How to Make Yogurt Without a Yogurt Maker

Yogurt made with live cultures is great for you. It’s high in protein, calcium, and probiotics that aid the digestive system. And if you eat a lot of it, at some point you might wonder if it’s cheaper to make yogurt at home.

DIY Homemade Yogurt.
Maxim Khytra/Shutterstock

If you don’t mind taking the time to do it, homemade yogurt will definitely save some money, not to mention allowing you to get the consistency just the way you like it.

I’m a big fan of low-tech yogurt making. You don’t need any fancy equipment to make wholesome plain yogurt.

And once you have plain homemade yogurt, taking it a step further by making delicious, thick Greek yogurt is also a snap.

I personally make yogurt with raw milk. As not everyone has access to (or wants to use) raw milk, rest assured that this DIY yogurt recipe will work with homogenized/pasteurized milk, too.

How to Make Yogurt

Ingredients

The ingredients for homemade yogurt are simple:

Milk: You can use any kind of milk. For the healthiest yogurt, use the healthiest milk you can find: organic or raw cow’s milk, or goat or sheep’s milk. Full fat milk will make the richest, thickest yogurt. Plus the fat in yogurt also helps your body assimilate the nutrients.

Starter Culture: The simplest starter culture is to just use a couple dollops of organic, plain yogurt with live cultures. Or you can buy a commercial yogurt starter like this one.

Process

In a small pot on the stove, heat the milk to a temperature of 180°F.

Heating milk in a saucepan.

If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, 180°F is the equivalent of where it is just going to start to boil. Don’t let it come to a rolling boil as this is too hot. Make sure you don’t walk away from the milk and allow it to boil over. It makes a big mess (believe me, I know this from experience!)

Turn the heat off and let the temperature come down to 110°F. You can put the pot in a sink of cold water to speed the cooling if you like. 110°F is the temperature at which you can stick a finger into the milk and hold it there for 10 seconds. Don’t let it cool below this temperature. It needs to be 110°F to culture properly.

When the milk is at 110°F, pour it into the 1 qt. canning jar and gently mix in your starter culture or yogurt. Cap the jar.

Milk in a jar.

Turn your oven on to 110°F. Allow it to stay at this temperature for 10 minutes and then turn it off. If you can’t set your oven at 110°F, turn it on to the lowest setting possible (in many ovens, this is 200°F), turn it off, and then give it some time to cool to approximately 110°F.

Wrap your jar in a thick towel (I use a big bath towel).

Wrapping jarred milk in a towl.

Then place the wrapped jar in the oven. Remove racks as necessary for it to fit. Turn the light of your oven on and close the door (this will keep the temperature slightly raised).

A jar of milk wrapped in a towel in the oven.

The towel will insulate the jar, ensuring that it stays warm during the culturing process. Leave it there for 12 hours or overnight, then unwrap the jar and place it in the refrigerator to cool for several hours.

If you end up with liquid (whey) floating atop your homemade yogurt, this can be mixed in or poured off to give you a thicker yogurt.

You can eat your yogurt plain…

A spoon of creamy homemade yogurt from a jar.

…or mix it with fruit, nuts, cooked grains such as oats…whatever you like. I love homemade yogurt with fresh fruits; one of my favorite ways to eat it is drizzled with a little pomegranate molasses and sprinkled with pomegranate arils.

Homemade yogurt with pomegranate molasses.

If you are interested in making a very thick Greek-style yogurt, you’ll want to strain out all of the whey.

How To Make Greek Yogurt

If you’ve made the DIY yogurt described above, you’re already most of the way toward making Greek Yogurt, which is just yogurt that strained to a thicker consistency by removing the whey.

Line a colander with cheesecloth and place it over a bowl.

A mesh strainer over a bowl.

Pour your yogurt in…

Straining yogurt over a mesh strainer with cheesecloth.

… and place in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. The whey will drain into the bowl and you will end up with a delicious and nutritious Greek yogurt (aka “yogurt cheese”) that you can eat “as is” or use in recipes. The whey can be stored for 1-2 months for use in recipes for lacto-fermented vegetables (my dogs and cats also happen to love drinking it!).

A spoonful of homemade Greek yogurt.

Alternatively, you could use yogurt making equipment for making homemade yogurt. I have heard good things about these yogurt making machines by Salton. The Bear Yogurt Maker is another option that’s well reviewed. These help you easily maintain the correct culturing temperature of 110°F.

If you are planning to make your own yogurt a lot (and if you like kitchen gadgets), it might be worth investing in one of these, but I’ve never felt the need to own one.

A few of my recipes that feature yogurt:
Yellow Watermelon Salad with Yogurt Tsatsiki Dressing
Homemade Protein Bars
Leek and Asparagus Pizza

Homemade Yogurt.
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4.75 from 4 votes

How to Make Yogurt Without a Yogurt Maker

Homemade yogurt is high in protein, calcium, and probiotics that aid the digestive system. If you don't mind taking the time to make it, homemade yogurt is also cheaper and more versatile than the store-bought stuff. And you don’t need a yogurt maker to make great DIY yogurt either. Once you have plain homemade yogurt, taking it a step further by making thick Greek yogurt is easy.
Prep Time2 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Resting Time12 hrs
Total Time12 hrs 12 mins
Course: Breakfast, Condiment, Side Dish
Keyword: homemade yogurt, how to make yogurt
Servings: 5 servings
Calories: 122kcal

Equipment

  • 1 one-quart mason jar sterilized

Ingredients

  • 4 cups milk any milk will work
  • 2 tbsp yogurt organic, plain live culture yogurt or purchased powder

Instructions

  • In a small pot on the stove, heat the milk to a temperature of 180°F.
  • Turn the heat off and let the temperature come down to 110°F. Don't let it cool below this temperature.
  • Pour it into the one quart. canning jar and gently mix in your starter culture or yogurt. Cap the jar.
  • Turn your oven on to 110°F (or the lowest setting possible). Allow it to stay at this temperature for 10 minutes and then turn it off.
  • Wrap your jar in a thick towel and place it in the oven. Turn on your oven light to help hold the temperature. Leave it there for 12 hours (or overnight). Then unwrap the jar and place it in the refrigerator for several hours.
  • Serve the finished yogurt plain or mix it with fruit, nuts, oats, etc.

Nutrition

Calories: 122kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 24mg | Sodium: 78mg | Potassium: 305mg | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 324IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 250mg | Iron: 1mg

This post was originally published in October of 2009 and has been updated.