How to Make Yogurt at Home

Turn a dollop of yogurt into a whole tub. But how does it work? Our intrepid yogurt-loving reporter shares the scoop on how to make yogurt at home.

Secret’s out: I’m a little bit obsessed with yogurt. But can you blame me?

Sprinkle a little homemade granola on top and you’ve got breakfast. Spread a dollop on braised meat and you’ll never use sour cream again. And don’t get me started on yogurt desserts and recipes.

So when I learned that you can make yogurt at home, I was floored. With a few simple steps, you can turn two tablespoons of plain yogurt into two quarts. Amazing! Let’s see how it’s done.

How Is Yogurt Made?

At its core, yogurt is created by fermenting milk, or letting bacteria cultures build up in the milk until it’s thick and tangy.

This method is really all about the temperature. Too high a temperature will kill off the good bacteria in your starter, but too low a temperature will stop your bacteria from growing at all.

For all you cringing at the word bacteria—don’t worry. It’s the probiotic kind that’s good for your gut. Intrigued by fermentation? This old-school cooking method may be the boost your diet needs.

Need yogurt ASAP? Try one of these yogurt substitutes!

What Do You Need for Homemade Yogurt?

A “starter” is the term we use for the cultures that’ll transform your milk into yogurt. By far, the simplest starter you can get is store-bought yogurt. You can grab any plain variety, but it must include live active cultures. (It’ll say so on the label.)

Avoid yogurts that are filled with additives like pectin, inulin, corn starch or gelatin. These can give your homemade yogurt a grainy texture. Also skip any flavored or sugary yogurts.

Got your yogurt? The only other ingredient is milk. It’s important to use pasteurized milk, which will create the best environment for your starter to grow. Most milk in the U.S. is pasteurized. Avoid ultra-pasteurized (UP), ultra-high temperature treatment (UHT) and raw milk.

How to Make Yogurt

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts pasteurized whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt with live active cultures

Directions

Step 1: Heat the milk

testing temperature of milk with a red thermometerTMB studio

In a Dutch oven, gradually heat the milk over medium heat. You’ll want to take it slowly, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Warm the milk until a thermometer reads 200°F. It shouldn’t boil.

Step 2: Remove from heat and let cool

Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool. Stir every once in a while until a thermometer reads 112°-115°. This is the ideal temperature for your starter to incubate.

Test Kitchen Tip: Place the pan in an ice-water bath for faster cooling.

Step 3: Add starter

Ghtjm17 4085 C02 28 8b Yogurt Tmb StudioTMB studio

To combine, whisk 1 cup warm milk into the yogurt in a small bowl until smooth. Then return that mixture to the Dutch oven and stir gently. Transfer to warm, clean jars with lids, such as 1-qt. canning jars, and cover.

Step 4: Incubate

two filled mason jars in the ovenTMB studio

For the next 6-24 hours you’ll want to keep the jars in a warm place (about 110°) to incubate. Make sure that your oven maintains this heat. A conventional oven with the light on will do the trick.

Let the containers stand, undisturbed, until yogurt is set. The longer they stand, the more thick and tart the yogurt will be.

Some other suitable places for your yogurt to incubate: inside a slow cooker set to “low,” or wrapped in a heating pad. Test with a thermometer to make sure the temp is right.

Step 5: Enjoy

Check to see if the yogurt has set by gently tilting the jars. (It’s thicker when it sets, and it will thicken further when you refrigerate it.)

When the consistency is to your liking, whisk to form a smooth, creamy texture. Cover the finished yogurt and pop it into the fridge until cold.

Tips for Making Yogurt at Home

The fresher the milk, the better. This’ll help keep the consistency smooth and creamy. Dairy-free milk works with this process as long as there is a sweetener, like white sugar, to aid fermentation. Honey and syrup will interfere with the bacteria.

This method works on Greek yogurt as well. If anything, we recommend a plain Greek yogurt. If you don’t have a starter, green chili stalks or curdled milk with lemon juice can be good substitutes!

Be sure to save a few tablespoons of your homemade yogurt so you can use it as a starter for your next batch! It’ll freeze well if you can’t make more yogurt right away, or it’ll last up to two weeks in the fridge.

Nicole Doster
With nearly a decade of experience creating content for various lifestyle publishers and eCommerce brands, Nicole combines her love of at-home cooking with her expertise in product reviews and digital content creation to lead the award-winning shopping editorial team across Taste of Home, Family Handyman and Reader's Digest. As TMB's content director, affiliate, she oversees strategy, operations and planning for all product testing and shopping content, to bring readers recommendations and inspiration you can trust. Before joining the affiliate team, Nicole edited hundreds of recipe and food lifestyle articles for Taste of Home working closely with our Test Kitchen team and network of contributors. With a passion for baking, comfort food and hosting get-togethers you'll often see Nicole testing new products that make life easier. As a former barista in Chicago and Baltimore, she's slung hundreds of cappuccinos and doppio espressos in her lifetime and she will talk your ear off about the best gadgets to make cafe-quality coffee at home. When she's not hunched over her laptop, she's either fixating on her latest DIY home renovation or on a walk with her rescue pup, Huey.
Peggy Woodward, RDN
Peggy is a Senior Food Editor for Taste of Home. In addition to curating recipes, she writes articles, develops recipes and is our in-house nutrition expert. She studied dietetics at the University of Illinois and completed post-graduate studies at the Medical University of South Carolina to become a registered dietitian nutritionist. Peggy has more than 20 years of experience in the industry. She’s a mom, a foodie and enjoys being active in her rural Wisconsin community.