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Dharma Kitchen


Homemade Yogurt from Cheryl Sternman Rule's Yogurt Culture

Carrie H

Hello, dear readers. I promised you more yogurt love, and here it is; I think I've unofficially joined #teamyogurt. How about you? This recipe for Homemade Yogurt is gratefully excerpted from Yogurt Culture, © 2015 by Cheryl Sternman Rule, cookbook author and blogger of the award-winning 5 Second Rule. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. 

Homemade Yogurt

Yield: ½ gallon milk will yield about 7 cups yogurt; 1 gallon milk will yield about 14 cups yogurt

Despite the length of the instructions that follow, making yogurt isn’t hard. People have been doing it for thousands of years. I’ve included an equipment list to make the process foolproof for newcomers. Keep in mind that this is a simple, four-step process:


·       A large, heavy stainless-steel pot or an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven with a lid

·       Measuring cup and spoons

·       A clip-on candy thermometer or an instant-read thermometer

·       A medium bowl or a glass measuring cup

·       A ladle and a whisk

·       A long-handled metal spoon or silicone spatula

·       A towel

·       A large, lidded container to store the finished yogurt (or a wide-mouth funnel and a few glass jars)

Please note: Equipment pulled fresh from a hot dishwasher is the most sanitary, though you can decide for yourself whether this extra insurance is important to you. (Sanitize the thermometer by sticking the bottom half of the probe in a mug of just-boiled water.)






½ gallon or 1 gallon milk, preferably whole and organic (not ultrapasteurized)

2 tablespoons or ¼ cup plain store-bought yogurt with live, active cultures, at room temperature

About The Ingredients

Start by using ½ gallon of milk and 2 tablespoons yogurt (the starter). Once you get the hang of the method and if you find yourself craving a larger batch, scale up to 1 gallon of milk and ¼ cup starter.

You may make yogurt from reduced-fat milk following this method, though I prefer using whole milk as I find the results far superior. My second choice is 2% milk.

STEP 1: HEAT THE MILK TO 180°F. Rub an ice cube along the entire inside of the pot or Dutch oven. (The ice helps prevent the milk from adhering to the pot, easing cleanup.) Pour in the milk. Affix the candy thermometer (if using) to the side of the pot (otherwise, test the temperatures with an instant-read thermometer) and turn the heat to medium-high. Slowly bring the milk up to 180°F, without stirring. When you reach 180°F, turn the heat way down and maintain the milk at 180°F (or a few degrees higher) for 5 full minutes. This “hold” creates naturally thicker yogurt without the need for milk powders or thickeners. Remove the pot from the heat. Use the ladle to lift off any skin that formed.

STEP 2: COOL THE MILK TO 115°F. Allow the milk to cool down to 115°F, stirring gently to release steam. To accelerate cooling, fill the sink partway with lots of ice and some cold water, then set your pot carefully in the sink. Stir occasionally and check the thermometer fre­quently; if the milk dips more than a few degrees below 115°F, you’ll have to rewarm it.

STEP 3: INOCULATE WITH THE STARTER CULTURE. When your milk has reached 115°F, place the plain yogurt (the starter) in the medium bowl or glass measuring cup, using 2 tablespoons yogurt for ½ gal­lon milk or ¼ cup yogurt for a gallon of milk. Ladle in roughly 1 cup of the warm milk and whisk to combine. (This is called tempering.) Scrape the tempered yogurt back into the pot. Remove the ther­mometer and cover the pot.

STEP 4: INCUBATE FOR SEVERAL HOURS, UNTIL THICK. The inoculated milk must be kept warm (ideally between 100 and 112°F) throughout incubation, though slightly cooler temperatures should work. You have several options for where to incubate:

Use your oven. Keep the oven’s heat off but flip on the oven light. Place the covered pot in the oven and drape the top with a kitchen towel. (Don’t let the towel touch the light.) If your climate is especially cold, wrap the pot in a thicker towel. I always stick a post-it note on my oven door so I know there’s yogurt in there and don’t accidentally turn the oven on. Resist the temptation to open the oven during incubation. Depend­ing on your climate and the oven’s insulation, the modest heat generated by the light is, in most cases, sufficient to incubate your yogurt in 6 to 12 hours, but it may take a bit longer. The longer you incubate the yogurt, the tarter it will be.

Find a warm spot in your home. If you’ve got a warm spot in the kitchen or elsewhere in your home—near (but not directly on top of ) a heating vent, or by a sunny and draft-free window—you can wrap your lidded pot with a thick towel and incubate it there. Depending on the warmth of your spot and the ambient temperature of your home, your yogurt should be ready in 6 to 12 hours, but it may take a bit longer.

How do I know when my yogurt is ready? Regardless of incubation method, your yogurt is ready when it’s thick and looks like yogurt. It’s really that simple. It should be set and wobble only slightly when you jiggle the pot. When you slip a clean spoon into the yogurt and push some gently aside, some watery whey will fill in the wake. This is perfectly normal, as is a layer of cloudy whey that may (in some cases) float on top. Don’t taste your yogurt yet. Yogurt will thicken further and, in my opinion, develop optimal flavor only after chilling.

Photo © Ellen Silverman.

Photo © Ellen Silverman.

TO FINISH (FOR ALL METHODS). Remove ¼ cup of the yogurt to use as the starter for your next batch. Refrigerate this starter, covered and dated, for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 3 months. (Thaw in the refrigerator before using.)

If the top layer of whey bothers you, ladle it into a jar or tip it into the sink.

Transfer the remaining yogurt to a large container, or ladle into quart-size glass jars with the aid of a wide-mouth funnel. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight, before eating or using in recipes. Most homemade yogurt will be a bit lumpy. To smooth it out, simply whisk gently before eating. Store, covered, in the refrigerator. For optimal texture and flavor, consume within 7 to 10 days.


You may make goat yogurt following the exact same recipe, using pasteurized goat’s milk and commercial goat yogurt as your starter in the same proportions given here for cow’s milk (1 tablespoon starter per quart of milk). Keep in mind that even after full fermentation, goat yogurt will never be as thick as cow’s milk yogurt. It generally remains pourable, with a viscous texture and without the distinct curds you’ll find in homemade cow’s milk yogurt.

Yogurt-Making Tips

·  Incubating yogurt at home in stainless steel is a good choice, since it retains heat and is nonreactive. Most “vat-set” commercial yogurt is also incubated in stainless steel.

·  Yogurt is a product of anaerobic fermentation, meaning it ferments in the absence of oxygen. After making yogurt, keep it covered to preserve the longevity of its live bacterial cultures.

·  Yogurt becomes more acidic and sourer over time. Your week-old homemade yogurt will be noticeably tangier than the yogurt you made fresh yesterday.