Inside: I love yogurt, but holy crap is it expensive. Here’s a secret though: you can save 87% by making homemade yogurt, and it’s super easy! I’ll show you how.
Hello and welcome to another installment of Lindsay Tries A Weird Thing To Save Money!
This month I’m on a yogurt-making kick. I love me some high-quality Greek yogurt, especially since I’ve started lifting weights again.
But holy cow is that stuff expensive—$1.89 for my favorite cup of premium Icelandic Skyr (none of that cheap, watery, sugar-laden Dannon crap for me, thanks). That’s just not an expensive I can justify spending every day. That’d be almost $700 if I ate one cup per day for a year!
Instead, I’ve learned to make my own yogurt. And contrary to popular belief (or at least my prior beliefs), making yogurt isn’t hard. It’s way easier than making your own bread. I spend about twenty minutes scattered across a day or two to make yogurt. I can make big batches at a time. More importantly, making yogurt myself is 87% cheaper than buying it pre-made.
It’s not hard. I’ll show you how to do it and break the numbers down.
- 1 How To Make Your Own Homemade Yogurt
- 1.1 What You’ll Need
- 1.2 Heat The Milk Up To 185 Degrees F
- 1.3 Let Milk Cool to 110 Degrees F and Add Yogurt Starter
- 1.4 Incubate at 110 Degrees F For 8 Hours
- 1.5 Reserve Some Yogurt for Your Next Batch
- 1.6 Eat Yogurt
- 1.7 Optional Step: Strain the Yogurt
- 1.8 Optional Hassle-Free Varieties: Mesophilic Yogurt
- 1.9 How much do you save by making your own homemade yogurt?
How To Make Your Own Homemade Yogurt
What You’ll Need
There are a couple of ways to make homemade yogurt. Unless you have an Instant Pot with a yogurt function, here’s what you’ll need:
- A pot
- A whisk
- A spatula
- Milk (I usually do ½ gallon or full gallon batches)
- Starter culture
- Kitchen thermometer
- Honey (or your sweetener of choice)
- Optional: some sort of strainer to make Greek yogurt
If you will be using your Instant Pot (which is my fave way to make yogurt), you can cross out needing a stove or a pot from the list above.
“Starter culture” sounds like some sort of alien sci-fi product. It’s really just a store-bought cup of your favorite plain yogurt (as long as it says it has “active and live cultures” on the label). This will provide the bacteria to ferment the milk into yogurt. What—you didn’t think yogurt was made out of unicorn farts and fairy dust did you?
If you like Greek yogurt, you’ll need a way to strain the whey (liquid portion) out. That’s all Greek yogurt is anyways—strained regular yogurt. You can use a strainer with some cheesecloth or a coffee filter. You can also use a nut milk bag (a very unfortunate name), or this fancy-pants Greek yogurt maker that I am partial to. Keep in mind the size of your batch (it all needs to fit in, or you’ll have to strain it in batches), and make sure you have space for the whole apparatus to sit in the fridge for up to 24 hours or more.
Got it all? Great! Let’s actually make the stuff.
Heat The Milk Up To 185 Degrees F
I usually use whole milk because it makes for creamier yogurt. You can use skim milk, however, but word on the street is that opens up a portal to the next dimension.
If you’re going the stove route, heat the milk up slowly so you don’t scorch the bottom.
If you’re using the Instant Pot, simply hit “Yogurt,” “Adjust,” and the word “boil” will appear. You can set it to “vent” since this won’t be using the pressure cooking function (in fact, I take out the sealing ring since it usually smells like meat from our dinner recipes). I usually need to run this through 2-3 boil cycles before it actually does get up to 185 degrees. If it doesn’t, try using the “sauté” feature on low while stirring to heat it up.
When you’re ready to take the temperature, always remember to stir it with the whisk first to make sure the milk has an even temp. Otherwise, Godzilla will be awoken and your yogurt-making efforts will surely fail.
Let Milk Cool to 110 Degrees F and Add Yogurt Starter
If you’re using the Instant Pot method, take the Instant Pot pot out of the cooker and let it sit at room temp to cool down faster. If you’re using the stove-top method, move it to a cool burner and wait.
Don’t make the mistake that I did last week and add yogurt to the milk before it cooled down. I could almost hear those little bacteria screaming as they were scalded to death. Even more sad, I had to make a run back to the store to get more yogurt.
Once the milk is cool enough, scoop out some warm milk into a bowl. Whisk the yogurt into it (this is easier than whisking it into the whole thing and missing floating chunkers). When it’s a nice thick yogurt-shake, add it back into the main pot and stir around for 30 seconds or so.
How much yogurt to add? I’ve seen estimates ranging from 4 tablespoons to 1 cup per gallon of milk, so take your guess. I usually add in a half cup of yogurt if I’m making a full gallon. If I’m making a half gallon, I’ll add in a few tablespoons. It doesn’t need to be exact.
Incubate at 110 Degrees F For 8 Hours
This is where the Instant Pot really has an advantage over the stove-top method. All you have to do is plop the Instant Pot pot back into the Instant Pot cooker (say that ten times fast) and put the lid on. Then, hit “Yogurt,” and hit the up arrow or down arrow to adjust the time to read “8:00.” It’ll beep when it’s done, and Bob’s your uncle.
If you’re doing it via the stove-top method, you’ll need a way to keep it at a toasty 110 degrees for 8 hours. This might be hard to do on a stove, so I’ve heard some people say they pop it into their oven and switch on the stove light for warmth (i.e., not actually turning the oven on).
Reserve Some Yogurt for Your Next Batch
After incubation is done, congratulations! You have yogurt. I know it’s tempting to eat it all at once, but resist the urge. Set aside ½ cup or so of yogurt for your next batch so you don’t have to buy it at the store again.
You know what that means. INFINITE YOGURT!!!!!!!!!!!!!
You can keep your next yogurt starter in the fridge for up to a week or so. Or, you can keep it in the freezer for up to three months or so. Just let it thaw in the fridge before you use it next time.
Now comes the fun part—eating the yogurt! You can sweeten it with honey, agave nectar, Nuka Cola, or whatever your preferred choice is. Slice up some fruits and add it in and you have heaven in a bowl!
A word about taste: some yogurt strains produce more tart yogurt than others. I’ve found Fage brand Greek yogurt to be pretty mild and sweet. Others, like Siggi’s Icelandic Skyr are more tart. If you’re not sure which brand produces the best taste for you, try making half-gallon batches with different brands as a starter until you find the one you like.
Optional Step: Strain the Yogurt
For me, it’s Greek yogurt or go home. I like my yogurt so thick I can chew it.
When your yogurt is done incubating, it’ll have a typical yogurty consistency. If you want the thick Greek yogurt, set it in a strainer after it’s done incubating (before you put any sweeteners in) and put it in the fridge. Keep it there for at least a couple hours, up to 24 hours or more. The longer you let it strain, the thicker it will become.
Optional Hassle-Free Varieties: Mesophilic Yogurt
If all the above sounds like a hassle to you (even though it’s not), don’t fret. The type of yogurt we made above is called thermophilic yogurt because the bacteria rely on a pretty warm environment to ferment the milk into yogurt.
But there’s another type of yogurt that doesn’t need all this fancy heating-up-cooling-down business. It’s called mesophilic yogurt because the bacteria prefer to operate at room temperature, and are only halted when you put the yogurt in the fridge.
Most mesophilic yogurt varieties seem to come from Scandinavia—probably because all the Scandinavian people used to have to eat was unrefrigerated milk and a few goats.
The process of making mesophilic yogurt is simple (here’s a good video of it). You’ll need to buy a special culture (since stores don’t really carry these varieties), add it to milk, and let it sit on the counter for up to 48 hours. Repeat the process for a few times to wake the starter culture up, and then you’ll have a consistently thick yogurt that takes way less time to ferment.
The mesophilic yogurt varieties seem to have a lot more character than the regular thermophilic varieties. Filmjolk, a Swedish drinkable yogurt, is a popular variety that’s even showing up in U.S. stores now. I’ve got a viili (a Finnish variety) culture going and found it to have more of a cream-cheese taste to it, although it hasn’t developed the characteristic stretchy texture yet (give it a few more batches, though!).
How much do you save by making your own homemade yogurt?
Different-sized yogurt containers all cost different amounts, so let’s break it down by unit price to compare apples to apples (or, yogurt to yogurt).
My favorite variety of Siggi’s Icelandic Skyr costs $1.89 for a 6-ounce container. That’s $0.315 per ounce.
One gallon of whole milk from Costco costs me $2.37. Since I only need to buy a yogurt starter culture once (INFINITE YOGURT!!!!!!), I’m leaving it out of the calculation. I can get 7 cups of yogurt (or 56 ounces) out of a whole gallon. So, dividing 56 into $2.37 means that homemade yogurt only costs me $0.04 per ounce—a savings of 87%!
I don’t know if I’ll be eating yogurt every day now, but it sure is a hell of a lot cheaper and will save me a ton of money over the course of a year.
Have you ever tried making your own homemade yogurt? If not, what’s stopping you from trying? Leave a comment below!