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How To Make Yogurt & Yogurt Cheese

Avatar for Samantha Biggers Samantha Biggers  |  Updated: May 24, 2021
How To Make Yogurt & Yogurt Cheese

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Yogurt has a lot of health benefits and is quite easy to make. Here are some of the advantages of doing it yourself followed up with how to do it and how to turn it into delicious yogurt cheese.

It’s easy

It takes very little time make yogurt so you can fit it in a very busy schedule. It is something you can start in the evening and have under control before you go to work the next day. If you forget until you get home, unless it is extremely hot in your house, chances are the yogurt is fine. This is not something that is going to spoil if you leave it outside the fridge for a few extra hours if it has a lid on it.

Cost Savings

I can find organic whole milk that is set to expire in a day or two for $3 per gallon. If you don’t care about organic then you can sometimes get regular whole milk for $1-$2. This is perfectly fine for making yogurt as long as you do it withing a day or two of purchase.

A quart of plain or flavored organic yogurt costs about $4 in my area. If I make a gallon of yogurt out of a $3 gallon of milk, I am suddenly paying $0.75 instead of $4! There are a few other expenses like the cost of any fruit, honey, or jam you use for flavoring and the cost of some plain active culture yogurt or starter to get going with yogurt making.

You control the sugar and fruit content

The above cost did not account for flavoring. I make my own jam so the cost for me is pretty low. We just add fruit or jelly to plain at time of consumption. Even if I add quite a bit of jelly or honey. I noticed that Stoneyfield Organic has reduced the sugar in their vanilla whole milk yogurt by 25% recently. A lot of people are trying to cut out the sweets and unfortunately a lot of commercial yogurts are full of sweeteners.

Less limitations on flavor and easier on households with some family members on limited diets

Making your own yogurt also allows you to have a master batch of plain that household members can customize. If one person is diabetic then they can use stevia or a little bit of fruit while others are free to mix in whatever they wish. No more having to pick and choose a bunch of different types of yogurt at the grocery store.

A big jar of homemade yogurt and a quart of blueberry jam from our bushes!

What You Need

Container that is slightly larger than a gallon. I use my Presto canner or any stock pot.

Cooking thermometer


Plain Yogurt With Active Culture Or Your Chosen Purchased Starter

Please check your starter and follow the instructions as directed if you have bought a special starter. My recipe uses just plain yogurt from the store. A purchased culture may require some additional prep you need to allow time for.

Low Fat Versus Whole Fat

Low fat yogurt is okay but if you want to make a cheese out of it than try for whole. If you see 2% on sale then go for it, You will get good yogurt but it is simply not going to be as thick or creamy. You can make yogurt with skim milk even but realize that the results are going to be different and that is not something you have control over.

1. Pour milk into container and heat until 180 F

2. Cool down to 90 F

3. Pitch culture. The more you use the faster it will turn into yogurt. If you are in a hurry you can put in a cup of live active culture plain yogurt from the store per gallon of milk. This creates some very thick and creamy yogurt. I use Stoneyfield Organic Plain Yogurt for a starter culture.

4. Keep pot warm for 12-16 hours. Warmth and the strength of your culture play a major role in how fast you get the thick yogurt you want.

Reusing culture

You can inoculate your next batch of yogurt with a cup from your previous batch but I try to buy a fresh culture every 3 batches just to keep it strong and pure. Some people keep it going longer.

There are dry yogurt cultures you can buy and keep on hand but I have found that just going to the grocery store and getting a cup or quart of plain yogurt works just fine and it is easier to do.

My yogurt is runny? What can I do about it?

There are a few options if your yogurt has a less than ideal consistency. If you added the culture less than 12 hours ago then you just need to keep it warm and give it some more time.

Powdered milk can be used to thicken if you can eat it. Eventually it will be cultured too if you give it time. Most of the time I have heard of people using milk powder is when they have used low fat milks.

You can add some more plain yogurt culture and keep warm and allow 12 hours to culture.

If your yogurt doesn’t culture at all then it is possible that you added the culture when it was too hot to put it in.

Yogurt Cheese

If you always thought that you were too busy to make cheese then you may be surprised to know that you can make cheese with ease!

Yogurt cheese is made simply by straining off the liquid from yogurt. This requires a very fine strainer. I bought something specifically for this. That might seem like a lot for a small box and strainer but I have got so much use out of it.

I have used it to strain other things as well. It makes quite a bit at once. I would say about a pint of yogurt goes in. The final yield depends on how rich your yogurt is to start with. Whole milk fat yogurt has a higher final yield than low fat. The more water content the more whey you will have at the bottom of your strainer. This is another reason I like the specially made “tupperwear” style strainer for this job. The bottom catches all the whey and you can use it for cooking or adding to animal feeds if you want.

You might be able to get away with doing this with many layers of cheesecloth if needed or by using a wider mesh strainer and then lining with cheese cloth. The maker I have has an extremely fine screen and I want to make sure to point out that after you use it and take out the cheese, to either add more yogurt immediately or soak/wash right away. If something dries on the mesh it is much harder to clean. I mostly ran into this issue when using it to strain fruit products.

Yogurt cheese makes an excellent substitute for cream cheese and sour cream. It is lovely as a crepe filling or on top of pan cakes.

It is also an inexpensive cheese to produce that offers fast results

Try adding any herbs and spices you like to make dips. If your cheese is really thick you can shape it and add a thick layer of herbs. This is fabulous and easy and it will impress your friends and family at potlucks, and holidays.

It really is as easy as pouring yogurt in and waiting. Hopefully all of this makes you look differently at all that marked down milk you see and pass by at the grocery store!

Yogurt can be used in place of regular milk and buttermilk in recipes. You may even find that you like it better. Those that are lactose intolerant will appreciate the substitution,

Yogurt kept in a glass jar well sealed and refrigerated is good for a month. That means if you make 2 gallons of yogurt you could have one for eating and make the other into yogurt cheese over the course of the month. Some people may discover that they just start using yogurt cheese to replace a lot of more expensive store bought dairy. You really can use it in recipes instead of various milk products and there is no need to buy sour cream or cream cheese.

When you think about these replacements it is easy to see that yogurt can save you a lot more money than you might think. Value adding that is easy to do can be a hard thing but not in this case. If you like to make dips then you are going to save for sure with this and since it keeps so well it is always there.

Frostings made with yogurt cheese are especially good. Just add confectioners sugar and whatever flavor you want and mix, add a little more sugar if needed to get the right consistency.

Specialized Yogurt Makers

Not everyone wants to mess with methods like I use or maybe you live by yourself and want to make small convenient batches. I am going to include a few commercial specialized yogurt makers here so you know your options. There are some advantages to these systems with most of their limitations being the capacity you can make at one time.

One advantage is that they have small serving size jars that are ready to go. The downside is that it is a bunch of small jars to wash and keep track of. If you like to take a cup of yogurt with you to work or play and don’t want to spoon it out from a big jar then you might consider a small maker. You can always portion out from a larger batch into smaller jars so kids and others have a convenient option too for school or just when they want something good to eat at home.

Product Recommendations:

  • NutriChef Yogurt Maker
  • Euro Cuisine Yogurt Maker
  • VonShef Yogurt Maker

Practice, practice

Your first batch may be fabulous but there also might be something that you don’t like so much or forget to do. After a few batches you will be an old pro at it though so don’t get discouraged. The most common problem is simply not keeping it warm enough during culturing time and thus having a runny yogurt. If this happens then your yogurt is still going to taste great in smoothies or as a milk subsitute in cooking so it is not a big loss.

Crock Pot Method

A crock pot is a truly wonderful thing. You can definitely make yogurt in a crock pot. There are a few ways to approach this.

1. You can bring milk up to temperature on your stove and save a little time. Allow to cool until the right temperature to pitch the culture and then carefully pour into you r Crock Pot set to Warm.

Allow to incubate. Make sure your crock pot is not getting your milk above 120 or so during the culture time. If it is then you may need to just turn it off for a few but generally you should just be able to leave it. A loose fitting lid instead of a tight fitting one can help. If you have a crock pot with a fancy digital temperature function then you are good to go. It is cheaper to get one of these and you can make more yogurt than getting a specialty yogurt maker.

$Tou can make 6 quarts of yogurt at once instead of 1.5 quarts you get with the compact small jar yogurt makers I showed you previously.

Ideas For Using Yogurt Cheese

  • Dips
  • Smoothies
  • Indian foods
  • Crepes
  • Bread topping
  • Heavy cream substitute
  • Frostings

The flavor may be slightly different using yogurt cheese but sometimes it is not noticeable. It depends on how much your recipe calls for of a dairy product and how much you are substituting.

Do you have any tips for making yogurt? Are their any products that you find help you out with the job?

Author Bio: Samantha Biggers lives on a mountain in North Carolina with her husband and pack of loyal hounds in a house her husband and she built themselves. When not writing she is working in their vineyard, raising Shetland sheep, or helping her husband with whatever the farm and vineyard can throw at them. 

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2 Responses to “How To Make Yogurt & Yogurt Cheese”

  1. Around 30 years ago, in the year 1999, we started buying non-electrical items, in the event on a power outage. One of my favorites was a yogurt maker from Leman Brothers. We had our own jersey cow and she enabled me to make perfect yogurt every time. Of course it was far from fat free. I did take the cream off the top to use for butter making. I had a few of the hand carved wooden butter molds from the same store. At that time, I could add some culture to make cheese and hang it on the clothes line.
    So hear I am starting over after abandoning that lifestyle for many years. I have always missed it and find myself excited about recapturing those skills, along with the good memories.
    Thank you so much for all the valuable information you provide. I wish you lived next door, so we could learn from each other. We would not have to worry about our neighbor being unprepared! God Bless!

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