Me and the kids visited some of our homesteading friends the other day, and they were telling me how they make their own yogurt. They explained how much cheaper it is than buying store bought containers, and that you don’t even have to have a yogurt maker to do it!
This whole time I thought I had to have some fancy machine to make the yogurt for me. So hearing how easy it is to actually make it, even from store bought milk, I thought I’d give it a shot.
Why You Should Make Homemade Yogurt
Yogurt has a ton of impressive health benefits. Not only is it loaded with beneficial bacteria (probiotics) that can improve your immune system and digestive functioning, but it’s also chock-full of protein and calcium, too.
Yogurt – whether conventional or Greek – is loaded with nutrients and is a healthy, low-calorie snack. Unfortunately, store-bought yogurt doesn’t always stack up to the homemade stuff.
First, poor-quality milk is often used to make commercial yogurt. The milk is generally produced from cows raised on concentrated animal feeding operations, so they may have health issues that are going to be transmitted to your yogurt, too.
Store-bought yogurts also tend to contain sugars, artificial sweeteners, thickeners, preservatives, flavors, and artificial colors, too. Really, all you need in yogurt is some milk and live probiotic cultures.
That’s it! Combine the health benefits with the ability to save a ton of money by making your own homemade yogurt, and doing so is truly a no-brainer.
Making in an Oven vs. Making in a Yogurt Maker
Whether you choose to make your yogurt in an oven or in a yogurt maker is entirely up to you. Some people prefer yogurt makers because then their stoves won’t be tied up for eight hours at a time.
I prefer to make mine in the oven because it doesn’t require extra equipment and plus, I can set it in the oven overnight when it will be less of an inconvenience.
Ingredients for Homemade Yogurt
My favorite thing about making homemade yogurt? You really don’t need any fancy ingredients or expensive equipment in order to get started! All you need is a half gallon of milk and a half cup of yogurt.
Your best options for milk will be whole or 2%. This will yield the thickest, creamiest yogurt possible. However, you can also use 1% or fat-free milk if that’s what you prefer.
Greek and regular yogurt can both be used, but you’ll want to use plain, unsweetened, and unflavored yogurt if possible. Some people even use raw milk – this is something that is hotly contested, but it’s up to you, if you think it’s worth it.
The one thing you definitely do need to do is select yogurt that has “live active yogurt cultures” in its ingredients’ list. These help convert the milk into yogurt.
There are thousands of different types of cultures out there, but some of the most common ones found in yogurt are L. Acidophilus and Bifidus.
As for equipment, you’ll just need a large pot with a lid. A Dutch oven is what I used, but you could really use any kind of container. The goal here is that it will keep the milk warm and at a steady temperature.
You can also use a dehydrator or a yogurt maker to keep things at a consistent temperature, but I prefer the low-maintenance approach myself!
Homemade Yogurt Recipe
- 1 qt. whole milk
- 3 tbsp plain yogurt
- I set my oven on the lowest setting it would go, which was 160 F (71 C).
- As the oven preheated, I mixed my ingredients well in a casserole dish. I covered the dish with foil.
- When the oven was ready, I turned it off and put my dish in to sit.
- It sat there all day, about 12 hours (I actually forgot that it was in there!). If you can, try to stir occasionally as you cook it. This will prevent the milk from boiling over and the bottom from scorching. This slow cooking is necessary, as it helps turn the milk into a solid instead of causing it to separate.
That night I pulled it out and it was nice and ready. It’s a little runnier than store bought, but that’s normal.
So, here’s the breakdown:
- Cost of the milk: $2.39/gallon = approx. $0.60 for the quart used
- Cost of the yogurt: $2.08/32 oz = approx. $.10 for the 3 Tbsp used
- Total cost of 1 qt. homemade yogurt = $.70!
- Cost of 1 qt. store bought yogurt = $2.08
So, we can definitely see that it’s much cheaper to make your own!!
Once you’re done enjoying your first batch of yogurt, make sure you save half a cup to use as a “starter” for the next batch.
You might notice some odd flavors in the yogurt after a few batches. It also might not culture as quickly. This means that outside bacteria is being harbored in your yogurt – or it can mean that the strain is weakening.
It will likely be safe to eat for one more go-around, but you may want to add some store-bought yogurt to get the cultures going again.
A few pointers for next time:
- Only buy a small cup of plain yogurt as your starter, instead of a huge one. Now I have an almost full container of store-bought yogurt, plus another quart of the homemade stuff! Guess we’ll be eating a lot of yogurt next week!
- Buy organic. It may cost a little more initially, but the homemade yogurt you end up with will still cost significantly less than continuing to buy store bought, and it will be better for you.
- You can combine your ingredients ahead of time or you can cook them separately. If you cook them separately, you will want to cook your milk until it is warm to the touch (around 113 degrees). As you’re cooking, stir it to prevent skin from forming.
- After cooking the milk, you’ll add it to the yogurt and let everything dissolve, whisking slowly to combine. Then you’ll cook again, putting the yogurt in the oven for four to twelve hours. The longer the yogurt stays in the oven, the thicker and more pungent it will become.
- Homemade yogurt lasts for around two weeks in the refrigerator. Some people freeze their leftover yogurt, but I don’t recommend doing this as it can cause it to separate.
If your milk temperature drops below 110 degrees, don’t worry! It’s still safe. It might take a bit longer to set up and be a bit looser in texture, but otherwise it will still be fine.
If you are like me and don’t like plain yogurt, you can sweeten it with sugar, honey, ripe fruit, or jelly.
Do you make your own homemade yogurt? I’d love to hear how you do it, and any tips you may have!
updated 03/25/2020 by Rebekah White