Homemade Yogurt


We’re home. W is on the mend (H1N1? Not sure – the symptoms were consistent though) – still snotty and coughing and chlorine-eyed and very particular that everything be done EXACTLY according to his bidding. Yesterday Mike and I felt like we were being dragged down with him but bounced back after a particularly gratifying sleep in Salmon Arm. The bottle of shiraz, drunk out of plastic Travelodge cups (yes, I am the lass in class) might have helped.

We came home to snow, slush and icicles hanging from every window, but I don’t even care because I’m back in my own kitchen. I have overdosed on car snacks and restaurant food, despite my best efforts to arm myself with healthy stuff. Since Vegas (and Toronto, and now Vancouver) I’ve loaded my luggage down with granola. The real stuff – like the nutty bag filled with chewy dried cherries made by Joy Road Catering that I picked up at the Penticton farmers’ market – is a good balance of complex carbs, healthy fats and protein (if you cram it with nuts, seeds and flax, like I do), doesn’t spoil or go soggy or get crushed. It takes up next to no space, and fills the void even when you should be eating a real meal. And when you need something a bit more substantial, it’s usually pretty easy to find yourself a cup of yogurt. If I manage to get a room with a mini fridge, I’ll go buy a big tub of yogurt – I’ve been known to spoon it directly into the zip-lock baggies that hold my granola – sort of like a grown-up version of those little boxes of cereal you opened from the side and poured your milk right into. The yogurt-granola combo doesn’t leak as much.

Which reminds me – I haven’t told you how easy it is to make your own yogurt yet, have I? Sorry about that, I’ve been meaning to. I’ll just go ahead and scratch that one off my to-do list.

It really, truly is simple to make yogurt using nothing more than a pot, spoon and jar. There is no need for one of those 70’s incubator-like yogurt machines that came with cords and dials and teeny glass jars – ours made a great spaceship for our Smurfs for about a decade before we said goodbye to it at a garage sale. (I wonder how many times that same machine has been bought and resold at garage sales since then.)

To make your own, all you have to do is boil the milk, cool it, stir in some real yogurt (which acts as a starter), keep it warm for a few hours and voila – fresh, satiny yogurt. Swirl in some fresh berries mashed with honey and the store bought kind will never do it for you again.

Making your own yogurt is much like making your own sourdough… once you have the starter going, you can make your next batch using a bit of the last, and so on. But to begin, you’ll need a small container of the best plain yogurt you can find, making sure it contains active cultures. I use Vital Green Farms or Bles-Wold, both great locally-produced yogurts that contain only milk and bacterial cultures (no additives, stabilizers etc).

Start with 2 ½ cups of milk. I haven’t experimented with soy milk, but regular milk (whole, 2% or 1%, not skimmed) and goat’s milk work very well. Bring it to a full boil in a saucepan, then turn down the heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Pour the scalded milk into a bowl, through a strainer or cheesecloth if you have acquired any brown bits around the edge, and cool until you can hold your finger in the milk and count to 10.

The ratio of milk to yogurt is 2 ½ cups to 1 tablespoon. Place the yogurt in a small dish and add some of the milk to it to warm it up, then whisk it back into the milk. Pour into a glass jar (glass holds heat well), wrap in a towel or sweater and put in a warm place for about 6 hours or overnight. In the morning put the jar in the fridge to chill and you should end up with a lovely jar of fresh yogurt.

For real.


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55 comments on “Homemade Yogurt

  1. sue.d
    October 14, 2009 at 10:22 pm

    Good grief, can it be this simple? When I think of the coin I spend on yogurt, vs. the price of just milk. Even organic milk!

    Thanks, and glad you’re home and healthy!

  2. margo
    October 14, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    That’s amazing. We buy Bles-Wold by the gigantic tub, and I’ve even taken my kids to their farm (by Lacombe) on a field trip. Their yogurt is wonderful, but I never dreamed of making my own. Oh my goodness, I will really be seen as the stereotypical homeschool mom if I start making my own yogurt; I already grind my own flour!! Hah!

  3. Alicen
    October 15, 2009 at 6:12 am

    I think it would be so cool to make my own yogourt, I might have to give this a try. My brother is a yogourt and granola freak, so I might have to try both and see if they pass his test 🙂

  4. Fiona
    October 15, 2009 at 7:33 am

    Wow, I had no idea it was so easy!

    I haven’t tried Vital Green Farms or Bles-Wold yogurt yet – we’ve been hooked on Liberte of late – but I’d love to. Where can I get them?

  5. Elaine
    October 15, 2009 at 8:03 am

    This is one of those crazy awesome kitchen tips, like “you can freeze milk” and “put green onions in water and they’ll grow back,” that is going to come in super handy. Also: how smug will I feel when I make my own yogurt?

  6. Christina
    October 15, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Having 3 kids we eat a lot of Yogurt in this house and I always look for the most non-additive, regular fat, yogurt but it’s expensive!! This looks like the answer to my searching!
    I will be making yogurt asap! Very exciting! Although I’m fine with the kids eating a full fat yogurt, I would imagine for myself (always working on weight loss) making it with a 1% would be the best bet?

  7. JulieVR
    October 15, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Vital Green Farms is trickier to find (Calgary Farmers’ Market – and I think Community Natural Foods?) but you can buy Bles-Wold at Sunterra and Co-op stores.

  8. JulieVR
    October 15, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Christina – try it with 1% and see how it works out! If you don’t like it, use it for smoothies!

  9. Christina
    October 15, 2009 at 8:37 am

    one more question, do you put a lid on the glass jar when the milk is still hot?

  10. JulieVR
    October 15, 2009 at 8:40 am


  11. Amanda
    October 15, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Silly question, where do you buy jars? I suppose I could reuse my Spoonfed jars but I would really like to get my free soup, and I have no empty mayo jars lying around right now.

  12. JulieVR
    October 15, 2009 at 8:58 am

    I get big old thick glass jars from Value Village and garage sales – cheap! The ones with the glass lids work well – they don’t need to seal completely like jam and other preserves do.

  13. Rosie DeQuattro
    October 15, 2009 at 9:33 am

    I had been thinking about making my own yogurt forever when I “stumbled” upon your blog and recipe! Thanks–I’ll finally get to making yogurt. One question: I usually buy non-fat yogurt but your recipe says not to make yogurt with non-fat milk. What’s the reason?

  14. JulieVR
    October 15, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Good question! Everything I’ve read suggests not to make yogurt using nonfat milk, but I haven’t tried it myself (not being a drinker of skim milk or eater of fat-free yogurt) – most fat free yogurts are thickened/stabilized with additives such as gelatin, so I imagine the problem is that it doesn’t thicken on its own. If you try it, let us know how it works!

  15. Dana
    October 15, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    I make my own yogurt doing the same thing you suggest Julie and a couple of extra hints may help people: I put the mixture in the oven with only the light on to keep it warm (usually overnight). The top of the fridge just doesn’t seem warm enough. I’ve made 2% and whole milk for my toddlers, which are both quite tasty. Six cups of milk will fill two recycled yogurt containers. Swirling the bowl or pot in the sink with some cold water around it will cool the milk quickly if you want to go to bed! Julie’s New Granola recipe is fantastic and low sugar!!

    One thing I haven’t figured out is how to thicken it (mine is very often cottage cheesy). I’ve tried adding powdered milk (suggested on a blog somewhere) but it didn’t really do much (and isn’t too healthy apparently). I don’t want to strain it as I think the liquid is whey (?) and probably healthy. It’s not a big deal but it would be nice to have it really thick. Any suggestions?

    Love your blog Julie!!!

  16. pauline
    October 15, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    uwwwwwww Julie that sounds good. glad w is doing better.

  17. Luann
    October 15, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    How timely is this post? Funny that you talk of the 70’s incubator type machines. My mum just passed my grandmas’ old one on to me when I told her I was going to try to make my own yogurt a couple of weeks ago. Guess it turns out I don’t need it!
    Have you ever tried using the Astro Balken style yogurt as a starter?
    Thanks for laying the method out so well, it’s much less intimidating than some of the recipes I’ve read.

  18. Luann
    October 15, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Forgot to say that I’m glad to hear W is on the mend, hope you and Mike avoid the infamous H1N1.

  19. Danielle
    October 15, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    I love to make just about everything, curtains, bread, socks . . . but I never thought about yogurt. Now that my babe just started eating the stuff, I can’t wait to give it a try.

    Thanks for the tip, I’ll let you know how it goes!

  20. Irene
    October 15, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    What a great tutorial! I would love to be making my own yogurt! Do you you know if this works with low fat milk?

  21. Karen
    October 15, 2009 at 4:37 pm

    Thanks for the yogurt tip. Quick question: how long does it keep? (Not that I’m worried, we are smoothie fanatics.)

  22. Kathryn
    October 15, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    I spent my childhood eating yogurt brewed up in those little glass vials. That contraption was well-used in our house! Blueberry with cinnamon! Peach with ginger! Yum!

    On a completely unrelated topic, I’m now completely addicted to those slow-roasted tomatoes. I don’t like raw tomato but I can happily slam back a bushel of tomatoes if they’ve been slow-roasted. Julie, do you happen to know how slow-roasting affects the nutritional content of tomatoes? Does it leach out vitamins or increase sugar levels? I feel very virtuous snacking on tomatoes, but maybe I’m fooling myself.

  23. Bronwyn
    October 15, 2009 at 5:50 pm

    Dana, you could drain your yoghurt after you make it. I drain plain yoghurt all the time to make thick, and relatively lactose free yoghurt cheese. Just put it in a coffee filter or cheesecloth in a strainer over a bowl. The longer you leave it to strain in the fridge, the thicker it will get. I usually leave it for about 12 hours.

  24. Tina
    October 15, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    YUM!! I make my yogurt the same way, except i add a bit of half and half to my warm 2% milk after it has cooled a bit. Then i mix in the yogurt. I am used to eating yogurt thats a little sour, ( way we eat in india or the way im used to eating) so good. I just let it sit in the oven or on the counter covered in a kitchen towel overnight and couple of hours the next day. It’s thick and yummy, love it 🙂

  25. the other Al
    October 15, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    ok, what did I do wrong….my yogurt looks like sour milk. The whey separated completely, leaving a stringy cheesy muck at the bottom. smells great, tastes fine but that aint yogurt. I did 2c of 2% and 1/2goats milk. Do you think the two dairys don’t get along? Did I boil the milk too high? Also when I try again I thought putting a vanilla bean in the simmering milk would be tasty. What do you think?

  26. kickpleat
    October 16, 2009 at 12:09 am

    Wow, is it really that easy? I love yogurt and eat it most mornings – especially with homemade granola! Yum, this could be life-changing!

  27. Robyn in Mountain (Ontario that is)
    October 16, 2009 at 6:47 am

    Homemade yogurt? Yes please! So is that 1 tablespoon of store-bought yogurt that we are adding to the 2 and 1/2 cups of milk? I’m guessing it is, just not sure.

    Julie, I’ll bet you didn’t think we’d all have so many questions when you decided to share your homemade yogurt recipe.


  28. JulieVR
    October 16, 2009 at 8:00 am

    Robyn – yes! The real yogurt acts as a starter. Just get the good stuff – not filled with additives!

    Al – no idea what happened here… I’ve never combined cow & goat milk though, it could be that they didn’t get along? Or you might have boiled it too high? You should just come over and we can do it together.. that sounds dirty.

  29. Lovefood63
    October 16, 2009 at 10:43 am

    I’ve been making my own yogurt for quite a long time–thanks to Stephanie O’Dea (Year of Crockpotting blog), in a crockpot. I make it there because I’ve found that cooking it on the stovetop can make it taste ‘burnt'(likely my fault for cooking it at too high a temp). Just heat the milk to about 180 degrees F, then cool it to about 115 F before adding the yogurt starter. And yes, I ALWAYS use skim milk. The trick to getting it thick is to mix in some dry skim milk powder to the starter before adding it to the warm milk. Works every time. And the liquid that separates when the yogurt is done is ‘whey’. It can be drained off or mixed in. I keep the finished yogurt in a Tupperware juice jug (I make LOTS–three teenagers in the house!).

  30. incrediblecrunchyflavor
    October 16, 2009 at 11:02 am

    okay. i totally tried this myself (over at http://incrediblecrunchyflavor.com) but i found it to be runnier that commercial yogurt. did you find that, too?

  31. JulieVR
    October 16, 2009 at 11:04 am

    It is fairly runny – depends on the kind of commercial yogurt you’re thinking of! It’s not super thick like 10% Liberte – might be if you used cream?

  32. the other Al
    October 16, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    being that I’m so HOT it was probably too high a boilng point. two girl mixing dairy eh…yep sounds dirty. see you in five!

  33. Carolyn
    October 16, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Sailing on the Mediterraean sea (paying 60 cents per minute to connect!). Miss reading your blog posts in detail. Will make yogurt when I get back.

  34. Amy @ Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free
    October 16, 2009 at 8:24 pm

    I have seen recipes for this using a CrockPot and a friend of mine tried it and it works beautifully. I use yogurt in my baking sometimes but we’re not big yogurt eaters so I haven’t tried it myself. But it might take care of the boiling point issue – she’s never had any issues with it not working.

  35. Chrisell
    October 17, 2009 at 8:22 am

    Oh wow, I just made this and it was so simple and worked exactly as described! I’m delighted, thanks so much for sharing this.

  36. Manon from Ontario
    October 17, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Hello Julie.
    Hope your little W is feeling better, not fun when our babes are sick, I know! My daughter has had fever up to 102.5F since last Sunday, we go to the docs on Monday. It still makes me nervous and sad to see her sick, and she’s 16 yrs old!
    Great, thanks for the yogurt know how, how cool!
    Take care 🙂


  37. Vivian
    October 18, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    I sure do like your “new” feature, “If you liked this…”, a nice addition to the blog. Making my own yogurt looks so easy and fun but what I really like is how it looks so “homey” in the glass preserving jar. Funny, when one investigates via your blog and others, how easy it is to re-create so many commercial products at much less cost (eg. good quality yogurt, Boursin cheese, Ranch dressing). Thank you so much.

  38. Emily O
    October 20, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    I have had the greatest success with Yogourmet yoghurt starter, with 2% organic milk from Strauss Dairy Farms in No. Cal. I use the commercial starter every third time or so. The bonus is I get the milk in glass bottles, so no more throwing out carton after carton of milk or wasting yoghurt containers either — I use a wonderful versatile yoghurt maker (I finally replaced the one from the 70s whose plastic tops for the little jars had just simply disintegrated!), that allows you to make it in a big ceramic bowl. It comes with two clear dome covers to keep the heat in, one large, one small (“Yolife”). Admittedly, the only place I can store this is in my little used dishwasher! I really would like to try using 1% milk but it didn’t work so well. I will try the nonfat milk powder in the proportions suggested. I think after 6 months, I have saved enough money from making my own yoghurt to pay for the yoghurt maker (about $35)! It’s pure savings from here on, and much less stuff going in to the waste stream!

  39. Danielle
    November 9, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    A lot of people are asking how you make it thicker.. I’ve done this, and it’s got nothing to do with adding cream. Adding cream makes it taste creamier (surprise!) but it doesn’t make the end product thicker.

    To make it thicker, leave it longer before putting it in the fridge. Simple as that. 🙂

    I put mine in a thermos rather than just in a jar, because it helps keep the temperature fairly constant (if the temperature goes up and down a lot, the end product ends up runnier for some reason). Up to a week in a thermos in a warm place is fine, although it does get a stronger sour yogurt taste if you leave it that long. 2 or 3 days seems to be pretty good.

    Then leave it in the fridge overnight without disturbing it, and it sets really lovely and thick enough that it won’t pour out of the thermos without a spoon.

  40. JulieVR
    November 13, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Thanks Danielle! I’m falling behind on my comment streams here!!

  41. Linda D
    November 20, 2009 at 8:03 am

    I’ve been making my own yogurt for about 3 years now and all I do is bring 2L of 2% milk, with 4 or so Tbsp of instant skim milk powder (this makes for a very thick and creamy yogurt). When the milk is just about boiling (you’ll see bubbles forming on the surface of the milk), I lower the temperature to LOW, and leave it for 2-3 minutes. Turn the heat off and let it cool until you can stick your finger (washed!) in the milk for 10 seconds. This should take anywhere from 30-45 minutes, depending on the room temperature. The beauty of doing it this way is that you’re not reliant upon a thermometer. Have a large ceramic bowl ready with 4-6 Tbsp of yogurt in it.Mix a few tablespoons of the warm milk into the yogurt, and add the rest of the milk. Cover with a plate, wrap with a towel, and stick it in the oven (unheated) for 8 hours or overnight. You want the yogurt to cool slowly to room temperature. I’ve seen quite a few recipes where they sterilize everything. This, I think, is unnecessary. They certainly don’t do that in Turkey and other countries, where they’ve been making yogurt for centuries!

  42. Susan
    January 6, 2010 at 11:59 am

    I’ve been experimenting with yogurt making for a few years and am amazed at how others have come to same techniques. I use 4L organic 3.25% milk and whisk in 1/2 cup powdered milk before heating to make a thicker yogurt. I set up 5 clean 1L sealer jars to pour the milk into for cooling after it reaches 82 C. To make sweetened vanilla yogurt I add 3 Tbs sweetener (honey and/or sugar) to each jar before pouring in hot milk. Once cooled below 48 C I stir in a heaping tablespoon starter yogurt to each jar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla to the sweetened milk. I place the jars in a small cooler with an extra jar of very hot water and leave for about 6 hours. The longer you leave it the more sour it gets and the more it separates. Refridgeration sets it up. For a milder yogurt try decreasing incubation time.I find it keeps 3 to 4 weeks but it usually is eaten well before then.

  43. Lori
    April 17, 2010 at 6:28 am

    I finally figured out how to make my yogurt with skim milk thicker. Drain it overnight in cheesecloth. I just lined my colander with some damp cheesecloth, poured the yogurt in and left it overnight. Nice and thick.
    Here’s my problem; the last few times I’ve made it it smells and tastes a lot like yeast. What is that? How do I end up with a yogurt-y tang instead?

  44. Jennie
    August 25, 2010 at 5:38 am

    I’m having the same trouble as Lori, my last batch of yogurt turned out yeasty and watery. What went wrong? Can it be saved?

  45. JulieVR
    August 25, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Hmmm.. I’ve not experienced yeasty yogurt! Perhaps it’s picking up natural yeasts from the air? Is the jar sealed? I would suggest switching starters – what kind did you use? And I don’t think it can be saved, but runny yogurt is perfect in pancakes, smoothies, and any baking that calls for buttermilk.

  46. Carol
    November 18, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    I have made yogurt for years. My sister got the recipe from some East Indians she lived near.
    I use 1 % milk to a full rolling boil in microwave (doesn’t stick to the pan) Then cool to between 110-115 on thermometer.
    Add yogurt and – my latest find is adding about 1/3- 1/2 cup skim mild powder, and some yogurt. The skim milk powder makes it much thicker.
    I put it in the oven with the oven light on and voila! You can strain it in cheese cloth and use it as cream cheese, it’s yummy.

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