Next to eating lettuce vacuum-packed in a jar, healthy homemade Greek yogurt is one of my most powerful weapons in the war against extra poundage. It is a filling “dessert” I look forward to eating every night after dinner.
But it can be expensive to buy. Furthermore, I prefer to customize the flavors and sweetness. For these reasons, I make it myself at least once a week.
Seem like a lot of work? Now that I have my system down, actual hands-on time is less than 15 minutes. You can see a very quick video further down in this post.
If you prefer someone to talk you through the process, you might like this video even though it’s rather dated by now.
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 and you don’t need to strain it.
MAKING HEALTHY HOMEMADE GREEK YOGURT
#1 Fill 2-quart container with half gallon of dairy milk (any type will work).
Use microwave safe glass or a large pan (if you’re heating on the stove).
#2 Microwave milk or heat it on the stove until temperature of the milk reaches between 170 and 180 degrees F.
For 2 quarts of milk, heating will probably take between 15-19 minutes in the microwave depending on the wattage of your oven. If you are a beginner, use a thermometer to check.
Do not skip this step. It is important to unravel the proteins so they will behave during the incubation process. The result? Thicker yogurt.
#3 Allow milk to cool down below 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cooling can take 40-60 minutes. Use a cooking thermometer to check if you’re not sure. If you are in a hurry, fill your sink or a large bowl with ice and set the container of milk in it.
#4 Whisk 1-2 tablespoons of store-bought or homemade yogurt into cooled milk.
If you use commercial yogurt as your starter, be sure it has live cultures and no additives. Alternatively, use your own homemade yogurt as starter. If you make yogurt every week or two, it will be as fresh or fresher than what you buy at the store.
#5 Loosely cover milk and incubate for 5-10 hours at 100-110 degrees F.
I’ve written about many ways to incubate yogurt. Personally, I use my oven set at 100 degrees F.
WARNING: This step is where many people go off the rails. If your incubation system gets too hot, you’ll kill the little yogurt bodies. If the milk doesn’t stay warm enough, nothing much will happen. Either way, the result will be milk, not yogurt. If that happens you can find out what to do with failed yogurt here.
#6 How can you tell when the yogurt is finished?
Good question and for some, 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 added no gelatin to the milk. 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. Pour off the whey or stir it back in. Your choice.
Straining the whey off makes the yogurt thicker and less tart, resulting in Greek yogurt. If you want some ideas for using the whey, see this post.
HOW TO TRANSFORM REGULAR YOGURT INTO GREEK YOGURT
#7 Carefully transfer yogurt into a strainer.
I have tried various methods through the years. However, my latest and favorite method is using a yogurt pouch as pictured above. More about straining yogurt without using cheesecloth here.
Let yogurt strain until it is reduced by approximately a third. Time required will vary according to your method and how thick and/or tart you prefer your yogurt.
#8 Empty whey and pour newly strained yogurt into original bowl or pan.
It will look curdled like cottage cheese. That’s normal. You can chill and eat as is or proceed to step 9.
#9 Process yogurt until creamy smooth.
Use a good whisk or an immersion blender to beat until smooth. This is a good time to add any fruit, flavorings, or sweeteners.
- 2 quarts dairy milk (fat-free, 2% or whole 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 100 and 110 degrees.
- Whisk in 1 generous tablespoon of 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. Or use a Kleynhuis pouch or a commercial size paper coffee filter inside a cheap strainer.
- Let yogurt sit in the strainer until the yogurt is reduced by approximately a third. Time will vary according to the thickness of the yogurt out of the oven and your own preference regarding texture and sourness.
- 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. Thin with milk or leftover whey if yogurt is too thick.
- This is a good time to add any flavorings or sweeteners if desired.
Nutritionals are only an estimate. Numbers will vary according to how much you strain your yogurt.
- Kleynhuis Greek Yogurt Strainer Pouch, Ultra-Fine 100 Micron Nylon (16"X9")
- KUKPO Strainer - Fine Stainless Steel Double Mesh Strainer, 9 Inch Diameter!
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Amount Per Serving:Calories: 151 Total Fat: 8g Saturated Fat: 5g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 2g Cholesterol: 25mg Sodium: 107mg Carbohydrates: 12g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 13g Protein: 8g
Don’t be discouraged if at first you don’t succeed. Check out the troubleshooting guide below 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 down below 110 degrees F? Temperatures above 120 degrees F will murder the yogurt beasties and your yogurt experiment will be over.
- Did you heat the milk sufficiently? Heat above 170 F but not over 200 F. DO NOT ALLOW YOUR MILK TO BOIL! It may cause your yogurt to be grainy.
- How did you incubate your yogurt? Is it too warm or not warm enough? The temperature needs to stay around 100 degrees.
- Was your yogurt starter too old? Did it have active cultures?
- Did it incubate long enough? Time required for yogurt to set can vary. 12-14 hours may be necessary if your incubation situation is not optimal.
- Was the yogurt mixture disturbed during incubation? Don’t mess with the little yogurt bodies, or they will quit on you. If and when you stir the yogurt, the fun is over!
- Did you add too much starter to the warm milk? Only a generous tablespoon per 2 quarts of milk is necessary. More is not better. I have it on good authority that yogurt bacteria do not like to be overcrowded.
- Do you feel little bits of “skin” on your tongue when you eat your yogurt? You may have missed some skin attached to the side of the bowl as the milk was cooling. I’ve tried several methods to prevent a skin from forming in the first place but none really work without a LOT of effort. The easiest way is just to remove it once–right before you are ready to add the starter.
- If your yogurt failed, and you want to try again with the same milk, READ THIS.
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.
- 5 Things You Should Not Do When Making Homemade Yogurt
- 18 Ways to Use Whey– A By-Product of Yogurt
- A Beginner’s Guide to Icelandic Yogurt
- A Cheap Way To Strain Yogurt Without Using Cheesecloth
- A Discussion About Protein in Greek Yogurt
- Answers to Your Questions About Making Homemade Yogurt
- Can I Use Whey Leftover From Straining Yogurt to Make More Yogurt
- Don’t Fear the Homemade Yogurt