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How to Make 24-Hour Yogurt at Home (And Why You Should)

Overhead shot of 24-hour yogurt in a bowl, topped with granola and berries
Recipe At-A-Glance
Vegetarian, Gluten-Free24 hours
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.

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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.

Homemade 24-hour yogurt in two glass jars

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.

Reason Why You Should Eat Long-Fermented Yogurt

  • It’s virtually lactose-free! Twenty-four hours is the magical spot where the beneficial bacteria from your yogurt starter culture have gobbled up almost all of the lactose in the milk—leaving you with yogurt that is nearly lactose-free and much easier to digest. This is, obviously, a good thing if you know you are lactose-intolerant, but it’s a good thing for the majority of adults, too. Did you know roughly 65% of adults have a reduced ability to digest lactose? So even if traditional dairy products don’t cause huge problems with your gut, you might see digestive benefits from going lactose-free.
  • It’s packed with more beneficial bacteria than most probiotic pills. Supplements have their place, but at Wholefully, we always recommend that you get your nutrients from whole food sources—and that includes your probiotics! Taking probiotic pills has become such a normal thing that people forget that the original way to get beneficial bacteria is through what’s on our plate, not what’s in a capsule. A single cup of 24-Hour Yogurt has 700 billion CFUs of good bacteria! Go ahead and check your probiotics bottle—I’m going to guess it’s nowhere near that 700 billion mark. Between my daily serving of 24-Hour Yogurt and kombucha, plus my frequent servings of sauerkraut and fermented pickles, I actually don’t take a probiotic pill at all. I get all my good bacteria from my food!
  • It’s thick, tangy, delicious, and versatile! The long fermentation time gives the yogurt a Greek yogurt-style tart and tangy flavor, which makes it perfect for both sweet and savory uses. We use it as sour cream on our chili, mixed into foods to make them rich and creamy, and even as the base of desserts! Long fermentation also means the yogurt is naturally thick. I like a really thick yogurt, so I still strain it, but right out of the pot, 24-Hour Yogurt is thicker than your normal store-bought yogurt.

Spoon dipping into a bowl of 24-hour yogurt topped with granola and berries

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.

Wooden spoon stirring homemade yogurt in a soup pot
Step One: Heat Your Milk

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.

Step Two: Cool Your Milk

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.

Step Three: Pitch In Your Starter

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.

Step Four: Ferment!

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:

  • In the Instant Pot: the easiest of them all! Just set the Yogurt setting to 24 hours, close the lid, and walk away. The Instant Pot will keep the yogurt at right around 100°F and then beep to let you know when 24 hours is up. Easy. Peasy. I haven’t had a single batch of yogurt fail since getting my Instant Pot.
  • Using a heating pad: cover the pot of warm milk, and then wrap tightly in a large towel or blanket. Place on a heating pad set to low for 24 hours.

Step Five: Chill, strain (if you want), and enjoy!

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!

Tall glass jars filled with homemade yogurt, on a dark wooden cutting board
Frequently Asked 24-Hour Yogurt Questions

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.

Homemade 24-hour yogurt in a glass jar

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!

Homemade 24-Hour Yogurt

Homemade 24-Hour Yogurt

Yield: 2 quarts regular yogurt or ~1 1/2 quarts Greek yogurt
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 days
Total Time: 1 days 1 hour

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.

Ingredients

Instructions

Instant Pot Directions

  1. Pour the milk into the basin of your Instant Pot. Press the “Yogurt” button and adjust to the “Boil” mode (if your Instant Pot does not have a yogurt cycle, follow the Stovetop directions below). Let milk heat until the Instant Pot beeps to indicate the cycle is finished.
  2. Allow the milk to cool down to between 95°F-110°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, a good rule of thumb is that when it’s the right temperature, you should be able to hold your (clean!) finger in the milk to a count of 10. If it’s too hot to handle for 10 seconds, it’s still too hot.
  3. When the milk is sufficiently cooled, sprinkle in the yogurt culture and whisk well to combine. Or, if using prepared yogurt, ladle out a small amount of the warm milk into a small bowl, add in the yogurt, and whisk until smooth. Then add the mixture to the pot of milk, whisking well to combine.
  4. Turn the Instant Pot Yogurt function back on, this time adjusting until you see the time on the screen. Set to 24 hours. Close lid and let it ferment until the Instant Pot beeps.
  5. When the fermentation time is up, spoon the yogurt into mason jars for storage (the yogurt will thicken as it cools). If you want to make Greek yogurt, spoon the yogurt into a yogurt strainer or nut milk bag and let drain for 8-12 hours, or until it is the desired thickness.

Stovetop + Heating Pad Directions

  1. Pour the milk into a large soup pot. Heat over medium-low heat and whisk constantly until the yogurt reaches about 185°F or looks very frothy, but do not let boil.
  2. Allow the milk to cool down to between 95°F-110°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, a good rule of thumb is that when it’s the right temperature, you should be able to hold your (clean!) finger in the milk to a count of 10. If it’s too hot to handle for 10 seconds, it’s still too hot.
  3. When the milk is sufficiently cooled, sprinkle in the yogurt culture and whisk well to combine. Or, if using prepared yogurt, ladle out a small amount of the warm milk into a small bowl, add in the yogurt, and whisk until smooth. Then add the mixture to the pot of milk, whisking well to combine.
  4. Cover the pot, and then wrap completely in a large towel or blanket. Set the pot (with the blanket wrapped around it) on a heating pad set to Low for 24 hours.
  5. When the fermentation time is up, spoon the yogurt into mason jars for storage (the yogurt will thicken as it cools). If you want to make Greek yogurt, spoon the yogurt into a yogurt strainer or nut milk bag and let drain for 8-12 hours, or until it is the desired thickness.

Notes

  • There are as many different methods for keeping yogurt warm during fermentation as there are people making yogurt. I’ve been making yogurt for a lot of years, and the Instant Pot and heating pad methods are the two that always turn out for me. The thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need your yogurt to stay around 100°F for a full day. 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)
  • I’ve had good luck using all kinds of yogurt—ultra-pasteurized, pasteurized, and raw. Some people report not being able to get a good thick yogurt when using ultra-pasteurized milk.
  • Most times when I make yogurt, I use a fresh yogurt starter culture. This was recommended to me by my naturopath because you can control exactly which strains of bacteria are in each batch you make—something that is important if you’re struggling with gut or digestive issues. If you’re just looking to make yogurt on the cheap, using premade yogurt as your starter works perfectly fine!

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

Leave a Reply

39 Responses
    1. Cassie

      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!

      1. shauna

        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.

      2. 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.

      3. Cassie

        I wonder if there is an alternative to the gelatin? Gelatin is bad news bears for vegans (not that I am one).

      4. shauna

        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).

  1. shauna

    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. 🙂

    1. Cassie

      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.

      1. shauna

        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.

  2. 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.

  3. Kimberly

    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!

    1. 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!

      1. 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.

      2. 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!

  4. Amy

    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?

    1. Cassie

      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!

      1. 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.

      2. Cassie

        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. 🙂

  5. Sandy

    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!

  6. 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??

  7. Paulina

    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?

  8. 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? ?

  9. Andrea

    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!

    Thanks!!

  10. Feli

    Mine does not look this beautiful.. it looks more curdled … can I stir it? Before straining? Please help! This is my second attempt

  11. David

    Great post! Have been making in Insta for some time with great results. Was interested in adding some flavor, have you ever tried the 24 hour ferment with fruit? Wanted to make lemon so thought to add lemon juice, or maybe lemon peel. Love any advice on how to lightly flavor the yogurt during the process, thanks!

  12. Melissa

    Loved your article. It didn’t leave anything out. You’re very thorough and detailed while also direct and straightforward. I’ll be using you as a reference for the future. ❤️ Thank you! I’m excited to make some
    Yogurt and now know how and why to! ?

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