Making homemade yogurt is easier, cheaper, and healthier than store-bought! Try this recipe for plain yogurt and learn how to make thick Greek yogurt too!
Growing up, we almost never bought yogurt from the store. Every weekend, my mom made a big batch of yogurt to last us the rest of the week. We used it on everything; with fruit, on top of warm rice (my favorite!), in smoothies…I mean everything!
Not only is making homemade yogurt more cost-effective (especially if you’re using organic ingredients!), it tastes better, has less additives, and can be customized to your tastes.
The recipe I use now is a little different from my mom’s recipe. In her efforts to fatten us up as little kids, she added a good helping of half-n-half and whipping cream to her mix.
Now, don’t get me wrong, those two extras make for the yummiest, creamiest yogurt you will ever taste! But in an effort to keep things simple and low fat, all you really need for a basic yogurt recipe is just milk and a little bit of yogurt starter.
What Kind of Yogurt
You only need to buy yogurt starter for the first batch; after that, you will reserve some of your homemade yogurt to use for the next batch.
The starter is just regular yogurt. For best results, use full-fat yogurt to get a thicker, creamier final product. Just make sure it has no additives in it, like pectin, gelatin, or sugar. These additives can affect the final result and will make it either too grainy or it won’t set up properly.
And most importantly, make sure your yogurt has “active bacterial cultures.” These healthy bacteria are what will make your yogurt just perfect.
What Kind of Milk
You can use any fat content for the milk; of course, the higher the fat content, the thicker and creamier the end result will be. I don’t skimp on this; I usually use at least 2% (if not whole) milk.
How to Make Homemade Yogurt
First step is to take out your yogurt starter and leave it on the counter to warm up to room temperature. My mom always does this step, so I’ve just always done it as well. If you forget, I don’t think it’s a big deal.
Next, you want to create a warm resting place for your yogurt, so turn on your oven to the lowest temperature for about 15 minutes to warm it up. You want the temperature to be around 115 degrees. Once it’s warmed up, turn off the oven.
Next, you’ll want to prepare your jars for storing the yogurt. Ideally, they will be sterilized glass jars. You want to stay away from plastic, especially since you’ll be pouring the hot milk/yogurt mixture into them. I just use old honey jars, jelly jars, salsa jars, etc. Place them on a tray for easier transferring to the oven later.
Today I’m also making Greek yogurt, so I’m using the bowl on the left to hold half of the yogurt mixture. And then I’ll show you how to strain it to make Greek yogurt too!
S now it’s time to cook the milk!
Add your milk (and cream, if using!) to a big stock pot, and bring it to just under a boil (around 185 degrees). Right when you start to see little bubbles on the top (see pic below), remove the pot from the heat, and let it cool to around 115 degrees.
If you have a thermometer, use that. If not, just do it the old-fashioned way and test with your hands: it’s ready when you can comfortably place your hand on the side of the pot (or dip your clean finger into the milk) for at least 10 seconds.
Once it’s cooled down, get ready to work quickly. Take your yogurt starter, which should be in a large bowl or measuring cup. Then, scoop out a few ladle-fulls of the warm milk and add them to the yogurt.
Whisk well to combine, then add the milk/yogurt mixture back into the pot with the rest of the warm milk.
Stir it gently 2-3 times (no more than that!) to make sure it’s all mixed well. Then pour (or ladle) the milk/yogurt mixture into your prepared jars.
Now, carefully move the tray of jars into the oven, making sure not to agitate or jostle them too much. Turn the oven light on, and set the oven timer for 4 hours.
After 4 hours have passed, the yogurt should be nice and solid. It will continue to set in the fridge as well. You can taste it at this point to see if you like it. If it’s not tart enough for you, put it back in the oven, and check on it again in another hour or 2.
Once it’s reached your desired taste, remove the jars from the oven, and let them rest on the counter until they’ve cooled to room temperature. Then cover the jars and store in the fridge, where they’ll keep for up to 2 weeks.
The pictures below are from my yogurt batch after it’s been refrigerated. See how thick it is, just like regular yogurt? It even leaves a layer of whey at the top, just like the store-bought kind.
You can either dump this out (don’t do that – it’s sooo good for you!) or you can just stir it right back in, like I do. Or if you want a thicker, creamier yogurt, you can strain out the whey to make Greek yogurt! (Instructions for this are below)
Enjoy with your favorite mix-ins! 🙂
VERY IMPORTANT: Don’t forget! Make sure to keep some of your batch to use as the starter for your next batch! I just keep it in a small container in the back of the fridge so nobody eats it on accident! 😉
How to Make Greek Yogurt
After your yogurt has rested in the fridge overnight, take it out and prepare your strainer. You can use several layers of cheesecloth or a nut milk bag (which is what I use).
Set up your strainer in this order: place a large bowl to catch the whey, then a fine mesh colander over it, then line the colander with a sheet of paper towel, and then either the cheesecloth or nut milk bag.
Then scoop out the yogurt into the strainer that you’ve set up.
Now tie up the top of your cheesecloth or nut milk bag, and place everything in the fridge to strain for several hours. The longer you strain it, the thicker it will be. 4 hours is a good minimum, but some people strain it for as long as 8 hours to get it super thick. So it’s a matter of preference.
- Large stock pot
- Glass jars
- Meat thermometer
- 1 gallon milk ( (at least 2% fat))
- 1 cup plain yogurt starter ( (at least 2% fat))
- Add yogurt starter to a large measuring cup and leave it on the counter to warm up to room temperature.
- Turn on your oven to the lowest temperature and let it warm up for about 15 minutes. You want the temperature to be around 115 degrees. Once it’s warmed up, turn off the oven.
- Place your empty, clean jars on a tray.
- Add your milk to a big stock pot, and bring it to just under a boil (around 185 degrees). Right when you start to see little bubbles on the top, remove the pot from the heat.
- Let the milk cool to around 115 degrees. Use a thermometer to check every hour or so. If you don't have a thermometer, you can test it with your hands: it’s ready when you can comfortably place your hand on the side of the pot (or dip your clean finger into the milk) for at least 10 seconds.
- Once it’s cooled down, scoop out a few ladle-fulls of the warm milk and add them to the yogurt starter that you placed in the measuring cup earlier.
- Whisk well to combine, then add the milk/yogurt mixture back into the pot with the rest of the warm milk.
- Stir the pot gently 2-3 times (no more than that!) to make sure it’s all mixed well. Then pour (or ladle) the milk/yogurt mixture into your prepared jars.
- Now, carefully move the tray of jars into the oven, making sure not to agitate or jostle them too much. Turn the oven light on, and set the oven timer for 4 hours.
- After 4 hours have passed, the yogurt should be nice and solid. It will continue to set in the fridge as well.
- Remove the jars from the oven, and let them rest on the counter until they’ve cooled to room temperature. Then cover the jars and store in the fridge, where they’ll keep for up to 2 weeks.
I used to make yogurt just like yours, in the oven in glass jars. But I don’t remember heating up the milk and also added powdered milk to the mixture. That was 20 years ago. Lost the recipe and forgot it. Must you heat the milk in a pot and can you add powdered milk to your recipe? How would this change the finished product?
Hi Suzanne, I’m sorry but I have no idea how powdered milk would affect this recipe. I was only taught one way, and I’ve always done it this way. 🙂 You might try searching google for “homemade yogurt powdered milk” and see what comes up. Good luck!
How does your mother make her’s (the full fat version)? I’m on modified Atkins and would like to make my own yogurt.
She uses this same recipe, but she also adds some half and half and some heavy whipping cream. So if you double my recipe here by using 1 gallon of milk, you would also include 1 quart of half and half, and 1 pint of heavy whipping cream when you’re heating up the milk.
I made your yogurt recipe…………..who knew making it was so easy!! One question, we are used to sweetened and vanilla flavored yogurt…………do I sweeten and flavor before or after I put it in the oven???
You can add sweeteners and flavors before it goes into the oven. Glad you found it easy!
I love this recipe, and will definitely be making it. My 5 year old Grandson LOVES yogurt! He will eat plain (not vanilla) alone if need be, but I always have fruit, granola, etc., to mix in. Thanks so much for sharing.
You’re very welcome! We love adding fruits, granola, and sprinkling shredded coconut and a dash of cinnamon. Yum! 🙂
I’m going to try it this weekend, hopefully 😀 Very excited!
It worked perfectly, and turned out beautifully and delicious 😀
So I made this exactly as the directions call for. Put it my oven with light and all, 7 hours later, still watery…. Help! I don’t think it’s supposed to be watery. What can I do from here?
Hey April, sometimes that happens to me too. What I do is just reheat the oven again, then put the yogurt in again for a couple more hours and it should set.
Just FYI – if after the 4 hours is up, the yogurt is still watery, you have to reheat the oven again. Leaving it in the oven past the 4 hours won’t help unless you warm up the oven again – otherwise it’s just sitting in a cold oven, you know?
Anyways, try that and let me know how it goes. Hope that helps!
I’ve been meaning to try making my own yoghurt, considering how much yoghurt my family consumes. You made it look pretty easy. Got to get on this a.s.a.p.!
Mine’s in the oven now! 🙂 Any suggestions for flavoring it? I love it plain, but the husband is used to the strawberry/raspberry store brand and won’t eat it with chunks of fruit! I was thinking of homemade vanilla extract? honey? and/or maybe pureeing some strawberries or raspberries? do you think fruit juice would work better? Is the best time to flavor it after it’s done setting?
<3 your blog!
Thanks for the kind words, Amanda! Yes, wait until after it’s set and has been refrigerated for a few hours before flavoring it. From there, the possibilities are endless, but from what you’ve mentioned, the best ways are with honey, or pureed fruits. I think fruit juice may turn it a bit too watery so I’d stay away from the juice idea.
Good luck and hope you like it! 🙂
What if I do not have an oven light? The apartment I rent has pretty cheap appliances and my oven does not have a light in it
Vyctoria, that’s fine! Another reader asked the same question in comments, so here’s what I told her: If you don’t have an oven light, you would need to insulate your jars/pot in some way. The best way is to wrap it up with a really big, thick towel to make sure the heat stays in.
Hope that helps!
Anne @ Quick and Eas
I’ve never heard of making yogurt in the oven – sounds really easy. Unfortunately, we don’t have a light in our oven. But I do have a yogurt machine, so I will continue to use that 🙂 Thanks for linking up to Healthy 2Day Wednesday and come back next week to see if you were featured!
Laura @ Laura Williams' Musings
Thank you for linking this up at the Carnival of Home Preserving!
Susie at Earning-My-
I’m not a huge yogurt fan, but my kids LOVE it! I will definitely be trying this!
Thanks for linking up with my Super Link Party! 🙂
I had the same question as Misty. I also don’t have a light that I can leave on in my oven….. so what method would you suggest for a first timer?
I love this site and all your ideas! So happy I found you!
Hi Elaine, thanks for the kind words! Glad you’re finding the site useful 🙂 If you don’t have an oven light, you would need to insulate your jars/pot in some way. The best way is to wrap it up with a really big, thick towel to make sure the heat stays in. Hope that helps!
Yum! I make yogurt too. I love how you make it in the oven. Neat!
This was great….have you ever made it with Coconut Milk? I have to be dairy free and really miss yogurt and other yummy things! Stoppin by from the Green Moms Network 🙂
Wow, I never even thought about using coconut milk, or making any dairy-free yogurt! Hmmm, this calls for some investigating 😉
Been wanting to try to make my own. Thanks so much for sharing! Looking forward to trying this with the kids. 🙂
Hey Noona I made my last yogurt Bach using only vitamin D milk it turned out to be soooo yummy and Atef loved it.
Oh by the way you have to add a pinch of salt to the yogurt you’re using for labna.
Hi mom, that’s awesome! And yeah, in the link for the labna post, I do say to add some salt 🙂
Wow, this is really cool, Sarah! I love that you grew up eating it. I’ve been wanting to make my own for a while now – the store-bought kind is so full of sugar and organic is really expensive. But I’m in love with Greek yogurt – is this anything like that?
I eat a lot of yogurt and with the price of yogurt going up, I’ve wanted a yogurt maker. This recipe looks easy and fun to make. Let us know if you try the other methods you listed. My mom gave my sisters and me copies of Ralph Nader’s mom’s cookbook. Since his mom was Lebanese, she included a recipe for yogurt. I never made it, but now I’m going to make your version and see how it turns out. Your mom’s sounds heavenly.
Oooh, I love your oven method. Sounds great and super easy! Thanks for linking to my method, too!
This has been on my list of things to try. I really need to do this!
You really should try it, Tammy! It’s too easy! 🙂
Mrs Nurture this is fantastic. Question: does the oven need to remain at 115 for the entire 4 hours? This is a fabulous post, Im pinning and sharing on FB. Thanks!
No, once it’s warmed up, just turn it off, and the light should provide enough warmth for the 4 hours. Like I said, I don’t even measure the temp, I just turn it on for about 15 mins, then turn it off.
Thanks for sharing the post!
OK thats good to know. Awesome, thanks! 🙂
I make homemade yogurt once a week too, although my process is slightly different from yours. It is sooooo yummy and so good for you!
There’s so many different methods, but they all lead to the same yummy end result 🙂 I’m actually editing the post a little later to share some links to other methods I’ve found online, one of which uses a crockpot…how cool is that?! Yogurt is one of those no-brainers that I think everyone should make at home. It just doesn’t compare to store-bought!
The Accidental House
I make my own yoghurt, but I use the Easy-yo system. It came with its own little thermos flask that I fill with boiling water, then set the yoghurt pot in for 8 hours.
I buy an easy-yo sachet every month as a new starter (I don’t like to let too many iterations happen, who knows what I’m growing!) but in between I use powdered milk mixed with water and last weeks reserved starter. That means I only have to sterilise the jar instead of boiling milk. So much easier 🙂
Your mum’s yoghurt sounds great!
Cool! Never heard of Easy-yo, will look into it! And LOL about not knowing what you’re growing 😉 You’ve reminded me to edit the post to say that I usually start with a new starter every few months because if that. Thanks!
Your yogurt looks beautiful and I really like that you aren’t too stressed about being exact. It’s really not as difficult as some may think.
Our family loves yogurt and I found the easiest method ever tucked away in an old cookbook of my grandmother’s . It is virtually fail proof and is REAL yogurt. The recipe calls for powdered milk, plain yogurt (the first time as a starter) and water. It cultures in your oven and is truly no fuss. It might be a good alternative for a first time yogurt maker!
Thanks again for such a helpful tutorial!
Thanks for sharing that recipe, Poppy! 🙂