How to make Yogurt
Homemade Vanilla Bean Yogurt Recipe
Making yogurt at home is not as difficult as you might think. Learning how to make yogurt is as easy as simmering a pot of milk, stirring in a yogurt culture and setting it in a yogurt maker on the counter to culture.
Once you have learned how to make yogurt at home then you can try your hand at adding ingredients to come up with your own yogurt recipes like this easy to make Vanilla Bean Yogurt recipe that I made.
Disclosure: All product links in this post are affiliate links.
I have been making homemade yogurt for a few years now. I started out making it without a yogurt maker. There are a number of ways that you can make yogurt at home without a yogurt maker (affiliate link). When I first started out I read everything I could find on making homemade yogurt and found the best method that worked for me by trial and error.
How is yogurt made?
To make yogurt you only need 2 ingredients. Milk and a yogurt culture.
Most things you read about making yogurt or any cultured dairy food that starts out with milk or cream is that you can not make it with an ultra pasteurized dairy product. All dairy products that are bought in the grocery store has been ultra pasteurized. I have made yogurt and homemade creme fraiche with ultra pasteurized milk and whipping cream so many times that I can’t even count the times.
If you have attempted to make homemade yogurt and it did not cultured or thickened more than likely the problem was that it did not culture under the proper temperature for the correct amount of time.
To make homemade yogurt you warm milk to about 185 degrees and bring it down to about 110 degrees. You then add either a yogurt culture that you have bought or you use a container of store-bought yogurt with live cultures. Most yogurt bought in the store has active live cultures. Some brands have more than others and will result in a thicker homemade yogurt more like greek yogurt. A trick to get a thicker yogurt is to also add a little powdered milk to the pot while heating the milk.
How I make a perfect batch of homemade yogurt:
Everyone has their own method of yogurt making. This is the method I use and have used many many times.
- YoLifeYogurt Maker
- 1/2 gallon Horizon whole milk, room temp
- commercial yogurt starter or 1 small container of Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt, room temp
- 2 tablespoons instant nonfat dry milk (the secret to a thick homemade yogurt)
- instant read or candy thermometer
- 1 vanilla bean
Since I was using my new Yo-Life Yogurt Maker I measured six cups of milk from the 1/2 gallon. The Yo-Life Yogurt Maker comes with 7 small glasses that you pour the cultured milk into then set in the yogurt maker to incubate. 1/2 gallon of yogurt was too much and I didn’t want to end up with leftover cultured milk so I measured the amount of liquid those glasses would take to fill.
Normally I would start with the entire 1/2 gallon of milk . Before I bought the YoLife Yogurt maker I had been using a very old vintage yogurt maker I bought at the thrift store. It was literally from the 70’s based on the pictures on the box. It did its job very well and the glass yogurt cups that came with it were big enough to use the entire 1/2 gallon of milk.
One of the reasons I bought the YoLife yogurt maker over other brands of yogurt makers that I was looking at is because it comes with two lids. A small one that fits perfectly over the small jars that came with it. And a larger, taller lid so you can culture larger batches of yogurt in taller jars like mason jars.
I only took a few pictures because I didn’t plan on writing this post on yogurt making until I posted a photo of the yogurt on my facebook page and a few people wanted to know how I made it.
I also didn’t plan on writing a review of the YoLife Yogurt Maker but after making yogurt just once in it I was very impressed. Normally it can take as long as 12 hours to properly set a batch of yogurt. After only 4 hours in the YoLife yogurt maker I felt my yogurt was thick enough and turned it off. My yogurt had a light tangy flavor. Sometimes I feel like a tangier yogurt . Since I was testing out this yogurt maker for the first time I decided to stop there and chill the yogurt. I did taste a spoonful and liked the way it tasted. It tasted even better after it was chilled. Next time I will let it go for 6 hours to compare the flavor.
Cooking the milk
Add the Horizon milk and the powdered milk to a pot, Split and scrape the vanilla beans and add it to the pot. Heat over medium heat until it reaches 185 degrees. Occasionally stir it so the milk does not scorch. Remove it from the hot burner and let it cool down to 110 degrees.
Remove and discard the vanilla bean.
In a small bowl mix the entire container of Dannon yogurt with a ladle full of the warm milk. Pour it into the pot and stir the milk and yogurt gently to incorporate..
If using a yogurt maker to make your homemade yogurt:
Carefully ladle the milk and yogurt culture into the yogurt maker jars. As you fill them place them on a towel or paper towels. Once all the jars are full wipe them down if any milk has dripped down the sides as you were filling them. Place all the jars in the yogurt maker and process per manufacturer’s instructions.
Making homemade yogurt without a yogurt maker:
There are a few ways to incubate homemade yogurt without a yogurt maker. I have tried two and been successful.
Oven light method of making yogurt:
When you begin heating the milk turn your oven light on and keep the oven door closed. Once the hot milk has cooled down to 110 degrees and you have added the yogurt culture (remove the vanilla bean if using) cover the pot with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Wrap a towel around the pot and place it inside the oven. Drape another towel over the top of the pot. Close the oven door and do not open the door for at least 8 hours. After 8 hours remove the top towel and plastic or aluminum foil and take a peek. Jiggle the pot to see if the yogurt is thick and pulled away from the sides of the pot. If it is still loose and water re-wrap and return it to the warm oven and leave it for another 4 hours.
This method worked many times for me and my yogurt always set up. The inconvenience comes when and if you will need to use your oven. Plan to not use the oven during the 12 hours your yogurt is culturing. You can not take it out and put it back in the oven after cooking in it. The change in temperature will cause the yogurt to not thicken and after cooking in the oven it will be too hot to return the yogurt to it. The heat will kill the yogurt cultures.
After the 12 hours pour off most of the whey that has formed and spoon the yogurt into containers.
Heating pad method of making yogurt:
Again after mixing in the yogurt culture and removing the vanilla bean. Place the pot on top of a heating pad in a warm area of your kitchen. Wrap the pot in the same method used in the previous method. Let the yogurt culture for 8-12 hours. Pour off most of the whey and spoon into containers and store in the refrigerator.
For all methods of homemade yogurt making store in the refrigerator and consume within a week to 10 days.
You can use 1/2 cup of your homemade yogurt to culture the next batch of homemade yogurt you plan to make.
Note on making homemade yogurt:
I have tried many combinations of milk and yogurt brands to make homemade yogurt. For some reason Horizon whole milk and Dannon Oikos Greek Yogurt have given me the best results time after time. Using a lower fat content milk will yield a thinner yogurt.