Next to eating my unique salad vacuum-packed in a jar, healthy homemade Greek yogurt is one of my most powerful weapons in the war against extra poundage. I often eat it twice a day–with my breakfast cereal and as a dessert after dinner.
I honestly can’t think of a better snack or dessert. It’s that good! This yogurt even helped me kick my ice cream habit and that’s saying something.
But it can be expensive to buy. So I make it myself at least once a week. Now that I have my system down, actual hands-on time is less than 10 minutes.
Keep reading for all the details or go straight to the recipe below. You visual learners might like this video.
These directions are perfect for making large batches as opposed to the individual servings produced by an electric yogurt maker. However, the yogurt maker is easy and foolproof if your needs are small.
Directions for Healthy Homemade Greek Yogurt:
First: Fill Pyrex batter bowl (my preference) or 2-quart glass container with 2 quarts of fat-free milk. Microwave until bubbles begin to appear around the edge. Temperature should reach 175-180 degrees after you stir it. (In my microwave, it takes 17 minutes on HIGH). Do not skip this step. It is important to unravel the proteins so they will behave during the incubation process.
Second: Allow milk to cool down to somewhere between 100 and 115 degrees. This can take 30-45 minutes. Use a cooking thermometer to check. I like this one with an alarm that goes off when mixture reaches a preset temperature. If you are in a hurry, fill sink or large bowl with ice and set the container of milk in it. Remove any “skin” that forms over the top of the milk during the cooling process.
Third: Whisk 1-2 tablespoons of commercial or homemade yogurt into cooled milk. If you use commercial yogurt, be sure it have live cultures. Using some of your own homemade yogurt is the best in my opinion. I have now been using my own yogurt as a starter for over a year. It seems to get better and better despite what some people say about using it only three or four times or even just once. Since I make yogurt at least twice a week, it never has a chance to get old.
Editor’s note: Some have asked about adding dry milk to yogurt. As you can see by the picture above, I used to, but no longer. It’s one more step, one more expense and in my opinion, gives the yogurt a subtle “chalkiness” I don’t like. My yogurt is plenty rich and creamy without it.
Fourth: Cover milk and place into a conventional oven that has been heated at 350 degrees F for one minute and then switched off. Wrap in towels. Turn the oven light on. In a gas oven, the pilot light may keep it warm enough. See this post for other methods if your oven is unsuitable. Let inoculated milk incubate for 5-10 hours but it may need up to 11-14 hours. It’s difficult to make a hard-and-fast rule here since each environment is slightly different.
How can you tell when it’s finished? Good question and the hardest part of the entire process. You will learn from experience when it “looks right.” It should be set– as in slightly gelatinous, even though you have put no gelatin in it. There will most likely be a watery, slightly yellow liquid on top called “whey.”
At this point you could chill the yogurt and eat as is. It is your choice to pour off the whey or stir it back in. Straining the whey off makes the yogurt thicker and less tart, resulting in Greek yogurt. If you want some ideas for using whey, see this post.
From regular yogurt to Healthy Homemade Greek yogurt:
Fifth: Very carefully pour yogurt into a bouillon strainer aka chinois. This is where I part company with other directions I’ve seen for Greek yogurt. Most suggest using several layers of cheesecloth to line a strainer or even a coffee filter (for a small amount). What a mess to clean up! For more information see this post about straining yogurt the easy way.
Although a bouillon strainer or chinois can be pricey, it is well worth it. You will lose very few solids if yogurt has set up thick enough and the strainer is fine enough. If the solids flow through the strainer, you need to put it back in the oven for a few hours to thicken and get a different strainer. (See editor’s note below and troubleshooting tips at the end of this post). Just to be clear, a bouillon strainer has a very, very fine mesh. The only place I know to purchase one is a restaurant supply or look online (see link above). A standard grocery store strainer is not fine enough. Read more about the process of straining here.
Addendum: After doing this for years, I now use cheap colanders from the dollar store along with huge commercial-size coffee filters. I never lose any solids and the whole mess is disposable once the process is finished. Read more about it here.
Let yogurt sit in the strainer till the yogurt is reduced by approximately half. Time will vary according to the thickness of the yogurt out of the oven and your own preference regarding texture and sourness. Tip the strainer or stir very gently if whey has pooled on top while straining.
Sixth: (Optional Step) Empty whey from batter bowl and pour yogurt out of strainer back into the original bowl. Use a good whisk or an immersion blender to beat until smooth. (Tip: Rinse the strainer immediately. Do no let any residue from the yogurt dry on the mesh or it may be impossible to get clean. However, they usually clean up beautifully after a trip through the dishwasher.)
At this point you have several options. Pour into glass jars as is. Mixture will be very thick when cold (and reportedly keeps longer when thicker). Or you can continue with one of the following:
Add sugar, sweetener, honey, flavorings, or Torani Syrup– sugar-free or not. My personal favorite is a combination of almond and vanilla sugar-free syrup.Print
A guide to making your own Greek yogurt at home using fat-free, 1%, 2% or whole milk.
- 2 quarts fat-free milk (may substitute with your favorite milk)
- 1-2 tablespoons yogurt (commercial or your own homemade)
- Fill Pyrex batter bowl (my preference) or 2-quart glass container with milk.
- Heat in microwave until bubbles begin to appear around the edge. Temperature should reach 175-180 degrees after you stir it. (In my microwave, it takes 17 minutes on HIGH).
- If a skin forms, remove it.
- Allow milk to cool until temperature drops to between 110 and 120 degrees.
- Whisk in 1 tablespoon yogurt as a starter You may use yogurt from a previous batch of your own homemade yogurt.
- Cover milk and place in a warm environment where the temperature stays around 100 degrees.
- Allow to incubate for 5-12 hours.
- At this point you could chill the yogurt and eat as is. It is your choice to pour off the whey or stir it back in. Straining makes the yogurt thicker and less tart resulting in Greek yogurt.
From regular yogurt to Greek yogurt
- Very carefully pour yogurt into a bouillon strainer aka chinois. If the mesh is fine enough, you won’t need to use a cheesecloth or paper towel.
- Let yogurt sit in the strainer till the yogurt is reduced by approximately half. Time will vary according to the thickness of the yogurt out of the oven and your own preference regarding texture and sourness. Tip the strainer or stir very gently if whey has pooled on top while straining.
- Empty whey from batter bowl and pour yogurt out of strainer back into the original bowl. Use a good whisk to beat until smooth. Add milk if yogurt is too thick along with any sugar or sweeteners you prefer.
- Serving Size: 6 ounce
- Calories: 90
- Sugar: 6 g
- Sodium: 65 mg
- Fat: 0
- Carbohydrates: 7 g
- Fiber: 0
- Protein: 15 g
- Cholesterol: 0
Keywords: yogurt, Greek yogurt, homemade, fat-free, how-to, milk, strainer, troubleshooting
Please don’t be discouraged if at first you don’t succeed. Check out the troubleshooting guide and try again. If you have time, reading through the comments may give you some additional hints. I’ve also listed other posts at the bottom of this post that may help you.
Troubleshooting Failed Healthy Homemade Greek Yogurt
- Did the milk cool below 120 degrees F but not below 105 F? Above 120 degrees F, the bacteria in the yogurt starter will be murdered.
- Did you heat the milk sufficiently to kill the bacteria in it and rearrange the proteins? It should come just short of a boil.
- Where did you incubate your yogurt? Is it too warm or not warm enough? In the past, I have forgotten to turn on the light in my oven. Didn’t work. Not warm enough. Temperature needs to stay around 100 degrees.
- Was your yogurt starter too old? Did it have active cultures? Don’t forget to save some yogurt from a previous batch so you won’t have to buy it again. Some people recommend you start over with commercial yogurt every 3-4 batches but I find it unnecessary if you use starter from your homemade yogurt not over a week old.
- Did it incubate long enough? Times will vary. 12-14 hours may be necessary. Watch for gelatinous texture.
- Was the yogurt mixture disturbed during incubation?
- Did you add too much starter to the warm milk? Only 2-3 teaspoons-not over a tablespoon– are needed. More is not better. The bacteria need room to grow. (Sorry about that last sentence. I know it doesn’t sound very appetizing, but it’s true. That’s why yogurt is so good for the digestive system.)
- Are you using a strainer with a very, very fine mesh? If you don’t have one, you must use several layers of cheesecloth to line your strainer instead.
- When pouring the yogurt into the strainer, did you pour it too rapidly or let it fall a long way to the strainer? This can cause you to lose too many solids through the strainer.
- Do you feel little bits of “skin” in the yogurt when you eat it? You may have missed some attached to the side of the bowl as the milk was cooling. Stirring at least 2-3 times during the heating process may help prevent a skin from forming. Personally, I just remove it once–right before I am ready to whisk in the starter.
Not working out for you? Email me or leave a question in the comments.
For more information about making yogurt at home, check out these posts.