Make your own homemade yogurt from scratch with the super-simple crock pot method! DIY yogurt is so easy and frugal, you’ll never want to go back to store bought!
What’s in yogurt?
Essentially just milk, cultures, and sweeteners. If you make your own yogurt, you get control of which sweeteners go in, while also saving money. And since yogurt is a nutritional powerhouse, it’s a great recipe to incorporate into your regular cooking routine.
I eat yogurt almost every day, so that I have good bacteria living in my gut to help my digestion. In fact, yogurt is so good for you that I believe it’s one of the foundational first steps to eating a real food diet.
It’s also super frugal. My husband and I figured out that we can make nearly twice as much yogurt for half the price of a store-bought tub of plain yogurt! And if you’re accustomed to buying flavoured yogurt or the individual yogurt cups, you’ll save even more money by making it from scratch.
Homemade yogurt making involves two main steps:
- Preparing an environment conducive to bacteria growth
- Allowing time for the bacteria to grow
Yogurt gets its thick consistency from the living bacteria which ferment the milk and change its chemical makeup. Yogurt bacteria need a warm environment to thrive, and they need time to do their job of fermenting.
Although there are several ways to create a bacteria-friendly environment for culturing yogurt, I think using the crock pot method is the easiest! You don’t need any special equipment besides a cooking pot and your normal slow cooker. (If you’re curious, this is the crock pot I personally use.)
To make 8 cups of yogurt (64oz.), you’ll need to start with 8 cups of milk and about 1/3 cup of full-fat plain yogurt to serve as your starter culture. For your yogurt starter culture, use yogurt that contains live and active cultures/bacteria. (It will say somewhere on the package if it contains cultures. The more strains of bacteria, the better!)
We always use whole milk to make our yogurt. The finished product is rich and creamy and retains all those good fats. If you have access to it, you can make homemade yogurt with raw milk, although the process will lightly pasteurize the milk. The “skin” that forms over the milk during the heating process is called nata. You can skim it off and eat it–it’s tasty!
I’ve been making yogurt in my slow cooker for six years and counting. I’ve tried various real food practices over the years, and this is one that has stuck!
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 1/3 cup plain, full-fat yogurt with live and active cultures
- Set your crock pot on low heat.
- Put the 1/3 cup of yogurt on the counter so it will begin to come to room temperature.
- Pour 1/2 gallon of milk into cooking pot and warm over medium heat on the stove top. Stir occasionally.
- When the milk becomes bubbly and frothy, let it froth for another 5-10 minutes.
- Take milk off heat and let cool until it is hot--but not burning--to the touch. Feel the inside of the crock pot; it should be warm but not burning to the touch. If it is too hot, turn heat setting down to "Keep Warm," or turn off crock pot completely to let it cool slightly.
- When the milk is no longer burning to the touch, mix about 1 cup of milk with the 1/3 cup of yogurt, stirring gently. Pour the remaining milk into the crock pot, then gently stir in the yogurt mixture.
- Turn off and unplug crock pot, cover with lid, and wrap in one or two heavy towels.
- Let crock pot sit for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
- After 8+ hours, place crock pot in fridge and chill completely.
- After yogurt is thoroughly chilled, dip out 1/3 cup of yogurt and set aside to be the starter culture for your next batch.
For a thicker yogurt, you can drain off the whey liquid that forms over the yogurt. You can add this mineral-rich whey to soups or smoothies! To flavour yogurt, try stirring in maple syrup, raw honey, vanilla or almond extracts, fruit, shredded coconut...the possibilities are fun and limitless!