Grainy Yogurt: How To Avoid It with Homemade Yogurt

Home » Grainy Yogurt: How To Avoid It with Homemade Yogurt

Sneak Preview: Grainy yogurt is something most homemade yogurt makers find undesirable. Learn what can cause it and how to avoid it.

two batches of yogurt one is grainy and one is not.
LEFT: Smooth yogurt RIGHT: Grainy yogurt

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Did you find grainy yogurt when you checked your homemade yogurt at the end of incubation? I feel your disappointment. While it may taste alright, it’s probably not what you were going for.

I’ve encountered grainy yogurt myself. It’s frustrating, and unfortunately, I don’t have all the answers. But, based on my experience, I’ve figured out one reason for sure and some other possibilities.

Recently, I made a batch of yogurt using a different starter. Despite using the same method, my yogurt turned out grainy. When I complained, my daughter-in-law said that sometimes hers was also grainy.

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Both of us thought our yogurt still tasted good. We talked and compared our yogurt-making processes. It seemed like our starter might be the culprit. Here are my conclusions from my unscientific investigation.


Five possible answers to the question, “What made my homemade yogurt grainy?”

Let’s talk about the possibilities.


Why you should avoid a starter with additives:

a comparison of six batches in which three turned out grainy and three did not.
The three spoons at the bottom are grainy, apparently due to additives in the yogurt used as a starter.

The results of my unscientific experiment:

In the picture above, the ingredient label for each starter (store-bought yogurt purchased locally) claims to have “live active yogurt cultures.” All made yogurt successfully.

Note that the yogurt shown on the bottom three spoons contained additives.

  • Lower left: inulin (a type of fiber) and pectin (The Greek God’s nonfat plain Greek yogurt)
  • Lower middle: pectin (Krogers nonfat, plain yogurt)
  • Lower right: corn starch and gelatin (Braum’s low-fat yogurt)

The smooth and creamy yogurt on the top three spoons originated with the following starters:

  • Upper left: Fage nonfat yogurt
  • Upper middle: Stonyfield nonfat yogurt
  • Upper left: My homemade yogurt that had been in the freezer for at least six months

The moral of the story??

When using commercially produced yogurt as a starter, stick to yogurt with live cultures, but NO additives. If you’re already using yogurt without additives, try a different brand.


Using too much starter:

I addressed this issue in another post entitled “How Much Starter Should You Use To Make Yogurt?”. Using too much starter can cause a lumpy texture and a lot of whey, especially when combined with a long incubation period.

yogurt on the left was made with lots of starter; right with very little starter
Left: Homemade yogurt made with too much starter. Right: Homemade yogurt with a tiny amount of starter.

Poorly mixed starter:

When adding a starter yogurt to heated milk (then cooled back to 100-110˚F), it’s important to stir the starter into the milk thoroughly. Use a good whisk.

Failure to do this can create hot spots where too many yogurt bodies hang out in clumps. I usually see this on the bottom of my yogurt-making container when I pour out the yogurt.

Overheating the milk:

Overheating the milk can cause graininess. Avoid boiling at all costs, and be careful not to heat the milk over 190˚F (88˚C). It’s only necessary to heat to 170˚.

Heating the milk too fast:

Unless you use the cold-start method of making yogurt, you must heat milk to 170-180˚F. (The primary purpose of heating the milk is not so much to kill bacteria as it is to reorganize the milk proteins to make thicker yogurt.) Some claim that heating the milk too fast during this process will cause gritty or grainy yogurt.

I have been unable to reproduce this when making yogurt at home. No matter how fast I heat it, my yogurt has not turned out grainy or gritty as long as I don’t overheat it.


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Frequently asked questions about grainy yogurt:

My yogurt looks grainy, but I don’t feel anything on my tongue.

This is typical for grainy yogurt. Those grains or lumps can be so small that your tongue can’t detect them. If you don’t like the grainy look, you can try using an immersion blender to give your yogurt a smoother consistency. However, this action is a bit harsh and may result in thinner yogurt.

Does it matter if my starter comes to room temperature before adding it to the milk?

I’ve noticed some bloggers instruct their readers to let their starter culture come to room temperature. After making yogurt for 15 years, I have never found a good reason to do this. Little yogurt bodies don’t seem to mind jumping straight from the fridge into the warm milk, just like my grandkids who don’t mind jumping straight into the pool before they become accustomed to the water temperature. I’m always amazed!

Does it matter if I use Greek yogurt or regular yogurt as a starter?

No. The only difference between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt is that Greek yogurt has had 25-50% of the whey or liquid strained out of it. So even if you use Greek yogurt as a starter, you will need to strain the new batch to make Greek yogurt.

Is grainy yogurt safe to eat?

Ask yourself three questions: Does it smell good? Does it look OK (no mold)? Does it taste good? If the answer is yes, I would feel safe eating it. If you are uncertain, I would throw it out. Better safe than sorry.

If the only thing wrong with your yogurt is the grittiness, serve it with granola, and nobody will know the difference.

Can I use grainy or gritty yogurt as a starter to make more yogurt?

No. I would eat it or throw it out, but don’t use it to make more yogurt. The grainy yogurt will make more grainy yogurt, depending on how much starter you use. It’s best to use a new starter for your next batch.


If you are still trying to perfect your method for making yogurt at home, and need a good recipe with detailed instructions, check out the video below.

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

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42 Comments

  1. This is crazy but I have the same thing happen to me every once in a while, and I always use FAGE nonfat yogurt for my starter. I have found it seems to make a difference what temperature you heat your milk too and for how long.
    When I heat my milk to 180 degrees it’s grainy, when I hear it to 190 and keep it there for 5-10 minutes it’s smooth.
    This has worked for me, anyway.

    1. Hi Michelle,
      I haven’t heard that one, but if it works for you, keep doing it. Thanks for writing.

    2. Rose-Marie says:

      @Michelle, Eight years behind in this thread. I have had miserable with FAGE yogurt as a starter…HORRIBLE graininess and none of the wonderful tartness we love from yogurt. To all the readers in 2022, it’s possible FAGE has changed its recipe since 2013? I’ve had beautiful results with other brands of plain yogurt starters, but it’s getting very hard to find plain yogurt in all but quart tubs at the neighborhood grocer’s.

  2. I like that idea to put the cobbler in the yogurt. I usually put a spoonful of strawberry or raspberry jam in mine, or lately I’ve been liking maple syrup. Since switching from making regular yogurt to the Greek yogurt, Allen has started eating it. That strainer is worth every penny! I usually use Fage for starter, but it’s been several months since I’ve had to buy any.

    1. So glad to hear you like the strainer. It’s a hard sell but serious yogurt makers won’t regret it.

  3. Sandy Coughlin says:

    Homemade yogurt?! You are a rock star. So healthy and delicious!

  4. The question here is moot for me.

    What I have done to solve this problem is to put the yogurt in a blender after straining. It removes all the graininess. Makes for a predictable product.

  5. Since I read this awhile ago…..I switched to Stonyfield yogurt for starter and just 3 T. instead of a bunch! Perfect yogurt everytime! Love it! Thanks for the tips!

  6. I’ve been trying desperately to make my own yogurt, and it comes out grainy EVERY time. I’ve varied my heating and incubating times and techniques, to no avail. But I’ve been using the same starter for each batch. I’ll pick up some Fage today and see if that does the trick. I also may have been using too much starter. Another question, though. I read your cheat sheet. When you heat the milk in your microwave, you say it takes 17 min? What power level is that at? I tried heating about 1c of milk on high and after three minutes, it foamed over the whole bowl and was over 200 degrees.

    I am a great cook and baker, but apparently when it comes to fermentation, I am helpless!

  7. I’ve been trying desperately to make my own yogurt, and it comes out grainy EVERY time. I’ve varied my heating and incubating times and techniques, to no avail. But I’ve been using the same starter for each batch. I’ll pick up some Fage today and see if that does the trick. I also may have been using too much starter. Another question, though. I read your cheat sheet. When you heat the milk in your microwave, you say it takes 17 min? What power level is that at? I tried heating about 1c of milk on high and after three minutes, it foamed over the whole bowl and was over 200 degrees. I am a great cook and baker, but apparently when it comes to fermentation, I am helpless!

  8. I have the graininess too and use full fat organic jersey milk and st. Benoit yogurt to start and it’s just real organic cream and starter, no other ingredients. But when I use lo fat milk it was fine.
    But on a different note, I read quite some time ago that for the good bacteria to stay alive (since that’s why most eat yogurt) that you should never whip, stir hard, blend or freeze yogurt. If you do you still have a tasty high protein meal but it doesn’t have the live bacteria.

    1. Darlene,
      One possible reason for graininess is overheating your milk. Do you use a thermometer? Don’t recommend going over 180 F. Just a thought.

      About the “whip, stir hard, blend or freezing” of yogurt: I disagree. None of these processes will kill the live bacteria. To prove it, just try using the yogurt that has been frozen, whipped, or stirred hard as a starter. Assuming you haven’t killed the bacteria with too much heat along the way, you can use it to make lots more yogurt which proves the bacteria are still alive. I do it ALL the time. It will change the texture but it should not kill the yogurt.

  9. Thanks for this post! I have been making yogurt off and on for a couple years and have always had a bit of the grainy texture you explained. I assumed that was what homemade yogurt was like! Off to Whole Foods tomorrow to buy some good quality yogurt!

    1. Desiree,
      I hope that works for you. I have also discovered that heating your milk to a temperature much over 175 degrees F. can also result in graininess. Just FYI.

  10. Thanks, this was really helpful. I noticed sometimes my yogurt comes out creamy, sometimes grainy, but I hadn’t thought about additives. I saw on another message board people were saying it could be from starter that is too old, but I’ve noticed I get the grainy texture using fresh store-bought yogurt as a starter, whereas my grand baby starter was making nice smooth yogurt.

    BTW, when I strain my yogurt, I freeze some of the whey in ice cube trays and use that as starter. It has been working great!

    1. Adel,
      Your comment made me smile. Lots of strange information on the net about making yogurt. One of my goals has been to expose some of the myths. I have discovered another reason for a grainy texture, just FYI. Overheating the milk will also do it. When the cook forgets or loses track of the milk temp and lets it get over 190 or 200 degrees, even boiling, the result can also be the dreaded grainy texture.

      1. You know, it’s funny you mention it, the last time I made yogurt (before the last time that was grainy) I accidentally left it on the stove and it simmered for awhile and even browned a little. It was NOT grainy, though! I was totally surprised!

        1. Hi Adel,
          Interesting observation. There are so many factors involved in homemade yogurt that it is difficult to troubleshoot in anything more than generalities. Milk can be so different depending on brand, age and fat content. Then there are a million different ways to prepare and incubate the yogurt. And then there is the starter. Oh my. I’m just glad you are making and enjoying delicious yogurt.

  11. Kevin Chege says:

    Hello
    I have a solution for all who yogurt turns out grainy or gritty. Assuming you have good milk, culture and you incubate at the correct temperature, the major cause of grainy gritty yogurt is the pasteurization process . its a tricky balance of time and temperature. it you heat too much it becomes grainy and not enough it’s runny. Yogurt thickens when proteins are able to hold water, and this happens when the proteins are denatured. pasteurization happens below 72 celcius. the reason Yogurt goes beyond is to denature the proteins. The more you heat the more proteins are denatured and if you go beyond the proteins disintegrate and enlarge can’t hold water, causing grainy yogurt.

    Please try my advice keenly and you will b suprised with the result. it has costed me hundreds liters of milk to get to this.
    I advice you get a thermometer.

    Heat the milk on top of a double pot with the one below having water. As you continuously stir bring the milk to 85 Celsius. put off the heat and let the milk hold with it’s own heat for 5-8 min.(at this stage we are ensuring all proteins denature but careful not to overheat) cool the milk rapidly,you can place the milk pot in ice water. at 45celcius stir in the culture and incubate as usual.

    Hope this is helpful

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for writing and sharing your excellent scientific description of the process. As you may know, I recommend a thermometer for anyone who has not made a lot of yogurt.

  12. Hi Paula.
    I make my yogurt with powered fat filled milk. Though i don’t use thermometer but i don’t let my water boil yet i keep having grainy texture.

  13. Hmmmm. I’ve had a couple of batches grainy. My last one was and it could be that I heated too quickly. Heated to 185 then cooked to 100. Added chobani low fat yogurt as starter and out it in my maker and that was it. Haven’t use chobani as a starter before. Used tillamook and Nancy’s organic. Sigh. But I did use a different double boiler this time so probably the speed of heating. What do you think

    1. Hi Linda,
      I rather doubt if it was the speed of heating. I heat in the microwave and it works perfectly as long as I don’t mess up some other part of the process. Two reasons I know of for graininess are additives in your starter and heating the milk over 200 degrees. Personally, I heat only to 170-175 F. There may be and probably are other reasons I’m not aware of. Although Chobani appears not to have any additives, you might go back to the starter that has worked for you in the past.

  14. Thanks so much for clearing this up for me. I had been using my own whey as a starter and the last couple batches had turned out sort of “gooey” so I thought it was time for new starter. I checked the label and sure enough, my starter contained inulin and pectin. Now I can stop retracing my steps trying to figure out what I did wrong!

    1. Hi Jodi,

      Gooey and grainy are different in my book. But the solution is similar. Use a new or different starter. I am working on a post about gooey yogurt right now. The answer to gooey yogurt is to get more yogurt from the store to use as a starter. I plan to publish a post about the causes of gooey yogurt in the next 2-3 weeks. Meanwhile, your best bet is to start over with a new starter every 3-4 batches.

  15. Marilyn Grisham says:

    I make 2 gal of milk into yogurt about every 6 to 8 weeks. Today I pulled the dehydrator off the shelf for my todays batch and found a surprise qt jar of yogurt still in the dryer! I cautiously took off the lid and found what looked like perfectly acceptable yogurt in the jar – no mold, odor or spoiled look. It was at room temperature for about 6 to 8 weeks in the store room.
    What to do?

    1. That is quite a surprise. Just to be safe, I would not recommend eating it. Can’t believe there is no pink mold around the edges.

  16. I find that my yoghurt gets grainy when the heat is too high.

    1. Thanks for your input Julie. It hasn’t happened to me like that, but it’s something to consider.

  17. This post was very helpful. Thank you! I just made my yogurt using 2 quarts Fairlife Whole milk and 2T Fage nonfat Greek yogurt. It smells yogurty and is thick but has a grainy texture. After reading your article I tested my IP yogurt boil temp and it heats to 186 6 (using water). Is 2T Fage too much for 2 quarts milk?

    I used an Instant Pot Duo60, yogurt setting. Step 1: pasteurize milk by pressing Yogurt and then adjust until it displays boil. There was a skin on top which sank back in when I tried to remove it.
    Step 2: cooled in an ice bath down to around 90 (my bad-but but does this cause any problems?),
    Step 3: stirred Fage into a cup of the warm milk, whisked back in, set IP to Yogurt 9 hours (but stopped it 8.5). Spoon stayed upright. Lots of bubbles on surface.
    Step 4: stirred and it looked curdled and grainy, spooned into sterile jars and refrigerated. Looks great after cooled but still grainy.

    1. Hi Lisa,

      You do not need to heat ultra-filtered milk (that’s what Fairlife is) to 180˚ before using it to make yogurt. Just place the cold milk into your Instant Pot after you have stirred in your yogurt starter and press the Yogurt button. I suspect the high heat is the cause of the graininess. This only applies to ultra-filtered milk like Fairlife. Regular pasteurized and ultra-pasteurized milk needs to be heated just like you described.

      2 tablespoons of starter is more than I use but not excessive. Doubt if that is the cause of graininess but it could contribute. See this post about how much starter you really need.

      For what it’s worth, heating the starter (Step 3) is unnecessary although many people like to do it. It doesn’t cause a problem, but it takes more time and adds one more step.

      Did you taste your yogurt? Sometimes yogurt looks grainy but it does not taste grainy on your tongue. If this is the case, give it a little whip with an immersion blender and the “grainy texture” will mostly disappear.

      I never incubate my yogurt over about 5 (sometimes 6) hours. A longer incubation leads to a more sour taste (which some prefer) and a more curdled appearance. When curdled, strain off the whey (for a couple of hours) and whisk for a smooth and thicker texture.

      Lisa, I hope this helps. Thank you for sending a detailed description of your process. That made troubleshooting so much easier. Good luck with your next batch.

    2. Hi Lisa pls can you do a test with powdered milk. What temperature and how do we not get the grainy feel

  18. Charlotte says:

    Hi Paula. I’ve been making my own yogurt off & on for the last 40 years. I just started again a year ago. About 6 months ago I started using Organic Valley Ultra 2% Lactose Free milk. It was a lark, I only read higher protein, less sugar. After straining I add some whey back in & mix with my hand mixer. It’s creamy & smooth. In all this time I have not needed to use a new starter. I just keep using some of the last batch. I usually cover the new batch with plastic wrap & stick it in the oven with the oven light on, usually over night. It’s always perfect.

    Thanks for the articles. They gave me many ideas. I just wanted yogurt without all the sugar & who knows what else is in the commercial yogurt. It’s so easy to make & so tasty.

    1. I’m so glad to hear this Charlotte. As long as starter from your own yogurt keeps making good batches, there’s no reason to change. Don’t you find it satisfying to make perfect yogurt? I love it! Thanks for writing.

  19. Can you use grainy yogurt as a starter? If so, will the new batch be grainy? Can yogurt be frozen? Can the thawed frozen yogurt be used as a starter or does freezing kill the live cultures? Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Sabina,

      In my experience, you will get grainy yogurt if you use a grainy starter. Yogurt can be frozen, but it will affect the texture. Thawed frozen yogurt can be used as a starter as long as it’s not too old. I have done it successfully after freezing the starter for up to 2 months but your results may vary. Yogurt cultures seem to have a limited life span that you can prolong only so much without feeding them.

    2. @Paula,

      Hello!

      My case is really stressing me out i sell yogurt and parfait and i’ve always made the best yogurt in my field , smooth thick and creamy like butter, but then suddenly using the same technique and same process everytime i make yogurt now it turns out grainy, I use powdered milk i use water to liquify it then i slowly bring up the heat to 180- 185f then cool down to 113 add starter and i get smooth yogurt after 4 hours, i also sometimes use hot water pour the powdered milk into it stir and let it sit till it cools down to 113 add starter still smooth yogurt i’ve done this more than 100 times over two year but then now i’m having this grainy texture, i use yogurmet starter i activate it myself and use my own yogurt subsequently i’m so frustrated, i was thinking it’s too much starter but No even when its a little its still grainy, i tried incubating at 105f still grainy I Need Help!!!

      1. Hi Vivian,
        I don’t know all the answers to grainy yogurt. But one thing I’ve learned from my experience: grainy yogurt starter begets grainy yogurt. I recommend you purchase a new starter ASAP and start over again. It’s possible that something (wild yeast?) has interfered with the delicate balance of the live cultures in your starter.

        As I sit here pondering the possibilities, I have questions: Is it possible that you changed brands of milk? (Or maybe you should try a different brand just to check.) Are you certain your thermometer is accurate? I’m just trying to think of anything that could have changed without you realizing it.

        Hope this helps. I can hear the panic in your voice and I don’t blame you. I would love to know how this finally works out.

  20. My experience has been completely different. I always use Yogourmet freeze-dried starter, Fairlife milk and creamer. If I use Fairlife creamer, I get the creamiest thickest yogurt you could ever hope for. Most of the other creamers give me grainy yogurt. So I think there are a couple of factors at play.

    1. Hi Brenda,
      Thanks so much for writing. I have never used any creamers in my yogurt so I can’t speak to that. In this post, I’m referring to using commercial yogurt as a starter that has thickeners added, like inulin. Additives are often found in the cheaper yogurts to save money. As long are the creamer you use doesn’t have similar additives I would think you are fine. I looked up the Fairlife creamer and it did not list any thickeners. Unfortunately, it sounds like the creamer product has been discontinued. Are you still able to buy it?

      I’ll freely admit there could be other factors at play. I’m just saying that those thickening agents I referred to seem to be one cause, for sure. p.s. I like the freeze-dried starter, too. That’s all I use these days.

  21. I came here by searching about yogurt grittiness. Just made my first batch in instant pot but I made it overnight and left it in the pot few hours too long. It is sour but I added honey and berries and walnuts and it was good. just made a batch of yougurt smoothie with fresh and sweetened strawberries. Added half a scoop of unsweetened vanilla protein powder and it taste awesome!
    I am old fashion cook and former chef and make things the old fashion way from scratch so the instant pot cooking is new to me but it does work. I can make cheeses and cured meats and I have no idea why I never made yogurt from scratch. I am sold and will experiment with next batches.
    Thank you for all the info and suggestions!!!

    1. Congratulations on your first successful batch. You’ll be hooked in no time.