Honest Fare

Pretty Provisions and Notes from the Kitchen

Making Yogurt.

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Making Yogurt., Honest Fare by Gabrielle Arnold

I don’t eat a ton of dairy. Cheese in moderation. Never milk. Very little of anything with cream. Okay, maybe some ice cream on the rare occasion. I mean, with the exception of milk, I like it all, it just doesn’t like me. Except for yogurt. Yogurt loves me! I eat it almost every day and it makes me feel great. But yogurt is essentially milk, right? So how’s that work?

Yes, yogurt is actually fermented milk, which I realize on the surface doesn’t make much of a case for its digestibility. But in actuality it has everything to do with why many people who can’t tolerate milk can enjoy yogurt. The live active cultures in yogurt create lactase (an enzyme lactose-intolerant people lack) and the bacterial enzymes created during the culturing process actually partially digest the milk protein called casein, making it much easier for the body to absorb and much less allergenic.

Okay, so all that made sense to me, but what I was stuck on was how on earth I was going to safely ferment milk in my kitchen. As in, how was I not going to end up with a bunch of rotten milk?!

Here’s how: Yogurt is produced by adding a “starter” of active yogurt culture, which produces lactic acid during the fermentation process. Lactic acid lowers pH, gives yogurt its tart flavor and most importantly, causes the milk protein to thicken, acting as a natural acidic preservative that prohibits pathogen bacteria from growing. That’s what keeps the milk from spoiling during fermentation! The partial digestion of the milk when these bacteria ferment makes it easily digestible. And these are the same ‘healthy’ bacteria that help settle GI issues by replenishing non-pathogen flora of the gastrointestinal tract. These are the tiny microorganisms called probiotics and ‘live active cultures’ that everyone talks about. Bored yet?

Okay, here are a couple good links if you’re interested in more of the health benefits of yogurt. Why Yogurt is Good for You via Live Strong And 10 Reasons Yogurt is a Top Health Food via Ask Dr. Sears

And on to the yogurt making!

It helps if you have a meat or candy thermometer for this process, but plenty of people wing it without one so don’t worry. I repeat, you don’t need a thermometer. Heat your milk (I used 2 percent organic milk) to just before a simmer, which is 185°F. The milk should be a little frothy, but not boiling. Stir the milk intermittently or use a double boiler to avoid any burning. Once milk reaches desired temp, you need to cool it back down to about 110 – 120°F. The best way to do this is to place it in an ice bath and whisk it a little. Once cool, you add in the starter, which is a tablespoon of store bought yogurt (after the first batch of yogurt is made you will use your yogurt as a starter). You can also add a teaspoon of sugar to help the bacteria grow. Whisk it in good, convert it to a clean glass jar and now it’s time to do some incubating!

Two key words here: warmth and darkness. You want to keep your milk as close to 110°F as possible without going over during this process. Any hotter will kill the bacteria. My mom just wraps her jars of yogurt in towels to keep the warmth in during this process. That does work, but I’ve been filling a stainless steel pot with hot tap water and then dropping in the lidded jar(s) of yogurt, covering the pot and wrapping it in towels like a baby. You’ve got to let it sit for at least 7 hours, but the longer you let it sit the more firm and flavorful it’ll get. I did my last batch for 9 hours and it was awesome.

So much fun to unwrap your little bundle to find yogurt!

The flavor comes out very mild (just a little tang) and the texture is somewhere between Greek yogurt and store bought Dannon type stuff and it’s much creamier and less tart than store bought stuff. I think people who aren’t really yogurt fans might actually like it. Don’t think I’ll be buying yogurt anymore because I actually really prefer the taste of this and it’s so easy to do!

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Prep time: 20 minutes (must let ferment 7-9 hours) Recipe makes 1 quart of yogurt. The longer you let it sit the more firm and tangy it becomes. Refrigerate before serving. The liquid that forms on top of the yogurt is whey, you can pour it out if you like your yogurt thicker!

You need:

  • 1 quart 2 percent organic milk
  • 1 tablespoon yogurt (store bought yogurt) or existing yogurt starter
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar (optional but helps bacteria grow)
  • Glass jar(s) with lid(s)
  • Candy or meat thermometer
  • Large pot and a couple kitchen towels for incubation process
  • Smaller pot (or double boiler) for heating milk
  • Large bowl filled with ice water for ice bath


  1. Heat 1 quart milk to just before a simmer (185°F). Milk should begin to froth but not boil. Be sure to stir some to keep from burning if not using a double boiler.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath. Place ice and cold water in a large bowl. Once milk has reached temp, remove from heat and dunk pot in ice bath and continue to stir to help cool. Milk needs to be pretty warm but not too hot to stick your finger in. (110-120°F)
  3. Now you can add in your starter. Whisk in 1 tablespoon of store bought yogurt (most kinds will work…I used 2 percent Greek) for each quart of milk used. You can also add in 1 teaspoon of sugar (optional but helps bacteria grow). Then pour into jar(s) and secure lid(s).
  4. Let the incubation begin! Fill a large pot or small drink cooler with warm/hot tap water and place jar(s) of milk inside. You want to maintain as close to (100-110°F) inside as possible without going over. Cover pot with lid and wrap up like a baby with several towels so that warmth stays in and light stays out. Let sit for 7-9 hours. The longer it sits the better the flavor and more firm it becomes. Refrigerate at least a couple hours before serving.



  1. Posted September 1, 2011 at 1:37 PM | Permalink

    Wonderful! I’ve made Greek-style yoghurt (from regular) before but never yoghurt from scratch. Sounds like a great thing to try – beautiful photos too!

  2. Posted September 1, 2011 at 5:08 PM | Permalink

    This looks unbelievably good. Can’t wait to try it out on my own!

  3. Posted September 1, 2011 at 5:46 PM | Permalink

    I always thought you needed a special yogurt making machine to make homemade yogurt. This looks very like something I can do.

  4. Posted September 2, 2011 at 10:31 AM | Permalink

    I love yogurt and would love to try this out – only thing is I’ve been avoiding dairy due to its cholesterol increasing property. Not sure about yogurt, though… If I make it my husband will surely eat it so I’ll give it a whirl.

  5. Posted September 3, 2011 at 2:30 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for this – I’m currently on a no diary regime, and I’m attempting to make soy yoghurt, after using yoghurt mixes forever because I was too nervous (read lazy) to make my own. I’ve been inspired to take a bit of this and a bit of that (namely previous yoghurt for starter and much less sugar substitute) and we’ll see how that works…

  6. Seneca
    Posted September 3, 2011 at 11:43 AM | Permalink

    If you don’t have a thermometer, try this tip from a friend’s Greek grandmother: the milk is hot enough when you can’t keep the tip of you finger in it for a count of 5. It is cool enough when you can comfortably keep your finger in it for a count of 10.

  7. gabi
    Posted September 4, 2011 at 12:17 PM | Permalink

    Great tip, Seneca!

  8. Posted September 5, 2011 at 9:22 PM | Permalink

    Yum! I’ve been meaning to try my own yogurt for awhile now. Thanks for the encouragement! Your recipes are phenomenal…I find myself coming here when I’m in a food rut, and often when I’m not!

  9. Posted September 8, 2011 at 9:30 AM | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing. Yogurt is one of my all time favorites and I am going to give this recipe of yours a bash.

  10. Posted September 13, 2011 at 3:47 PM | Permalink

    I experimented with making yogurt in my crockpot earlier this year. The whole milk batch turned out great, but the skim milk batch was stringy. I’ve heard it said that it’s harder to make yogurt out of skim milk, so I just buy fat free yogurt at the store now, because that’s the kind I want. I’m still glad I tried.

  11. Stephanie
    Posted September 16, 2011 at 6:55 AM | Permalink

    I made this with nonfat milk and it turned out wonderful! I have a quirky, old oven where the resting temperature is 110 degrees. During summer it makes my tiny manhattan apartment a bit hot, but for yogurt I just popped the filled jars in my oven overnight and woke up to find smooth, tangy yogurt! I don’t know if we will ever buy yogurt again.

  12. Posted September 16, 2011 at 1:31 PM | Permalink

    I am inspired. I don’t eat much dairy at all but this could be a turning point!

  13. Posted September 18, 2011 at 9:19 PM | Permalink

    thanks for posting this! my husband is on a yoghurt craze and was so excited to try your recipe out. tasted delicious! will definitely be making extra jars to give away as gifts next time.

  14. Posted September 19, 2011 at 5:27 PM | Permalink

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing – love love love yogurt! :)

  15. Posted September 29, 2011 at 5:25 PM | Permalink

    Exciting, I’m making my first batch right now! If it doesn’t work out I’ll have to try again using Seneca’s temperature-trick and/or another yoghurt starter, but hopefully I’ll wake up to gorgeous whole milk vanilla yoghurt tomorrow.
    Never knew why I’ve collected those little french yoghurt jars with plastic lids (I just couldn’t throw them away), I think I know now!
    Thanks for sharing and for making it look so yummy that it’s irresistible!

  16. Taylor
    Posted October 6, 2011 at 12:00 PM | Permalink

    Can you use goat’s milk. Thank you for this post. I’m excited to try it! Oh, and your blog is amazing.

  17. gabi
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 11:02 AM | Permalink

    Hello Taylor,
    You know I’m not sure. I don’t see why not though. Go for it and let me know how it works out!

  18. Vida
    Posted November 19, 2011 at 9:25 AM | Permalink

    Hi everyone. I make my own yoghurt too ( usually in the evening , pretty much the same way except that I put one tablespoon of yogurt per liter and warm up the oven to be just a little warmer, switch off the heating , cover whatever glass container I have ( it can be a glass bow) and leave itin the oven till the next morning and it’s usually absoutely perfect.

  19. Gül
    Posted December 11, 2011 at 3:18 PM | Permalink

    I’m half greek and half turkish, I always hear the term ‘greek yoghurt’ but yogurt is a turkish word. Both ways I get it:)

    by the way, I LOVE u!

  20. Posted December 22, 2011 at 9:51 AM | Permalink

    Nothing seems as empowering to me as the fact that I can make so many traditionally store-bought foods on my own. Thank you for making this accessible and easy! Can’t wait to try… do you think the process would work similarly with non-dairy milks?

  21. gabi
    Posted December 23, 2011 at 9:59 AM | Permalink

    Hi Clare,
    I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t work with non-dairy milk. I know they do make non-dairy yogurts, but I’m not sure how! Good luck :)

  22. cindy
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 9:35 PM | Permalink

    I made this yogurt today and Oh my goodness!!! It is good. I had a tried crock pot version before and it was grainy and over cooked. I stained the liquid off of mine so that it is like greek yogurt and also I use non fat milk and it worked just fine. Thanks for sharing this info.

  23. Posted March 4, 2012 at 12:34 PM | Permalink

    Hello Gabi! I stumbled across your blog while poking around on Pinterest, and I have to say I fell in love immediately. From the beautiful food you make to the interesting tidbits you toss in with your recipes, you’ve got a new reader for sure. :]


  24. Lis
    Posted June 30, 2012 at 10:16 AM | Permalink

    I’m late to the post…but, I would like to try this recipe and I’m baffled by the 110 degree part. If I wrap my containers up like a cocoon in a pot, how can I ensure that the temperature inside remains at a constant 110 degrees or below?