Homemade: Yogurt

As you may have figured out by now one of my frugal heroes (heroine, I guess) is Kristen aka The Frugal Girl.  One of the things I love about her blog are the ideas for things you can make yourself rather than buying from the store.  I love the idea of a better quality product to feed my family that I made with my own two hands.

Outside of yeast bread, homemade yogurt was one of the first homemade items I attempted on my own.  And I must say, it turned out fab. u. lous.

Now I make my yogurt sweetened and with vanilla.  Then we can serve it straight from the jar and over fruit without having to add to it.  Or we can sweeten it a bit more with just a touch o’ honey. 

But you can make yours plain.  Or partially sweeten it.  Or just add vanilla.  Or do what ever the heck you want so that you love it.

And I used to always make it with whole milk.  But recently I started making it with skim.  However since skim won’t set up as good as whole, I add unflavored gelatin to make it thicker.  I personally like it both ways.  Whole is of course creamier, but I like the skim a lot too, and of course it is more calorie-friendly.

So here is how I make homemade yogurt.

Equipment you will need

First, for a half-gallon’s worth of yogurt, you’ll need about 3 sterilized jars that hold about 24 oz. (or 4 cups or 2 pints) each.  Or use two larger jars that each old 36 oz. each.  Or one large jar that holds 72 oz.  You get the point.  I use old jelly or spaghetti sauce jars.  And I just run them through the dishwasher before using them.

You’ll also need a cooler that will hold said jars after they’re filled.

And you’ll want a couple of pots to heat and/or microwave the milk and water.

And finally, just a simple instant read thermometer.  Just the $5 kind.


The only ingredients you really need are milk and a yogurt “starter”.  If you want, you can add sugar and vanilla, and if you prefer to use a less fattening milk and still want thick yogurt you’ll want a packet of unflavored gelatin.


First, start by heating the milk to 180 to 190 degrees.  You can do this in a pot on the stove or in the microwave.  I’ve done both with good results on each.  I’ve found cold milk from the fridge will need about 18 minutes or so in the microwave to get to 185 degrees.  It will take just about as long, if not a bit longer, to heat it on the stove over medium-low heat (to avoid scorching the milk).

After the milk reaches the 180 to 190 degrees, set it either on the counter or in a sink filled with cold water to cool it down to 120 degrees.  Needless to say on the counter will take longer, but either method works fine.

Once the milk has reached 120 degrees, add in your starter.  Whisk it in real good to ensure all those bacterias get mixed evenly into the milk. 

If this is your first time making yogurt just buy a good quality plain (or vanilla if you want to sweeten yours) yogurt from the store.  I just happened to get a Yoplait Greek yogurt this time around, but  yours does not have to be Greek-style.

If you already have homemade yogurt (or some already opened yogurt) in the fridge you can use that, as long as you haven’t dipped in the jar, taken a bite, and put the spoon back in.  The bacteria from our mouths will kill the good bacterias in yogurt, and you need all those bacterias to make the yogurt. 

And if you want to add any “extras”, now is the time to do it as well. 

I usually add around 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sugar for a half-gallon of milk.  It keeps the yogurt a bit on the tangy side still, but since my kids like to add honey regardless of whether the yogurt is already sweet or not, I don’t want to overdo the sugar. 

I also add about 2 TBSP vanilla.  I just like the flavor it gives.

And if I’m making skim milk yogurt I add one packet of unflavored gelatin.  The boxes I buy come with 4 little packets, so I just use one of those little packets.

Then pour the milk into your jars.  I find using a funnel helps immensly if you have one.  If you don’t just try a ladle.  Either way, be careful, you do NOT want hot milk all over your kitchen.  Not a fun mess to clean up.

Skim off any bubbles on top, if you wish.  It just makes it look nicer and you can get the jars nice and full if you’re low on jar space.

Screw lids onto the jars, place the jars in a cooler, and add about a gallon or so of water that has been heated to about 120 degrees.  I usually am heating the water on the stove concurrently with the milk, but keep it at a very low temp. 

Close the lid to the cooler.  Let it sit for at least 3 hours, although I’ve let mine sit up to 7 with no ill effects.  I think especially for the less fattening milks you want to let it sit for a while so it sets up okay.  After the allotted time remove the jars from the cooler and move them to the refrigerator.

This is (hopefully) what your yogurt will look like. 

Just serve…

…and enjoy!

For other directions, more pictures, and lots of great comments about various ways to make yogurt, check out The Frugal Girls’ post on yogurt.

Have you made homemade yogurt before?  How do you make it?  Do you make it plain or do you add extras?


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