Homemade Yogurt: Easy, High-Quality, Low-Cost

When you know how to make yogurt at home, you’ll wonder why you ever wasted money on the store-bought stuff.

  • How to Make Yogurt
    To make yogurt, you'll need a thermometer and some starter, which can be a spoonful of yogurt from a previous batch or from store-bought yogurt with live cultures. Heat the milk slowly to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, cool to 110 degrees, add culture and let stand for 6 to 8 hours.
    Photos by Tim Nauman

  • How to Make Yogurt

No doubt you’ve heard about the health benefits of yogurt, the most widely con­sumed fermented milk product in the world. Delicious yogurt is nutrient-dense, pack­ing a one-two protein-calcium punch, among other valuable nutrients. Those with moderate lactose intolerance may find yogurt easy to di­gest. Most famously, yogurt’s live bacteria (usu­ally a combination of Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus) may keep unde­sirable bacteria in our digestive systems at bay.

In fact, some have speculated that the promi­nence of yogurt in the diet of Bulgarian peasants is responsible for their unusually long life spans. In other parts of the world, yogurt is a staple as important as bread or water, and it comes in many incarnations, from carbonated yogurt “so­das” to tangy cheeses to delectable sauces. The culinary traditions surrounding this fermented milk product run so deeply that writer Anne Mendelson, author of the book Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages, has dubbed the yogurt-loving part of our globe from eastern Hungary to west­ern China “Yogurtistan.”

Homemade yogurt is much better than what you’ll find in grocery stores. It is usually less expensive than store-bought, and will also be devoid of the preservatives, stabilizers, fillers and sweeteners found in most grocery store yogurts. You can make your homemade yogurt with the highest-quality milk (cow, goat, sheep or even buffalo), ideally locally produced, free of hor­mones and tastier than national brands. Ideally, milk for yogurt-making comes from healthy, grass-fed animals — they make the most nutri­tious milk you can get — and will not be ultra-pasteurized, which denatures some of the milk components. Homemade yogurt can outshine commercial yogurt in flavor and texture. Plus, it’s pretty easy to make.

Any milk can be used to make yogurt, including skim, low-fat or whole. If your aim is to end up with a thick, creamy yogurt ideal for broad culinary uses, you’ll be most pleased with whole cow’s milk. Yogurt made with goat’s milk, which has a different composition than cow’s or sheep’s milk, is good, but you probably won’t be able to stand a spoon up in it unless you strain it or add powdered milk.

The Best Homemade Yogurt

Slowly heating the milk is also im­portant to achieving the thick texture many yogurt lovers seek. The faster you heat the milk, the grainier the yo­gurt will be. Heating kills bacteria that could compete with starter bacteria, and slow heating denatures lactoglob­ulin, allowing the proteins in milk to link in a “fine matrix of chains that is much better at retaining liquid in its small interstices,” says Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.

You’ll need a good starter culture. Find yogurt starters through cheese­making suppliers and in well-stocked grocery stores. Some heirloom cul­tures have been kept for many years. (Try Cultures For Health and New England Cheesemaking Supply.) Or inoculate your milk with store-bought plain yogurt that contains live cultures. Find one with flavor you enjoy and, after your first batch, keep your own starter go­ing by using a portion of each batch to inoculate the next one.

4/11/2015 7:55:09 PM

I made my very first batch of yogurt using this recipe today, and it turned out perfectly. I only made a quart, and now I think I'll repeat the process tomorrow ... and make so much more. It is so much better than the similarly named product in the store!

11/26/2013 7:42:04 PM

Ultra Pasteurized milk is processed at higher temps than simply Pasteurized. Pasteurized is brought to a temp of 161 degrees for 15 seconds, and Ultra is brought to 280 degrees for 2 seconds which results in a shelf stable product, but it messes up the chance of culturing. Definitely, you kill some bacteria at 180 degrees, but my understanding is that you need to reach that temperature in order to break down some of the protein strands that will not "unravel" at the lower temp. I had the same question, and that is the response I got from a food chemist on another site.

Deb Goodwin Potter
11/25/2013 11:03:26 AM

A little confusing to me how you talk about homemade Yogurt being better because "and will not be ultra-pasteurized, which denatures some of the milk components." Any milk you heat to 180 degrees is ultra pasteurized. 145 is the highest without killing the good bacteria. If you want all the benefits you heat slowly to 110 and maintain that. Any lower and it either won't work or not work well.



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