This post takes you through how to make yogurt at home, with a simple DIY for homemade natural yogurt and Greek yogurt. All you need is just two ingredients and 15 minutes of hands-on prep time! Once you have your base plain yogurt, then you can batch this and flavor it to your heart’s content – working out more delicious, cost-effective, and healthier than store-bought options!
Plain yogurt is one of my ultimate favorite homemade hacks. Made easily, affordably, and super versatile, homemade yogurt is ridiculously simple to make with just two ingredients (milk and a starter) and fifteen minutes of hands-on prep. Plus, your first batch can be used as a ‘starter’ for the next one, meaning you have an extended supply of yogurt at a fantastic price!
Not to mention that there is no need to worry about any unnecessary ‘additional’ ingredients when making homemade (and no added sugar). Although this also depends on which regular yogurt you use for the recipe starter. I make sure that I always choose an all-natural starter with no unnecessary additional ingredients.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, what a starter is and how one batch of yogurt can give you multiple batches in the long run – have no fear. I explain all below, plus more. In fact, this post takes you through how to make two types of healthy yogurt: natural and greek.
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Natural Yogurt vs. Greek Yogurt
First, let’s have a look at how yogurt is made in the first place. It is made when combining milk (dairy or non-dairy) with an active culture (gut-friendly bacteria), which we refer to as a ‘starter.’ When combining the two, the culture works at fermenting the milk. During this process, the bacteria convert the lactose in the milk to lactic acid – and that’s yogurt!
Depending on what dairy product and culture/starter you begin with, as well as the fermentation duration and process, the yogurt will vary. However, this isn’t what distinguishes the two types that I’ll be showing you how to make here.
Greek yogurt follows the exact same fermentation process as natural, with the one difference being that it is a strained yogurt (like this Labneh recipe, but strained for less time). The straining process gets rid of excess whey and leaves you with a thicker, more concentrated product; i.e., Greek yogurt.
Side note: Straining it also gets rid of more lactose, which is its primary source of carbs. Thus, Greek yogurt is also the best option for those following a low-carb or keto diet. Due to being more ‘concentrated,’ it is even higher in protein, too.
What is a starter?
Most products that require fermentation require a ‘starter’ (like sourdough, yogurt, etc.). For yogurt, this ‘starter’ needs to contain a blend of bacteria that consumes lactose, thus converting it into lactic acid.
While it’s possible to buy specific ‘yogurt starter’ packs, I’ve decided to use an even more straightforward method that most people could do RIGHT now, with an item in their fridge. And that is to use an already fermented product as your starter.
In the case of this recipe, I am using plain yogurt (I chose natural yogurt), with a clean ingredients list. This is usually the cheaper option, as most people have a tub sitting in their fridge before deciding to start making their own anyway. All that’s required is a few spoonfuls, too!
What’s even better is that you can make multiple batches of yogurt from the same starter. i.e., use a few spoonfuls of this batch for your next batch, and then repeat the process. The only issue is that after around five uses, the starter will have weakened, and you’ll need a new one.
At that point, I usually just pick up another tub of yogurt from the shop. However, if you want to altogether ditch store-bought options, then you can pick up a pack of powder starter instead, and this will last a lot longer.
Top Tip: For a starter that keeps on giving, you may be interested in ‘heirloom yogurt starter,’ which is said to be practically ‘eternal’ in the number of batches that it can produce without weakening. I haven’t tried this personally, so I can’t vouch for its effectiveness.
Learning how to make yogurt is actually particularly simple, and definitely something that I’d suggest everyone try at least once!
What you need
- Full-fat raw milk (i.e., whole milk) – it doesn’t have to be pasteurized as you’ll be heating it yourself.
- Plain Natural Yogurt – to use as your ‘starter.’
And that is it – just two ingredients (which is impressive).
Begin by sterilizing all of the equipment you’ll be using: wooden spoons (not metal!), pot, and jars. Although we’re using yogurt as our starter here rather than a probiotic or starter powder, it’s still best to have everything sterilized, so there are no bacteria in your pots/jars competing with the yogurt cultures.
To sterilize them, simply wash in hot, soapy water thoroughly and then leave to dry completely. For the jars, I like to do this by placing the items onto a baking tray in the oven at around 160ºC/325ºF for 10 minutes.
To begin, start by heating the milk over medium heat until it reaches 80-85ºC/175-185ºF (if you don’t have a thermometer, switch off the heat right before the milk starts boiling).
Set it aside to cool down till 40-45ºC/105-115ºF (if you don’t have a thermometer, you can dip your pinkie in the warm milk and try to keep it there for 7 seconds before it starts to hurt. Be careful though! and touch the mixture lightly before plunging your finger into it, so you don’t get burnt.)
It is necessary to cool down the milk so that the live cultures can survive- so don’t rush this process.
Once it is cool enough, add the yogurt and stir it with a wooden spoon.
Transfer to a clean, sterilized glass container.
Wrap the jar in a warm tea towel or blanket and keep in a warm place for a minimum of 6 hours (or up to 12). I usually keep mine in my oven, switched off (or in the oven with the light on – which will create very low residual heat).
Once the incubation period is over, then you can transfer it to the fridge and leave to set for a further 12-24 hours and then pour off any liquid whey that may be sitting on the top.
Alternatively, for Greek yogurt:
Rather than transferring it to the fridge, you can now strain the yogurt. Transfer to as muslin cloth, cheesecloth, or nut milk bag (my preferred, low-mess option) and hang it above a bowl or jar to drain. You can do this by hanging it from your kitchen faucet, a kitchen cabinet handle, or using a large jar.
The more you strain it, the thicker it will become. I suggest testing it after 3-4 hours and then leaving for longer if preferred.
The strained whey is full of protein and goodness and can be added to a variety of baked goods, into a smoothie, as part of homemade stock and in soups and stews.
Transfer the Greek yogurt to a sterilized glass jar and place it in the fridge.
How To Store:
Homemade yogurt will keep well for between 1-2 weeks in the fridge. Always use clean utensils in the jar as bacteria can affect the potency of the starter when re-using it. You could also use lots of little jars, that way any unopened jar will last longer.
Remember to keep a few spoonfuls of the yogurt behind to use as your starter for your next batch!
Recipe Notes & Variations
- The dairy that you use can vary. I make whole milk yogurt as the additional fat content makes for creamier, richer yogurt. However, you could also use 2% and skim or even half and half or cream. Just keep in mind that these will usually result in thinner yogurts.
- Don’t use UHT milk/ultra-pasteurized, as it isn’t suitable for fermenting.
- You can use raw milk (unpasteurized) too, as you’ll be heating it during the process. However, raw milk contains its own bacteria that can compete with the starter and affect the fermentation process. This again could result in a thinner final product. Raw milk is also not homogenized, so as the milk cultures, it can separate into two layers – this can be removed and eaten or mixed back into the yogurt.
- You can make a Keto yogurt by mixing 1:1 cultured sour cream with heavy cream. The resulting mix will be lower in carbs and higher in fat.
- If you decide to freeze some of the yogurt then it will still be able to be thawed and used as a starter for your next batch.
- I think it’s important that I also mention that I’m aware that ‘Greek’ yogurt isn’t referred to with that name everywhere. However, it is in America/the UK- which is why I have decided to name it that.
How To Use
Natural yogurt is great for tons of recipes: add it to dips and sauces, use it for cooking, spoon some into smoothies. I love to eat yogurt alongside homemade granola and fruits or with these delicious Granola cups. It also works wonderfully in the majority of my Overnight Oats recipes – like these Dessert-Inspired Overnight Oats.
Greek yogurt is thicker and luscious and still tastes amazing as a healthy snack. However, it’s also great for frozen desserts – like these Healthy Popsicles and for certain dips like Borani spinach dip.
PLUS, if you want to make flavored yogurts that is also super easy. You can make Fruity Yogurt at home and concoct the perfect, nutritious yogurt bowls!
The Full DIY
How-to: DIY Easy homemade Natural Yogurt
- large saucepan
- Glass Jars
- wooden spoon
- 8⅓ cups milk *
- 1/2 cup natural yogurt ** unflavored unsweetened
- Sterilize all of the equipment you'll be using; wooden spoons (not metal!), pot, and jars that you'll be storing your homemade yogurt in. Although we're using yogurt as our starter here rather than a probiotic or starter powder, it's still best to have everything sterilized so there is no bacteria in your pots/jars competing with the yogurt cultures.
- To sterilize them simply wash in hot, soapy water thoroughly and then leave to dry completely. For the jars, I like to do this by placing the items onto a baking tray, in the oven at around 160ºC/325ºF for 10 minutes.
- To begin making the homemade yogurt, start by heating the milk over medium heat until it reaches 80-85ºC/175-185ºF (if you don't have a thermometer, switch off the heat right before the milk starts boiling).
- Set it aside to cool down till 40-45ºC/105-115ºF (if you don't have a thermometer, you can dip your pinkie in the warm milk and try to keep it there for 7 seconds before it starts to hurt. Be careful though! and touch the mixture lightly before plunging your finger into it- so you don't get burnt.)
- It is necessary to cool down the milk so that the live cultures can survive - so don't rush this process.
- Once it is cool enough, add the yogurt and stir it with a wooden spoon.
- Transfer to a clean, sterilized glass container.***
- Wrap the jar in a warm tea towel or blanket and keep in a warm place for a minimum of 6 hours (or up to 12). I usually keep mine in my oven, switched off.
- Once the incubation period is over then you can transfer it to the fridge and leave to set for a further 12-24 hours and then pour off any liquid whey that may be sitting on the top.
For Greek Yogurt
- Rather than transferring it to the fridge, you can now strain the yogurt. Using a muslin cloth, cheesecloth, or nut milk bag ( my preferred, low-mess option), transfer the yogurt into the nut milk mag and hang it above a bowl to drain. You can do this by hanging it from your kitchen faucet, a kitchen cabinet handle, or using a large jar.
- The more you strain it, the thicker the yogurt will become- I suggest testing it after 3-4 hours and then leaving for longer, if preferred.
- Transfer the greek yogurt to a sterilized glass jar and place in the fridge.****
How To Store:
- Homemade yogurt will keep well for between 1-2 weeks in the fridge. Always use clear utensils to remove yogurt from the jar as any bacteria can affect the potency of the starter when re-using it.
- Remember to keep a few spoonfuls of the yogurt behind to use as your starter for your next batch!
Other DIY Recipes You Might Be Interested In:
For dairy-free yogurt options, then you may like:
Alternatively, I have simple DIY’s for:
- How To Make Buttermilk Substitute
- Super Easy Homemade Cream Cheese
- Homemade Ricotta Cheese
- How To Make Ghee
- How To Make Butter (ONE ingredient)
If you give this homemade yogurt recipe a go, then let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Also, feel free to tag me in your creations @Alphafoodie.