How to Make Greek Yogurt
The simple guide on how to make healthy homemade Greek yogurt (with just two simple ingredients)!
What is Yogurt?
Well milk is made up of casein and whey. Casein is what curdles and is used to make cheese and yogurt, while whey is the watery substance left when the milk curdles.
So what is Greek yogurt? Greek yogurt is essentially the same as regular yogurt with the addition of one critical step – straining! At the very end, the yogurt is strained to remove the excess watery whey, creating a thicker, more protein-dense product. So while we call this variation of yogurt “Greek yogurt” in the U.S., you may see it called “strained yogurt” in other areas of the world.
Homemade Yogurt Ingredients
Yogurt is a fermentation (just like kefir and kombucha), meaning it’s created by adding some bacteria (yogurt) to a sugar-containing substance (milk) and letting the bacteria eat up the sugar. So to make yogurt at home, you’ll just need 2 ingredients:
- Yogurt: Make sure to use a good quality yogurt that has “live” or “active” cultures.
- Milk: Whole fat milk produces the best texture for homemade yogurt.
The result of fermentation is always acid, gas, or alcohol. Fermentation of milk gives us acid, making for the distinctively tart flavor of yogurt!
How to make Greek Yogurt
Step 1: Heat Milk
Heat milk to 185 degrees F (85 degrees C). This is important for creating a thick, nicely textured yogurt.
Step 2: Cool Milk
Cool milk back down to lukewarm (about 110 degrees F, 43 degrees C), then add 1/2 cup of the warm milk into the yogurt. (Ensuring the milk is cooled down will prevent you from killing the live cultures in the yogurt.) Whisk the yogurt and milk together, then add the rest of the milk and mix well.
Step 3: Let Sit
Place your mixture somewhere warm and let sit for 4 to 8 hours, or until yogurt is thick and tangy. My favorite method for making yogurt is to wrap the jar in a warm, moist towel, then setting it in the oven with the oven light on. The light will provide enough heat to ferment the yogurt!
After sitting in a warm environment for a few hours, your yogurt is ready to eat! If you want to turn this plain yogurt into Greek yogurt, we’ll take it one step further and strain it.
Step 4: Strain
Set a mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth (or strong paper towels) over a large bowl. Pour in yogurt and place in the fridge. Check every few hours until yogurt reaches your desired thickness.
The liquid that is drained out of the yogurt is whey! This is a great protein and works well in smoothies and soups.
Transfer your freshly made Greek yogurt to an airtight container when it has reached your desired thickness level!
How to Make Greek Yogurt
- Medium pot with lid, aim for the heaviest/thickest pot you have
- Kitchen thermometer
- Quart-sized jar or bowl
- Mesh sieve
- Cheesecloth or thin dishcloth, coffee filters, paper towels etc. placed inside a mesh strainer
- 4 cups whole milk 960 mL
- ¼ cup plain store bought yogurt ensure the container says “live” or “active” cultures, 60 g
- Heat Milk: Place milk in a medium pot and heat to 185-200°F (85-93°C), stirring frequently to preventing a skin from forming.
- Cool Bath: Transfer the pot with milk to an ice bath (I filled my sink with ice and water), to cool milk to 100-110°F (37-43°C).
- Temper: Pour ½ cup of the warm milk into a separate clean jar or bowl. Mix in plain yogurt, stirring until yogurt is well blended. Add remaining milk and mix well.
- Let Sit: Cover jar or bowl with a lid, wrap in a moist, warm towel to keep in heat, and place in oven. Turn on oven light to keep warm, and let the bacteria do its yogurt making magic for 4 to 8 hours (or overnight).*
- Strain: You can eat the yogurt like this, or strain it to make Greek yogurt. To strain, line a mesh sieve with cheesecloth (or paper towels, coffee filters etc), and pour yogurt in. Place over a large bowl and let strain in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight), until it’s reach a consistency you like.
- *The oven light should be sufficient for keeping the milk warm enough for fermentation. You can also turn the oven on for 1 minute (just enough to warm things up an insy bit) every so often. We’re aiming to keep the milk/yogurt at about 100 degrees F (37 C) throughout the whole process.
- Store in a clean, airtight container.
Greek Yogurt FAQs
Is Greek yogurt healthy? Yes! Greek yogurt is more protein-packed than regular yogurt because we skim out excess moisture.
Can you make Greek yogurt with skim milk? It’s best to use milk with some fat in it to give your homemade yogurt a nice texture. I’d recommend doing a blend of skim and 2% if you are going to try for a low fat homemade yogurt.
How do you make non-dairy Greek yogurt? Making non-dairy yogurt at home is another ball game and requires a different way to introduce live bacteria (in the form of probiotic supplements!) This recipe from Minimalist Baker is great for the non-dairy yogurt seekers.
Is it cheaper to make your own Greek yogurt? Yes! According to Project Meal Plan, homemade Greek yogurt is almost 15 cents cheaper per ounce than store bought.
How did yogurt originate? Yogurt came to be right around the time when humans started drinking animal milk, which was just about the time when we learned to domesticate animals, so 8000 years ago. Back then, milk was stored in (brace yourself) animal stomachs. The natural enzymes and bacteria in the stomach would cause the milk to curdle and ferment, producing yogurt and cheese! Yogurt has made it’s way into most nooks and crannies of the world, but it didn’t become popular in the U.S. until the 1950s and 60s, when health foods began to gain some traction.
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