How to Make Yogurt

When I started the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) in 2001, I knew that I would need to learn how to make yogurt from scratch. I had become friends with Elaine Gottschall, and she emphasized in our chats and her book that this was an important part of the SCD which aims to rebuild the health of the gut.

Back then I made yogurt everyday for the boys. I had 2 toddlers at home and they gobbled it up as fast as I could make it! Now, I make yogurt around once a week, and they still love it. Below I will show you how to make yogurt the SCD way.

What is Yogurt?

Yogurt is a semi-solid sour food that is made from milk fermented by bacteria. It is often sweetened and flavored, which is another great reason to make yogurt at home, so that you can avoid the added sugar. Yogurt is one of the oldest agrarian foods known to humankind. It was a way in which to store the dairy products produced by cows, goats, sheep, and other mammals prior to the advent of refrigeration.

Lactose-Free Yogurt

When milk is left in a warm environment, a variety of bacteria and yeast start to grow and digest the milk sugars, or lactose as a source of fuel. If fermented long enough, yogurt will be almost completely lactose-free. That is why lactose intolerant people such as myself that cannot drink a glass of milk without getting very sick, can easily digest homemade yogurt that has been fermented for 24 hours. The bacteria in yogurt digest the lactose, as well as the casein, or milk protein.

Other Fermented Milk Products

There are various ways to ferment milk and make products similar to yogurt such as kefir. The fermented milk product that is created is dependent on the type of bacteria that is cultured. Yogurt is made from bacteria that produces a wonderful tart and tangy flavor.

Yogurt Starters

Yogurt can be made by using starter or a few teaspoons of some leftover yogurt to introduce bacteria to milk in order to ferment it into yogurt. I make yogurt using a starter that I buy at the store. It’s not as “DIY,” but I have found over the decades that I’ve made yogurt that using a starter is the most reliable method for me.

Yogurt Incubators

There are many ways to culture your yogurt and apply the heat that is necessary for fermentation. You can use an oven if the temperature is low enough, or if it is not, you can use an oven with the light on to provide heat. I have not had success with this method as I found it challenging to control that environment and keep the heat even. I’ve also heard of people that use a crockpot, heating pad, or dehydrator to culture their yogurt. I haven’t tried that so not sure how consistent your results will be.

I use a yogurt maker to make homemade yogurt. I have had the same yogurt maker since I began making yogurt in 2001. I have slightly “Elana-fied” the process. Instead of placing the milk directly in the yogurt maker which is plastic, I place my yogurt mixture in a mason jar and then let that mason jar incubate in the yogurt maker. There are yogurt makers that come with glass containers instead of plastic. However, I do not want to buy another gadget so I have created my own fix so that our food does not come into contact with this substance. Another great thing about using mason jars is that you won’t need to transfer the yogurt to a container for storage after it has fermented because it’s already in one.

Choosing a Base

I make this yogurt recipe using dairy as a base. I have tried it with coconut milk and the results were not good. While the coconut milk fermented and tasted nice and sour, the texture was an abomination. I will be working on a homemade coconut milk yogurt recipe and posting it in the future so stay tuned!

I make yogurt with whole milk or half and half. Since I am following a very low-carb diet (VLCD), also known as the Keto Diet, dairy-products with a higher percentage of fat are best for me. This may not be the case for you since different foods work for different body types. I haven’t tried low-fat or non-fat milk in this yogurt recipe, so I’m not certain that it would work, but I believe there is a very good chance that it would.

Using higher fat dairy products reduces the amount of milk sugars, or lactose, and milk protein, or casein in the finished product. The fermentation process of making yogurt further reduces the amount of these substances by digesting them during incubation.

I use dairy products that are organic, and whenever possible, grass-fed. Because many dairy products are contaminated with added hormones and antibiotics, and because I view food as my medicine, this is critical for me. Everyone is different, so this may not be as important for you. Raw milk is fantastic if you have access to it, and I made this recipe using raw milk when the boys were at a Waldorf school and we had a cow share with the other families. If you don’t have access to raw milk and you are using store bought, do not buy ultra-pasteurized dairy products for your base as this process wipes out much of the good bacteria in the dairy product.

Quick Method for Heating the Base

Every yogurt recipe I’ve seen instructs you to heat your milk to 180°F. I have found that this is not necessary unless using raw milk. I heat the yogurt base in this recipe to between 108°-112°F and the recipe works every time. If you are using raw milk, heat it to 180°F.

Fermentation

When using the yogurt starter and yogurt maker that I recommend in this recipe, it is possible to ferment the yogurt for as little as 5 hours. Remember though, the longer you ferment the yogurt the more of the lactose and casein are digested as fuel for the bacteria to thrive upon. Additionally, the longer you ferment the yogurt the thicker its texture will be, and it will also have a more tart flavor. I have fermented yogurt for as long as 48 hours and it was amazing. When I did this with half and half, it tasted like sour cream!

How to Make Yogurt

Print Pin Recipe
Servings 6

Ingredients

Yogurt

Instructions

  • In a medium pot, heat milk to 108°-112°F
  • Place yogurt starter in mason jar
  • Place ½ cup of heated milk into starter, stirring until smooth
  • Pour remainder of milk into mason jar, stirring well
  • Transfer mason jar into yogourmet yogurt maker
  • Leave mason jar uncovered
  • Cover yogurt maker
  • Ferment for 24 hours for SCD compliant yogurt
  • Serve
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 25 mins
Tried this recipe?Mention @elanaspantry or tag #elanaspantry!

Storing Homemade Yogurt

After my yogurt has fermented for 24 hours I remove it from the yogurt maker and place it on the counter to cool to room temperature. That usually takes an hour or so. After that I put a lid on the mason jar and place the yogurt in the refrigerator. I pour off any of the liquid that forms on it as this is whey and I avoid dairy proteins. You may not avoid them, so you may wish to save it for another use. The yogurt will keep for around a week, though my boys can still eat a batch in one day!

When I eat yogurt I do not add anything to it. The boys eat it plain or add a little bit of local honey that our neighbor gives us from his beehives.

I’m not quite sure why it took me so long to share my method for making yogurt, since I’ve been making my own since 2001. I hope this helps you all get started with your own yogurt making adventures and that you love it as much as we do!

Comments

120 responses to “How to Make Yogurt”

  1. I don’t think I can eat a quart of yogurt in a week. If I make 1/2 batch, can I save the other half of the starter package? Thank you for answering my question about whether it tastes like Greek yogurt.

  2. Hi Elana,
    Thanks for the recipe! I have a couple of questions . . . .
    1. Do you place the 32 oz glass mason jar in the inner plastic container that comes with the Yogourmet maker or place the glass jar directly in the Yogourmet?
    2. If you place the 32 oz glass mason jar directly in the Yogourmet, how much water do you add to the Yogourmet container?
    3. When using the inner plastic container the water comes up the entire side of the container. Is it necessary with the method you are following?

    Thanks, JoAnna

    • JoAnna, I place a one quart mason jar directly in the yogurt maker. I’ve made yogurt adding water to the yogurt maker and with none at all and the temperature is consistent and on target either way :-)

      • Elana,
        Many thanks for your quick reply. I went ahead and made the yogurt with water in the Yogourmet. Next time I will try it sans water. I mistakenly bought heavy cream instead of half and half. To a half quart of cream I added a half quart of water and followed your directions accordingly. I will report on how it turns out. I have been making SCD yogurt for many years. As usual you have found a simpler way in glass!

        I have been following your journey and this site for a good number of years. You are inspiration. And indeed what you bring to the conversation about health, food and healing is a gift to many.

        Sending every good wish.
        JoAnna

  3. I cannot thank you enough. I’ve not eaten yogurt in a few years since discovering casein isn’t great for me. It’s challenging to find literature about casein. I’m excited to try a long cultured yogurt. (And look forward to your coconut recipe!) Homemade yogurt is simply the best–especially with raw milk! Thanks for all your work in the kitchen and on this blog.

  4. I bought glass jars for the Yogourmet machine from Lucy’s Kitchen Shop. They fit perfectly, and I start my next batch while finishing the last one.

    • Lisa, I just bought the large glass jar too. I’m looking forward to using it to see how the yogurt turns out :-)

  5. I have failed at making coconut yogurt so please do give a recipe for coconut yogurt.. Elaines yogurt is not tolerated due to a total dairy intolerance.
    Anxiously awaiting the coconut recipe
    Love your recipes!

  6. i just started making yogurt with the EuroCusine maker. Even tho the yogurt has come out very tasty I have wondered if I am doing everything “right”. Thanks for your piece….I am basically following the same instructions so I think I am OK. Looking forward to the coconut yogurt recipe!

  7. Hello Elana
    Thank you so much for your sight it is absolutely FANTASTIC!!! Quick question…..
    I show whey allergies from an IGg allergy test done years ago. My doctor said I should avoid dairy to resolve my digestive issues. It did help a lot. Fast forward many years, I am seeing another doctor for sibo and he said I could have 24 hour fermented yogurt and I should be fine… I noticed you said that the fermentation process gets rid of the whey… I have never heard that and no one has ever told me this. Am I understanding you correctly? Should I strain it more after the fermentation to get rid of more liquid? Where can I go to find out more in information on this as I would love to incorporate this yogurt into my diet. It’s confusing when one doctor says” no don’t have it” and another says “you can have it but only this way.” I am trying to make an educated decision and it seems by your comment there is more to it than just cutting out dairy for the sake of not getting whey. I am now hopeful I can enjoy yogurt because of the fermentation process… Would the book you suggested have more info? Any suggestion or comments would be greatly!!!! appreciated!!!!

    • Angela, you’re very welcome! I re-read the information on yogurt in the book mentioned in this post. The author states that if you ferment the yogurt for 24 hours according to her method (she recommends the yogurt maker and starter that I use in this recipe) that “virutally” all of the lactose will be digested by the bacterial culture. I get very sick if I drink a glass of milk, but am fine with this yogurt. Please stop back by and let us know how it goes!

    • I have one son who doesn’t tolerate cow or goat, but can eat sheep milk cheese (Manchego) and yogurt. It is tricky figuring out what works for each person, let alone member of a family!

  8. Hi Elana,

    The yogurt maker you recommend on Amazon has an option to purchase a 64oz mason jar with it. Do you recommend this or use the quart size jar for the recipe as indicated above?

    Thank you,

    Valerie

  9. Timely post for me, as I have had DIY yogurt-making on the to-do list for a while. I also recently bought a pressure cooker with a yogurt function, hoping it will live up to the hype. Elana, I know you recommend heating raw milk to 180º, but I am curious if any of your other readers have tried and had success with the texture using raw milk heated to a much lower temp. Bringing it to 180º effectively pasteurizes it, which I’d rather not do if I don’t have to, but perhaps the high numbers of bacteria would compete with the yogurt starter and thus the need to bring raw milk to 180º? Just a guess. If anyone else has used raw milk at a lower temp, I’d love to hear about it. Thank you!

      • I have used raw milk for yogurt, but the bacteria in the milk will begin to sort of take back over the yogurt and make it runny. It doesn’t last as long in the fridge and I actually prefer the texture and flavor of yogurt made after heating the milk to 180. It does mean the final product isn’t raw, but if your source is good, you still get the grass fed benefits and the benefit of the milk being non homogenized.

        • Hi there,

          I also prefer to heat the raw milk at a lower temp however it is more runny. I will try making it by heating to 180. Does the yogurt have more of a Greek yogurt consistency after heating it to this temperature?? Also what starter do you use?and how much?? Thank you.

  10. I make a delicious coconut milk yogurt using a 33 oz carton of Aroy-d. I heat the coconut milk to 115, then let it cool down to 110. Afterwards, I add one packet of cultures for health vegan yogurt starter and 2.5 tsp gelatin. I put it in my Dash yogurt maker for 18 hours. When it’s done, I pour it into a 32 oz mason jar to cool in the fridge. So yummy and I love the creamy texture!

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