Homemade Yogurt by the Gallon Easy Recipe

posted in: homemaker 17

Homemade yogurt is simple and inexpensive. There is a learning curve and there are a few details you must pay attention to, but it is a mostly hands-off process that can deliver yogurt to your fridge at a fraction of the cost.

I’ve been making homemade yogurt for over 7 years, with differing levels of success. I think I’ve tried every method Pinterest boasts, except for trying a specialty yogurt maker.

No, I want my yogurt family-sized. I want to make it a gallon at a time.

Three years ago, I landed on the method that works best for me and requires no special equipment. All it takes is a large pot with a lid, a thermometer, an oven. As far as ingredients, all you need is a gallon of milk (I use whole milk) and a cup of purchased or previously-made yogurt.

I also recommend a timer, but we’ll get to that.

Homemade yogurt is simple and straightforward - and very frugal! Here's a straightforward way to make homemade yogurt without any special tools.

How to Make Thick Homemade Yogurt

  • Pour a gallon of whole milk into a large pot and bring up to 180* slowly, keeping watch on it so it doesn’t bubble over. If it does spill over, just move it off the heat. The milk is still fine, you just have a bigger mess to clean up.
  • Turn off the heat and let the milk sit, uncovered, until the temperature is reduced to between 100-110 degrees. This will take a long time.
  • Slowly and gentle introduce 1 cup yogurt to the warm milk. Do not “incorporate” it. Add it to the milk and slowly and gently stir the pot a tiny bit.
  • Put the lid on the pot and put the pot in the barely-warm oven. If you can manually turn on the light in the oven, do so. Close the oven and set a timer for 8-12 hours.
  • After 10ish hours (ok, sometimes it’s been as many as 20 for me), pull the pot out of the oven, check to make sure it’s thickened (by looking, don’t stir). Put the pot straight into the fridge without disturbing the yogurt. Let it chill overnight before transferring to containers.

The times this has not worked out for me have all been due to temperature problems. Don’t turn the heat on in the oven – invariably, it will become too hot and kill the bacteria and you’ll have spoiled milk instead of yogurt. Other times, I’ve forgotten to use a thermometer to test the milk temperature before adding the yogurt starter, so the milk was hotter than I thought and killed the bacteria.

By putting the fresh yogurt in the fridge before disturbing it, the yogurt has a chance to thicken and the consistency and texture is greatly improved. It means you have to plan ahead and allot plenty of time, but it’s worth it!

My best tip is to use a timer! An alarm on your phone is the best. I set an alarm for when I need to move the yogurt from the oven to the fridge – because if I don’t it might be 24-30 hours before I remember! Also setting a timer to remind yourself to check the milk as it cools down from the beginning pasteurizing step is helpful.

Homemade yogurt is simple and straightforward - and very frugal! Here's a straightforward way to make homemade yogurt without any special tools.

Homemade yogurt is simple and straightforward and you don’t need extra appliances to do it!

Give it a try and let me know how it works for you!

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17 Responses

  1. Janis
    | Reply

    How funny! I just put my yogurt in the cooler before I read this post! In our house, a gallon is too much. Somehow SEEING a gallon is overwhelming and makes us avoid eating it. Backwards, I know! I started making a quart at a time even if it means 3-4 times in a week. I add 3 cups of milk to a quart mason jar and microwave for about 5 minutes until it reaches 180*. Then I leave it on the counter to cool until it is 110*. I stir in 1.5-2 tablespoons of yogurt to the milk, wrap it in a towel, and incubate for 8-12 hours. I have incubated in the microwave and a cooler.

    I love having homemade yogurt and love learning that it really is one of the easiest recipes ingredient-wise and process-wise.

    Thanks for sharing your method!

  2. Nicole
    | Reply

    Is your milk raw or already pasteurized before you make it? If it’s already pasteurized can I skip the initial step of heating to 180? Or what if i didn’t pasteurize all? Great simple recipe, thanks!

  3. Christine
    | Reply

    I have been making homemade ‘greek’ yogurt since I lived at home with my parents, having learned from my Mom. I have large family so make 1.5 – 2 gallons at a time. When the yogurt is cooled down (takes 1.5 hours) and ready to add in the starter yogurt – I mix in the starter yogurt and then ladle the milk/yogurt into jars, and close with lids. ( I have saved numerous glass peanut butter jars, with cute yellow lids, and they make the perfect size container to fit on the shelf in my fridge.) So, I fill each jar, cover with lid, put them on a tray then set the tray filled with jars, in my oven overnight. I also fill a small container to make my starter for the next batch. Before I put the milk/yogurt in the oven, I I heat oven to 145 degrees first, and then turn it off, and put the jars of milk (soon to be yogurt) inside. This makes the oven just warm enough to help the yogurt incubate overnight. In the morning, or later the next day (it doesnt really matter – sometimes i have forgotten it until the next day and achieved an even creamier result the longer it sits in the oven. So, the next day I put the yogurt in the fridge and the use of the small containers/ jars gives it a really nice thick consistency vs. making in a large bowl (which is how I used to do it). I have been using this method for 20+ years and I have never had a batch fail. I also dont use a thermometer – so if you dont have one – dont let that stop you. I use the ‘pinky’ test. After the boiled milk has sat for 1.5 hours (I set a timer so I dont forget) wash your hand and insert the knuckle of your pinky in the milk. If it is warm and you can leave it there to the count of 10 without it scalding you – then it is ready. If the milk has cooled too much and doesnt feel warm any longer – you can rewarm it a bit – it wont hurt anything. I have never lost a batch of milk ever. Eating homemade yogurt is so healthy and many greeks say it is the secret to a long and healthy life and maintaining healthy gut – you dont need to buy probiotic medicine – just eat some yogurt every day. Its great in summer with fresh fruit, blueberries, peaches, or any fresh fruit – so healthy and delicious!! Happy Yogurt Making all!! Try it – you wont regret it!

  4. Becky Aniol
    | Reply

    We love homemade yogurt! I make it almost exactly like you do, except I put the pot of 180 degree milk into a sink full of ice water. That makes it cool to 110 in about 10 minutes. And I funnel the yogurt/milk mixture into mason jars before I put it in the oven. I actually should stop checking my email/reading blog posts and go make another gallon before my husband opens the last jar (that I need for starter) tomorrow morning! :)

  5. Allison
    | Reply

    If you have an instapot with the yogurt setting it will heat up your milk to 160 for you. Then you take it out, let it cool and follow the same directions to culture. I use my dehydrator set to 110 ( I have the round style so I use metal sheeting to make the capsule to culture my yogurt. I agree, timers are important!

  6. Deb Johnson
    | Reply

    Another option is to use the Yogourmet Electric Yogurt Maker. Yes, you pay $50 for a machine that has the job of keeping your milk at a consistent temperature for four hours to incubate as the milk/yogurt starter turns into yogurt. The good news is that it holds 1/2 gallon of milk. I have to heat the milk in a double boiler on the stove and then let it cool before putting it in the container and then into the water bath in the Yoguourmet maker. I have made yogurt for around 20 years this way including when we used to milk goats. Here are a couple of tips: Add 1/4 – 1/2 cup powdered milk and 1 package of unflavored gelatin to the 1/2 gallon of milk prior to heating it. Stir it in well. This helps make a nice, thick yogurt. You can find it on Amazon and likely other places.

  7. Helen H Brindell
    | Reply

    This all sounds so interesting. Tried making yogurt probably 40 years ago without any success. Maybe I should try again. Do any of you sweeten it at all? I see no mention of that. Not sure we could handle unsweetened plain yogurt. If you do, how, when, etc? thank you

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      We have ours unsweetened with fruit, but also with granola which is sweetened. If you’re used to commercial yogurt, it’s a big change. But I always bought whole-fat low-sugar yogurt before I started making my own, so it’s what my kids were used to. Adding a spoon of sugar or honey to each serving would work, too!

  8. Tricia
    | Reply

    Like Allison, I use my dehydrator (only I set mine for 95). It seemed to get to hot if I set it higher. So here is my method.
    -1 gallon of milk
    -1 cup of sugar (saves having to sweeten later)
    -1 table spoon of vanilla
    -1 container of store bought organic Yogurt.
    -big pot
    -serving size containters of choice (I use 1 cup mason jars with the white lids you can buy for them)
    -thermometer

    In to the big pot pour about 2 to 3 cups of the milk, the sugar, the vanilla and the yogurt starter. Turn on the heat and stir it all up. Once it is stired for the most part then add the rest of the milk. Heat to 110 while stiring it up every minute or so. Once it gets to 110 remove from heat and get it into the containers. Depending on your dehydrator stack the jars in it. Mine is one of those round ones with the trays, so I stack a layer of jars, then put a tray down, then a layer of jars and then the lid. Last I cover the whole thing in a big towel. I set mine for 95 degrees for 5.5 hours. I don’t know how thick homemade yogurt can get, but I think it comes out fairly thick. You can let it sit longer in the deydrator, I only don’t because the longer it cultures the tangyer it tastes, and I like it less tangy. Take care everyone and God bless!!

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      You’re tempting me into thinking I need a dehydrator. :)

  9. a. borealis
    | Reply

    Neat. Fun to hear how other people do it. I make yogurt by the gallon at our house too – it is such an easy snack. My fellas like it with raisins. And I like to soak flour with it for 24 hours for nice, fluffy pancakes. It is just so useful.

    I hear the milk to 180, let it cool to 125-130, then pour it into two half-gallon canning jars with a dollop of starter yogurt. I then transfer it to the dehydrator for 20-24 hours set at 115. Usually from morning one day to the morning of the next. When I bring it out, let it cool on the counter, then cap it and transfer to the refrigerator.

    I used to culture it in the oven, but after we moved 9 years ago and changed to an electric oven, I found my most consistent results came with a dehydrator. For me, it requires less thinking.

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      Less thinking is always the preferred method! :) The oven method didn’t work as well with my previous oven, either – the kind of oven definitely does make a difference.

  10. SarahD
    | Reply

    I use the frugal girl’s method. Same as yours up to the oven part. I pour the heated/cooled/cultured milk into mason jars, put kids on and place them in a smallish cooler topped up with approx 120 degree water, put the lid on and let it sit for 4 hours. The cooler keeps the temp pretty steady and frees up the oven for other things.

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      I tried the cooler method and always made a wet mess while getting it set up and cleaning up afterward – plus, that’s a lot of water to heat. :) The longer incubation time helps get thicker yogurt, too.

  11. Ellen
    | Reply

    I just made this recipe two days ago – soaring success! My kids love both plain yogurt with honey and the Brown Cow Maple yogurt, so I saved the containers and washed them, and then put the yogurt in them, (adding maple syrup to the maple one!!) My kids never noticed a thing! :) I do have one question though: I buy un-homogenized whole milk, so as the milk cooled the fat formed that film on top. I left the film in and added the yogurt, just to see what it would do. It was still there after cooling, so I skimmed it off prior to serving. Anyone have any ideas on how to deal with the film? I wish I could leave it in, since it’s good healthy fat for my kids!

  12. Melissa Greene
    | Reply

    I’ve never tried yogurt making, but you are all making this sound so tempting ;-)

  13. Erika
    | Reply

    I haven’t made yogurt since I was a teen and we were given a yogurt machine with five smallish yogurt containers. It was not nearly enough for a family of 9 and always came out runny so we quickly gave up.

    I saved this post and finally got around to trying your method this week. We love it – so thick! Definitely a regular must for us! Thanks for sharing!

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