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What Can I Do with Failed Homemade Yogurt?

Have you just discovered your yogurt project still looks like milk? So now you’re asking, “What Can I Do with Failed Homemade Yogurt?” DON’T THROW IT OUT JUST YET!

Updated 3/2020

Failed Homemade Yogurt

Oh, the disappointment and anguish over wasting money on milk, not to mention your time.

I can’t count how many times I get desperate emails seeking to recover and make good yogurt from the same batch of milk or recycle the non-yogurt-milk into something entirely different.

The answer to these questions can go in several ways. If you know why your yogurt failed, you have a good chance at success if you try again with the same batch.

Was your incubation temperature too high or too low? Was your starter too old or dead? Check out my yogurt trouble-shooting post if you aren’t sure.

But what if you don’t know what you did wrong, and do everything the same way again? As the old saying goes, you can probably expect the same poor results. 

Here are some suggestions based on my own experience:

4 steps to possible yogurt recovery


 Does the milk smell bad? 

If so, throw it out — no need to ask any more questions.

If the milk still smells OK and you aren’t feeding it to anybody who is immunocompromised such as the very young, the very old, or very ill, then proceed to the next step.

Related Post: Five Things You Should Not Do When Making Homemade Yogurt


Reheat milk to 100˚ F 

We are assuming you heated the milk to 175˚ F the first time around, and then, let it cool back to 100-110˚ F. DO NOT reheat a second time to 175˚F.

If your milk has cooled down to room temperature, you may need to warm it back to 100˚F. BE VERY CAUTIOUS not to let the milk go above 110˚ F. If you accidentally overheat the milk and it separates or clabbers, you’ve just made fresh ricotta. KEEP READING for what to do next if this happens to you.


Add a new starter.

If you suspect the original starter was the cause of your fail, try a different starter. Make sure the new starter is fresh and contains no additives.


Re-incubate per my original instructions for making yogurt.

Start with the incubation step. No need to reheat the milk to 180˚F.

See the video in this post for instructions for making yogurt from beginning to end if you prefer pictures to words.

Option #2 for failed yogurt that still smells good but looks like milk

How to make fresh ricotta cheese from failed yogurt

IF you are sure you remembered to add “starter,” you could try this idea I accidentally discovered when I had a “yogurt fail” myself recently.

In step #2 above, I was heating the milk back to 100˚ F in the microwave. But somehow, the milk was warmer than I thought. In no time at all, the milk started boiling (and popping).

Overheating milk that contains a starter will cause it to curdle and separate. Adding the starter irrevocably changes the pH.

Don’t panic! Here’s what you can do:

Grab a slotted spoon and start dipping out the curds into a cheesecloth or coffee-filter-lined colander. This will drain most of the whey off. Only the curds will be left behind.

Season the ricotta cheese with a pinch of salt, and refrigerate it. Your reward will be fresh ricotta cheese perfect for lasagna or most any other ricotta recipe. Use immediately or freeze it for the next time you make lasagna soup.

For more information and pictures of the process, see my post on making ricotta cheese.

Why did my yogurt fail?


Did you remember to add the starter?

I’ve had several failures through the years, mostly due to my forgetfulness.

For example, I heated three batches of milk (2 quarts each) last night. As usual, I set them on the counter to cool down to approximately 110˚ F.

Later in the evening, I went to bed without thinking about the milk again until I awoke at 6:00 this morning. As I lay in bed, it hit me that I forgot to add the “starter” and put the milk into the oven to incubate.

Throwing out all that milk was unthinkable. It didn’t smell bad, so I heated the milk to 100 degrees, added a little more starter, and incubated as usual. Five hours later, I had perfect yogurt.


Was the starter compromised?

Was your starter fresh? The fresher the better. When older than 10 days, your chances for good yogurt decreases in a hurry.

Is it possible you killed the yogurt because your milk was too hot when you added the starter? Use a thermometer if you aren’t sure.


Does your incubation system maintain the correct temperature?

Another scenario I often hear about is forgetting to turn on the heat for your incubation “system.” Again, if the milk still smells OK, reheat milk mixture to 100˚ F. Turn on your heat source for incubation and give the milk a few more hours to make yogurt.

If your system doesn’t include a built-in thermostat, you might want to double-check it. Is it holding the temperature where it needs to be the entire incubation time?


Is your yogurt too thin?

Perhaps your “fail” could be better described as drinkable yogurt. As long as it smells good, you could try again.

Perhaps it just needs to incubate longer. Keep incubating. Bear in mind that once you stir or jostle the milk-plus-starter, you will have to start over again with a new starter.

There are many ways to make yogurt thicker with additives and techniques done before incubation. However, the easiest way to make a batch of completed yogurt thicker is to strain it.

Unfortunately, if your yogurt is very thin, it won’t strain very well. Instead, it will pour right through your lined strainer. I would try again with more starter.

If you don’t want to re-incubate, my recommendation is to use the yogurt-milk as is, even if it’s not what you originally planned. Try it in smoothies. Substitute it for buttermilk in baked goods such as these cinnamon biscuits. Or make ricotta cheese as described above.

Click here to get a FREE printable cheat-sheet for making Greek yogurt when you sign up for my FREE 6-day email course: “How To Make the Yogurt of Your Dreams.

As one of my readers once told me, “The yogurt gods can be fickle.” Whenever you’re dealing with a live organism, the results can be unpredictable.

But don’t be discouraged. The more experience you have, the fewer failures you will experience.


What else would you like to read about homemade yogurt?

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If you have a question or problem you need help with, please write it in the comment section below so I can respond back. You can also email me privately: paula at

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Monday 20th of July 2020

When I made my yogurt in my instant pot my milk cooled below 100 I still added the yogurt and let it cook on yogurt setting for 8 hours is it still okay to eat even if I added yogurt below the 110 temperature?


Tuesday 21st of July 2020

Hi Vicki,

The first question is: Does it still smell good? If so, I would eat it. If you see any mold, throw it out, but I doubt if you will. The main thing that happens when the milk falls below 100˚F is that it just takes a little longer for the yogurt to make because it has to come back up to temperature before the little yogurt bodies get busy. I've had it happen to me MANY times with no consequences whatsoever.

Mary Ann Shaffer

Wednesday 17th of June 2020

I recently started making Greek yogurt but I hate throwing out the whey. Then I started to wonder: I've read that the whey is healthy and good for you, so why bother making Greek yogurt. If I just use the yogurt and stop straining it to make Greek yogurt I am using the whey too..but so many articles support eating Greek yogurt. Am I missing something?


Wednesday 17th of June 2020

Hi Mary Ann,

Interesting question. In my opinion, it's a matter of how you like your yogurt. Some people like theirs thick, like me. I much prefer the richness and creaminess of Greek yogurt. The ratio of calories to protein is better, too. On the other hand, a lot of people don't mind the flavor of the whey left in their yogurt or stirred back in. Sounds like you might be one of those. If you like regular yogurt, it seems like the only thing you are missing out on is the extra step it takes to strain your yogurt.


Wednesday 15th of April 2020

Thank you so much! My yogurt failed and this post was exactly what I was hoping to find.


Saturday 11th of April 2020

Hi Paula! I'm so glad I found your post! I attempted to make yogurt today in my instant pot. It was a fail but I am hoping I can still salvage it. After 12 hours of incubating, it still looked like milk. I did a bit of research and realized that although I set my milk in the instant pot to "boil", my instant pot probably did not reach 180 degrees. So, I used the failed yogurt and set it to boil a couple of times until the temp reached 180 degrees. The yogurt now looks curdled. There's a lot of liquid and large chunks of curd. I decided to whisk it (now there's little balls) I waited until it cooled to 116 degrees and added a fresh starter and then put it into the instant pot to incubate. I will have to see what it looks like in the morning. Do you think it will be safe to eat since it has been out for so long? (it had starter in it the entire time and it smells ok). Thanks!


Sunday 12th of April 2020

Hi Terri,

I'm sorry about your yogurt. Always a disappointment. If it smells OK, I would eat it. Next time, make sure the temperature cools down to below 110˚F. 116 degrees is still a little warm and leaves you with no room for error. When the yogurt has LOTS of liquid and appears curdled, you may have used too much starter and/or let it incubate too long. At this point, I would drain most of the liquid off and whip it with an immersion blender or a whisk. If all also fails, drain ALL the liquid off, add a pinch of salt and enjoy your fresh ricotta cheese.

Eva Rangel-Ribeiro

Wednesday 26th of February 2020

Hi Paula! Picking up from my original attempt to make yogurt (using my instant pot) and failing after trying to rescue the first batch...

I started over and used organic plain yogurt as the starter and the same brand of organic whole milk. 1. Heated 1/2 gallon milk in the microwave to 185°. 2. Cooled it to 105°. 3. Added 1 tablespoon fresh yogurt to 1 cup of cooled milk and then stirred it into the cooled milk, 4. Transferred the mixture to quart jars. 5. Wrapped in towels and left it to sit nearly 16 hours without peeking.

This morning I found a yogurt drink that tasted lovely...

I don't think that the jars stayed warm enough. I used this method in the past but I suspect we kept the house warmer or I may have been making it during the warmer months.

Advice please?


Wednesday 26th of February 2020

Hi Eva, I'm sorry to hear you had another fail. I suspect you are right about your incubation method. Just wrapping in towels would not usually be warm enough to make yogurt. Have you seen this post about incubating yogurt? I've listed lots of ideas. Maybe one would work for you. Don't give up yet.