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Your A to Z Guide to Homemade Yogurt

Your A to Z Guide to Homemade Yogurt

Your guide to making homemade yogurt along with a troubleshoot to help you get it right from the first time.
By Sawsan Abu Farha

Have you ever thought about making your own homemade yogurt? Do you worry about all the preservatives, flavoring agents and additives you get in store-bought yogurt?  Do you believe that anything homemade is healthier, cheaper and tastes better than the stuff you can buy?

If you answered yes one or more of the above questions I know you will enjoy making your own homemade yogurt and once you taste it, you will never look back. Making yogurt is a very simple process, requiring very little active working time. However the amount of information you would have to read about making your own yogurt can be over whelming. I tried my best to sum it up and summarize it for you but if you still have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

There are a few major players involved in making home-made yogurt:
The milk:
To boil or not to boil That depends on the type of milk you are using.Fresh milk must be boiled to sterilize it before using it to make yogurt. Pasteurized milk on the other hand has already been sterilized and you only need to warm it up to use it to make yogurt

The kind of milk you use to make yogurt can influence the taste and the consistency of the final product. Cow’s milk gives the mildest flavor and  medium consistency yogurt. Black goat’s milk  is moderately flavored and gives you a yogurt that is less set or less firm when compared to  cow’s milk. White goat’s milk has the richest flavor and sets better than the other two types of milk

The starter:
To make yogurt you need active yogurt making bacteria and the easiest way to get it is to use some yogurt as a starter to transforming your milk into yogurt. If you have previously made your own yogurt save a little of each batch to make the next one. If you have never made your own yogurt you can start by using store-bought yogurt. There are two major points to keep in mind when it comes to starters.

Fresh starter vs old starter:  Using a fresh starter will give you mild tasting yogurt. Using an older yogurt for your starter will give you a final result that has a more  prominent sour note . If I am using store bought yogurt for my starter I usually leave it outside the fridge the night before I am making yogurt to allow cultures to develop and use it the next day.

Keep in mind that if you are using a store bought yogurt for your starter, it can be tricky to tell if it actually contains live cultures. It may list cultures in the ingredients, but if it does not not have the live and active cultures seal, it probably has been heat-treated and may not work. If you are not sure try with a small amount of milk  (around 1 liter)

Amount:The rule of thumb is use 1 tablespoon of starter per liter (5 cups) milk if you want your yogurt to be mild tasting and not too sour. If you are fond of the sour taste, I  would increase the amount to 1/4 cup starter per liter (5  cups) milk

The incubation period
For milk to turn into yogurt after adding the starter you need to keep it covered in a warm place. I usually pour the milk into a pot, cover it with the lid then cover that with a blanket.

How long you keep your milk incubated will affect the consistency and how sour your yogurt will turn out. The longer you keep the milk you have mixed with the starter incubated in a warm place the thicker the consistency  and more sour the taste of your yogurt will be. I usually check on it after 4 hours and decide if it needs more time.

The incubation period is greatly affected by how cold or hot the weather is. On cold days you may need up yo 10-12 hour for the milk to turn into yogurt. While on hot days it can be as short as a couple of hours.

Greek or regular
Greek yogurt is basically yogurt that has been strained extensively to remove much of the liquid whey, along with the whey, straining removes a lot of the lactose, and sugar, giving it its thick  creamy consistency.

In roughly the same amount of calories, Greek yogurt can pack up to double the protein, while cutting sugar content by half

I prefer my yogurt thick and creamy so I strain it but the choice between greek and regular is entirely up to you. the recipe is the same and so are the steps up to straining the yogurt.

If you choose to go the greek path (make your yogurt thicker and creamier)

You will need
– a cheese cloth or a clean white dish towel
– a colander
– a bowl

Line your colander with the cheese cloth, then place it on top of a bowl

Pour in the yogurt and allow to strain for a couple of hours. During this time stir the yogurt scrapping  down the size every 15- 20 minutes

See Also

If you don’t have time you can bring the four corners of the cheese cloth together after pouring in the yogurt  and lift it. Then twist the corners to squeeze out the liquid (it will drain through the cloth) over the bowl or sink. Continue squeezing, putting the yogurt under pressure, to force the liquid out till the majority of the surface liquid has been drained, it will start to drip more slowly. Tie off the top of the cloth just above the mass of yogurt with string.

Place the cloth containing the yogurt in a strainer , and place it in a bowl where it doesn’t touch the bottom (that way the  liquid can continue to drain).Place the bowl containing the strainer  in the refrigerator and allow to drain for 2-3 hours.

My yogurt did not set, it is too runny
You did not allow it enough time to set or the place you incubated it in is not warm enough. Add a blanket and give it a few more hours

My yogurt is not sour
The starter you used is fresh, you didn’t allow the yogurt enough incubation time. The solution is to leave it covered in a warm place for 3-5 extra hours

My yogurt seems to have set but there’s a little clear liquid floating on the top and the sides.  Is this okay?
Yes, some separation of whey from the yogurt is fine and is a natural variation within the culturing process.  Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t.  A full separation where the top half  is a white mass and the bottom half is clear liquid is a problem however

What do I do with the whey?
You can use the whey instead of buttermilk in making pancakes. You can use it instead of the liquid in bread and pastry dough and it will give you soft and fluffy baked goods. You can also drink it with a little salt, it is actually very refreshing and tasty

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Your A to Z guide to homemade yogurt

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  • Author: Sawsan Abu Farha


Your guide to making homemade yogurt along with a troubleshoot to help you get it right from the first time


  • To make 1 and 1/2 cups of greek yogurt (use this as a basic formula, you can double it, triple it or make 10x the given recipe depending on how much yogurt you need)
  • 1 liter (5 cups) milk (not ultra-pasturized)
  • 1 tablespoon yogurt


  1. Pour the milk into a pot and heat it oer medium heat while stirring till it gets to 40C (if you are using fresh milk you need to boil it first then allow it to cool down to 40C)
  2. If you don’t have a thermometer you can still make yogurt, heat the milk until it feels warm to the touch.
  3. Add the yogurt starter and stir to insure it is destributed
  4. Cover the pot with the lid and them put it in a warm place and cover it with a blanket or a couple of blankets if it is a really cold day.
  5. Check on it after 4 hours, if it is still too runny, cover it again and give it a couple of hours (on really cold days you may need up to 10-12 hours)


View Comments (32)
  • I make my own yogurt every week–keep spreading the word! Since I’m in a cooler climate than you, I put my jars of yogurt in a cooler/thermos to retain the heat better.

  • What a wonderful recipe. I have never tried making yogurt before and would like to give it a try. one question before I start. what kind of milk do you use? Vitamin D or 2% or does it matter

  • Hello, I have been making yogurt for 20 years, and today, a new thing happened! I have small orange spots on the top of my yogurt! I made it about 2 weeks ago. I have kept it in the refrigerator much longer than this in the past, with no px’s. My gut feeling is that I can scrape it off and it is still good. But I am just wondering if you have any insight as to “why”? Is it mould? Should I be more leary of it? I use skim milk … and I use a yogurt maker to maintain the heat … and I use starter from my last batch – have for years!

  • Hello Isara,
    The orange spots you are refering to are probably a form of fungus.The yogurt could have gotten contaminated during making or something got into the jars or on the spoon someone used or it got contaminated from something in the fridge.Don’t worry too much,it happens. You can scrape off the surface layer and check if the layer under it has changed color or smell. If you observe any change I would throw it away. If not you may use it.
    Keep in mind though that most safty instructions say that fluid or semi fluid foods should be thrown away if you see signs of mould on the surface because you can’t be sure how much of it is contaminated. While with solid food you can safely scrape off the affected part and use the rest.

  • If you have a chance, try making yoghurt from sheep milk. It’s creamier and more dense than any other yoghurt, has more fat and is less sour.

    Also, don’t leave the yoghurt you intend to use as starter overnight out – this allows non-yoghurt bacteria and yeasts to develop, will give your yoghurt a sour note and favor the separation of whey. Instead, heat the milk up to 45 degrees C, skim the top layer of yoghurt of the starter jar, and add about one heapfull tablespoon of yoghurt to one litre of warm milk, without reaching into the bottom of the jar. Yeasts tend to gather at the top of the jar, and bacteria which make the milk sour and sort of slimy tend to gather at the bottom of the jar, which is why the middle of the jar is where the yoghurt ferments are purest.

    After you have added the starter, pack your pot/jar into a woollen cloth, so it keeps a temperature of above 42 degrees C for a few hours (3-4-5, depending on how thick you want it to be – I like it very thick, so I keep it warm for 8 hours or more – you can almost cut it in pieces after that). After that, put it in the refrigerator, to cool it down quickly. This allows you to keep it for a few days (3, at most 4, after that it becomes sour milk, and that’s not to everybody’s taste), and finishes the thickening process. The result should be creamy, thick, not at all sour, and with no visible whey separation. If you want to drink it, rather than eating it with a spoon, give it a quick whirl with a mixer.

    • Are you saying with regular store bought milk it can be thick enough to cut like cheese making curds or you are talking about sheep milk you have experienced this thickness and not so sour taste.
      Thank you!

  • I have been making yoghurt for about 10 months now. I got the recipe from the internet. I have modified it to make it easier.
    Basically it is like this: Heat one and a half litres of milk (I use 2%) in a glass measuring bowl, in the microwave for 16 minutes or until it is 185 degrees Fahrenheit. I then put it in my 190 degrees F. preheated oven for 30 minutes. I cool it in the sink filled with cold water until it has cooled down to 110 degrees F. I put about 3 tbsp of starter (my old yoghurt of store bought yoghurt) in the warm milk and give it a stir. I then put it back in the oven covered with a tea towel , but now the oven is turned off and has cooled down while the milk was cooling. I turn the oven light on and keep it in the oven overnight. (I have it in the oven for 7 to 10 hours). In the morning I take it out of the oven, give it a stir, put it in containers and place it in the back of the fridge. It thickens some more and is ready to be eaten later that day.

  • Greeting from South Africa! Thank you for your very simply and easy steps for making yoghurt. You have really explained the process very well that I now want to try using sheep milk!

  • hi i recently bought a cow.the milk of this cow does n`t make good quality is very runny .do you think the culprit is the ration or chronic mastitis?please help.

    • Using too much culture can cause overcrowding of the bacteria resulting in a thin runny yogurt. If your cow has mastitis you should not be using the milk. If the cow is being treated with antibiotics – which she should be if she has mastitis then the yogurt will not work as the antibiotics prevent the culture from growing.

      I raised dairy goats and Jersey cows for over 25 years, making yogurt, butter, cheese etc and devouring everything technical I could read on the subject. I don’t ever recall reading any research document that a black goat produces different milk from a white goat, any more than a white egg differs nutritionally from a brown egg. Some breeds such as Nubians [mostly brown goats, some black perhaps] produce milk with more butterfat than the Saanan [white] breed – much the same as a Jersey produces milk with the highest butterfat content. While black goats can be any breed almost, it would be better to say that the following breeds produce higher butterfat, better yogurt than the other breeds.

      Kinder – 5-7%

      Nigerian – 5-6%

      Nubian – 4.61%

  • I gauge the heat of the milk using a trick learned from a Turkish chef. Put your finger in the milk and count to 15. By the time you get to 15, and if you really need to take your finger out: it’s ready.
    Works every time for me.

  • I simply want to know if the milk in my carton (pastuerised)that has now set of it’s own accord and turned into a yogurt WITHOUT using any kind of starter or culture, is in fact yogurt and safe to use as such, it’s perfectly white, no mould or anything and thick. It just did that after being left in a warm room, no help at all, all on it’s own ! ?

  • This one is very close to how I make my homemade yogurt. I just need milk, live culture and my pure clay, un-glazed pot (yogurt pot). And every time I get a thick, silky delicious and a healthy yogurt just in 3 steps. I started making yogurt at home from the time I got my MEC pure clay pot and their website gave me this easy to follow instructions to make thick and creamy yogurt without using any artificial thickeners. The micro-pores in the pot lets only the water out.

  • Assalaam alaikum sister,
    I have been making yogurt for some years now with good results. However, I got careless about heating the milk and one day, my yogurt batch was fine, except that it had a strange white film floating on top. It looked like a thin layer of velvet. I am puzzled as to what happened. This has not made my yogurt harmful or taste different in any way, but from then all my batches of yogurt have the same “problem”.
    Has my original starter become contaminated? It still tastes and smells the same. What should I do? I just dont like the appearance of my yogurt.

  • Thank you for the tips. Made yogurt for the first time and turned out tasty! I used an European-style yogurt (less sour and more silky texture) as my starter and 2% milk.

  • I made yoghurt today and there are red lumps on the bottom, the top and middle were fine but the bottom had red lumps through it???

  • I use raw milk with success but my last batch of yogurt was very thin on top. As I scooped it out to heat it and begin again with new starter, I found the bottom half of the batch was very thick and GRANULAR! I loved it. Wonder if I could do that again. I’m reheating and cooling down the runny portion and wondering if it will “take” the new starter.

  • Sawsana, I’ve just stepped in your your post looking for ‘how to make yogurt more sour’ and I found your post! It’s s really great and very informative! I will add a link to my blog ( and visit yours soon. Thank you from NY! ????

  • Hi Sawsan. Have finally had success with my yoghurt making. Thank you for your tips. Only difference was that I madeit it using a cast iron pot then placed the pot in an oven set to less than 50 Celsius.

  • I really love the thin, almost drinkable European yogurt that I cannot get in the US. How can I make that? It is creamy, but no where as thick and cloying as American yogurt. If I could find a brand here, I would buy it, but most people seem to like their yogurt thick. Not me. I crave the soupy king and have never been able to find it in the US.

  • Hi,
    Great info! I have a question in hoping you can answer because “sour” is subjective. Ive had yogurt that was almost sour-free. The closest I can find in the grocery stores is Oui brand. Following your directions for timing,I live in Hawaii, so I was thinking 2 or 3 hours. Think that will work?
    Thank you!

  • Everyone seems to be concerned about making their yogurt to be sour, but I would actually prefer it to be creamy rather than sour. Yet all my batches turn out sour. I always let sit overnight for 8-9 hrs. How do i make it lore creamy, less sour? Shorten hibernation time?

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