Making Healthy Homemade Greek Yogurt is entirely doable for most home cooks in the average home kitchen. It’s magical. I predict you’ll be turning cartwheels after your first successful batch.
Updated January 16, 2020
In addition to eating lettuce vacuum-packed in a jar, healthy homemade Greek yogurt is one of my favorite weapons in the war against extra poundage. It is a filling “dessert” I look forward to eating every night after dinner.
Why I like to make yogurt:
Quality commercially-made yogurt can be expensive to buy. Furthermore, I prefer to customize the flavors and sweetness. Consequently, I make it myself at least once a week.
How long does it take to make yogurt?
Does it seem like a lot of work? Now that I have my system down, actual hands-on time is less than 15 minutes.
HOWEVER, you also need to add in time for heating and cooling the milk (1-2 hours depending on how you are heating it and the volume of milk), the incubation period (5-10+ hours) and straining (1-3 hours if you want Greek yogurt).
Do I need a yogurt maker?
The directions shown in the video 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.
HOW TO MAKE HEALTHY HOMEMADE YOGURT:
Fill a 2-quart container with a half-gallon of dairy milk (any type will work).
Microwave milk or heat it on the stove.
Heat the milk to 170 and 180 degrees F.
Why you should not skip the heating step:
It is essential to unravel the proteins so they will behave during the incubation process. The result? Thicker yogurt.
Allow the hot 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 water and set the container of milk in it.
Whisk 1-2 tablespoons of “starter” into cooled milk.
Let’s talk about “starter” for a moment:
1. What is “starter?”
Live cultures, whether present in yogurt (homemade or commercially-sold) or freeze-dried form, that you add to heated and cooled milk to make yogurt.
RELATED POST: How Much Starter Do I Really Need?
2. Can I simply buy a jar of my favorite yogurt at the store?
Yes. However, the yogurt you choose must be very fresh, unflavored, and contain live cultures, but no additives such as gelatin or fillers.
Your starter can come from commercial yogurt, a previous batch of homemade yogurt or a traditional starter, usually sold in a freeze-dried form.
3. What is the difference between using commercially-processed yogurt from the store and a traditional starter, usually sold in a freeze-dried form?
This is a big topic. But let me try to make it easy.
- Freeze-dried yogurt starter (also called “traditional”) comes in a foil packet and will probably be more expensive. It’s available online and sometimes in health food or specialty grocery stores.
- Commercially-made unflavored yogurt is available in every grocery store these days.
- Traditional yogurt starter is hardier than highly engineered commercial yogurt.
- Traditional or freeze-dried yogurt starter is slightly more complicated to use for a beginner. The first batch will be thin. (Follow the directions that come with the starter.) Batches that follow will set to a thicker consistency as the yogurt bodies ramp up to their full potential.
4. Can I use yogurt from a previous batch of homemade yogurt?
Yes. As long as it is not more than a week to 10 days old. If you are using commercial yogurt, I recommend you buy a new “starter” yogurt from the store every 3-4 batches.
Traditional yogurt can be used over and over (some people say years) if you don’t wait too long before making a new batch.
5. Do I have to warm up the starter before adding it to my cooled-down milk?
No. Although I’ve seen many instructions to let your starter come to room temperature. However, little yogurt bodies don’t seem to mind jumping straight off the diving board into warm milk as long as it is not over 115 degrees F. I’ve made 100’s of batches of successful yogurt straight-out-of-the-fridge starter.
6. If I want to make Greek yogurt, do I have to use Greek yogurt as my starter or will regular unflavored yogurt work?
You can make Greek yogurt or regular yogurt from either kind of yogurt. Greek yogurt has been strained of much of the whey. Regular yogurt is not strained.
Loosely cover milk and incubate.
Incubate inoculated milk for 5-10 hours at 100-110 degrees F. Whatever system you use needs to hold the temperature steady.
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.
How can you tell when the yogurt is set?
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 the post below.
HOW TO TRANSFORM REGULAR YOGURT INTO GREEK YOGURT:
Transfer yogurt into a strainer.
RELATED POST: How To Strain Yogurt the Easy Way
Strain yogurt until it is reduced by approximately a third to a half. The time required will vary according to your method and how thick and tart you prefer your yogurt.
RELATED POST: Save Money and Time With This Cheap Way to Strain Yogurt
Should I refrigerate yogurt while I’m straining it?
Some people feel the yogurt should be refrigerated while it is straining. But who has room in their refrigerator for that? Another 2-3 hours sitting on the counter won’t hurt your yogurt (or you.) The acidic nature of yogurt protects against spoilage.
Empty whey, and pour the newly strained yogurt back into the original bowl.
Empty the whey you collected and dispose of or make good use of it.
Separate the strained yogurt from the strainer or cheesecloth and pour the yogurt back into the original bowl or pan you used to make the yogurt.
It will look curdled like cottage cheese. That’s normal. You can chill and eat as is or proceed to step 3.
Process yogurt until creamy smooth, if desired.
Use a good whisk or an immersion blender to beat until smooth. Now is the appropriate time to add any fruit, flavorings, or sweeteners. The yogurt may appear thinner than you hoped at this point. Forge on. It will thicken up when chilled.
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 HOMEMADE 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.
RELATED POST: Why Is My Yogurt 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? The time required for yogurt to set can vary. I usually incubate yogurt for about 5 hours. 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 work without a LOT of effort. The easiest way is 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, see the post below.
RELATED POST: What Can I Do With Failed Yogurt?
Not working out for you? Email me or leave a question in the comments.
If you make this recipe and enjoy it, consider helping other readers and me by returning to this post. Leave a rating on the recipe card itself underneath the picture. Although always appreciated, comments aren’t required. Thank you for visiting! Paula
- 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.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 servings Serving Size: 1
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
Here is a YouTube video I made a long time ago about making yogurt. I’m including it per reader requests.