By Cassie Johnston
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We go through a lot of yogurt in our house. It can get mega-expensive, mega-fast when you consume that much organic grass-fed yogurt. In our area, organic yogurts in the individual size tubs run about $1.50 apiece. Seems economical enough, until you start doing the math. One dollar for about six ounces of yogurt, times three people in my family, times once a day– that’s over $30 per week in yogurt! Yeeeesssshh. I could think of about 300 things I’d rather spend $30 on in a week than yogurt.
But what if I told you could get an entire half-gallon of organic yogurt for less than you pay for a single cup of fancy coffee? Yup, you can make organic grass-fed yogurt for even cheaper than conventional store-bought yogurt by making your yogurt at home. I know, yogurt-making seems difficult and complicated, but I promise it is totally easy and only takes about 10 minutes of hands-on time. Plus, it only requires two ingredients! You can do this.
And bonus: the stuff you make at home is healthier for your family because you control what mix-ins you use (have you ever looked at how much sugar is in store-bought yogurt?) and how long it ferments.
In our house, we make 24-Hour Yogurt—which is yogurt that ferments for a full day. Many store-bought yogurts are fermented for only a couple of hours, and some as few as 30 minutes! Why do you want a long ferment time on your yogurt? Well, I’m glad you asked.
We make a full gallon of whole milk, grass-fed, organic 24-Hour-Yogurt every two weeks. I use a Greek yogurt strainer to thicken my yogurt (I’ve been using this one for years), and end up with almost three quarts of very thick Greek-style yogurt and about one quart of leftover whey (which I mostly use for baking). You absolutely don’t have to make as much as I do—yogurt-making is scalable up and down—but we’ve found that the gallon amount works great for us!
Before we dig into the actual how-to here, I did want to talk a bit about the two ingredients you’ll need: milk and a yogurt starter culture.
Milk: I recommend starting with organic, grass-fed whole cow’s or goat’s milk (if you want a plant-based yogurt, we have a how-to for that, too). You might be tempted to go for a lower milkfat, but really, you want the whole kit-and-kaboodle here—that’s what makes the end result creamy, thick, and packed full of good-for-your-gut probiotics. You can use raw milk, pasteurized, or ultra-pasteurized—all three will work just fine for yogurt-making.
Yogurt starter culture: You’ll need to inoculate your milk with some starter bacteria to get the yogurt-making process going, and there are two ways of going about this. You can either use premade plain yogurt with active cultures (either store-bought or from a previous batch of homemade yogurt) or you can use a freeze-dried yogurt starter culture. Both work relatively the same, with one important caveat—because you are fermenting for such a long period of time, you give the bacteria all the time they need to run rampant. Which is great if it’s a bacteria your gut needs—less great if the bacteria that runs rampant in your yogurt is one that your body doesn’t need. When using premade yogurt as a your starter culture, you run the risk of inoculating your new batch of yogurt with a bacteria that you didn’t intend to be there—something that got in from the air, from your container, from a spoon—anywhere!
You reduce this risk using freeze-dried starter cultures. This isn’t a big deal if your digestion is in good shape and you are more-or-less healthy. But if you are fighting any sort of illness or disorder, you might want to be more careful with the bacteria you are introducing into your body and stick with a yogurt starter culture. Before I was diagnosed with Lyme, I always made my 24-hour yogurt with yogurt from a previous batch. Post-Lyme, I always make my yogurt with Yogurment yogurt starter cultures. Both turn out about the same taste- and texture-wise.
And those are the only two ingredients you need to make yogurt! So how do you do it? Well, it’s pretty darn simple. I’ll include directions below for both the classic stovetop and heating pad method, and my preferred method—in my Instant Pot.
Either over low heat on the stove, or using the “Yogurt/Boil” setting on your Instant Pot, heat your yogurt until it reaches 185°F. You don’t want to boil the milk, but you do want the milk to get hot enough to kill any not-so-good bacteria that might be lingering. A thermometer is great if you plan on making lots of yogurt, but you don’t absolutely need one. Just heat the milk until it looks frothy, very steamy, and has small bubbles (but don’t let it get to boiling). If you’re using an Instant Pot, the temperature sensor will automatically turn off the Instant Pot and beep when it hits 185°F.
Turn off the heat, remove the pot of yogurt from the heat, and allow to cool. You want it to cool to between 100°F and 115°F—the perfect temperature for yogurt bacteria to thrive. Again, you don’t need a thermometer (but it makes life easier). A good rule of thumb is that when you can stick a (very clean!) finger in the milk, count to 10, and not feel like your finger is going to burn off, it’s at the right temperature. Depending on the amount of milk and the heat of your house, this can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours.
Too hot and the yogurt cultures will die. Too cool and the yogurt cultures won’t multiply. If the milk gets too cool, just heat it back up. If it is still too warm, wait for it to cool down.
When your milk is sufficiently cooled, it’s time to inoculate the milk with your starter. If using premade yogurt, take a little bit of the warm milk and whisk it with your starter yogurt in a small bowl. Pour the yogurt/milk mixture into the milk and whisk well.
If using a freeze-dried yogurt culture, just sprinkle it onto the warm milk and whisk the dickens out of it. To get the optimal amount of probiotics, you should use the amount of freeze-dried culture listed on the package for the amount of milk you’re using. I admit, to save some money, I usually use fewer packets than recommended.
Your goal during the 24-hour fermentation time is to keep the yogurt at right around 100°F for the entire time. There are as many ways to do this as there are people making yogurt! But my two favorite are:
The yogurt will be pretty thick when it comes right out of the fermentation, but it’ll thicken even more as it chills. If after it’s chilled you’d still like thicker yogurt, strain through either a yogurt strainer or nut milk bag. Enjoy just as you would store-bought yogurt!
Can I ferment longer than 24 hours?
After 24 hours, you start to hit the law of diminishing returns—you begin to get bacterial die-off because the more aggressive bacteria start to beat out the other probiotics. After about 36 hours, the whole shebang is so volatile that it won’t last long in the fridge anymore. 24 hours is the way to go—set a timer!
How long will 24-Hour Yogurt last in the fridge?
We get 2-3 weeks out of it no problem. The worst that’s going to happen is it’s just going to get more tangy and more soured. As always, use your senses. If it smells, tastes, or looks off, throw it out!
Does the 24-hour fermentation work with other milks, too?
Sure does! It works wonderfully with goat’s milk, and you can definitely use it for coconut milk, too (although the method is slightly different).
Are there other ways to keep the pot warm during fermentation?
Some other options to try: on top of the fridge (it’s too cold for me), under the light in an oven (I don’t like having my oven occupied for a full day), using the “warm” setting on a slow cooker (the “warm” setting on my slow cooker is closer to 165°F, which will kill all the probiotics), in a cooler filled with boiling water (never tried it). Also, there are specific yogurt maker machines—but if you’re going to buy something to make yogurt, I’d recommend you buy an Instant Pot. It does the yogurt-making thing and way more!
How do I use 24-Hour Yogurt?
My favorite thing for breakfast is a good yogurt bowl. I top my 24-Hour Yogurt with fruits, nuts, seeds, and a drizzle of honey and call it a meal! We also use it like sour cream on chili, tacos, and burritos. My daughter likes to dip cucumber slices in it! You can also use it for cooking, but just be aware that if you heat the yogurt to above 115°F, it will kill off the beneficial bacteria (and it’ll probably curdle, too). If using the yogurt to make things thick and creamy (like in my Penne Rosa), wait until it has cooled down considerably before mixing the yogurt in.
Yogurt is one of the best ways to get started with fermenting foods in your own kitchen—it’s something that almost everyone in the family enjoys eating, and it’s easy, easy, easy to get right! I promise you can do this. As always, leave us any questions in the comments and we’ll try to get you on the fermentation bandwagon. Happy yogurt-making!
Making yogurt is one of the best and easiest ways to get started with fermenting foods in your own kitchen. This 24-hour yogurt is packed full of probiotics to keep your gut happy and healthy.
Keywords: breakfast, snack, yogurt, Instant Pot
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Great post thank you!!
Any ideas about making soya yoghurt…?
I’ve heard you can just replace the cow’s milk and yogurt with soy milk and yogurt, but I’m not 100% sure. I’m sure there is someone out there on the internet that has done it. :) Let me know how it turns out!
Soy milk with soy yogurt (or regular yogurt, but if you want true soy yogurt, you’d probably use soy yogurt) can be made the same way, but it is usually really runny. You can add a thickener (like gelatin powder) to make it thicker when you add the yogurt to the milk.
Yay! Thanks for the info Shauna!
No problem! I’ve been making yogurt for a while now, and have experimented with soy yogurt.
I also use gelatin powder when I make flavored yogurt, as I find that adding fruit or vanilla to my yogurt makes it a tad runny.
I wonder if there is an alternative to the gelatin? Gelatin is bad news bears for vegans (not that I am one).
Hmm, I don’t know. I think there are some other kinds of thickeners, and some people don’t mind their yogurt to be a bit runny, but I like mine THICK THICK THICK (like Greek yogurt).
could pectin work? Its made from apples.
Thanks both – must give this a bash soon!! x
LOOOOOVE homemade yogurt! Have you tried crock pot yogurt? I did once and it just didn’t work for me. We’ve started giving Ty yogurt and he loves it. He eats it just plain, but I like to add honey and berries to mine. :)
I did it a few times, and I guess my crock pot just holds heat too well because it was always grainy at the end. Not good eats. The blanket around the bowl seems to work perfect for me.
Yeah, I usually put my bowl covered and in the oven (off) overnight, as I find the oven is a good incubator as well.
Also, if you’ve used your own yogurt to make new yogurt for quite a few batches, sometimes the cultures go “bad” and won’t multiply, so you sometimes have to buy new yogurt for the new cultures. I usually buy new yogurt after 6 batches or so.
Thanks for sharing! My mom used to make yoghurt all the time and I haven’t done it since I was a kid! I should try it again.
Wow! I had no idea you could do this. I guess it’s just something I never thought about. I’m obsessed with Greek yogurt mixed with granola, honey and berries, so I may have to give this a try.
Wow! This is great! I will definitely give this a try. I have one question though. How long does it last in the refrigerator? Thanks Cassie!
Oh gosh, forever! If you’ve ever noticed, organic milk has crazy far out expiration dates (like 6 weeks to a 2 months). So I’d say it lasts that long. Although we go through it much quicker than that!
If you use an heirloom culture, you don’t have to use a fresh culture each time in order to know exactly what you’re getting. Look for “heirloom” and avoid “direct set” unless you just do this once in a while. You have to keep the culture going, which means at least once a week fermenting up a batch using some of your last batch as starter. If you don’t use enough yogurt, it may still cheaper to make a small (pint size) batch during weeks you don’t brew, just to keep the culture going.
I think you may be buying UHT or ultra pasteurized milk. In other words, “dead.” Not good for making yogurt, and not good for you! Look for brands that do not say ultra pasteurized on them. Trader’s has it. But Sprouts and Whole Foods carry brands that are ultra pasteurized, so check carefully! You’ll taste the difference too!
Ooo… Love this! We are getting goats in a few weeks, I am going to try this with the goat milk!
My husband & I eat a lot of yogurt, too, but I haven’t tried making our own yogurt because I didn’t want it to go bad. how long does your yogurt usually last?
Quite a while! As I said up there, organic milk has crazy far out expiration dates (around 6 weeks) and I’ve never had yogurt stick around long enough to get to 6 weeks!
Can I use plain greek yogurt or no?
For the starter yogurt? Just as long as it has active cultures, you sure can!
ok cool thank you! If I do use greek yogurt, will the final product have the consistency as regular yogurt or greek yogurt? Im looking to make regular yogurt like the one you made.
Nope. It’ll be just like regular yogurt. To get Greek yogurt, you just need to strain the yogurt through a fine cloth or sieve. :)
I haven’t made yogurt in many many years, when I had a yogurt maker! Thanks for this reminder of how easy it can be and worthwhile, too!
Can’t wait to get started!
Ok so I followed all your steps, but mine came out really runny on top and thick at the bottom. I stirred it up and put it in the fridge. The milk was pasteurized and the yogurt jad cultures in it. Not sure what I did wrong! Help??
What would be a good easy way to sweeten this up without using sugar? My husband is a diabetic and has a sweet tooth
I wish your posts had an easy print button.
I have a question about dividing yogurt. I see you keep it in mason jars, do you divide milk before making yogurt or do you just make a big batch and divide it after it is made? I am asking, because I make my yogurt in a slow cooker, in special jars (with plastic lids), but I have only 4 of them and would like to use regular jars too. I am not sure if I can use jars with metal lids (if it is safe to use with yogurt). Maybe you know something about it?
We make one big batch and then divvy it up into jars when it is done!
I didn’t even know I could make yogurt safely at home without a long undesirable process ( slaps face). This is extremely helpful and now I have an excuse to buy an instapot (hehe). Can I tell my husband it’s your fault? ?
I went and searched 24 hour yogurt because I got going with my day later than I should have and didn’t want to have to stay up until 11:00 to finish an 8 hour ferment and found this delightful post, which has me thinking that this will be an even better yogurt option for my husband, who loves the taste but not the belly issues from dairy.
One other – and huge – reason I like making my own yogurt is the environmental reduction of little plastic containers!
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