Homemade Greek yogurt is easy to make, tastes amazing, is cheaper than buying it at the store, and is a fantastic way to get some probiotics in your diet to improve your gut health. All you need is some yogurt starter, milk, thermometer, and a heating pad.
The big secret behind homemade Greek yogurt is that there really isn’t such a thing as “Greek yogurt” per se. Greek yogurt is basically just yogurt that has the whey strained out, giving that thick and creamy consistency people love.
And the best part is avoiding the extra junk in store-bought yogurt. There should only be 2 ingredients in a healthy yogurt: cultured whole milk and live bacteria cultures.
I have yet to find a yogurt brand that has only those 2 ingredients. Many yogurts use skim milk and have all sorts of fillers, thickeners, fake flavorings, and GMOified SUGAR. When I do buy yogurt from the store, I buy the plain jane stuff and flavor it at home.
Cross that off your list of a healthy snack! And now they’re making yogurt that has candy in it. (face palm) I hope there aren’t many people who actually think that’s healthy.
Before we get into the process of making homemade greek yogurt, let’s talk about a couple of things that is good to know about homemade greek yogurt before you get started.
What is a yogurt starter?
Every batch of yogurt you make requires some starter yogurt. Usually, you’ll just grab some yogurt from your last batch – but the first time’s a little different. You can just buy some regular yogurt from the store, or you can buy a powdered freeze dried yogurt starter from your local health store, or of course Amazon. I like the brand Cultures for Health pictured above.
I’ve never had success with just buying yogurt from the store so I don’t even try doing that anymore. Plus those yogurts aren’t heirloom yogurts – more on that in the next section.
There are many different varieties of yogurt starters available and all have different qualities and tastes. Continue reading for my favorite yogurt starters and some of the differences between yogurt starters.
Direct-Set Yogurt vs Heirloom Yogurt
The direct-set yogurts are for only a single batch of yogurt. You might be able to get another batch or two out of this yogurt, but it’ll eventually have to be re-cultured with some new yogurt.
An heirloom yogurt can be used over and over again until you kill it (which I have done). You just save some yogurt from your previous batch, and use it to make a new batch once a week to keep the cultures alive and strong.
I have always used an heirloom yogurt because I don’t want to be bothered with buying a new starter every time I want to make more yogurt.
Thermophilic Yogurt vs Mesophilic Yogurt
Thermophilic yogurt means your yogurt cultures in a heated environment, and usually turns out thicker than mesophilic yogurt. Most of the yogurt you find at the grocery store is thermophilic yogurt. Mesophilic yogurt cultures at room temperature.
There are pros and cons to both of these yogurts. Thermophilic yogurt takes a little more work to make, but it’s thicker which I like better. The mesophilic yogurt is easier to make because you simple add your starter to cold milk and set it on the counter for 12-18 hours.
I have used a Viili yogurt starter for a mesophilic yogurt and it tastes just like plain yogurt from the store. For a thermophilic starter, I used a Greek yogurt starter. It’s a little more tangy than store bought yogurt, but I love the consistency a lot more than the Viili yogurt and I don’t have to strain it.
What Milk Should I Use?
The most popular kind of milk to use is regular ol’ cow’s milk. You can definitely use milk from other animals, like goats, but I have never tried it. We always recommend using whole milk.
You can also use non-dairy milk if you would like. Check out this article about alternative milks for making yogurt.
Lactose-free milk and ultrapastuerized milk will not work very well. The bacteria in yogurt use the lactose in milk for food which makes the lactic acid that cultures the milk. No lactose = no yogurt.
Don’t I need a yogurt maker?
Heck no! I don’t know about you but my kitchen is bursting at the seams from all the gadgets we have. I don’t need another knick-knack to take up space.
If you’re using a mesophilic yogurt, you don’t even need to worry about incubating your yogurt.
For your thermophilic (the kind we’ve been using) all you need is a way to keep your yogurt at a constant warm temperature. People use their crock pots, ovens, thermoses, and even a cooler (filled with warm water). I’m always using the crock pot and oven, I don’t have a thermos, and my kitchen is too small to have a random cooler in the corner. So I use a heat pad.
Now that we’ve covered some basics about homemade yogurt making, let’s get on to the actual instructions for homemade greek yogurt!
Ingredients and Tools:
- Starter of your choice (I have never had success with just buying yogurt from the store so I buy mine from Cultures of Health off Amazon)
- 1 Quart of whole milk (you can make up to a gallon at a time)
- Quart glass jar or larger
- Thermometer (for thermophilic yogurt)
- Heating pad (for thermophilic yogurt)
Directions for thermophilic yogurt (I use this Greek yogurt starter):
- If you have a powdered yogurt starter, then follow the directions for activating the starter first.
- Slowly heat milk to 160 degrees to kill of any potential competing bacteria. This took about 15-20 minutes over medium heat.
- Pour milk into glass jar and set aside allowing it to cool to 110 degrees. It took my milk about 45-60 minutes to cool.
- Stir in 3 tablespoons of yogurt from previous batch. I stirred for a minute or two to make sure the starter was evenly distributed throughout the milk.
- Cover glass jar, wrap with heating pad, and place in corner of the kitchen so it doesn’t get disturbed. Use the setting on your heating pad that will incubate the milk at 110 degrees. My lowest heat setting on my heat pad kept my milk at exactly 110 degrees.
- Check milk after 5 hours to see if it has set. If it hasn’t continue to incubate for up to 12 hours checking periodically to see if it has set. You can tell it’s set if the yogurt separates from the side of your jar in one big mass. My yogurt started to thicken after about 8 hours and took about 10 hours to fully set.
- Take yogurt out of heat pad and allow to cool for a couple of hours, then store in the fridge. Yogurt will thicken over the next 24 hours.
Directions for mesophilic yogurt (I use a Viili yogurt starter):
- If you bought a powdered mesophilic yogurt starter, then follow the directions for activating the starter first.
- Pour cold milk into 1 quart glass jar and add ¼ cup of yogurt from last batch. For every cup of milk you use you will want to add 1 tablespoon of yogurt.
- Cover container and put it in the corner of your kitchen so it won’t be bothered for 12-18 hours. These culture best at temperatures between 70-77 degrees.
- After 12 hours check to see if your yogurt has set by tilting the jar to the side. If the yogurt pulls away in one big blob, then you know your yogurt has set.
- Cover yogurt and store in fridge.
- Save 3 tablespoons of yogurt for next batch. Make a new batch of yogurt at least every 7 days to ensure your bacteria stay alive and strong.
Last Step: To thicken your yogurt and make it into homemade Greek yogurt, you can do a couple of things:
- Strain yogurt after it has set either with a yogurt strainer or use a tightly woven cloth (I’ve used paper towels too) and a colander.
- Try different ratios of cream and milk. Make sure you read the ingredient label if you’re buying cream from the store. We buy the Strauss brand which comes in a glass container and you can get a credit when you bring the container back.
- Heat your milk to 160-180 degrees for 20-30 minutes.
If you’re having issues with making your yogurt, check out this article for some troubleshooting ideas.
I don’t feel the need to strain my thermophilic yogurt unless I’m going to add a bunch of liquidy goodies to it.
Now it’s time to have fun with your homemade Greek yogurt! We will usually sweeten our yogurt with real maple syrup or raw honey and top with our favorite fruit. Or mix it with some of our granola and leave it in the fridge overnight to make yogurt pudding.
Do you make your own Greek yogurt? Any luck?