Why Is My Homemade Yogurt Slimy?

Sneak Preview: Find out the cause of your slimy yogurt, how to avoid it in the future, whether it’s safe to eat, and more.

My Stringy Homemade Yogurt and How to Avoid It--A picture of stringy homemade yogurtPin

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Have you ever unintentionally made a batch of stringy or slimy homemade yogurt? The last time this happened to me (see the picture below), I went full crazy to determine what went wrong.

Sharing that yogurt would have ruined my reputation for sure. So please keep reading to find out what I did with it.

Happy Cooks Speak Up

Thanks for the great site. I came here because I made my usual yogurt with 1 liter of UTH milk plus 1/2 cup of milk powder. Came out stringy and slimy, but the taste is fine. Now I understand why.”

What Happened To My Yogurt?

Some call their strange yogurt ropey, gluey, stretchy, stringy, or sticky. Others describe it as the texture of honey. Either way, it’s probably not the yogurt you hoped for after going to the trouble to make it.

When troubleshooting yogurt, definitive answers can be hard to pin down. The variations in milk, starters, heating techniques, incubation methods, and a million other details are innumerable.

But let’s give this one a shot.

By the end of this post, you should have some answers to your questions:

Why Is My Homemade Yogurt Slimy?

In two words: Wild Yeast!

1. Wild yeast flies around in the air at everybody’s house.

When it lands in your yogurt, it can mess with the delicate balance among the bacteria. Consequently, slimy yogurt becomes a possibility.

2. Starter from stringy yogurt

Any starter originating from a stringy batch of yogurt produces more of the same. At least that’s my experience. See the pictures below.

perfect yogurt compared to stringy yogurtPin

Both of these bowls of yogurt contain the same brand of milk. They were processed exactly alike and incubated similarly for the same amount of time. The only difference? The stringy yogurt was made with a stringy starter. The perfect yogurt was produced with fresh yogurt purchased from the grocery store.

How do I keep wild yeast out of my yogurt? We will get to that, but let’s talk about the starter first. How your yogurt reacts to wild yeast is affected by your starter.

RELATED POST: How To Make Healthy Homemade Yogurt

Does It Matter What Kind of Starter I Use?

Most people use one of two kinds of starters to make yogurt at home:

  1. Fresh, unflavored yogurt you buy from the store
  2. “Traditional” or heirloom yogurt starters

What’s the difference?

Fresh yogurt from the supermarket vs. traditional yogurt

traditional starter vs supermarket yogurtPin

Supermarket yogurt as a starter

Have you ever heard this statement? “Once you buy yogurt from the grocery store, you’ll never need to purchase store-bought yogurt again.”

Not true, unless you are lucky.

Here’s why.

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Supermarket yogurt is formulated to produce perfect yogurt in mass quantities.

When you look at the label, only one, two, or sometimes three specific kinds of bacteria are listed.

You could say supermarket yogurt is “hothouse” yogurt. But, like hothouse tomato plants, the yogurt babies incubate in a balanced and protected environment.

Your proposed yogurt project is vulnerable to contamination once exposed to the real world (your kitchen). Wild yeast can upset the perfect environment of a supermarket yogurt starter.

Traditional yogurt starter

Heirloom or “traditional” yogurt starters were initially passed down from one generation to the next. Thus, it is “real-world-yogurt.” The yogurt babies are more varied. The result is a more resilient starter.

“The difference with a traditional starter is that it is composed of more varied bacteria so that when one strain falls prey to phages (a virus that infects and replicates within bacteria), there will be others to take over and maintain fermentation.”

Sandor Ellix Katz from The Art of Fermentation(paid link)

Let’s try another comparison. When a few obnoxious guests (wild yeast) crash a large party (inoculated milk), they won’t upset the balance in the same way as one uninvited guest at an intimate dinner.

“Does this mean I should only use a starter from traditional yogurt?”

Not necessarily. It depends on how often you make yogurt.

Keep reading to decide which starter is best for you.

Don’t be misled.

Slimy yogurt can happen to any of us despite our best efforts.

RELATED POST: Why is my homemade yogurt grainy?

Five Ways To Keep Wild Yeast Out of Your Yogurt

(It’s not always possible. But you can try.)

1. Don’t try to make yogurt using a “starter” from a ropey batch.

The new yogurt won’t get better. It will still be slimy, like the starter used to make it.

The moral of the story?

When you inadvertently make a gooey batch, you must start over with a brand-new starter the next time you make yogurt. (Keep reading to find out if it’s safe to eat the slimy batch.)

2. Be sure all utensils are clean.

In my opinion and experience, you don’t have to sterilize your equipment. Clean? Yes. I run everything through the dishwasher.

“But generally sterilization is unnecessary. Incidental microorganisms that inevitably are found in non-sterile though clean environments cannot generally gain a foothold in a fermentation substrate. This is because the ferment either has its own indigenous microbiota (as in sauerkraut and traditional wines), or has had a critical mass of cultures introduced (as in yogurt, tempeh, and most contemporary beers). We are living in a microbial world, and these processes all developed under decidedly non-sterile conditions.

Traditional mixed culture starters tend to be stable under favorable conditions. Only in the realm of propagating pure-culture mold spores, which tend to pick up more bacterial strains with each successive generation, have I found sanitization beyond mere cleanliness to be warranted.”

Sandor Katz from The Art of Fermentation

3. Some say, “Don’t bake yeast bread the same day you make yogurt.”

I cannot verify this idea from personal experience. So I’m just throwing it out there for what it’s worth.

“One should avoid baking yeast-based bread (including sourdoughs) on the day you make yogurt to avoid cross-contamination.”

Jenny McGruther at Nourished Kitchen (paid link)

Here’s a different opinion.

Sandor Katz, the author of The Art of Fermentation, relates a conversation he had with Betty Stechmeyer, who co-founded a starter culture business, GEM Cultures. She reported that after 30 years of propagating several different sourdoughs, several different milk cultures, tempeh starter, and more in a 12-foot-by-12-foot kitchen, “she never experienced cross-contamination.” He goes on to say, “I cannot guarantee that cross-contamination among cultures is impossible, but it is not a likely occurrence, and I encourage enthusiastic experimentalists to ferment to your heart’s content without worry of cross-contamination.”

4. After 3 or 4 batches, buy new yogurt from the supermarket for a starter.

In a nutshell, the more times you recycle your supermarket starter, the more chances for wild yeast contamination.

Some people say to use the mother culture no more than 3 to 4 times. Check out this quote from Anne Mendelson below for another opinion about the subject.

“That said, you can only do this about six to eight times before the acidity balance gets off and a new, fresh culture will be needed.” Mendelson agrees that the risk of failure increases with reuse. There’s no easy rule for determining the number of times you can use the same mother culture, she says. “All you can do is notice when the yogurt seems not to be setting up right, and get a fresh start by getting a fresh starter.”

Anne Mendelson, the author of Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages (paid link)

But I’ve heard of people using the same starter for years. How is that possible?

Most likely, they are using a “traditional” or heirloom yogurt starter. (See more below)

You might get lucky with a supermarket yogurt. Some people, including me, have gone months without buying a new starter. I’m just saying the odds for trouble go up.

If you’re willing to take your chances, keep using your homemade yogurt as a starter until you get a bad batch. When that happens, start over with fresh yogurt from the store.

5. Use a “traditional” yogurt starter

You should be able to use a traditional starter for months, if not indefinitely.

But don’t forget about it or ignore it for too long.

The directions that come with a freeze-dried starter say you need to make new yogurt at least once a week.

If you are not a regular yogurt maker, don’t waste money on traditional yogurt starters. Instead, buy your starter from the dairy case at the grocery store and plan to replace it often.

You could also try freezing a small portion of yogurt from a traditional starter. Read about freezing yogurt in Five Things You Should Not Do When Making Yogurt.

Freezing starter buys time during a vacation or slow yogurt-eating period.

RELATED POST: How Much Starter Do You Really Need To Make Yogurt?

4 Things That Probably Don’t Cause Slimy Homemad Yogurt

While looking around the web, I’ve seen many guesses about what causes a slimy batch of yogurt. But, for the record, I don’t think any of these are the reason.

  1. Heating the milk too fast
  2. The incubation temperature wasn’t kept high enough
  3. Used pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized milk
  4. Yogurt not incubated long enough (see discussion below)

These actions or conditions may have some influence on the outcome of your yogurt. But in my experience and research, they are not the direct cause of honey-textured or gooey yogurt.

You may be wondering…

How Can You Tell Whether Your Yogurt Is Slimy or Just Not Finished Incubating?

slimy  or stringy yogurt before it has been chilled or strainedPin

Look at the edges. You can see the yogurt has “set.” It jiggled only slightly–like Jello. However, once I dipped a spatula into the yogurt, the texture is slimy and without form. Compare to the picture below.

perfectly set yogurtPin

Yogurt should look like this when you dig into it. Set yogurt falls away in sheets or layers.

Is Stringy Yogurt Safe To Eat?

Yes, stringy or slimy homemade yogurt is safe to eat. I’m not the king’s taste tester, but I’ve eaten it several times without consequences.

However, the texture won’t be right, and the taste may be slightly yeasty. It’s not terrible, just not great.

I would compare it to homemade bread that has proofed too long and then falls in the middle when baked. It’s still safe to eat, but the texture and shape are less desirable.

On the other hand, if your slimy yogurt smells terrible, don’t eat it. That rule applies to any yogurt you find in your refrigerator.

Generally, homemade yogurt stays fresh for about two weeks in the refrigerator.

You can find more details about how long yogurt stays fresh on the blog, EatByDate.

Can I Fix Gooey Yogurt?

Unfortunately, no. Or maybe I should say I haven’t figured out how yet.

If you normally strain your yogurt, don’t. It will only make it worse, as you can see in the top picture of this post.

Don’t use it to start more yogurt. Bad idea. The rogue yeasty bodies are probably still alive and will produce more of the same. Use a completely different starter with your next batch,

What Can I Do with Stringy Yogurt?

Now that you know it’s most likely safe, what should you do with it?

You could eat it straight up, but I understand if you would rather not. I didn’t.

  • Use it in smoothies.
  • Use it in baking things like cornbread, muffins, cake, or similar recipes calling for buttermilk.

Viili Yogurt–Stringy by Design

I have never tried it, but I ran across Viili yogurt in my research. It is ropey and stringy by design.

Who knew? If the idea appeals to you, check out the paragraph below.

Our Viili is a tasty cultured milk product that came from Finland with our family over 100 years ago!  As with Fil Mjölk, no special incubators are needed.  Just put the starter into a clean bowl, add Pasteurized milk (whole, low-fat, nonfat, half & half or cream), lightly cover and leave at moderate room temperature (65-75 degrees F) for 24-30 hours until it “sets.”  That’s all there is to it!  The flavor is mild, not tart, and the texture is creamy and honey-like and is eaten with a spoon. Yes, our Viili is the ropey variety!

GEM cultures (paid link)

“Thanks for the great site. I came here because I made my usual yogurt with 1 liter of UTH milk plus 1/2 cup of milk powder. Came out stringy and slimy, but the taste is fine. Now I understand why.”


There may be other reasons for gooey or stringy yogurt that I haven’t addressed. Nonetheless, my research and experience point to contamination by wild yeast as the primary reason for slimy yogurt.

The easiest way to avoid the problem is to use a “traditional” starter that is less susceptible to wild yeast. If you’re not a regular yogurt maker, use a new batch of yogurt from the grocery store as your starter every three or four batches.

If you have questions or suggestions, email me privately for a quick answer: Paula at saladinajar.com. Hope to see you again soon! 

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  1. hey , I just made a batch and it doesn’t smell bad or have a sour taste but I am curious about the protein content..woukd it have changed ? like does the thicker one have more protein than the slimy yoghurt?

    1. Hi Ava,

      Nice to hear from you. I am not a food scientist so I can’t get technical here, but let me take a stab at your question.

      There is only so much protein in milk as it comes out of the cow. Making milk into yogurt does not create protein. Thicker yogurt has more protein only because some of the whey has been removed or some of the liquid has evaporated. Whether it’s slimy or not will not affect the protein content.

      You can eat slimy yogurt and still get all of the protein. The main difference is that the texture is off, probably because it has been “infected” by some rogue yeast, which upset the delicate balance of the desirable yeasty bodies in the starter.

  2. thanks for the info! I’ve been making yogurt for about five or six years, and I’d been recycling an old grocery store yogurt for over half a year I think with no issues, but we ended up eating the last of it before making more. I used a fresh grocery store starter and got stringy yogurt for the first time ever.

    1. Hi Karen,

      I’m sorry about your stringy yogurt. Sounds like bad luck. Using grocery store yogurt is so unpredictable. When I used it, I could go months like you did with no trouble. Then, other times, I wasn’t so lucky.

      Since I switched to the freeze-dried, the only times I’ve had to start over is when we do what you did. Ate it all without saving any for the next batch. Oh well…it happens. 😀

  3. Glenna Lindsey says:

    I mixed whole milk with about a cup of buttermilk let it sit on counter few hours, then put in fridge a week. I used it to make banana bread. The buttermilk after shaking it up was stringy. It poured like mixed eggs for scrambled egg. I read it is safe. But pour it out afterwards. I hope I am ok to eat it. Thanks

    1. Hi Glenna,

      I have never tried this myself so I can’t advise you one way or the other. My general principle with yogurt is this: If it looks good, smells good, and tastes good, it’s probably OK. Beyond that, follow your instincts.

  4. MamaBaines says:

    This was my first attempt at yogurt. I am lactose intolerant, but I have purchased and drank goat kefir with no problem. I used goats milk with cow yogurt starter. Do you think that crossing the 2 milks was the issue creating my stringy yogurt?

    1. Hello,
      Figuring out the cause of stringy yogurt can be a guessing game. Somehow, the starter bacteria has gotten out of balance. How fresh was the starter? For best results, it should not be more than a week old. I would try again with new starter. You may have to do some experimenting. Is there a chance you are using too much starter?

  5. Great ideas to prevent my yoghurt from getting slimy

    1. Thanks, Amira. Hope you found it helpful.

  6. Paula, you are a fountain of knowledge about making yogurt. I’ve binge read about 3 or 4 of your posts related to making yogurt and I’ve learned so much. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.

  7. Made my second ever batch of yogurt, and as I was getting it into the strainer noticed it was slimy, gooey, etc. Didn’t think much of it at the time, but now a day or so later, considered that maaaybe I’d done it wrong enough that the milk just spoiled, and that the spoonfuls I fed my cats might have been a poor decision. That latter thing still might be true, I have no idea if/how wild yeast affects cat digestive systems, but I figure it’s prooobably not too much?

    I don’t eat yogurt plain much anyway, was planning on adding fruit & plenty of sugar to snacking yogurt, and the rest will be replacing cheese, sauce, butter, etc so hopefully it doesn’t turn out too bad.

    I also have to imagine this happened bc rather than use only a freshly opened gallon, I thought I’d use the milk from the previous week before it went bad. Lesson learned!

    I’m curious if I could make my own heirloom starter, of sorts. Next batch I’ll start fresh again to avoid the yeast, ofc. Batch after that, my idea is to use some of my previous batch, but *also* add in a bit of store bought–a different brand than before, with different strain of live cultures. No idea if that’ll work.

    1. Hi Flora,
      How did your “slimy” yogurt smell? If it smells fine, it should be safe to eat–just a weird texture on your tongue. Baking with it or feeding the cats is a great idea.
      I’ve never experimented with making an heirloom starter. I get it from Amazon. I do find it more reliable than using store-bought yogurt. Many people say that 3 to 4 generations of using your own yogurt as a starter is about as far as you should take it, but I’ve gone for months (lucky I guess) using the yogurt from a previous batch. Other times, it has failed me after a few weeks.

      I love that you are willing to try new things with your yogurt. It’s the best way to improve and customize your yogurt. Keep me informed about how it goes.

  8. I refresh my starter every 2 months by using fresh homemade butter. I normally make my yogurt using 5 litres of fresh milk (meaning directly from the cow) in 1 litre jars and when refreshing the starter I use 1/4 litre jar and add 1 tea spoon of melted (in room temp.) butter and for the rest of the milk I use my own yogurt. For the next batch I use the butter fermented yogurt. Fresh butter max of 5 days works very well and the bonus is the top of this yogurt to put on a fresh bread.

    1. Hi Gamze,
      How fortunate you are to have fresh milk. Your yogurt sounds fabulous. I love the idea of using the top of the yogurt to put on fresh bread. Thanks so much for sharing.

  9. I just made a batch of slimy yogurt. I am disappointed but this article really helps. Thank you! I did some searching and it was also mentioned that using 1% milk may contribute to the slimy texture which is what I used this time. Any thoughts on this possibility? I also like your recommendation to freeze portions of it to use in baking since I don’t want to eat it as is. I have been using your recipe for pizza dough in the bread machine and I am looking forward to trying many more of your recipes in the near future.

    1. Hi Jackie,

      So sorry about your yogurt. I feel your pain. I must disagree with the 1% milk as being the cause or even part of the cause. I have made hundreds of delicious batches of yogurt with non-fat, and 1% milk. True sliminess seems to happen when a few rogue yeasty bodies get carried away and cause an imbalance.

  10. I have been making homemade yogurt for years. I’ve experienced a slimy batch twice. Both times I used this slimy yogurt as the starter for the next batch, and both times the next batch was totally normal – no sliminess whatsoever. Go figure…

    1. Well…there you go. As one of my readers likes to say, “The yogurt gods can be fickle.” Obviously, we haven’t gotten to the bottom of this issue.

  11. Elias Herrera says:

    Curiousness enough I searched why is my yogurt stringy because I like it! I just finished making a batch by buying some yogurt that I once found had this texture and voila! Mine came stringy too! I like the texture and was looking how to make it again in case I would make more yogurt, I also don’t find any unpleasant aftertaste nor yeast flavor 😀

    1. Hey Elias,

      Interesting. My experience is that once you get a stringy batch, it’s easy to duplicate it. Guess you are in luck.

  12. What I did today with my slimy yogurt. It was a hit. Great to take on our hike.

    Banana Coconut Cranberry Oat trail biscuits

    1/2 cup melted coconut oil
    2 over-ripe bananas
    2 cups (slimy) yogurt
    2 eggs
    2 tsp vanilla
    1/2 tsp. salt
    2 cups rolled oat
    1 cup quick oats
    1 cup walnuts
    Several heaping handfuls of craisins

    Use cookie scoop to place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake (convection setting) 425°F about 20 minutes till golden brown on edges.

    1. Carey,

      These biscuits sound so delicious. I can’t wait to try them. Thanks so much for sharing your tasty solution for what to do with slimy yogurt since it’s safe to eat, but not necessarily a texture most people enjoy.

  13. Thank you, this was so helpful! I was trying to figure out what to do with my first stringy batch of yogurt, and pondering what was the cause, and this answered all the questions I had. You’ve saved me a lot of time going down rabbit holes trying to figure out all the possible causes!

    I usually use Green Valley Organics as my starter yogurt from the grocery store (it has 11 different strains of live active cultures, and is lactose-free which is great for me, since I am lactose intolerant, and use lactose-free milk as well when making yogurt.) I’ve been making my yogurt this way for a couple years, buying new starter cartons from the store when I’ve waited too long to make a batch of new yogurt & can’t use the last batch as starter.

    After this new batch turned out stringy/snotty, I went back for a closer look at my starter carton, and there is a slight stringiness to some of the whey. The yogurt it made is much stringier! First time I’ve ever had this problem. After reading your post, I’m guessing it was just some stray yeast that found it’s way into this individual carton, maybe after the yogurt in the carton was already made. That might explain why the carton only has a slight hint of stringiness to some of the whey.

    Also, I did decide to taste the yogurts, which all smelled fine, and then was worrying what mistake that might have been. This post has set my mind more at ease. Thank you, again!

    1. I’m so glad this was helpful, Carey. Thanks for writing.

  14. Susan McMahon says:

    This may be a stupid question but I am confused. I have been making yogurt for a while now using your recipe for Greek yogurt ie 2 quarts of milk, and fancied trying to make Icelandic yogurt. My query is both recipes are the same. I strain my yogurt until thick so am I making Greek or Icelandic yogurt? Also when I take it out of the fridge to eat there is always a bit of milky liquid is this normal?

    1. Susan, Yes, the recipe is basically the same. I do use Icelandic yogurt as the starter for making Skyr. Honestly, I can’t tell that much difference even if I use Greek yogurt as a starter. Icelandic yogurt is a lot thicker because it’s strained longer. This is a quote from my post about Icelandic yogurt. “…it takes 4 cups of milk to make one cup of Skyr. Traditionally, Greek yogurt requires 2 cups of milk to make one cup of yogurt.”

      It is normal to see some milky liquid on top, especially if you have not whipped your yogurt after straining. When strained and whipped, yogurt will rarely separate.

  15. Veronique says:

    Thank you! Now I know why my yogurt came out with the consistency of Spiderman’s venom.

    1. Uh oh! That’s a pretty good description.

  16. Jennifer L. Kuzara says:

    This is so, so useful! I made several batches recently, and for the first time I added powdered milk to the regular milk. I’ve been making yogurt regularly for almost 15 years, and this is the first ropey batch I’ve had!

    The sad thing is that I made two quarts of yogurt and two quarts of creme fraiche, and they all have the problem, so I think it was from yeast in the environment. I have celiac so there’s no commercial yeast hanging around, but I’m sure plenty of wild yeasts.

    My question now is what to do with it? It’s fine for eating, but difficult and not super pleasant. I’m trying to think through some ways I can use it in an altered form. I was thinking perhaps it could be frozen by the cup and used in baking. I usually make cultured butter from some of the creme fraiche, but not sure if that will work with ropey creme fraiche??

    Let me know if you have any ideas!! I’m anxious not to waste anything (especially now with fewer guarantees of finding good dairy at the store!). Either way, thank you for an excellent (and reassuring) post!

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      Freeze portions to use in baking. I use it in making cookies, pie crust, biscuits, etc. It would also be good in smoothies. Maybe other readers will have ideas.

  17. Cora-Lynn says:

    Hi ! I’ve just had a failed batch of yogurt ! So I thought it was my starter so I got new starter and tried again , with the same failed batch . It failed again . I’m not sure why . But was wondering if I could try again with the same batch ?

    1. Does it still smell good? If so, I would try again. Have you checked to make sure your incubation temperature is in the 100-110˚F range?

      If you aren’t sure you want to try again, try simmering the milk until it separates or clabbers. Let it sit on the counter for about 10-15 minutes. Carefully dip the curds out of the whey and put them in a strainer. You have just made fresh ricotta cheese. You can read about more about it here.