter indefinitely. Think of it similar to a sourdough starter for bread: Like when you bake bread, you'll have to use it regularly (at least once a week) to stay active. The first batch you make from an heirloom appetizer may pop out on the thin side, but will get thicker in subsequent batches.

To culture yoghurt-free yogurt, you can use commercial yogurt, probiotic powder, or capsules, found at health food stores or online. (If using capsules, choose refrigerated ones over shelf-preserved ones.) You can also use a vegan yogurt starter, or if it doesn't bother you, culture starter. The dairy verb will work in non-dairy yogurt.


Choose milk

You can make yogurt from any type of milk, whether it comes from cows, goats or camels, nuts, beans, or grains. But no matter what type of milk you use, the higher the quality, the better your yogurt will taste.


You have several options for milk, the most popular, of course, being cow's milk.

You can start with creamline (non-homogeneous) or homogenized milk. Creamline will create a yellow layer that sits on top of the yogurt, while homogenous is smooth transparent and won't separate. For best results, choose pasteurized milk over pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized (UHT) milk. It tends to taste better than super pasteurized, and ferment more readily.

If you prefer to use pasteurized or pasteurized milk, you don't need to heat it to 180 to 200 degrees. That was done before you bought it. Just heat it to 110 degrees, stir in the culture and let it ferment.

Another variable is fat content. Fat adds creaminess and body fat, so the less fat the milk, the thinner the yogurt will be. (Higher fat milk yields thicker, richer yogurt.) First published with a 2016 column, our master recipe, which calls for whole milk, with the option to add cream , yields a delicious yogurt, but you can substitute low-fat milk: 2 percent works much better than 1 percent, both in taste and texture.

You can also make yogurt from goat, sheep or buffalo milk. Each has its own flavor. For example, goat's milk is thicker than cow's milk and may take less time to ferment. For these yogurts, you can use cow's milk starter, same milk starter (if you can find one), or store-bought starter culture powder. Simply substitute 1 to 1 milk for cow's milk in our main formula.

Lactose-free milk usually does not ferment and thickens. If you are lactose intolerant, use a non-dairy milk instead.


Non-dairy milk is usually thin even after fermentation. They are as tangy as yogurt, but tend to be more pleasant than spoons. Thickening them, however, is not difficult. Our overall recipe uses arrowroot or cornstarch, but you can experiment with gelatin, pectin, cornstarch, agar powder, or gums (grasshopper beans or xanthan). Or enjoy them when they're in smoothies or poured over cereal.

After much testing, we have found cashew milk gives the best results when used in non-dairy yogurt. It's rich, mildly flavored, and fermented ready with a yogurt starter culture or biocapsule. Almond milk also works, but unless it's homemade, it's still very thin. Soy milk thickens without the need to add starch or jelly powder, giving you a yogurt with a lush texture. (For more, see our chapter on other unused yogurts below.) Less successful, however, is oat milk, which tastes like cardboard when fermented. This is a great opportunity to try things out: Feel free to make yogurt with different milks until you find one you like best.


Homemade yogurt ice cream

Yield 1 3/4 quarts - - - TIME20 min, plus fermentation and refrigeration

Homemade yogurt is a very simple thing. All you really need is good quality milk, a few tablespoons of your favorite plain yogurt to use as a starter culture, and some time to let it sit. You can substitute low-fat milk here if you want; 2 percent works much better than 1 percent. Skim milk will give you a thinner yogurt, although if you add some dry milk powder to the milk as it heats up (about 1/2 cup), that will help thicken it. Creamline (non-homogenized milk) will give you a top cream on your yogurt. Milk homogenized is smooth transparent.


2 quarts whole milk, as fresh as possible ¼ cup heavy cream (optional) 3 to 4 tablespoons plain yogurt with live and active cultures


Step 1

Rub an ice cube over the inside bottom of a heavy pot to prevent scorching (or wash the inside of the pot with cold water). Add milk and cream, if using, and bring to a simmer, until bubbles form around the edges, 180 to 200 degrees. Stir the milk occasionally as it heats up.

Step 2

Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool until it feels pleasantly warm when you stick the candy in the milk for 10 seconds, 110 to 120 degrees. (If you think you'll need to use the pot for something else, transfer the milk to a glass or ceramic bowl, otherwise you can let it sit in the pot.) If you're in a hurry, you can refill the sink with water. ice and let the pot of milk cool in an ice bath, stirring the milk frequently so it cools evenly.

Step 3

Transfer 1/2 cup warm milk to a small bowl and whisk yogurt until smooth. Stir the yogurt-milk mixture back into the remaining pot of warm milk. Cover the pot with a large lid. Keep the pot warm by wrapping it in a large towel, or placing it on a heating pad or moving it to a warm place, such as your oven with the oven light on. Or just put it on top of your fridge, which tends to be both warm and out of the way.

Step 4

Let the yogurt sit for 6 to 12 hours, until the yogurt is thick and tangy; the longer it is, the thicker and more tangled it will be. (I usually let it sit for a full 12 hours.) Transfer the pot to the refrigerator and chill for at least another 4 hours; it will continue to thicken as it cools.


If you want to make Greek yogurt, place a colander or sieve over a bowl and line the colander with cheesecloth. Take your finished yogurt, before or after you chill, pour yogurt into colander and refrigerate for 2 to 6 hours to drain. (Keep an eye on it and when it looks thick enough for your liking, transfer it to a jar; if it's too thick, stir some of the whey back in.) Reserve remaining whey for smoothies, soup or lemonade, or for marinating poultry.


Homemade unsweetened yogurt chua

PRODUCTIVE 1 quart - - - DURATION 20 minutes, plus fermentation and refrigeration

Of all the non-dairy milks you can use for yogurt, cashew milk works best, turning into a pleasant sourness with sweetness underneath. If you want to go beyond cashew milk and use your own homemade soy, coconut or nut milk, our How To Yogurt tutorial can help, but whatever you choose, go for it. without the fewest ingredients possible, ideally just nuts, grains or pulses, and water. While not strictly necessary, the starch used here creates a smooth, silky yogurt that is still liquid enough to stir. If you prefer a thicker yogurt, add a little more, or try the jelly variation. Or leave the thickener alone for a thin, tolerable yogurt that's perfect for smoothies.


4 cups cashew milk 3 to 4 tablespoons cornstarch or calendula 2 tablespoons yogurt with active cultures or 1 probiotic capsule


Place 3/4 cup milk in a small bowl and beat starch until smooth. Bring remaining milk to simmer in a medium saucepan. Add starch to hot milk, then simmer until mixture thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. It should be very thick, like a pudding. (It will dilute after fermentation.) Remove from heat, transfer to glass jar or porcelain bowl (not a reaction metal bowl) and let cool until it reaches 110 degrees. Stir in starter, cover with lid. and let it ferment in a warm, fragrance-free place for 12 to 24 hours, until the milk turns sour. If it separates, simply beat or shake it together. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to set.


If your milk doesn't seem to go sour after 24 hours, that's probably the brand you're using: It may have too many additives, which can inhibit fermentation. Try again with another brand. Agar powder gives unsweetened yogurt a thicker, jelly texture that some people prefer the starchy thick variety. To make the agar thickened yogurt, omit the starch, and instead add 1/2 teaspoon of the jelly powder to the milk while it heats, whisk to dissolve, then proceed with the recipe.


Other unsweetened yogurts

There are about as many dairy-free yogurts as there are non-dairy milks, and, since it can be an exact science, you can and should experiment. Here are three variations to get you started.

Substitute soy milk and remove thickeners. Heat the milk to 180 degrees, let it cool to 110 degrees, then continue with the recipe as directed from Step 2, omitting the thickener.



There are countless ways to top yogurt, whether regular oats and honey, flavored syrups or jams, fresh fruit, fresh fruit, coconut, nuts, and even veggies, sauce and pickles. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Once you've made plain yogurt, you can think of it as a blank canvas. Of course, you can top your yogurt with nuts or any number of nuts - whether one made with olive oil and dotted with pistachios and apricots  or mixed flax and nuts. You can sweeten it with honey, brown sugar, or maple syrup, or branch with any number of jams and berries, store-bought or homemade, experimenting with your favorite flavors. . Or try other, tastier toppings: hard-boiled eggs and mint, cucumber and olive oil, crunchy chickpeas, and roasted veggies like radishes, carrots, and even sweet potatoes.

You can also use your yogurt as a topping, to enhance other dishes. A dollop is a welcome addition to a batch of oatmeal, providing a bit of mourning for another calming treat. And you can always use it to top soup in place of sour cream.


Frequently asked questions

Making yogurt is very simple, but even the simplest things can go wrong. Ingratiate. It happens to be our best. Here is a list of possible problems and the best course of action if any.

How often should I ferment yogurt? The longer you let it sit, the more sour it will be. Ferment your first batch for the day (instead of overnight), so you can taste it every few hours and make sure it's to your liking before you refrigerate it. If it seems too light after 12 hours, you can let it sit out to increase tangles: It can be out at room temperature for up to 24 hours without breaking down.

Where is the best place to let my yogurt ferment? In a warm place. One oven is off with the oven light on; Wrap in a heating pad, towel, or warm blanket, like a sheepskin or down blanket, and place on a table, a corner of your kitchen, or on top of the refrigerator. Some people like to put it in a cooler filled with a few inches of hot water. It doesn't matter where as long as it's relatively warm. The warmer the location, the faster the milk will ferment. The ideal temperature range is 90 to 105 degrees, but even warm room temperatures will get the job done, albeit slower. And this should go without saying, but keep the yogurt set out of a cold or air-conditioned draft.

How can I make sure my milk doesn't burn? Rub an ice cube over the bottom of the pot before adding the milk.

When you wash the pot with water, you clean the metal surface with water molecules, and that coat seems to protect the surface from direct contact with the milk proteins when you pour the milk in. When you turn on the heat, it takes longer for the protein molecules to come into contact with the hot metal and bind to it. So less protein sticks to the bottom of the pan and scorches.

What should I do if my pot of milk boils? Turn off heat immediately, stir to cool, or transfer pot to ice bath. Boiled milk will make the yogurt thicker, but perhaps one with less bacteria. As long as you bring it down to 110 to 115 degrees before adding the starter culture, the yogurt should be fine. If the milk boils to the point of curdling, start over. At that point, both texture and flavor will be compromised.

Should ice be used to cool milk? It's easiest to let the milk heat up to 110 to 115 degrees without using an ice bath, as long as you have the time. (It can take 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on your pot and how much milk you've heated.) Letting the milk cool (uncovered) allows it to release steam, resulting in thick, thick yogurt. With an ice bath you run the risk of cooling the milk too much or unevenly: Make sure to keep your eyes on the alert and stir constantly.

If you plan on fermenting the yogurt in the same pot you put in the ice bath, you may want to warm the pot slightly before setting it aside to ferment. Otherwise, the temperature of the milk can continue to drop: Simply place the pot back on the stove for a few seconds to warm it up.

My yogurt is not set. What did I do wrong? It can be the starter culture, losing its strength over time. As a precaution, buy a new yogurt starter after about 3 to 5 batches.

Adding starter to milk above 130 degrees can also kill bacteria, so avoid any bacteria - reduce hot spots by stirring the milk well before taking the temperature.

Milk with too many preservatives (especially non-special milk) may not ferment. These preservatives are doing their job, ie inhibiting bacteria. Start over with fresh milk. Here are more tips from readers.

My yogurt is quite thin. How can I thicken it? Milk-based yogurts don't need extra thickening unless you're starting with skim or low-fat milk. In those cases, 1/2 cup of dry powdered milk can be added to 2 quarts of milk before reheating. If you're starting with whole milk, consider adding cream, or straining the yogurt after ordering.

To do so, place a colander or sieve over a bowl and line the colander with cheesecloth. Take the finished yogurt, before or after chilling, pour it into the colander, and refrigerate for 2 to 6 hours to drain excess water, or whey. When it looks thick enough for your liking, transfer it to a storage box. If it becomes too thick, stir in some of the whey again. Reserve the remaining scum for smoothies, soups or lemonades, add it to sandwiches and pizza dough, or use it to marinate poultry.

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