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How to Make Homemade Yogurt: Easy, Inexpensive, and the Healthiest You’ll Ever Eat

Yogurt is a delicious food with a bevy of health benefits. And while you can buy your yogurt at the supermarket, store-bought yogurt is the least healthy form you can buy. Commercial yogurts usually contain an unhealthy amount of sugar and various additives, and they often don’t have enough living probiotics to justify their claim as a health food. Luckily, you can make your own homemade yogurt for pennies on the dollar. It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s so much healthier than anything you’ll buy in a store! Let me show you how.

The 3 Essentials of Homemade Yogurt

To make your own yogurt, you need a minimum of 3 things: milk, a little plain yogurt as a starter, and heat. Choose whatever milk you wish, though I do recommend whole-fat milk. I’ll explain why a little later. For maximum health benefits, I prefer raw milk. However, I believe that store-bought milk is fine for this application. The yogurt cultures digest the milk, and will help to break up any harmful effects from pasteurization and homogenization.  And you’re not limited to cows’ milk. You can use milk from goats or any other mammal.

You will need to buy a small cup of yogurt to start with. Make sure to get plain yogurt. This will contain the parents of all the little microbes in your yogurt, so get a brand you feel good about. I like Stoneyfield Organic, but there are plenty of good brands to use as a starter. Alternatively, you could borrow a little from a yogurt-making friend.

Next, you’ll need a heat source that you can control with some moderate precision. I use a crockpot. The following directions will be phrased as though you’re using one, too, but ovens and other creative methods will also work.

Making Homemade Yogurt

Pour a half gallon of milk into the crockpot. Insert a thermometer, close the lid, and turn the crockpot on high. You want the milk inside to reach 180°F (82°C). If you are using raw milk and want to maintain all the enzymes in the milk, you can skip this step. Just know that you’re responsible for your own bacteriological safety.

Turn the crockpot off and let it cool down to 115°F (46°C). Now turn your crockpot to keep warm and maintain temperature. This temp is ideal, but yogurt is fairly forgiving. My crockpot stays a little above 120°F, and the yogurt always comes out fine.

Add 4 tablespoons of yogurt and stir it just enough to get it incorporated. Now recover the yogurt and let it sit for 12 to 24 hours. The longer you let it sit, the more probiotics you will have and the more the lactose will have been digested, making it even easier for you to digest.

Separating the Whey

At this point, I usually spoon or pour the yogurt into a bowl or large mason jar and put it in the refrigerator to cool it down a bit. Then I pull it out and start separating the solid yogurt from the liquid whey. You don’t have to do this step at all. Whey is perfectly delicious and healthful, but the idea of it grosses some people out. It’s actually some really useful stuff. I’ll give you some ideas for how to use it down below.

To separate the whey, get out two bowls and a fine mesh strainer. Place the strainer over one bowl and spoon some yogurt into it. Give it a little jiggle to help any trapped pockets of whey to run out and into the bowl, then pour the drained yogurt (still in the strainer) into your other bowl. Repeat this until you’ve gone through the entire jar.

Ideas for Flavoring Your Homemade Yogurt

At this point, you have a lumpy-textured, plain yogurt. I love it! But my kids are less impressed. Here’s the fix: For a smoother yogurt, place it in your blender and pulse it for a couple of seconds. You can also add in fruit, honey, or other flavors at this stage. I love adding peaches, berries, vanilla extract, nutmeg, or cinnamon. You could also add cocoa powder. Of if you’re feeling especially like treating yourself, you could add chocolate chips. Go through your spice cabinet and think of all the exotic creations you could make!

Just remember to save back a little bit from each batch, before you add any flavors. In this way, you can keep making yogurt forever, without ever having to buy it from the store again.

Now your yogurt is ready for even the finickiest child or spouse. It should last a couple of weeks in the fridge, if you use a clean spoon each time you scoop it out. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you exactly how long it will last, because we always eat too quickly. Hopefully, you’ll have the same problem.

Start-to-Finish Video Demo

Want to see the process from start to finish? Here’s a video demo of some daddy-daughter yogurt creation.

9 Uses for Whey

But what in the world do we do with the whey? Honestly, we used to just throw it out. I think that’s what most people do. I mean, let’s be honest. It’s not the most appetizing liquid to look at. But that’s such a waste! Whey is some awesome stuff. Besides being super nutritious and filled with probiotics, whey can be used to…

  1. Ferment foods. There are so many foods you can ferment, it would make your head spin. Read Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions for examples of how to do this and why you’ll want to. You’ll be amazed.
  2. Soak grains, beans, and nuts. Again, check out Nourishing Traditions. You’ll be so glad you did.
  3. Fertilize your garden. If you can’t bring yourself to eat it, you can at least feed it to your plants. You’ll probably want to dilute it first. Or just toss it on the compost pile.
  4. Use it in homemade bread. Use whey to get a great texture in your bread and increase the nutrient content.
  5. Feed your pets. With the milk’s lactose broken down, whey makes an excellent, high-protein pet food.
  6. Amplify your smoothies. Just sneak it in. Nobody will notice. It tastes like yogurt.
  7. Use it as a milk substitute. Whey can be used in place of milk in many recipes.
  8. Use it in beauty treatments. As a manly man, I have no idea how this works. But I know that people use it . . . somehow.
  9. Make “yogurt juice.” It’s a terrible name. Fair enough. But that’s what my kids call it. Pour whey into your blender. Add some juice and a little fruit. Then pulse it for a couple of seconds. It’s absolutely delicious. (This one is our favorites, by the way.)

If you’re not ready to use the whey right a-whey (puns, ha), you can also freeze it in ice cube trays for later use.

12 Health Benefits of Yogurt

Here’s the quick summary:

  1. Easily Digestible Nutrition
  2. Digestive Aid
  3. Reduced/Eliminated Lactose Intolerance
  4. Good Source of Probiotics
  5. Increased Mental Health
  6. Cancer Fighter
  7. Reduces the Chance of Type-2 Diabetes
  8. Immune-System Booster
  9. Lowers High Blood Pressure
  10. Reduces Cholesterol
  11. Reduces Chronic Pain
  12. Helps to Reduce Obesity

First of all, yogurt is just plain healthy. It’s chock-full of vitamins, protein, calcium, and other nutrients. And now that the yogurt microbes have broken the milk down, these nutrients are even easier to digest and absorb. Are you worried that you can’t eat yogurt because of lactose intolerance? I have good news for you. Fermented dairy products, including yogurt, can help to reduce or entirely eliminate lactose intolerance issues.1)”Kefir May Bolster Lactose Tolerance In Intolerant People.” ScienceDaily. May 30, 2003. Accessed March 28, 2019. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/05/030530081555.htm.

But the health benefits of yogurt go far beyond mere chemical nutrition. Yogurt is a living food. The microbes that inhabit the yogurt set up residence in your gut. They help us digest our food. They compete with harmful invaders. They even contribute to our mental health by producing neurotransmitters the our brains use. Probiotics, such as those found in yogurt, have a positive effect on depression and mental illness.2)McCoy, Kathleen. “Probiotic Yogurt Benefits & Nutrition Facts.” Dr. Axe. January 30, 2015. Accessed March 29, 2019. https://draxe.com/probiotic-yogurt/.3)Pinto-Sanchez, Maria Ines, Geoffrey B. Hall, Kathy Ghajar, Andrea Nardelli, Carolina Bolino, Jennifer T. Lau, Francois-Pierre Martin, Ornella Cominetti, Christopher Welsh, Amber Rieder, Jenna Traynor, Caitlin Gregory, Giada De Palma, Marc Pigrau, Alexander C. Ford, Joseph Macri, Bernard Berger, Gabriela Bergonzelli, Michael G. Surette, Stephen M. Collins, Paul Moayyedi, and Premysl Bercik. “Probiotic Bifidobacterium Longum NCC3001 Reduces Depression Scores and Alters Brain Activity: A Pilot Study in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” Gastroenterology153, no. 2 (2017). doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2017.05.003. It’s my own personal belief that the increased numbers of mental health problems over the past several decades are often digestive health problems, brought on by the increased consumption of processed foods, additives, and residual pesticides.

Concerned about cancer? Eat more yogurt! Fermented dairy foods also help to prevent, and possibly to treat, several forms of cancer.4)McCoy, Kathleen. “Probiotic Yogurt Benefits & Nutrition Facts.” Dr. Axe. January 30, 2015. Accessed March 29, 2019. https://draxe.com/probiotic-yogurt/.5)Larsson, Susanna C., Swen-Olof Andersson, Jan-Erik Johansson, and Alicja Wolk. “Cultured Milk, Yogurt, and Dairy Intake in Relation to Bladder Cancer Risk in a Prospective Study of Swedish Women and Men.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 88, no. 4 (2008): 1083-087. doi:10.1093/ajcn/88.4.1083.6)Zhang, Kui, Hao Dai, Weibo Liang, Lin Zhang, and Zhenhua Deng. “Fermented Dairy Foods Intake and Risk of Cancer.” International Journal of Cancer. December 03, 2018. Accessed March 29, 2019. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ijc.31959.7)Ranjbar, Sheyda, Seyed Afshin Seyednejad, Haniye Azimi, Hossein Rezaeizadeh, and Roja Rahimi. “Emerging Roles of Probiotics in Prevention and Treatment of Breast Cancer: A Comprehensive Review of Their Therapeutic Potential.” Nutrition and Cancer, 2019, 1-12. doi:10.1080/01635581.2018.1557221.8)Yu, Ai-Qun, and Lianqin Li. “The Potential Role of Probiotics in Cancer Prevention and Treatment.” Nutrition and Cancer 68, no. 4 (2016): 535-44. doi:10.1080/01635581.2016.1158300. Uncultured dairy products do not offer the same level of benefit, so eat your yogurt!9)Larsson, Susanna C., Swen-Olof Andersson, Jan-Erik Johansson, and Alicja Wolk. “Cultured Milk, Yogurt, and Dairy Intake in Relation to Bladder Cancer Risk in a Prospective Study of Swedish Women and Men.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 88, no. 4 (2008): 1083-087. doi:10.1093/ajcn/88.4.1083. And yogurt doesn’t stop there. It can help lower the risk of type-2 diabetes, boost your immune system, lower high blood pressure and cholesterol, and even help with chronic pain.10)McCoy, Kathleen. “Probiotic Yogurt Benefits & Nutrition Facts.” Dr. Axe. January 30, 2015. Accessed March 29, 2019. https://draxe.com/probiotic-yogurt/.11)Jeon, Jimin, Jiyoung Jang, and Kyong Park. “Effects of Consuming Calcium-Rich Foods on the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.” Nutrients 11, no. 1 (2018): 31. doi:10.3390/nu11010031.

Yogurt made from whole-fat milk has been shown to reduce obesity and speed up fat loss.12)Santiago, S., C. Sayón-Orea, N. Babio, M. Ruiz-Canela, A. Martí, D. Corella, R. Estruch, M. Fitó, F. Aros, E. Ros, E. Gómez-García, M. Fiol, J. Lapetra, Ll. Serra-Majem, N. Becerra-Tomás, J. Salas-Salvadó, X. Pinto, H. Schröder, and J.a. Martínez. “Yogurt Consumption and Abdominal Obesity Reversion in the PREDIMED Study.” Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases 26, no. 6 (2016): 468-75. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2015.11.012.13)McCoy, Kathleen. “Probiotic Yogurt Benefits & Nutrition Facts.” Dr. Axe. January 30, 2015. Accessed March 29, 2019. https://draxe.com/probiotic-yogurt/. However, yogurts made from reduced fat and skim milk don’t show the same effects. Look at a typical cup of yogurt on the supermarket shelf. You’ll probably see “reduced fat” or “fat free” on the front and some form of sugar as the second or third ingredient on the nutrition label in back. Not only are you losing the weight-loss benefits of full fat yogurt, but you’re gaining empty calories from added sugar. Yikes! Take back control of your health and waistline with your own homemade yogurt.

Conclusion

If your family eats yogurt at all (and they really should) then why not give them the very best? It’s easy, inexpensive, and you’ll get the satisfaction of having made it yourself. Once you try homemade yogurt, you may never go back to the store-bought stuff again. Let me know in the comments how it goes.

What Do You Think?

Did you come up with any exciting flavor combinations? (I bet you already have ideas, right?) And if you’ve figured out how to use whey as a beauty treatment, let me know that, too! 🙂

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References

References
1 ”Kefir May Bolster Lactose Tolerance In Intolerant People.” ScienceDaily. May 30, 2003. Accessed March 28, 2019. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/05/030530081555.htm.
2, 4, 10, 13 McCoy, Kathleen. “Probiotic Yogurt Benefits & Nutrition Facts.” Dr. Axe. January 30, 2015. Accessed March 29, 2019. https://draxe.com/probiotic-yogurt/.
3 Pinto-Sanchez, Maria Ines, Geoffrey B. Hall, Kathy Ghajar, Andrea Nardelli, Carolina Bolino, Jennifer T. Lau, Francois-Pierre Martin, Ornella Cominetti, Christopher Welsh, Amber Rieder, Jenna Traynor, Caitlin Gregory, Giada De Palma, Marc Pigrau, Alexander C. Ford, Joseph Macri, Bernard Berger, Gabriela Bergonzelli, Michael G. Surette, Stephen M. Collins, Paul Moayyedi, and Premysl Bercik. “Probiotic Bifidobacterium Longum NCC3001 Reduces Depression Scores and Alters Brain Activity: A Pilot Study in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome.” Gastroenterology153, no. 2 (2017). doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2017.05.003.
5, 9 Larsson, Susanna C., Swen-Olof Andersson, Jan-Erik Johansson, and Alicja Wolk. “Cultured Milk, Yogurt, and Dairy Intake in Relation to Bladder Cancer Risk in a Prospective Study of Swedish Women and Men.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 88, no. 4 (2008): 1083-087. doi:10.1093/ajcn/88.4.1083.
6 Zhang, Kui, Hao Dai, Weibo Liang, Lin Zhang, and Zhenhua Deng. “Fermented Dairy Foods Intake and Risk of Cancer.” International Journal of Cancer. December 03, 2018. Accessed March 29, 2019. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ijc.31959.
7 Ranjbar, Sheyda, Seyed Afshin Seyednejad, Haniye Azimi, Hossein Rezaeizadeh, and Roja Rahimi. “Emerging Roles of Probiotics in Prevention and Treatment of Breast Cancer: A Comprehensive Review of Their Therapeutic Potential.” Nutrition and Cancer, 2019, 1-12. doi:10.1080/01635581.2018.1557221.
8 Yu, Ai-Qun, and Lianqin Li. “The Potential Role of Probiotics in Cancer Prevention and Treatment.” Nutrition and Cancer 68, no. 4 (2016): 535-44. doi:10.1080/01635581.2016.1158300.
11 Jeon, Jimin, Jiyoung Jang, and Kyong Park. “Effects of Consuming Calcium-Rich Foods on the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.” Nutrients 11, no. 1 (2018): 31. doi:10.3390/nu11010031.
12 Santiago, S., C. Sayón-Orea, N. Babio, M. Ruiz-Canela, A. Martí, D. Corella, R. Estruch, M. Fitó, F. Aros, E. Ros, E. Gómez-García, M. Fiol, J. Lapetra, Ll. Serra-Majem, N. Becerra-Tomás, J. Salas-Salvadó, X. Pinto, H. Schröder, and J.a. Martínez. “Yogurt Consumption and Abdominal Obesity Reversion in the PREDIMED Study.” Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases 26, no. 6 (2016): 468-75. doi:10.1016/j.numecd.2015.11.012.
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This post was written by Scott Sexton

COMMENTS(8)

  • kristy.mont says:

    If trying to keep the yogurt raw, do you still put it in the crockpot and heat to 115 degrees? Or do you skip that step also and just add the 4 T of store-bought yogurt?

    1. Scott Sexton says:

      Hi Kristy. Here’s the deal on raw yogurt. If you want it to stay perfectly raw and maintain everything in the milk, you do not have to heat it up to the higher temp, but you will still want it to get up to 115. The yogurt cultures are thermophilic (heat loving) and will multiply faster at that temperature. BUT so will any other microbes in the milk. If you’re confident that your milk is safe, then that may be fine. Use your own judgment.

      And something I really should have mentioned in the article is the texture. Raw milk yogurt is much runnier than regular yogurt. As far as I’m aware, this is because the heat never got high enough to inactivate certain enzymes and whatnot. That’s probably something I should have warned people about ahead of time. Thanks for the question!

  • dd74804 says:

    I make 1 gallon Greek yogurt in my instant pot. I let it culture for 24 hours so I don’t have any whey. I add 4+Tablespoons of my last batch and somehow end up with almost 9 pints. ‘;D

    1. Scott Sexton says:

      Yum. I love Greek yogurt. We have an instant pot, but it’s not one of the ones with a yogurt setting.

  • onefinefrog says:

    I’ve been making homemade yogurt for a couple months now and love it! I use 4 cups of whole milk that’s gently pastuerized and heat it to 150 degrees, slowly. I use a pot on the stove and stir it gently until it reaches 150, then I remove it from heat and give it a stir every few minutes to keep it from forming a skin on top. When the temperature reaches 112, I pour a small amount into a glass bowl with 4 ounces of leftover yogurt from previous batch. Stir to gently warm up the yogurt, and then pour in the rest of the heated milk. I cover the bowl with a plate and put it in the oven, which has been warmed, but isn’t hot. I leave it overnight and strain it the next morning. I use a tea towel in the strainer, so there is less milk in the whey.
    Straining makes the yogurt a little less runny, and I use the whey when I soak oats for oatmeal!
    My favorite flavors are lemon or lime, using homemade curd. I heard that strawberries and Rose pair well together, and I plan on adding a little Rose flavor the next time I make strawberry puree for my yogurt. Yummm

    1. Scott Sexton says:

      Strawberry rose sounds delicious! And that’s a great use for the whey! Thanks for sharing your yogurt making method.

  • Mary says:

    I am off the charts allergic to milk. Can I do this with coconut milk to make my own yogurt? Thanks.

    1. Scott Sexton says:

      Hi Mary. I know that you can make coconut yogurt, but I’ve never done it. I think it’s a bit different from this recipe. Yet me give it a look … okay, here’s a link to recipe. I’ve never tried it, so I’ can’t make any guarantees about how it will turn out..

      https://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/homemade-coconut-milk-yogurt

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