My Yogurt Didn’t Set. What Can I Do?

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Sneak Preview: If your yogurt didn’t set, don’t throw your milk out yet! I’ll show you what to do next. Then, we’ll talk about what may have gone wrong so that your next batch will be successful.

milk that failed to become yogurt.Pin

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Have you just discovered your yogurt project still looks like milk? So now you’re asking yourself what to do next.

DON’T GIVE UP JUST YET!

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

I can’t count how often 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.

Happy Cooks Speak Up

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

You are not alone!

The answer to these questions can go in several ways. First, if you know why your yogurt failed, you have a good chance of 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 expect the same poor results. 

Here are some suggestions based on my own experience.


Four steps to possible yogurt recovery

1. 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 the very ill, then proceed to the next step.

2. Is it necessary to reheat the milk?

I assume you heated the milk to 175˚-180˚F (79-82˚C) the first time and then let it cool back to 100-110˚ F (38˚C-43˚C). DO NOT reheat a second time to 175˚F.

If your milk has cooled to room temperature or you put it in the fridge for a while, warm it to 100˚F (38˚F), if desired. BE VERY CAUTIOUS not to let the milk go above 110˚ F.

If you accidentally overheat the milk, it will probably separate or clabber. Congratulations, if you strain it, you’ve just made fresh ricotta cheese. KEEP READING for what to do next if this happens to you.

3. Should I add a new starter?

Yes, especially if you suspect the original starter was the cause of your failure. Make sure the new starter is fresh and contains no additives.


4. How do I re-incubate?

After stirring in the new starter, incubate the milk mixture. Ensure that the temperature is no less than 100˚F (38˚C) and hovers between 105-110˚F (38-43˚C). Even if you use a yogurt maker or Instant Pot, check the temperature with a quick-read thermometer. These appliances can malfunction.

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

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

Make fresh ricotta cheese with failed yogurt

If you remembered to add “starter,” you could try this idea. I accidentally discovered it when I had a yogurt fail recently.

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

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

Don’t panic!

Grab a slotted spoon and dip the curds into a cheesecloth or coffee-filter-lined colander. This process will drain most of the whey off. After that, 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 almost any other ricotta recipe. Use it immediately, or freeze it for the next time you make lasagna soup.

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


Let’s figure out what went wrong.

Why did my yogurt fail?

1. Did you remember to add the starter?

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

For example, I heated three batches of milk (2 quarts each) last night. Then, 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, I realized I forgot to add the “starter” and put the milk into the oven to incubate.

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

2. Was the starter compromised?

Was your starter fresh? The fresher, the better. When older than ten days, your chances for good yogurt decrease quickly.

Is it possible you killed the yogurt because your milk was too hot when you added the starter? Use a digital quick-read thermometer(paid link) if you aren’t sure.

3. 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 the 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. For example, is it holding the temperature where it needs throughout the entire incubation period?

4. Is your yogurt too thin?

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

Perhaps it just needs to incubate longer. Keep incubating. Remember, the party is over once you stir or jostle the inoculated milk. Try again with a new starter.

There are many ways to make the yogurt thicker before incubation with additives and techniques. However, straining a batch of completed yogurt is the easiest way to make it thicker without picking up an extra flavor.

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

If you don’t want to re-incubate, I recommend using 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.

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


Parting Thoughts: Don’t be discouraged if you are new at making yogurt. It’s not like making brownies. Just because you follow a recipe exactly, there are no guarantees of a perfect result. It can take several tries to get your system worked out because everybody’s kitchen, temperatures, milk, starters, equipment, and method are slightly different.

The more experience you have, the fewer failures you will experience.


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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111 Comments

  1. I made yogurt for the first time and it I didn’t get the results I was hoping for. 🙃 I made two batches, one batch did turn out to be yogurt although a little runny …. and the 2nd batch turned out to ricotta cheese. This posting was ultra helpful and I’m feeling increasingly confident in my abilities to make yogurt again. Thank you!

    1. You’re welcome, Sol. On the batch that turned out like ricotta cheese, you may have used too much starter or let it incubate too long. Whisk it furiously before chilling and it should smooth out. If you strain the liquid off before you whisk it, you will have Greek yogurt.

  2. I have made many batches of yogurt, but recently I tried changing something and it didn’t work very well. I ended up with yogurt so thin, it run through the cheesecloth I was using to strain it. So, what I did was add chia seeds and used it as a chia pudding! I served it with bananas and a drizzle of maple syrup. It turned out great! I also like to use thin yogurt for overnight oats.

    1. Hi Cindy,

      Thank you for contributing to the conversation. This a great way to recycle yogurt that didn’t turn out the way you wanted. I know my readers will appreciate another option.

  3. How do you check if the yogurt has set without disturbing the yogurt too much?

    1. That’s a great question because checking it the wrong way can ruin your yogurt.

      Don’t stick anything in it, like a spoon or thermometer.
      Resist moving the whole container during incubation. If you must, do it slowly and very carefully so the milk doesn’t slosh around. I highly suggest you don’t even try this.
      Very slightly and slowly tip the bowl. If the yogurt sticks to the sides, it has set.
      Another way to check is to ever so gently move the bowl back and forth a time or two. If it jiggles like jello, the yogurt has set. How long you leave it after it has set is up to you and a topic for another day. Mine sets in 3 and a half hours. I remove it from incubation and strain it on the counter immediately to make Greek yogurt.

  4. I only have 2 rules when I make yogurt. Number One there is no such thing as a failed batch of what was originally supposed to be yogurt. No need to waste : Fix it & Rename it. Number Two I got from you. Once you mix your cooled milk with your starter of choice leave it alone! I have a habit of over mixing and overdoing the temperature check. Learned the hard way… Yes, the thermometer disturbed their lunch too often that they went on strike. That and moving the bowl from one counter location to another made them lose their appetite.

    I have been doing variations and experimenting for a couple of years now and I’ve had some epic sliminess and some not set well. I always managed to use the fails eventually. Slime yogurt was very much edible after I combined it with cherry jello, using less water and cooled before stirring. Let it almost set in fridge, tested, added more yogurt until i was happy with the results. Once i had the quantities right i combined a (week worth) large batch, before it set completely i added some cut up fruit. Made a bit more jello with other fruit only and made parfaits. I froze the remaining yogurt and labelled it for a future rescue batch.
    I do these things often: use discounted milk and 10% cream that was expiring in 2 days. When i want really thick yogurt I add 25-50g of skim milk powder before bringing it up to 180F. After the yogurt has sat untouched in my oven, with just the instant pot lid sitting on top, long enough but still careful to check consistency, i will then refrigerate it “as is” for a while, still barely touching or moving the contents usually until its dropped to about half way to refrigeration temp. Now i will pour out the contents into a cheesecloth lined colander sitting over a bowl large enough to fit all the yogurt i just made or preferably a mesh nut milk bag or wine making bag. I let it hang there for 8 to 12 to 24 hours. I filter out the whey only to a sealed jar. The remaining whey at the bottom with some milk solids that made it through the cheesecloth, I stir that whey back into the yogurt to my desired consistency.

    1. Hi Brigitte,

      So nice to hear from you. The first paragraph made me smile. So true.

      Regarding the straining, it is unnecessary to let the yogurt cool before straining. It will strain quicker when warm or at room temperature. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to refrigerate first, if you have the room.

  5. I make greek yogurt all the time using pressure cooker. After incubation period I put it in fridge overnight. Then I strain it in fridge until I get the thickness of greek yogurt I want. Sometimes I do put some of the whey back in if it’s to thick/dry! Works wonders, we live it. I use 2% milk and chobani greek nonfat plain yogurt as my starter. Been doing this for years

    1. Hi Lisa,

      Sounds like you have a great system. Thank you so much for sharing. You may inspire somebody else to try it with a pressure cooker.

  6. if i want to re incubate the failed yogurt, do i must warm the milk again or just add another starter and then do again in 10 hours ?

    1. Yohana,
      You can warm the milk but no warmer than 100˚F. Or, just add another starter and re-incubate. The only advantage of heating the milk is to save time if the milk is cool. The yogurt bodies won’t party until the temperature is warm. If you heat the milk too hot, it will clabber. If that happens, the best thing to do is make ricotta cheese.

  7. I’ve been making yogurt with raw milk since I got my Ninja Foodi several months ago. My first two batches were perfect but my third batch soured (it’s amazing how you can smell the difference between a “good” sour and a “bad” sour instantly. I dumped it and tried again. The next batch would not thicken even after adding an additional 12 hours of fermentation. It did, however, smell heavenly so I decided to just pour it in a jar and call it drinkable yogurt. I let it sit overnight in the fridge, scooped off some of the whey that rose to the top, and added a little Xylitol and vanilla. It tasted like Yakult, but better. My husband keeps asking me to make it again. I’ve explained that it was an accident since my next batch once again produced a beautiful Greek yogurt. So here’s to another happy accident … going to try fermenting it for a little shorter time than for yogurt and see if that’s the key.

    1. Hi Aganetha,

      Yes. Trust the nose!

  8. good morning i did make my greek yogurt yesterday in my instant pot i did not set properly i did the i instructions as I did make it before once, and it it worked perfectly. I did feel I was a little rushed yesterday. Perhaps I did something wrong first off it did come to a boil 190
    then cooked it to around 95 but i let it in the counter for a while and the. i refrigerator for a good few hours then before i went to bed i got it ready and added my starter and but it back into my instant pot for 8 hours but this morning it was not set please help thank you Cheryl

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      I’m sorry about your yogurt. Yes, it’s best to avoid boiling your milk. 175-180˚F is plenty. I don’t recommend refrigerating the milk after you heat it and before you add the starter. Just wait until the milk cools down between 100˚ and 110˚F. Add your starter, incubate, and wait for the magic. I’m not sure what you mean by “got it ready.” Did you reheat the milk again? What kind of milk did you use? How fresh was your starter?

      Have you checked the temperature of your instant pot? Sometimes, they do not get as hot as they should. Fill it with water and use a quick-read thermometer to check it.

      Good luck. If all else fails, try my method as seen here. It’s much, much quicker. I can make a half gallon of yogurt in less than 5 hours from start to finish (if straining, add another hour or two).

  9. Jo Ann Honaker says:

    I found you after searching for help with my yogurt not setting.

    I use my instant pot and never have a problem. This time? No yogurt.

    I checked my yogurt that I used for a starter and there was the problem. It was really old.

    My batch still smells like yogurt so I added more starter and set it back to incubate in the instant pot.

    We’ll see.

    1. Hope it worked for you. It usually does, especially if you use a different (and fresher) starter.

  10. I always use Greek yogurt as a starter and noticed that the whole milk yogurt works fine every time but nonfat fails

    1. Hi ESB,
      Interesting observation. I have used nonfat yogurt as a starter many times with no problem. I wonder if there is something else going on that is making a difference. Thanks for writing.

  11. Hi Paula! I heated my yogurt to 195 for 10 mins. Cooled to 113 and added starter. Wrapped for 4.5 hrs and put in fridge. Came out stretchy, slightly thicker, gelatinous, with some soft clips like mozzarella.

    Can I salvage or make ricotta or anything?

    1. Hi Merry,

      I’m so sorry about your yogurt. Your description doesn’t sound too appetizing. I suspect your starter. But back to your question. If your proposed yogurt smells good and tastes good, you can try ricotta. Boil it, and if it clabbers (separates into curds and whey), then strain it and see what you get. Since you say it is currently stretchy and gelatinous, I’m not hopeful, but it’s worth a try. You might find my post about gooey or slimy yogurt helpful.

  12. I was told that drained off whey would last for 6 months refrigerated. I have a mason jar full and used 4 tbsp for my latest batch in my Wolfgang Puck yogurt maker, in which I’ve made many successful batches. However, my latest batch didn’t set?? Was I misled by the 6 month advice? I also see 1 month as the max

    Please advise

    Thanks very much – you are a fountain of knowledge

    1. Hi Rocky,
      Nice to hear from you. I would say the proof is in the pudding. Or maybe I should say, “the proof is in the failed yogurt.” I never keep yogurt whey longer than 1 month, much less 6 months. In my experience, the life expectancy of little yogurt bodies isn’t all that long. Just like humans, if something else doesn’t get you first, eventually we will all die of old age.

  13. Michael Wajda says:

    I’ve been making yogurt in an Instant Pot now for 2-3 years, usually with great success. One time I added too much starter and it was thin. I have a favorite local yogurt that I use for starter.

    Recently, my yogurt has all been thin and I don’t believe that I have changed my process. I heat one gallon of milk in the Instant Pot on the yogurt setting. It tells me when it’s ready. I then let it cool to 116 degrees and take one cup out and whisk it with 1/4 cup of starter in a separate bowl. I then whisk that combo in with the rest of the gallon and return it to the Instant Pot on the yogurt setting for 9.5 hours.

    The last 4-5 times it has been too thin and not as tangy. I tried changing milk, but still the same result. Once I added 2 hours of incubation time and it thickened a little more.

    Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!

    1. Hi Michael,

      Thanks for giving me so many details. I can think of two possibilities. As you mentioned, using too much starter can make your yogurt thin, especially if you incubate it for a long time. Was your starter super fresh? You might experiment with a different starter. Also, what kind of milk are you using? Is it ultra-pasteurized by any chance?

      Secondly, have you checked the yogurt temperature of your Instant Pot? Occasionally, I hear about the Instant Pot not holding the temperature steady like it did when it was new. It’s probably fine, but it’s something to check, just in case.

  14. Fantastic article Paula, many many thanks.
    Here is a puzzle; not her first Rodeo, using the Ninja Foodi and following the instructions closely to make yogurt: 4 Liters of Homo. Milk 3.25%, 6 tablespoons of plain 3% yogurt as a starter, 12 hour incubation, seemed good but soft at first and much firmer after cooling overnight, all is well.
    The intention was to make Middle Eastern cheese (AKA Shankleesh) via boiling the yogurt, surprisingly, after the usual boiling, the yogurt did not reform/disintegrate to be strained as usual but remained of milk consistency, any ideas as to why not, can it be salvaged and how please?

    Mom is stressed, your help would be appreciated 😉
    Regards.
    Georges.

    1. Hi Georges,
      I’m not familiar with Shankleesh. I’ve also never boiled yogurt. Sounds like a disaster to me. You might check around to find somebody who is an expert about Shankleesh.

  15. Liane Funk says:

    I left 1% milk in an instant pot at 110 degrees F without adding culture overnight. It was never heated to 180 degrees F, as it is an older instant pot and does not have that feature. Would it be okay if I heated the milk to 180 degrees F now and proceeded to make yogurt properly with it now??

    1. As long as it smells good, you can try again.

  16. The number 1 reason my yogurt wasn’t setting was because i would move it, I have found that yogurt likes to be left alone, do not move or jiggle it. I have had 3 complete failures where the yogurt was completely runny and on each occasion i had either jiggled or checked and mixed the yogurt. Since iv discovered the problem iv had great success making nice thick yogurt.

  17. deborahnicole says:

    TLDR: crock pot method always works great for me, keep track of your temps and times so you know for next time. (ie. write. it. down)

    I’d like to share my latest adventure with yogurt. I haven’t made it for a while but I made some last week from a gallon of whole milk (in my crockpot- fit all but about 2 cups).

    Now, I super paid attention to the timings and temperature of the milk, after cooling and adding 2T of store bought greek yogurt as a starter I wrapped my crockpot (with lid) with a towel and put it in it’s insulated carrier inside the oven with the light on. I cultured for exactly 12 hours, it was slightly tangy, (but I would try to double my culture time for more tartness) I put up half as it was and strained the rest for greek yogurt; me and 6 kids ate it all in 2 days with granola.

    Current batch: I decided to make it in my 10qt pressure cooker (so I could fit the whole gallon plus the 2 cups leftover- we can’t drink cow’s milk) on slow cook setting to heat. Boy oh boy- I forgot to pay attention to all the steps (remember those 6 kids?). after heating, it got too hot- about 190, removed the lid and covered with a tea towel, got too cool about 90, didn’t reheat to 110, took out a few cups, added my 2-4 T of store bought greek yogurt leftover from the first batch starter, mixed it in and turned the heat back on “for five minutes” to warm it and hold warm.
    OF COURSE I forgot to turn it off, middle of the night ran to check it, it was back to about 190 with a skin on top, should have but didn’t skim. mid morning milk was too cool again but I added about a cup of warmed whey, put the lid on pot and put it in the oven with the light on. some time later evening I remembered my yogurt, it was not firming up but at this point what do I have to lose? I let it culture for another 8 hours, et voila, it is yogurt. I was a little scared but I smelled, and tasted and tasted again and nothing in my senses is warning me that this is not ok. so have I rescued my $2.71? So far my belly says yes. So I guess yogurt can be forgiving but so much easier to do it right the first time.

    1. This is a fabulous story, Deborah. I love that you took the time to tell the whole story. Maybe it will give hope to others who think there is no way to save it. I also like the way you depend on your senses to warn you. Smelling, tasting, and seeing is invaluable when it comes to making yogurt.

  18. My yogurt cultured for 12 hours at about 110 degrees, but then I forgot about it and left it in there for another eleven hours. When I checked it at the end of the 23 hours, it had cooled to 80°. Is the yogurt still okay to eat?

    1. Hi Emma,

      If it smells OK, it’s probably fine. Hopefully, you put it in the fridge.

  19. Thank you so much!! I am on my second attempt of trying to make yogurt and haven’t had luck yet either time…I am trying to re-incubate it right now, I really hope it works this time! I don’t want to have to throw out all of that milk. Thank you so much for your troubleshooting article!! Your website is amazing!

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Quincy. If you need help, feel free to reach out again.

  20. First, thank you so much for your website and willingness to share your expertise. I’ve recently begun making goat’s milk yogurt in my Ninja Foodi from a recipe I found online. My first three batches turned out great and the yogurt is delish. My fourth and fifth batches failed and I can’t figure out what went wrong.

    The directions call for warming the milk to 181 but not more than 200 (I have glass candy thermometer so I’m not sure of the exact temperature so I could have gone over 200)

    Next step is to cool to 110 and add the starter. I’ve been using plain, unsweetened So Delicious coconut yogurt with active cultures. I used this for my first three batches. The recipe calls for 1/4 cut per half gallon of milk. I don’t think the store-bought yogurt was old but I didn’t check the expiration date so I guess that’s a possibility.

    Then the directions say to cover the pot with foil and put it back into the cooker on dehydrate for 8 hours at 180 with the lid closed. When the time is up I do need to carry the pot to the basement to refrigerate and I’ve read that giggling the pot can upset the product but again my first three tries were perfect.

    With my first failed batch I tried turning it into ricotta but that didn’t work. I heated it over 200 on the stovetop using my glass thermometer and it never curdled. Frustrated but unwilling to give up (because goat milk is almost $9 a half gallon) I put it in a pitcher and popped it into the freezer. Again, I’m wondering it the starter was bad.

    The next failed batch was more like Kiefer. It had a large amount of milk on the top and a thin layer of almost-yogurt on the bottom. Again these last two batches came from the same band of milk, Meyenberg ultra pasteurized goat’s milk and the same tub of starter albeit I had to scrape the bottom of the barrel to get almost the last 1/4 cup for the final batch.

    I divided this last failed batch into two pitchers and froze them because I was leaving town for the weekend and again didn’t want to dump nine bucks down the drain.

    I apologize for this lengthy message and hope I’ve given you some clues as to why my batches failed. I hope I can salvage what’s in my freezer and have the confidence to try again with fresh ingredients.

    Many thanks for your help and wonderful website 🙂

    1. Hi Tina,

      I can hear the frustration in your words. I’m so sorry. A couple of things jump out at me. Maybe I’m reading it wrong.

      1. Incubating yogurt at 180˚F is way too high. The temperature should be between 100˚ to 110˚F. That will kill the yogurt bodies for sure. Is that what you really did?

      2. Are you saying you used the same coconut yogurt for all of the batches? It’s always better to use unflavored yogurt for starter if you can. By coconut yogurt, do you mean coconut-flavored or yogurt made with coconut milk? I try to use yogurt that’s no more than 7-10 days old for the best results. Much older and the little yogurt bodies start to get weak and/or die off.

      3. Regarding the ricotta, the fact that your milk didn’t curdle indicates that there was not enough acid present. It sounds like your starter might be too old. You could add lemon juice or vinegar and it will surely curdle as it starts to boil.

      4. I have never tried to make goat yogurt so I’m not really an expert on the subject. I know it is usually thinner than yogurt made with cow’s milk. Also, ultra-pasteurized cow’s milk can be difficult to make yogurt with because all the bacteria has been completely killed off. I’m wondering if it’s the same way with ultra-pasterurized goat’s milk.

      Is any of this helpful? If not, write back and we’ll dig deeper.

    2. @Paula,

      Thank you so much for your quick reply to my dilemma. Yes my recipe indeed calls for the ninja foodie to be set at 180 on the dehydration mode. I found the recipe at thesaltedpepper.com and it worked like a dream the first three times using all the same ingredients and directions.

      By coconut yogurt I mean it was non dairy, made from coconut milk. It is unflavored, plain, no sweetener added. Since I couldn’t make ricotta either I’m wondering if the yogurt was old when I bought it which was recent. We avoid A1 casein so I didn’t want to contaminate my A2 goat milk with cow milk starter.

      The goat milk yogurt, which I strained and got a big mason jar of whey from was amazing both before straining and after, we like it think and tart. Discovered adding a dollop to a bowl of chili is to die for.

      Now that I have a 18 dollars worth of frozen heated milk in my deep freeze I want to try to salvage it. If I add acid how much per quart. I can use lemon, vinegar, or whey from a previous batch of homemade. I’d love to get ricotta if the milk is beyond yogurt.

      I’m hoping freezing was the right call since I didn’t have the time to mess with it after the failure.

      Thank you so much for your time and support

      1. Hi Tina,

        Here is my post about making ricotta cheese. https://saladinajar.com/yogurt/homemade-ricotta-cheese-using-whey-drained-from-yogurt/ Hope it helps. I really have no idea if this will work with goat milk.

        I would encourage you to reach out to the website owner where you got the original directions for making yogurt. I have never used a Ninja Foodie. Also, I have never made yogurt with goat milk. Finally, I have never made yogurt that I liked with a non-dairy yogurt starter. I’ve always heard that you must use a special starter with non-dairy yogurt.

        One last idea. I buy A2 cow’s milk at Braums. I don’t know where you live, but if you have heard of this store, you might want to check it out. https://www.braums.com/a2-milk/

  21. annemarie says:

    Hi
    Today I tried to make yogurt (first time ever) in my slow cooker. I followed the directions I found. 1/2 gallon milk (I used 2%) heated on the ‘low’ setting for 2 1/2 hours, then kept on warm for 3 hours. Then I mixed 1/2 cup of bulgarian yogurt I had in the fridge with 2 cups of the warm milk and put back in the slow cooker. Wrapped a towel around the cooker and left it closed up and unplugged. 8 hours later, it was still liquid like milk. I hadn’t checked the temperature, and didn’t think that it had ‘scalded’ the milk like is required. So I heated it back up to 180 degrees (for which I had to turn the cooker up to ‘high’ for about 20 minutes. Then I kept it at warm for 4 hours, and then added in another 1/2 cup yogurt and left unplugged and closed up. Now it’s like curdled milk, a little sour, with some ‘clabber’ or when floating in it. I put it in the fridge to see if it hardens. Any tips for next try?

    1. Hi Annemarie,

      Isn’t that frustrating? I know the feeling. This probably won’t make you feel any better, but I think making yogurt with a slow cooker is the hardest method and is least likely to succeed. If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, make that the first thing on your list before you try again. You can get one for around $12 here. You can make some really good ricotta cheese with your failed batch. Directions are in the post you came from. Once your yogurt project clabbers, there’s no going back.

      The temperature ranges of different brands of slow cookers can be all over the place. Also, the older your appliance, the less likely it is to cook at a steady temperature. Put some water in there and heat it for a couple of hours. Then test it. I suspect your milk was not kept at a steady 100-110˚F for the entire 8 hours.

      Sidenote: 1/2 cup of starter is a lot for a half-gallon of milk. The little yogurt bodies run out of food because there are too many of them. I only use 1-2 tablespoons. See this post for more information about the starter.

      If you heat the milk up to 175-180˚F, cool it back to 100˚F, add your starter, then keep the milk mixture at a steady 100-110˚F, you should have yogurt in 5 hours. When your temperature is not steady, it will take longer and maybe never.

      One last hint, Anne-Marie: you might want to start with only a quart of milk until you have success (now that I think about it, that might be hard to do if your slow cooker is big)

      Please write back and let me know how your second batch goes. Once you get this figured out, you are going to be so happy. We’ll keep working until you have success.

  22. 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?

    1. 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.

  23. Mary Ann Shaffer says:

    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?

    1. 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.

    2. halide celiker says:

      @Paula, you can also use the whey with milk in your smoothy if you like smoothies , whey is very good for you , i’m sure you can freeze it in an ice cube tray

  24. JULIE BAKER says:

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

  25. 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!

    1. 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.

  26. Eva Rangel-Ribeiro says:

    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?

    1. 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.

      1. Eva Rangel-Ribeiro says:

        Hi Paula! My solution was a suggestion from a reader who wrote the magic words “sous vide!” I knew there was a reason I gave one to my husband on his birthday,.

        Honestly, that is positively brilliant!

        Hopefully I’ll have good news tomorrow morning!

        1. Eva Rangel-Ribeiro says:

          Update! I have yogurt!!!
          My second batch was not a complete fail. I tried to strain it, but it simply oozed out of the bag… so I decided to put it back and just treat it as something to make Lassi.
          It set beautifully overnight! Yay!!!

          The sous vide method also worked beautifully. and I learned something very important. I thought that my old fashioned glass candy thermometer was
          “broken” even though the glass was not cracked. I found out that there is nothing wrong with it. It is the digital thermometer that is off. It reads nearly 15-20 degrees hotter than the sous vide temp and the glass thermometer. So when I thought that the temp of the milk was cooled to 110, it was actually closer to 90!

          Important to check the accuracy of your thermometer!

          Thank you

  27. Eva Rangel-Ribeiro says:

    Hi! I made a batch of yogurt yesterday using my instant pot. I don’t think that the milk ever heated to 185°. I cooled it to 90° and added the freeze dried starter, put it back in the instant pot for 12 hours. The yogurt is like a very very soft custard. I put it into sterile quart jars and refrigerated it hoping that it would firm up.

    It did not. Can I reheat it as in step 2? Or is it too late to do that?

    I wanted to ask before I strain it!

    I love your instructions, and your answers! I used to make yogurt about 30 years ago and would just wrap the jars in towels overnight. Always worked!

    Thank you!

    1. Yes, you can reheat and add new starter. More about that here.

      Is this the first time you have used this particular freeze-dried starter? If so, many times the instructions will warn you that the first batch will be quite soft. The second batch will be firmer. Since I don’t know the brand you used, I can’t be sure.

      This is not the reason your yogurt was so soft, but you only need to cool the yogurt back to 100-110˚. No big deal. It just might save you a bit of time in the future.

      1. Eva Rangel-Ribeiro says:

        Hi Paula, Thank you for your response..

        Yes, this is the first time that I’ve ever used a freeze dried starter. I used yogourmet probiotic yogurt freeze-dried starter fermenter.

        I just want to confirm that I am heating the soft yogurt to 175 and then let it cool to 100 – 110 and add the starter.

        Since the yogurt is in 2 quart jars, I may leave it in the jars and use your microwave process!

        Thanks so much! I will let you know how it works out.

        1. Yes, you are correct about the temperatures. I’m a little concerned about you heating the milk in Mason jars. I’ve never done that. Guess I’m afraid it would boil over. I always do it in a large bowl or 2-qt. pitcher. Just watch it the first time you do it. The Mason jars may work perfectly.

          Did you hold out some of the first batch (the “thin” stuff) you made to use for a starter? That’s what I would do and see if it doesn’t get thicker the second time around.

          I’ll be anxious to hear how it goes for you.

          1. Eva Rangel-Ribeiro says:

            I decided to use a pyrex glass bowl to reheat it. It is pretty strange because in the heating process it separated into whey and solids. I’m waiting for it to cool down now. Fingers crossed!

          2. Eva Rangel-Ribeiro says:

            Unfortunately this failed. In the reheating process it separated into whey and curds. Oh well, lesson learned is that the milk needs to get to 185 before you can cool it 🙂 I don’t think it was the starter, but I think I will try starting with a good yogurt this time! Onwards!!!

            Thanks for your help.

          3. If you drain the whey off, you will have ricotta cheese. Hope it’s not too late. Add a touch of salt. A touch of cream is also good if the curds are too dry.

          4. Eva Rangel-Ribeiro says:

            Yipes! Too late, but if it happens again I’ll remember!
            Thanks, Paula!

    2. Eva Rangel-Ribeiro says:

      Epic fail #2…

      Maybe there is an age restriction to making yogurt??? Used to do it all the time in my teens and 20s. In my 60s it simply doesn’t work!

  28. I made soy yogurt yesterday and it is very thin. It tastes fantastic – great yogurt tang. I read some of your tips and realized that I did stir it, and also poured it into jars after fermenting (I fermented in an instant pot). My main question is, should I use this as starter for my next batch or start over? I know subsequent batches are usually better. I made homemade soy milk and used yogourmet starter. (I used regular starter because I’m not bothered if there is trace dairy in my yogurt.). Thanks for any input you have!

    1. Hi Laura,
      I’m not a fan of soy yogurt so I don’t consider myself an expert although I have experimented with it some. I’ve read that you’ll have more success using a starter designed for non-dairy yogurt. Maybe something like this: https://shop.culturesforhealth.com/products/vegan-yogurt-starter. Perhaps you already know that these freeze-dried starters tend to make thin yogurt the first time or two but get better the more you use them. Just a thought.

      Stirring does seem to make yogurt a bit thinner but it usually firms back up when chilled. Good luck.

      1. Thanks for the reply! I believe I’ll try using it as a starter for the next so see if it improves.

  29. I’ve been successfully making yogurt for years! Unfortunately I woke up this morning to a pot full of what looks like milk! I added starter last night. Seems like the best thing to do is reheat to 100 degrees and add new starter. The milk doesn’t smell bad.

    Sad day!

    1. Yes, Beth. That is what I would do. I do have one other idea.

      Do you like ricotta cheese? Bring the “failed yogurt” to a boil until it separates or clabbers. Spoon out the curds into a fine-mesh sieve or a sieve lined with cheesecloth. When all the whey drains out of the curds, you will have ricotta cheese. Add a pinch of salt. If the cheese is too dry for your tastes, add a little bit of cream. If too wet, let it drain some more. At this point, I put the ricotta into a zip lock bag and freeze it. Otherwise, use cheese within 2-3 days. I have a whole post about making ricotta cheese with yogurt whey but I figured this out accidentally. It’s another option.

  30. Cindy L Bradley says:

    I just love whole milk coconut yogurt, made with coconut cream. But I don’t have a very good recipe for it. I noticed that someone mentioned making this. Would it be possible for that someone(I don’t know the person’s name)to leave the recipe for me somehow? I would truly appreciate this. Thanks. Cindy Lou,

    1. Cindy, Do you want to make yogurt from coconut milk or are you wanting regular yogurt flavored with coconut cream? If the latter, you can add it to your yogurt as you would jelly after it sets. If you want yogurt made from coconut milk, well, that’s a different game. I believe you will need a different kind of starter. Check out the Cultures for Health website. https://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/yogurt-recipes/dairy-free-yogurt/

  31. Odelia Tan says:

    I have tried from kombucha to junbocha to milk kefir & water kefir but when it comes to yoghurt I failed. Fresh milk + store bought unflavoured greek yogurt but it was watery & did not set. Like you I will want to know why or find a short or cheaper or more efficient way when I get to expert level. Will want to compare the whey from milk kefir & whey from yogurt. So! I didn’t use thermometer but feel method. Do you have to wait for skin to form on the surface to confirm cool down milk?

    1. Hi Odelia,
      I have never tried to strain kefir. Seems like it would be difficult. The firmer your end product, the easier it is to strain the whey.

      On a different subject, my milk always has skin on the surface when I finish heating it. If I remove it, it comes right back. So, I leave it on the milk until the milk is cooled back to 110 degrees F. Then I remove it and add my starter. Hope that helps.

  32. Greetings,
    It’s my first making yogurt and I left the lids on by mistake. The yogurt looks good, but is it ok to eat?

    Thanks,
    Jay

    1. Hi Jay,
      If it smells and looks good, I taste it. If it tastes alright, I eat it. I’ve never once got sick from my own yogurt. If I were you, I would pop the lid and dive in once it’s chilled.

  33. Thanks so much for the tips. But i HATE your reference to “more ways to skin a cat” Why the hell would anyone skin a cat. 🙁

    1. Hi Breeze,

      I changed it. It is a very common saying where I grew up. I love cats, btw.

  34. Hi!
    I did some yogurts using the ferment from another yogurt I did in my yogurt maker, but the process went wrong a some point. It has the consistency of mozzarella and is very acidic. Have you ever experienced that?
    I have been eating natto few days before, could that be the cause?

    1. Hi Noemie,
      I had to look up natto. Very interesting. Sounds like you may have picked up some wild yeast. Not sure that is was from the natto, however. I recently wrote this post that I think might answer your question. Check it out here. Write back if you still have questions.

  35. Bryanah Whitney says:

    Hi There! I think I need to toss my batch out. I used the heating pad method and went to bed last night around midnight. The yogurt was at 103 degrees. Nervous the temperature would continue to drop overnight I later a towel over it. Well, I woke up at 6:45 and the yogurt read 120*. Should I toss? Anything else I can do with it? Thank you!

    1. I hope you get this in time. If the milk still smells good, try one more time. Let the temperature cool down to below 110 and add more starter.

      1. Bryanah Whitney says:

        Great! It’s not too late. I couldn’t bring myself to dump it. I made a double batch this time around. The heating pad method is so finicky! Add more starter, then let it sit for 24 more hours?

      2. Bryanah Whitney says:

        not too late! I didn’t have the heart to toss it yet. This was a double batch, too! The heating pad is tricky! I add more yogurt and let it sit for another 24 hours?

        1. 24 hours? Wow! That’s a long time. Do you prefer very tart yogurt? Your yogurt should start to set up after 4-5 hours but will be mild. That’s what I do. 8-10 hours is an average time for many people to incubate their yogurt. Perhaps you have a special reason for incubating that long?

          1. Bryanah Whitney says:

            Yes! It’s the SCD 24 hour yogurt. It’s essentially lactose free from the bacteria 🙂 It’s tart and tangy and thick like plain Greek yogurt. So maybe this won’t be any good sitting out an additional 24 hours. I guess I will continue with the experiment anyway and go by taste/texture/smell?

          2. I’m guessing it will turn out just fine.

  36. I’ve been making yogurt for a few years now and I had what I thought was my first fail last week. I used the Y3 cultures from New England Cheesemaking Supply (been using them for almost as long as making my yogurt) , heated up the 2% milk to 185, cooled to 120-118 like I usually do before I add the Y3. I kept it in the Yogotherm for 7 hrs like usual, but when I opened it to check it before putting in the refrigerator, it was very watery. Almost like nothing happened. YIKERS!!! What to do??

    I heated up some water, put the plastic container in it till the milk got very warm, into the Yogotherm for about 2 hrs then into the refrigerator. The next day I had THE BEST, creamiest yogurt ever!!! Very little water in it. Like sour cream thick.

    Was this really yogurt? If not, what was it? It didn’t taste like sour cream. It was sooooo delicious!!

    1. Hi Suzanne,
      Is it possible the Yogotherm is not heating correctly?

  37. Neila Bala says:

    I put my 2 tbsp yogurt in as a starter but when my pot was still 180 degrees.. I forgot. Is it ruined or do i add more starter once temperature drops to 110

    1. Neila,
      The latter. When milk cools down, add more starter. No harm done.

  38. Hello.

    My result was “runny yogurt” and I thought, well, i’ll just add some blueberries and it will be drinkable. It wasn’t until after that I realized that I hadn’t added my starter. Can I try again, even though it has blended blueberries throughout?

    1. If it still smells OK, it’s worth a try. I have never tried it with fruit already in it, but I’ve read that some people do.

  39. So we just made 2 quarts of yogurt. Uh, I mean milk. I reviewed the steps and one of two possible reasons that it didn’t thicken. (1) too much starter, or (2) the environment wasn’t warm enough. I was to try again – I’ve read your blog and have a question. If I reheat the mix to 100 degrees, do I add more started or just incubate the milk with the original starter that is already in the mix? Just wasn’t clear on whether I should reuse the yogurt milk as milk – or just reheat it as is and re-incubate? Thanks!

    1. Hi Regina,
      You should add a new starter. It’s possible that your starter is still good if the environment wasn’t warm enough. But if it was too hot at any point, the original starter would have been killed. Temperature problems are the most common cause of failure. It’s doubtful that the problem was too much starter. That can lead to poor quality but shouldn’t cause a fail. The problem could have been the starter itself. You might try a different brand of yogurt but make sure it is fresh and has no additives. Good luck. Let me know if you have more questions.

      1. Thanks so much for the speedy reply! I’ll report back 🙂

  40. we already repeat the process because our yogurt didn’t set as expected, it is still liquid and taste milk after culturing for 12 hours and put it in a refrigerator for an hour, that’s why we reheat it to 110degrees and add the starter again, then we store it again to remain 110degrees for 5hours but my bf put it in the refrigerator even though it’s still not set as a yogurt, the milk still in a good smell, what should we do? can we still make it as a yogurt?

    1. It smells good, but still liquid. can we reheat it for the 3rd time and reculture again? because there’s some little creamy or thick portion like dots.

      1. As long as it still smells good, I would try again. But I would recommend you do something different. Try a different starter. Check to make sure your temperatures are within the correct range during each step. Try a different method of incubation, perhaps. See this post.

  41. I tried making yoghurt the first time ever with raw milk, warmed it and added a powdered starter, kept the milk in a mason jar inside a cooler, I left it for 12 hours found a small layer of creamy thick substance at the top and below ha lot aof liquid milk smell and taste good. Can I restart the process

    1. If the milk still smells OK, yes. Try again.

      Did you heat the milk to 170 degrees F and let it cool back to 110 degrees F? That rearranges the proteins so they will coagulate into a thicker yogurt. Also, I suspect your cooler did not quite keep the yogurt warm enough. Did you check the heat with a thermometer? Just some ideas…

  42. If I heated then cooled the milk and forgot it and someonr else stuck it in the refrigerator, can I just reheat it to 100 or should I reheat to 185 and then cool to 100 again?

    1. Reheating to 100 degrees is sufficient. Hope it turns out for you. Usually works.

  43. Last night I forgot to put starter in my milk. And when I woke up it was already thickened and its texture was like yogurt but it doesn’t taste like yogurt. Should I just add my starter in it or what?

    1. Ali,
      I have not experienced this. However, if you are sure you didn’t add starter, I would throw it out. Sounds spoiled to me. Paula

    2. Purple unicorn says:

      No this is clobbered milk! It’s not bad!

  44. My batch looked like milk but was really thick and liquidy and smelled like yogurt what can i do

    1. You didn’t give me any details about your process. Are you sure all your temperatures were right? Did you follow my directions? What did you use for a starter? Regarding your current batch, you could chill it and use it in smoothies.

  45. Exact same scenario just happened to us, woke up realizing we hadn’t added the starter at all last night. The successful routine has been to heat it in a crock pot, then cool to 110, add starter, wrap in a towel overnight while it cools the rest of the way…
    The milk smells ok to us, so we’re a going to try again, but Question is, you write about microwaving to get it back to 100– do you think it’s fine for us to just reheat the batch in the crock pot it’s still in, which just takes more time…?
    Thanks,

  46. I’ve had good success with the progurt incubator. Perhaps my previous yogurt maker was less forgiving, but with the progurt I rarely get a bad batch. Of course the downside (other than the price) is that it makes a single big serving instead of small individual batches.

    What do you think of yogurt makers in general?

    Also do you know if it’s possible to make a kefir / yogurt concoction? In the morning, I usually drink a few ounces of store bought Kefir (Lifeway) mixed with a few tablespoons of my homemade yogurt. But I would love to somehow make Kefir together with the yogurt… unless the different types of bugs don’t play well together.

    1. Ben, Since you asked, yogurt makers,to me, are like training wheels for newbie yogurt makers. They usually work fine and success is pretty much assured if you follow the directions. My objections? Number 1,they aren’t nearly large enough for me as I use a gallon to a gallon and a half of milk every time I make yogurt. Number 2, the individual servings (if you’re using that kind) are worthless for making Greek yogurt, and that’s my thing. You would have to remove the yogurt from each container to strain it and then I guess you could pour it back into the cute little containers, but what a hassle. Number 3, you have to store it, and I don’t want to use my precious kitchen storage for that. Number 4, cleaning can be more complicated. Nothing easier than throwing my Pyrex pitchers in the dishwasher–and I use 2-3 each time I make yogurt. Number 5 is the cost, of course. If you have issues with keeping your temperatures regulated for incubation, I would be prone to buy an incubator (also good for proofing bread) instead of a yogurt maker.

      I have tried making kefir. Not my thing. Have never attempted what you suggest so can’t offer an opinion on that. Good luck. Thanks for writing.