How to Make Probiotic Yogurt (With or Without an Instant Pot!)

Overhead shot of 24-hour yogurt in a bowl, topped with granola and berries
Recipe At-A-Glance
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Vegetarian, Gluten-Free24 hours
Homemade probiotic yogurt is the easiest way to get started with fermenting! We'll teach you how to make yogurt in your Instant Pot or on the stovetop.

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Homemade yogurt sounds like one of those things that would be super complicated (and maybe a bit scary) to make, but turns out making yogurt at home is incredibly easy—especially if you use your Instant Pot—and you can save tons of cash and make even healthier yogurt than what you get in the store!

We’ll show you how to make yogurt at home in your Instant Pot (our favorite way) or on your stovetop (also works perfectly). It takes just two ingredients and about 10 minutes of active time. You can do this!

Homemade 24-hour yogurt in two glass jars

Why is homemade yogurt healthier than store-bought?

The yogurt 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 because of how long it ferments. In our house, we make 24-hour probiotic 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:

  • Probiotic yogurt is 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.
  • It’s packed with more beneficial bacteria than most probiotic pills.  A single cup of 24-hour fermented probiotic 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. 
  • It’s thick, tangy, delicious, and versatile! The long fermentation time gives the yogurt a Greek yogurt-style tart and tangy flavor and thick texture, which makes it perfect for both sweet and savory uses. 

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

How do you make yogurt?

We’re going to show you the exact method for making yogurt in both your Instant Pot and on your stovetop, but the gist of the method is the same:

  1. Heat the milk to 180°F to pasteurize and kill any wild bacteria or yeast in the milk.
  2. Let the milk cool to around 100°F.
  3. Add in a yogurt starter culture—this can either be specific yogurt culture or plain yogurt (more on this in a bit). Stir well. Cover.
  4. Keep the mixture at around 110°F for at least 8 hours to ferment, but preferably closer to 24 hours to get the most probiotics.

Okay, what’s so great about Instant Pot yogurt?

Before electric pressure cookers became a thing, I made my yogurt at home on the stovetop and using a heating pad to keep the temperature even while the yogurt fermented. It works just fine, but an Instant Pot makes the whole process even easier! That’s because the Instant Pot is programmed to keep the fermentation temperature at an even 110°F during the culturing time. It makes it completely no fuss! I have never had a batch of yogurt fail since getting my Instant Pot years ago.

Wooden spoon stirring homemade yogurt in an Instant Pot

But what if my Instant Pot doesn’t have a “Yogurt” button?

The majority of Instant Pots have a yogurt function, but a few do not. If yours doesn’t have one, just skip the Instant Pot and instead follow our directions for making your yogurt on the stovetop instead.

What ingredients do you need to make yogurt?

Let’s talk about the two ingredients you’ll need to make probiotic yogurt: 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.

So what’s the best yogurt starter culture?

Both premade yogurt and freeze-dried yogurt starter culture work relatively the same, with one important caveat—because we recommend 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 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.

Another time to do freeze-dried starter cultures: if at anytime your homemade yogurt made from premade yogurt starts to be “off” in taste, texture, or color, it might be time to start a fresh batch with freeze-dried starter cultures. I personally use fresh starter culture every fourth time that I make yogurt, just to get a fresh start.

Wooden spoon stirring homemade yogurt in a soup pot
How do you make yogurt in an Instant Pot?

The Instant Pot is without a doubt the simplest way to make yogurt. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Heat the milk. Fill the Instant Pot with milk. Hit the “Yogurt” button and then press “Adjust” until you see “Boiling.” Cover and step aside for awhile! The temperature sensor will automatically turn off the Instant Pot and beep when it hits 185°F.
  2. Cool the milk. Allow the milk to cool to between 100°F and 115°F—the perfect temperature for yogurt bacteria to thrive. You can do this naturally, or you can speed up the process by submerging the insert from your Instant Pot in an ice bath.
  3. Inoculate the milk. If using pre-made yogurt as a starter, 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. 
  4. Ferment! Place the lid back on the Instant Pot, and again press the “Yogurt” button and then “Adjust” it to where it shows a time. Set that time for however long you’d like to ferment your yogurt—a minimum of 8 hours, up to 24 hours.
  5. Strain, sweeten, flavor, and enjoy. Once your fermentation time is up, you can chill your yogurt immediately (it’ll thicken slightly upon chilling). You can strain the yogurt for a thicker texture or sweeten or flavor to taste. 

Wholefully Protip

Want to make vegan or dairy-free yogurt in your Instant Pot? Try our Coconut Yogurt recipe.

Yogurt topped with pumpkin butter and fruit in a black bowl.

How do you make yogurt on the stovetop?

No Instant Pot? No problem. I made homemade yogurt on my stovetop for years before I swtiched to the Instant Pot. It works perfectly well! Here’s how to do it:

  1. Heat the milk. Over low heat on the stove, heat the milk 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).
  2. Cool the 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. You can do this naturally, or you can speed up the process by submerging the bottom of the pot in an ice bath. 
  3. Inoculate the milk. If using pre-made yogurt as a starter, 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. 
  4. Ferment! Your goal during the fermentation period is to keep your yogurt at an even 110°F. There are a ton of ways to do—a proving drawer, in the oven with the oven light on, in a cooler with warm water—but my favorite, and I think the simplest, is on top of 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.

Wholefully Protip

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.

Tall glass jars filled with homemade yogurt, on a dark wooden cutting board
How long should you ferment homemade yogurt?

This answer will depend on your final desired results! If you want a less tangy or thick yogurt, ferment for around 8 hours. For a thick, tangy, and probiotic-rich yogurt, go closer to 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 homemade 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 tangier and more sour. As always, use your senses. If it smells, tastes, or looks off, throw it out!

Homemade 24-hour yogurt in a glass jar

Does homemade yogurt work with other milks, too?

Sure does! It works wonderfully with goat’s milk, and you can definitely make it with coconut milk, too (although the method is slightly different).

Are there other ways to keep the yogurt 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 homemade yogurt?

My favorite thing for breakfast is a good yogurt bowl. I top my homemade 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.

 
Overhead shot of 24-hour yogurt in a bowl, topped with granola and berries

Homemade Probiotic Yogurt

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

Homemade probiotic yogurt is the easiest way to get started with fermenting! We'll teach you how to make yogurt both with and without and Instant Pot.

Ingredients

Instructions

Instant Pot Yogurt 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 Yogurt 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!

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 16 Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 99Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 76mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 0gSugar: 8gProtein: 6g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

Looking for more fermentation and preservation projects?

  • Homemade Sauerkraut. Once you’ve nailed down making yogurt, the next fermentation project to tackle is learning how to make sauerkraut!
  • Instant Pot Coconut Yogurt. Want a dairy-free version of our homemade yogurt? This version uses vegan coconut milk!
  • Homemade Hot Sauce. Yes! You can make your own hot sauce at home. Check out our full tutorial.
  • Milk Kefir. Another wonderful fermented milk product is kefir! Learn how to make kefir in our simple tutorial.
  • Canning 101. Want to get started with canning? We answer all your questions in this starter guide!
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Jam. This jam is a perfect starter recipe for canning newbies!
  • How to Store Apples. Did you know that apples can store for six months or more when stored under the proper conditions? Let us teach you how!
  • Mixed Berry Jam. This naturally-sweetened jam is a great canning recipe without granulated sugar.
  • How to Freeze Strawberries. Stash the flavor of summer in your freezer with our easy-to-follow tutorial!
  • Bread and Butter Pickles. Ready to start canning pickles? This four-ingredient recipe is a great place to start!
  • Canning Recipes. Check out our full list of canning recipes to get started stocking your pantry.

And check out these fan favorites:

 

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

52 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. 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. Sara

    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. Sarah

        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.

        1. 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. sarah

    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. sarah

    What would be a good easy way to sweeten this up without using sugar? My husband is a diabetic and has a sweet tooth

  8. 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?

  9. 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? ?

  10. 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!!

  11. Feli

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

  12. 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!

  13. 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! ?

  14. Leslie A Oliva

    The yogurt setting on my instant pot hass a low medium and high. The high is the boil but do I leave it on low or medium for the rest of the time.

    1. Cassie Johnston

      My Instant Pot doesn’t have those functions, so I recommend checking out your manual. You’re looking for whatever setting keeps your yogurt between 95-110°.

  15. Denise

    I want to make the cold start instant pot yogurt. If I leave it for 24 hours will I get the same result as doing it the way you did by heating? I have made instant pot yogurt before and it worked great but I think it was only in the instant pot for a few hours, definitely not 24 hours.

  16. Kristina

    I forgot to put my finished SCD instapot yogurt in the fridge to cool when it was finished it’s 24 hr fermentation time.
    It stayed in the instapot (turned off) for an extra 11 hours
    Will it be safe to eat ?

  17. Sarah B

    I’d love to try making yogurt for the first time and prefer to use a yogurt starter, but the yogourmet packs are currently unavailable on Amazon. Do you know any other good brands or places to get the starter packs?

    1. Belle

      WEll, I am currently incubating some milk from capsules of probiotic powder, and it has worked well for me. I use UHT milk cos that’s what I can find and 2 capsules of 25 billion probiotics incubated in my rice cooker for 12 hours , and voila ;… nice thick yoghurt.

  18. Mimi

    How can I use powered milk for it since getting liquid milk is not easy where I am. Secondly what is a good alternative to instant pot. Can I use warming container.

    1. Cassie Johnston

      Hi Mimi: I’ve never done this with powdered milk, so I can’t chime in on that. And if you check out the post, we include two options that aren’t in the Instant Pot. 🙂

      1. Ashley

        Have you ever added an actual probiotic tablet in along with the yogurt for a variety or extra strains? Thank you for all your help and inspiration!

        1. Cassie Johnston

          I have tried this in the past, and I have found that probiotic capsules can vary the flavor of your yogurt pretty dramatically depending on what strains are in it—and not always in a good way. You can try it, but we can’t guarantee it’ll taste good!

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Hello. My name is Cassie, and I’m a healthy home cooking expert.

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