Make Your Own Yogurt

You can certainly use a yogurt maker though this “recipe” is for making it without one.  One word of caution if you DO use a yogurt maker, set the temperature (if you can control it), to no more than 110 degrees. Any higher will kill the bacteria you’re creating. It’s also best to let it culture for 24 hours to get maximum bacterial growth.

What You’ll Need

Milk (I’m a big advocate of whole milk for nutritional and taste reasons)
Yogurt (As the starter)*
A pot
A glass vessel
A tea cloth
Somewhere warm

Heat the milk in a pot to nearly the boiling point but not quite**. Turn it off and let it cool to about 100 degrees. (If you don’t have a thermometer, drop a bit on the inside of your wrist- it should feel slightly warm but not hot.)  Pour the cooled-down milk into a glass vessel. (I use a glass 4 cup-container. Mason jars also work well). Add about a tbsp of yogurt per cup of milk.  Wrap the vessel in a tea cloth. Place the vessel somewhere warm (no more than 110 degrees) and let it sit for 24 hours. (There are several options: inside the oven with only the pilot light on, on top of a radiator, next to a warm radiator pipe, near a warm window with sunlight coming in.  If you’re going with the oven option, be VERY careful not to let it get too warm as this will kill the bacteria.)

After 24 hours, it should be thickish but it won’t yet be super thick.  For that last thickening stage, put a lid on the jar and place it in the fridge over-night.  It may never get as thick as the stuff you’re used to.  That’s ok – many commercial yogurts contain thickeners and gums. Your yogurt, though a bit thinner, will have far more bacterial culture and flavor. If you want to get yours a bit thicker, strain it through a cheese cloth.

* Choose a high quality, plain unsweetened yogurt. The more probiotic strains listed in the ingredients, the better (ideally more than two).  I am not a fan of Fage which contains only the two basic yogurt strains.

** If you’re using raw milk, you do not need to heat it. Simply bring it to room temperature by letting it sit out.

Related Posts
Are You Pro-Life? (Everything You Need To Know About Probiotics)

  • Jamey

    Quick question. I’m getting ready to try this for the first time (yay!) but when you say ‘glass vessel’, can you give an example of something good? Like, can i use a pyrex 11×7 , for example? Or something closer to a sauce pan in shape, etc?


    • Michelle

      I use a glass pyrex storage “jar” that came with a plastic lid. It holds about 4 cups of milk. Mason jars also work well. Don’t use anything shallow, you want there to be at least 6 inches of depth and not too wide. So think more jar-like, and not “pan”. Don’t place a lid on the glass container when it’s culturing, just place a tea towel over it. But then when it’s cultured and you’re going to put it in the fridge, put a lid on it, and let it cool in the fridge with a lid.

      Hope that helps! Email me with any follow up Qs!

      • Jamey

        Got it. And thank you…this is super helpful. I’m truly enjoying this blog!

        • Ritalowe2

          what can I use instead of tea cloth.  I need to make yogurt unsweetened for my dog but the recipe above calls for adding yogurt to the milk and the only kind I seem to be able to find is got sugar in it.

          • Michelle Madden

            Most stores do sell a “Plain” yogurt that is unsweetened. If you dont see it on the shelves, ask, as I’d be surprised if a store (especially a larger one) didnt stock it. You can cover it with anything – paper towel, cling wrap, in fact you don’t really need to cover at all – I just do it to keep it warmer and to keep any dust out, but not 100% necessary.

  • Kelly


    I’m really interested in making my own yogurt since I’ve got two little girls who scarf it down.

    When you say to choose a high quality, unsweetened yogurt, how do I look for this? We’ve got the usual choices at our grocery stores – Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Giant. We do also have the farmer’s market. So, what exactly am I looking for on the label? I only ever buy the plain, whole fat yogurt.

    Also, then when I make it the second time, I just can use my own yogurt as the starter?

    Finally, how long does this last home made?



    • Michelle

      Look for a yogurt that has these ingredients: Milk and yogurt cultures (Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus). That’s all you need for yogurt! Avoid ones with thickeners or gums. If the yogurt has ADDITIONAL bacteria/cultures besides those two, even better. I would def get it at your farmers mkt vs the store, since they are more likely to have a more pure product that is likely to be fresher hence more alive bacteria. If you cant get it at the f-mkt then get it at TJ and WF but read the ingred to be sure there are no fillers.

      Yes, when you make the next batch you can use your own! Since it’s just live bacteria you’re adding to the milk.

      My homemade yogurt is rarely in the frdge for longer than a week (since it all gets eaten!) but it should last for several weeks – certainly much longer than milk. The whey will start to separate over time, but just stir it up. (But don’t toss the liquid whey as there are lots of good nutrients in it.)

      Are you going to be using a yogurt maker? If so do you know how hot it gets? It’s best if the yogurt never gets above 110 degrees in order to preserve the most bacteria, and many makers go well above this.

      If you want to read more about the probiotic benefits of yogurt, you might enjoy this post.

      Shoot me a note anytime if more questions come up!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Michelle!

    First I’d like to thank you for all of the time and information you put into this blog. I have learned so much already and you continue to open my eyes to understanding food and new ways to keep ingredients and meals “home-made.” You present your opinions and knowledge in such a way that encourages health and creativity in my kitchen.

    So, i just completed my second (first successful) attempt at yogurt. I am super excited about it, but I was wondering if you have any tips for making the yogurt more sour? Mine is good, just sweeter than I’d like.

    Thank you so much, again, for everything!

    • Michelle Madden

      It’s the lactic acid that gets created in the yogurt that makes it taste sour, so what you might try is simply allowing it to ferment longer. I culture mine for about 24 hours by leaving it next to a warm radiator.

      Another thought (this is going to sound crazy but keep reading ) is to allow the milk to sour slightly…I was using raw milk and it was about 2 days past its “tastes good” date and I couldn’t bear to throw it out, so I made yogurt out of it. Best I’ve ever made and the slightly sour milk make it really sour.

      So that would be my reco: slightly less fresh milk and a longer culture period.

      See if that helps!

  • anyaesther

    I love to make my own yogurt and have never used a yogurt maker. A great tip that I got for determining when the milk has cooled down enough, is that you should be able to stick your pinky in it for 10 seconds without getting burned. I usually have pretty good results, though every once in a while a batch doesn’t turn out for some mysterious reason. Any thoughts?
    Also, thanks for the tip about not covering it with a lid while it ferments. Looking forward to trying that.

    • Michelle Madden

      My batches are all quite different as well mainly b/c I use an inconsistent radiator as yogurt maker … The variances could be caused by several things, 1)how much starter you use (if it’s too watery, you might be using too little), 2)the temp when it’s culturing and the extent to which the temp varies during culturing (I find if its not warm enough it never gets thick enough), 3) total culture time (I culture for about 24 hours (which I find both thickens it more as well as delivers a more bacteria rich yogurt) and 4) time in fridge ( I let it set in the fridge for another few hours – too little and it will still be watery.)

      What I also do if it’s particularly watery, is each time I serve myself the yogurt, I scoop off some of the whey that’s settled on the top which then thickens the remaining yogurt.

      I’m not sure how much the no-lid during fermenting affects it but I never have one on – just a porous cloth.

  • clare

    Do I really need to heat it to near boiling first?  I like making yogurt, but wish i didn’t have to heat it to almost boiling and then cool it down (especially in my hot summer kitchen with no AC!). I’m wondering if i use pasteurized milk, from a new container, then why do i need to reheat it since it was already heated when it was pasteurized….Its very tough to get raw milk, which for some reason you say doesn’t need to be heated (more beneficial bacteria?) although i can get unhomogenized farmer’s market milk, but it is still pasteurized.
    Any ideas as to whether there is any risk in not almost boiling the milk first would be appreciated!

    • Michelle Madden

      It doesn’t need to be super hot, heating it to “warm” is fine, even room temp will do. I’m not 100% sure why raw milk seems to not need to be heated, then again, I do know that some people who use raw milk DO heat it, so I dont think there are any strict rules on this, but I do find if the milk (of any type) is very cold when you start, it will be a bit harder for the cultures to get started. The only two things you need for sure to make yogurt, are 1) cultures and 2) a fair bit of consistent warmth during the culture period.

  • Malapia

    I make sweet yogurt by adding 1/2 cup (less if you want) sugar into the milk (1 liter) while it is being heated. Then to make vanilla flavour, I will add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Ifit is the fruit yogurt, I will ommit the sugar in the yogurt and make the yoghurt first. Then chop up mango or pineapply, what ever fruit you want to use. Stew this first with sugar to taste and then stir it in to the yogurt that is made. You can adjust the sugar to your liking and depending on the sweetness of the fruit you use.

    To make a thicker version of yogurt I will add 2 tablespoons of dry powdered milk stiring it in to the milk while it is been heated.

    Homemade cottage cheese is also great. After the yogurt is made (plain yogurt) place it ina cheese cloth and leave it in the refregirator to drain by placing it in a sieve and a bowl to catch the whey. After 2 to 3 hours you will cottage cheese.

  • Shaun

    Hi there. What can i use as a starter if i don’t have any yoghurt