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.
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 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.
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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.
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
- 1 quart whole milk
- 1 (5 gram package) yogourmet yogurt starter
- 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
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!
I have been a fan on your blog and cookbooks for years but am just now looking into trying to make my own yogurt. I was wondering if you have any thoughts about mesophilic yogurt starters. These seem to be much easier to make since they can be cultured at room temperature, but I’m wondering if the lactose content would as low as a thermophilic yogurt following a 24-hour culture. Have you looked into this before?
Elisabeth, thanks for your comment! I haven’t tried using a mesophilic yogurt starter because I’ve heard they yield a thinner yogurt and I love thick yogurt :-)
I’ve just started making my own yogurt and I’m using skim milk, the tip of heating to 110 degrees was a life savor!
I’m having a problem that my yogurt comes out kinda grainy, rather than creamy/ I’ve tried straining it and it did make it much thicker the texture stayed the same.
Hi Mike, I use the Yogourmet yogurt starter and the result in creamy yogurt goodness. You might like to try that :-)
Hey Elana, I’m actually using Yogourmet starter. The first batch was almost like very small curd cottage cheese, since then the “curds” have gotten smaller but it’s still not smooth, I’ve used a fresh package of starter every time. Could I be heating the milk to fast?
Mike, that’s really odd. I haven’t ever had a grainy batch in the decades I’ve been making yogurt. I use the yogourmet starter, and the yogourmet yogurt maker and it turns out perfectly every time :-)
In my experience, I’ve never got a skim milk yogurt to be smooth and creamy…just one more GIFT I’ve given myself in switching to a ketogenic approach to my diet philosophy!!!
Laurena, I know, keto is the best :-)
Hi Mike- I’ve had the same problem once in a while. I don’t use a yogurt maker as they don’t make a large enough batch. After heating a gal. of milk in the dutch oven, cool it to 110, add the starter. I just leave it in my dutch oven . Put in oven with a 60-100watt light bulb. close the door and wait for 24 hours.
I allways hang itin a straining bag till it drips to the thickness that I prefer.
The constant 110 degrees might be your answer.
Hope this helps
Gail Dawson says
I’m still hoping you will post a recipe for a non-dairy yogurt (almond milk or coconut milk). I’ve tried several with no success. Thanks for all you do!
Gail, I’ve been working on it for months and the results have been barely mediocre. Stay tuned!
Catherine Byrd says
Non-dairy yogurts require a thickener like pectin or arrowroot starch, tapioca starch, etc.
Thanks Catherine :-)
Does anyone have a plant based milk yogurt recipe?
I cannot eat any cow milk based yogurt.
Toni, I’m working on it. Stay tuned :-)
I’m a super savvy cow-milk yogurt maker. I just made a batch of coconut milk yogurt because I have a 7 month old baby; he can’t have dairy yet. I used the Yogourmet starter with 3 cans of coconut milk. The only thing I did differently was added 2 tablespoons of tapioca starch and 2 tablespoons of coconut sugar.
The baby likes the yogurt so-so but my husband begged me to make more! I’ve been using it to dip in fruit and it’s delicious.
*When mixing in the tapioca starch, whisk it with a small amount of warm milk in a Pyrex cup before adding to the main mixture. It can get very chunky.
Deb Scheibel says
I am making yogurt for the first time and I am using the yogurt maker than you have. In the directions it says to put the cover on jar, but in your directions you say to leave it off. What is the difference?
Deb, it will work either way :-)
Janna Conrad says
We tried making yogurt for the first time yesterday and this morning found it in the frig still milk.
I followed the the instructions completely. I used 2 quarts of Almond milk and 6 oz. of almond yogurt to ferment.We can not use and dairy since we have milk allergies here.We Followed the box instructions and left in yogurt maker about 8 1/2 hours. Where did I go wrong?
Hi Janna, I haven’t had any success using almond milk in this recipe which is why it is not listed in the ingredients here :-)
Yogourmet has a starter that is specific for non dairy milks such as almond and coconut, etc. I have purchased it but have yet to try it as I want to make my own almond milk. It is in a green box. I found it on Amazon and not sure where to find it in a store.
I see the Yogourmet starter is made in a facility the processes wheat, being a Coeliac yourself
I am surprised that you use it as a starter.
Also, are you sure that the Casein is totally absorbed in the 24 hour fermentation process, I haven’t read this
I only ask these questions as i am keen to try this yoghurt but being a Coeliac with Lactose intolerance
i have always avoided both milk and any product that is not guaranteed Gluten Free.
I would greatly value a reply from you.
Hi Suzanne, that’s so strange. On the package the starter does not say this, but when I went to one website it was right there. I haven’t had any problems with this product, but everyone is different, so best to do what works for you. I haven’t had this yogurt assayed after I made it so not sure if there would be measurable amounts of casein after the 24 hour fermentation period. If you make this yogurt I hope you’ll stop back by and leave another comment :-)
Cristin Biundo says
HI Elana, I have recently converted to the Ketogenic Diet and enjoying your cookbook as well as your site. I have a couple questions for you…If you were to go and buy a new yogurt maker-Is there a machine that you prefer over others?
Thanks for your time,
Cristin from SF
Hi Cristin, if you click on the green text in the special equipment section of the recipe that says “yogourmet yogurt maker” you will be given that information :-)
Instead of buying a yogurt maker you can use your own oven to heat the milk. Just keep the temperature at 110 degrees.
Casey, I’ve done that several times and have had very mixed results.
simon weinfeld says
Under the above “Lactose-free yogurt” paragraph, you conclude with the following sentence –
“The bacteria in yogurt digest the lactose, as well as the casein, or milk protein.”
Although it is correct that most, if not all the lactose is consumed after about 24 hours, thus making it a virtually a very low or zero carb food, casein, which is the milk protein is, in fact, the primary remaining nutrient not lost. Therefore, unlike the typical non-greek, non-dripped yogurt with 9-12 grams of protein per 8 oz. serving, the dripped yogurt has about double the protein amount.
Thanks Simon :-)
Nancy Hildebrandt says
Your tip about heating to a lower temperature has changed my life! I’ve been making Yogourmet yogurt for years, but now I heat the milk for a half hour on low and it’s ready! No stirring necessary at that low heat.
Nancy, thanks for letting me know that. I love finding ways to save time for myself and my readers!