How to Make Yogurt Tutorial

How to make yogurt at home-easy tutorial recipe

When I started experimenting with the GAPS diet I noticed right away, from reading the book, that eating yogurt was a big part of the diet and the process of regaining gut health.

I was super intimidated by making my own yogurt but after some initial research, I decided that it didn’t seem too hard and that I should just jump in and give it a try. I’m so glad that I did, because the process was so easy and the results were wonderful.

During my research I found that like most things, there are a million different ways to make homemade yogurt. You can order a starter or use a commercial yogurt as your starter. You can use a dehydrator, heating pad, crockpot, yogurt maker or oven to act as your incubator.

I opted for the oven because I didn’t own a dehydrator and why get the crock pot dirty when I can just throw the jars in the oven (I’m all about whatever gives me less dishes to wash). I found that when I was doing the GAPS diet I was using canning jars quite a bit to store things in the fridge (bone broth, soup, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc.) so I decided that since I would more than likely be using canning jars to store my yogurt, I might as well just make it in the jars (again, less washing).

How to Make Yogurt: the Basic Process

Step 1: Choosing your milk

First, choose your milk. This can be any kind of milk, but the more healthy your milk is the more healthy your yogurt will be. Raw milk is best, especially if following the GAPS protocol, but I didn’t have access to raw milk at the time I started making this. Instead, I used milk locally produced using a low pasteurization process that is non-homogenized, which means that I had that yummy layer of cream on top.

You can also use goat’s milk. Whatever milk you decide to use make sure it is not ultra-pasteurized (the label of the milk will say whether it is ultra-pasteurized or homogenized). In order to get the most nutrition, I also opted for whole milk.

I typically begin by using a ½ gallon of milk. I don’t quite fill the jars all the way, so I end up using 2 quart jars and 1 pint jar.

Step 2: Heating the Milk

Put your milk in a stainless steel pan on medium heat until it reaches 180 degrees. The first time I made my yogurt I only had a basic candy thermometer, so I had to really stay with it to watch the temperature.

More recently, I’ve purchased a digital quick read thermometer. This makes the whole process so much easier because you can set the temperature alert to 180 degrees and the alarm will go off when it reaches that temperature. This is also helpful later, during the incubation period.

Step 3: Cooling the milk

Once the milk reaches 180 degrees, pour it into the canning jars. Using a stainless steel wide mouthed funnel made this easy to do, but just pouring from the pan or using a glass measuring cup works too.

The milk then needs to cool to 115 degrees. You can do this by either putting the milk in a cool water bath or just letting it sit on the counter, keeping a really good eye on it either way. I place the lids loosely on top of the jars to keep dirt out.

With my first batch, I used the cool water bath technique and it cooled down much sooner than I thought it would. At the time, I didn’t have a thermometer with an alarm to warn me that it had reached 115 degrees. Before I knew it, the yogurt was at 110 degrees and dropping and I flew into panic mode.

The yogurt still worked out, which just shows that it’s really hard to mess this process up and it doesn’t all have to be exact. The other thing you have to be careful of with the cool water bath is that if it’s too cool then you risk cracking the jars.

The second time I made a batch I was more patient and let it cool on its own on the counter top. It took longer but I wasn’t so stressed out from the quick temperature drop of the cool water bath.

Step 4: Adding the Culture

Once the milk has reached 115 degrees, you will add 2 tablespoons of pre-made yogurt to each quart of milk. The yogurt can come from either a previous batch (if you’ve already made some) or from a store bought yogurt. You can also use a store-bought yogurt culture, but using pre-made yogurt is easier and less expensive.

Personally, I use the organic plain Stoneyfield Greek yogurt for my starter. Stir lightly, just to incorporate the yogurt into the warm milk.

Step 5: Incubating the Yogurt

Once the culture has been added, it is ready to go into the oven to incubate (with the lids on). You want a fairly consistent temperature.

The first couple of times I made my yogurt I just used the 40 watt appliance light bulb that was in the oven. I found that the temperature was dropping lower than I wanted it to, so I would have to turn the oven on to heat it back up every couple of hours. I incubated it overnight and didn’t wake up to check the temperature or turn the oven on, but when I woke up in the morning the temperature was reading 100 degrees which is less than optimal incubating temperature (115 degrees would have been better).

Interestingly, it didn’t ruin my yogurt and it still came out really well. Again, it just goes to show that this method is hard to mess up (even with all of the mishaps during my first experiment). I have since (ok, my husband has) replaced our 40 watt bulb with a 60 watt bulb and it now holds the temperature closer to the optimal 115.

If the temperature goes above 115 degrees you run the risk of killing your culture. You may need to do some testing with your oven light to see what temperature it holds at when the light is on for a period of time and try 40 watt and 60 watt bulbs. The optimal incubation range is 95-115 degrees.

The yogurt needs to incubate for at least 10-12 hours. The GAPS protocol calls for a 24 hour incubation period in order for the majority of lactose to be consumed by the bacteria (this article does a great job explaining all of that). The longer it incubates, the more tangy the finished yogurt will be.

Important note: Just make sure not to forget that you are incubating yogurt in the oven and accidentally turn the oven on. My new digital quick read thermometer makes this less likely to happen. The thermometer probe goes into the oven sitting in one of the jars, while the digital display portion of it sits on top of my stove so that I can easily monitor the temperature of the yogurt. Seeing the digital display sitting on my stove top keeps me from forgetting about the yogurt incubating in the oven and accidentally turning it on.

Once the yogurt is done incubating, refrigerate it to set the yogurt and just pour off the extra whey. The whey can be saved to use for other recipes, especially if you are following the GAPS protocol.

If you want a thicker yogurt then you can always strain off the remaining whey using cheese cloth. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of super thick yogurt so I found that I really enjoyed it just the way it was once the whey was poured off after the yogurt was refrigerated and set.

My favorite way to eat the yogurt is with local raw honey drizzled over it. It’s also really good in smoothies or added to soups.

How to make yogurt at home-easy tutorial recipe

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How to Make Yogurt - Tutorial

Prep

Cook

Total

Ingredients

  • Canning Jars and lids (2 quart size & 1 pint size)
  • 1/2 gallon of milk- preferably raw
  • 3 tablespoons of starter (pre-made yogurt)

Instructions

  1. Heat milk in a stainless steel pan over medium heat until it reaches 180 degrees.
  2. Pour heated milk into clean canning jars and cool, either by sitting on the counter or in a cool water bath until the temperature drops to 115 degrees.
  3. Add culture-2 tablespoons (of yogurt from a previous batch, store bought yogurt) per quart of milk. Lightly stir just enough to incorporate into the milk.
  4. Place the jars into the oven with the light on for 12-24 hours. The light should provide a consistent heat of about 110 degrees.
  5. Put jars into the refrigerator until they yogurt is cold and set.
  6. Once the yogurt is set you can pour off the liquid whey from the top or strain the yogurt using cheesecloth for a thicker consistency.
  7. Enjoy!

Have you tried your hand at making your own yogurt? How did it turn out? What type of starter and milk did you use?

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Reader Comments

  1. I love making yogurt! It took a lot of trial and error for me and I do it a little differently but that thermometer looks like a great idea!! I am always worried I will miss the right temp!

  2. Hello, this sounds wonderful and I want to make some. I am confused about the oven light. I have a gas stove and its lowest temp is 170 degrees. When you talk about the light are you literally just turning the oven light on or the oven as well. Please help. Thank you!

    • *Just* the oven light, although if it not hot enough you can periodically turn on the oven to give it a little boost.

    • Hi, I am making my own yogurt for many years and I love it. I do not use an oven at all !
      I just cover the jar with layers of towels to keep the temperature on good level. If you do it at night, yogurt should be good at the next morning…..

    • Larissa, Maybe I’m just stupid, but I was wondering the same thing. I either turn my Fan Forced oven on on 115° and if I want to SEE something in the oven, I turn on the light…duh (me …)

    • With a gas oven you could just use an appropriate wattage Incandescent bulb droplight. You could also make an incubator from foam insulation panels and duct tape and experiment with different incandescent bulbs for the right heat.

  3. I have been making my yogurt with Meadow Gold whole milk that is stamped pasteurized and homogenized and it works fine. Other than the health benefits of raw milk, why not use the MG whole milk?

  4. Just curious, why you don’t make kefir instead?
    So much easier, no need to heat the milk.
    And you get many more strains of bacteria, and also strains of yeast.

    • The truth is that you don’t need heat pasteurized milk either, t higher than in your room will just speed up fermentation. I inoculate my milk with 6 strains of bacteria. So the difference between yogurt and kefir is that they tastes differently. And you can make one you like more.

  5. I make yogurt all the time. I use whole milk for thicker and creamier yogurt. I save a few tablespoons of my last batch in the freezer for starter for my next batch. I just get it out to thaw when I start heating up my milk. I leave mine in the pan to incubate and leave it sit out on the counter wrapped up in a few towels or blankets overnight to stay warm. In the morning, I put it in the fridge to cool completely before stirring or adding anything so it stays thicker. Sometimes I strain out extra whey so it is more like a Greek yogurt. Waaaay cheaper than buying at the store.

    • Hi! Do you keep water in the pan while incubating with a towel wrapped around the whole thing?

  6. if you have thermoses handy (the wide mouth, soup totting ones, then just fill those with HOT water while you’re making the yogurt and cooling it… then pour off the water and pour in the yogurt (after you have stirred in the starter) then cover quickly and place on the counter until morning. this is truly THE easiest way to make it in my opinion! (if you made it before lunch, then you can open the yogurt at night and put it in the fridge (in a different container), or if you made it at night, just take care of it the next morning.

    • Interesting! I dont have oven with light bulb, I want to try this method. I want to know how hot the water that you pour to the thermos? Is it booling hot water? After you pour out, do you need to dry the inside?

  7. Great article! I’ve been making yogurt in mason jars for awhile now, but instead of heating up the milk in a pan, I just put the mason jars full of milk directly into a pan of water (only fill it about half way up the jars), basically like a hot water bath. Then once it reaches 180, I take the jars out and let them cool on the counter. It just makes for less handling and dishes!

  8. Yes! Just made some in Monday. Am going to try to make it every week! How long does it usually last?

    If I “kill” my culture, how will I know? Will the yoghurt still set? But I won’t know I’m missing the benefits?

  9. I make yogurt with coconut milk using a starter from Cultures for Health. It makes very good yogurt. The only negative thing is that it can’t be used over and over as your starter for the next batch of your yogurt. You need to use the purchased starter from time to time. But it is great for those who need to stay away from dairy.

    • I am trying to make a dairy free yogurt.
      What kind of coconut milk do you use?

  10. I do this too. You can set a washcloth in the bottom of the pan to keep the jars from chattering. Just be sure to use sturdy jars designed for canning, I have had mixed and messy results with pickle jars.

  11. I have a Coleman cooler with a tight fitting lid that works great for incubating yogurt. Just set the jars in the cooler add 2 quarts of hot tap water, to help maintain incubation temperature, and snug on the lid. Fuss free!

  12. This may be a silly question but about how long will a batch last? Many times store bought products last longer than homemade. This will help me decide how much to make. Thanks!

    • Read the labels on the store bought yoghurt. Store bought yoghurt is full of chemical additives. As is a lot of our food including your breakfast cereals and many other processed foods. Home anything is much healthier for you.

  13. This sounds pretty simple. Does the yogurt at the end resemble Greek yogurt or regular yogurt? Also, I see people saying you can use the whey in baking and for other things, but they never explain how you use it in baking (in place of milk?) or for what other things. I for one would like some advice on that. Thanks!

  14. Any tips for us with milk allergy?

  15. Hi All,

    I make yogurt too, regularly. But instead of putting in the oven I wrap the jar with towels and leave it for the night.

    It comes out perfect.

  16. Thank you for sending me this blog that I lost when Google took a dip. Like Michelle, I too am a Kefir Milk Girl and loving it.
    Regards
    Frances from Sunny South Africa (but raining for the last 2 days.)

  17. Hey yawl!
    I don’t drink milk, goats, cow or any animal. I do, however, drink coconut and almond milk, which I know is not really a milk…

    Have you tried it with nut milks? Anyone?

    Thanks!

  18. I’m a little confused, I thought that heating raw milk to 180 degrees would kill all the enzymes and much of the goodness. Can anyone explain?

    • Only heat Raw milk to 110 degrees Farenheit.

  19. Just wondering if anyone has used a yogurt maker that they sell on Amazon. Is it as healthy to use this?

    • Yes, I bought the Oster one. At first I thought it heated up too much, but the yogurt turned out lovely, so no worries. The strainer part is in regular use, too, for Greek Yogurt/Yogurt Cheese, and Kefir Cheese. Works great. I paid $35 Canadian for this from Amazon. My friend bought one from Cultures for Health for $150. It works well, too. But you can make it without any commercial maker, as you read on this page.

    • yes! I bought the machine from amazon and love it!

    • I have used a Salton yoghurt maker since the 1960s. It makes 5 perfect jars of yoghurt. You probably could find one on eBay. It comes with a measuring spoon with a thermometer in it that shows you when it’s cool enough to put the starter in. I always use some of the last batch or some dannon plain yoghurt as a starter. I use 2% or whole milk. Whole milk makes fabulous yoghurt.

  20. I’ve finally made this and it was delicious, but I had to make a point. There is zero value in buying raw milk if you are going to pasteurize it yourself. Any temperature above about 130 will destroy or denature all the things that make raw milk so valuable. The dairy council lists 145 degrees as the low end of official pasteurization.

    Otherwise it was delicious and simple. Thank you.

  21. Been reading your blog for a long time and wanted to thank you for your time and effort.
    I never thought of commenting until now. I need help with my 14 month old daughter. I’m trying to raise her on the paleo/primal way and feed her healthy foods. She’s always been breastfed. She has of course been eating solids for a while now. I don’t give her any other drinks except water here and there. I would like her weaned by her 2nd birthday, so what do you recommend I give her instead of breast milk.?
    Thanks in advance for your time and effort.

    • I’ve always given mine yogurt, homemade coconut or almond milk, and even raw milk at times. I also make sure they get lots of bone broth and nutrient rich foods, especially when they are weaning.

      • Thanks for the swift reply. I’m a bit paranoid about raw milk, what would be the next best option and where can I find it? Also, her dr says she’s underweight, what do you think I should feed her to”fatten” her up? I did start slowly with introducing solids but that was because she used to vomit as a baby quite often. She’s not doing it anymore, thank God, but I always worry about her dry skin, eczema, and small frame so I’m always questioning everything I feed her.
        Thank you so much again

        • She has an allergy to something. You need to do GAPS with her. My son was allergic to dairy, soy, almonds and raw tomatoes. I didn’t do the full protocol, just started doing a ton of the gaps foods (gelatin, yogurt, bone broths, sauerkraut, kefir, etc) and he is no longer allergic to any of those except soy (and now has a significantly less reaction to soy!).

  22. I agree with other commenters that I find it odd that you are heating raw milk- that kill so much of what makes that milk so good. Why wouldn’t you just use it raw, add the yogurt starter and put it in your oven/dehydrator like that??

    • The bacterias compete and you don’t end up with yogurt.

  23. Can you use a coconut milk to make this? We are going dairy free and the kids love yoghurt and dont want soy so is it the same if I use coconut?

  24. if you want gut benefits from yogurt, you HAVE to eat a lot every day…you know those large yogurt containers. you’d have to eat 1 per day. eating yogurt is good though, you just have to eat a ton of it. I’m a microbiologist….also some people try to use commercial yogurt for the cultures to make their own. commercial companies kill off the good bacteria and leave in ones which will still work, but make horrible yogurt. they started doing this years ago when sales sank from homemade yogurt. I can’t remember off the top off my head but a google search should turn up an answer to find out which bacteria are best to inoculate with. you may have mentioned it…I didn’t read the article as I’ve done it before. if you like homemade yogurt, try homemade root beer. it comes out alcoholic so I don’t but you may be into it.

  25. I love yogurt, and I love your blog as well so figure I’ll try this recipe out this weekend. I’ve never been much of a fan of plain yogurt so I would want to flavor it naturally. If I want to add some vanilla bean, is that something I would put in while it’s still warm or wait until it’s ready to eat?

  26. I make yogurt weekly from fresh milk from our family dairy farm along with plain Dannon yogurt as starter. I use an ice chest as an incubator and love this method. I generally make 2 gallons at time. If interested in this method, you simply fill 2 empty gallon jugs half full with cold tap water, fill the rest of the way with boiling water and cap. Place in ice chest to be the source of heat. I pour my yogurt mixture in 1/2 gallon mason jars and incubate for 10 hours.

  27. In your instructions you say to add 2Tablespoons of yogurt to each quart of milk. On your recipe you say you need 3 Tablespoons of yogurt. So is it 2 Tablespoons in each quart or 1.5 in each? And how much in the pint jar?

  28. In a microwave safe 4 cup measuring cup, add skim Milk and 1/4 cup Instant Skim Milk Powder. Stir. Place in microwave on full power for 7 minutes. Heat to 85 Celsius. Place on cool surface until instant read thermometer reads anywhere between 45 and 50 Celsius. whisk in about 2 tablespoons of any plain yogurt and pour into a quart mason jar, then place in yogurt machine overnight or 10 hours. Been making this for years. We add blueberries, ground chia and flax.

  29. Is it possible to use Meyenberg powdered goat’s milk that has been reconstituted?

    • Don’t see why not…try it and let us know!

  30. I just bought a jug of goat milk kefir, and I’m realizing I should have made my own so I can incubate it for 24+ hours. Can I convert my store bought kefir, by warming it up and incubating it for more time? Or is that a really bad idea…..

  31. I use parmalet whole milk so I’m wondering why I have to heat it to 180 degrees when it is already sterile. Last night I heated the milk up to 115 and put in the starter, poured it into the jars, and this morning it was a little less thick than usual but edible. I’m thinking of using bigger jars so I could heat it to 115 degrees, add the starter, and put it in this styrofoam box I get when they ship me veggies, and put 2 quarts of hot water in as suggested, and let it sit for 12 hours with the lid on. Theoretically this should work with shelf stable milk.

    • You don’t need to heat pasteurized milk to 180, as it was done during pasteurization

  32. I think I just failed at my first try of making yogurt. After reading most of the comments. I see I needed to heat my milk before I put it in the yogurt maker, even though the directions in the package didn’t tell me so. I left it for over 14 hours and checked it. It’s still watery and grainy looking. Should I refrigerate it and see if it thickens up a bit, or trash it and start again? Please help!

  33. I just bought 2 dairy goats. I want the benefits of raw milk, so the question is, what temperature do I heat it up to? Thank you!

  34. Has anyone ever tried making yoghurt with breast milk ? Not sure if it would work or not but I’m just thinking it would be nice for weaning..

  35. How do you store in Mason jars and for how long?

    • Just remove from yougurt machine, put lid on and put in fridge. It stores for at least a week. Just pour off any liquid that forms.

  36. I just made this last night, in my oven yessss. What a success! It tastes wonderful. I was so nervous but it turned out perfect!

  37. Does anyone know if i can use unpasturized cream instead of milk – or half of each. My 10YO Daughter is on a ketogenic diet as a treatment for epilepsy – low carb and high fat – so i always choose the highest fat content yogurt i can, or add extra cream afterwards.

    Diet has worked really well, she is now pretty much seizure free and have successfully reduced her meds by 75%. It was a lifechanging thing for all of us – for the better.

    Have always wanted to try making my own but not sure how to work out the carb/fat/protein content. Any advice please?

  38. My sister uses an electric blanket to incubate her yogurt – a better use for it than ruining a perfectly good night of sleep with EMFs!

  39. We just tried this recipe using our oven and it came out perfect! We used organic cow milk from our local health store. We added unsweetened local yogurt. Thank you for making this so easy

  40. I just made a batch using Raw Milk but I heated it to 180.. did I kill off all the good stuff in the raw milk? Now I”m worried!

    Thanks!

  41. I tried this last night and my oven light did not keep my oven warm at all. I turned the oven on a few times but then it would get really hot so quickly. I was making bone broth in my crockpot so I set the jars on the counter next to the crockpot and threw a towel over them. I think this idea might have worked but I somehow pushed the jars against the crockpot and upon checking this morning the one was 147 degrees and the other 124. So I’m guessing I’ve pasteurized my raw milk and killed the cultures. Is 124 degrees hot enough to kill it? It would have been at this temp for at least 6 hours