My Version of Easy Homemade Raw Milk Yogurt

 

Like I shared earlier this week on my post about making homemade raw milk kefir, I have to really make sure something is simple and doable before I’ll try it. Kefir seemed pretty easy to me, but I have to admit I was intimidated by the idea of raw milk yogurt. Kefir needs very little temperature control (room temp is fine), while yogurt needs a consistently warmer temperature, and I wasn’t sure how to tackle that without buying a thermometer or a yogurt maker.

 
I searched high and low through the internet for ways to make raw milk yogurt. It’s a little different than pasteurized milk yogurt, because you do not want to heat the milk too hot or it will kill all the wonderful little enzymes and probiotics inside. I found some great pointers at different blogs, but I wanted to simplify it even further. Basically, I wanted a raw milk yogurt that could be made without a thermometer. Turns out this is easier than I realized!

I recalled reading in Nourishing Traditions that the body has a fascinating way of telling you if something is too hot to harbor enzymes–it simply feels too hot! With this in mind, I realized that the power of touch is the key to making yogurt without a thermometer. So, I tried it out and it worked!

 

Here’s my version of homemade raw milk yogurt:

 

1. In a stockpot, place up to four 32-oz (1-quart) mason jars inside. Fill the jars with raw milk.

 

2. Fill the pot with warm water (about halfway up the mason jars or so) and gently begin heating at a low to medium temperature.

 

3. Keep a close watch on the pot. You can test the water temperature with your finger, or feel the outside of the mason jars to gauge the temperature. The ideal temperature for growing yogurt is somewhere between 98-110 degrees, which should feel comfortably warm. (I test the milk itself with my finger. This may not be the most sterile option, but I haven’t had problems with it.)

 

4. When the milk is warm enough, place 1-4 tablespoons of a good quality, no-additive, whole fat plain yogurt inside, and stir well to mix the cultures. You may find the amount of yogurt starter you add affects the thickness of your yogurt. Some people find less starter actually makes a thicker yogurt.

 
Now you need to keep your raw milk yogurt warm for 6-24 hours. Here’s how I keep mine warm:

1. Place the mason jars in a cooler filled with very warm water. Close the cooler tightly and cover with blankets or towels for insulation. This stays at the proper temperature for several hours at least, much longer if your house is on the warm side. Our house gets cold in the winter, so during that time I usually add a few cups of boiling water to the cooler every few hours to maintain enough heat for the cultures. To see if the yogurt is staying warm, I simply dip my finger in the jar and see if it feels warm. (Like I said, maybe not the most sterile method but very accurate nonetheless for testing the temperature. Of course, if you use a thermometer that would work, too!)

2. Yogurt is usually ready after about 6 hours. However, if you keep it warm longer you can eliminate more lactose and casein, while culturing more probiotics. I usually culture my raw milk yogurt for at least 12 hours.
 
Of course, there are lots of other ways to keep yogurt warm, like in the oven with a pilot light, in a crock pot, or even in a warm car! Just remember it needs to be somewhere between 98-110 degrees to culture properly. Too cold means the cultures won’t take. Too warm means the cultures will die completely.

 

After your yogurt is cultured, place in the fridge for 5-6 hours to firm it up. It will usually still be thinner than commercial yogurt (though using a Greek yogurt starter may help). The texture may be slightly different than what you’re used to, but the taste will be very familiar.

 

  • Remember to save a few tablespoons of your plain raw milk yogurt to use as a culture next time! This way you don’t have to keep buying starter yogurt. Make a batch of yogurt at least every 7 days to keep your cultures active. Of course, you can also buy powdered yogurt cultures as a yogurt starter, if you prefer.

 

This yogurt tastes great with stevia and vanilla, which is how we make it here. My kids don’t even notice that it’s not store bought. You can also sweeten it with unrefined sugar like palm sugar or pure maple syrup. And of course, like all yogurt it tastes great with fruit and nuts, too!

 

An added bonus: this raw milk yogurt is fairly inexpensive. The cheapest non-organic plain whole-fat yogurt I can find is $1.83 for 32 ounces. No additives, but nowhere near organic and definitely not raw. Organic, high-quality plain yogurt is more like $3-5 for 32 ounces! I pay $6/gallon for raw, high-quality milk, and a gallon makes four 32-oz jars of raw milk yogurt. That’s $1.50 for 32 ounces! Very inexpensive by comparison. And of course way cheaper than buying a bunch of tiny cups of yogurt. Plus you know you’re culturing the good stuff, and cultured raw milk is a very healthy food.

If you have some experience making raw milk yogurt, or if you have any tips to share, I’d love to hear about it!

Find great sources for all your culturing needs on my Resources page!

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52 Responses to My Version of Easy Homemade Raw Milk Yogurt

  1. Winkyboy says:

    Thanks, Elizabeth! I was just thinking about making yogurt from raw milk this morning when my wife called to ask what we needed from the store. I’ll definitely try this out. Do I understand correctly, that you don’t need a “starter” so much as just a good, whole fat plain yogurt – something from the store will do? (I do know that works for kombucha…)

    • That’s right, your “starter” is just a couple tablespoons of good quality plain yogurt from the store. So far I’ve just used regular plain yogurt, but I need a new starter (I let mine sit too long and it basically died – oops) and I’m going to try Greek yogurt and see if it turns out a different result. That is, if I can find a Greek yogurt without additives!

  2. Great post! I am just about to start making my own yogurt after a long few years without any dairy. :-) Thanks for being part of the carnival.

  3. Tara says:

    If I don’t have access to raw milk is it worth it to use organic milk with organic yogurt to start it with? If I used a crock pot would I just keep it on the “keep warm” setting?

    • Yes, Tara, I think it’s still worth it. The cost alone is a great reason to make your own organic yogurt at home. However, you would probably want to make it in the “traditional” way, heating the milk much hotter first, since pasteurized milk doesn’t have enzymes to preserve it (or protect it). Most recipes for yogurt-making use pasteurized milk, so just follow the heating instructions from a typical recipe. I think you can still use the cooler method with pasteurized milk, though, so that part is the same!

  4. michelle says:

    Thanks for this info. I have been making it in the crockpot ever since reading it here. http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/2008/10/you-can-make-yogurt-in-your-crockpot.html

    It is so easy.

  5. Jessica says:

    Using Brown cow yogurt from the store as a starter will give a great thick non sour yogurt! We just use the light bulb in out oven for 9 hours. Takes less time than dealing w the cooler & water.

    • I wish I had Brown Cow yogurt here! I’ve heard great things about it. That’s neat that it makes a thicker yogurt. I tested my oven today and the light bulb doesn’t keep it warm enough for yogurt-making. Too bad, cause I love anything that makes it simpler!

  6. shannon says:

    Hi Elizabeth! I’m so excited to find this great site! I have recently gotten a copy of Nourishing Traditions and haven’t tried any of the fermented dairy products yet (just sauerkraut). Thanks for the pictures and instructions!

  7. Augie says:

    YES the vanilla is great in it. But no success in making vanilla from beans and vodka– but some say to use bourbon and we have not tries that.

    If you sell a quart of yogurt for $6, you then get your 3 qts for free! This is one way to get raw milk at no cost.

    There are many apps for yogurt including a yogurt with a topping of granola, in a creamy salad dressing. If you drip thicken it through cheese cloth or a coffee filter, it becomes like a cream cheese and you can go on from there.

    To me, raw milk and its many products are the most exciting of all the food groups.

    • Ditto, Augie! I didn’t mention that this yogurt is great for straining and making whey, too (with the thick cream cheese yogurt left over). This is how I get most of my whey, which comes in handy for all kinds of recipes and lacto-fermenting!

  8. Mary Beth in MN says:

    I have been making raw milk yogurt for a few months now, I have a Bulgarian powdered starter, and I have found that 1 tsp of starter to 1 qt of milk, and 3 tsp gelatin makes a pretty good consistency. I had been afraid it would be jello-like, but it is not, and the gelatin is healthy. I bring it to 110, sprinkle on the gelatin and dissolve a little, then mix in the starter, and pour into 5 small canning jars. Then I put them in my dehydrator for 8-12 hours. After chilling in the fridge, it is ready to go. The jars are perfect for taking to work. I mix it in with tart cherry juice, just a little honey, and walnuts – amazingly good!!

  9. I make yogurt at about a gallon per two weeks, using a similar method. One change you could make to save effort would be your pot of water in the cooler instead of filling the cooler. See my directions here: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2009/04/13/monday-mission-homemade-yogurt-the-easy-way/ However – I have terrible luck with raw milk (vs pasteurized). The consistency is always more like cottage cheese, and it’s really sour and quite awful. Only good for smoothies. ? Someday I hope I’ll figure it out, but I’m tentative to waste the precious raw milk! Nowadays I use store skim with raw cream added to make it like whole milk.
    Katie

    • Are you concerned about the powdered milk content in skim milk from the store? That’s one of the reasons I avoid reduced-fat store milk, since powdered milk contains oxidized cholesterol.

      • Elizabeth,
        I’ve been bopping back and forth from skim to whole a bit…I am concerned about the powdered milk. I only use it for yogurt b/c I have to buy some sort of store milk, and I’m looking for the best compromise option. However, I am perhaps more concerned about the oxidized fats in homogenized whole milk. Since there are obviously more fats and cholesterol in whole milk to be damaged by the homogenization process than there is cholesterol in powdered skim milk to be damaged by the drying process, I’m going this route until I’m convinced otherwise. See the comments section at this post: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2009/10/13/a-fat-full-fall-dairy-fats-%E2%80%93-what%E2%80%99s-the-moo/ for my academic reader who challenged me to think more about the oxidized cholesterol issue/non-issue.

        Good question!
        Katie

        • Thanks for the explanation and the link. That was a great post and the comments were so informative! It’s really too bad milk goes through so much processing and many of us are left choosing the lesser of two evils! And it’s not an easy choice for anybody. Thanks again for sharing what you do. I think it will help others make the choice they feel is best.

          By the way, I used Fage (Greek-style) yogurt as a starter for my last raw milk yogurt batch and the taste came out really smooth and mild, less sour than previous batches.

          However, my supplier may not be able to get raw milk to me until February, but raw cream might be available… I’m going to have to figure out how to live without raw milk for six weeks!

  10. Jeanmarie says:

    Hi Elizabeth,
    Great post. I am now making yogurt using Fage Greek-style yogurt starter. I tried it with raw milk on my second batch and I didn’t like the consistency (I may not have heated it sufficiently) so I reverted to Strauss Organic whole fat, non-homogenized milk, with added cream, and I let it culture for 24 hours to eat up as much of the lactose as possible. (I’ve been using a crock pot and heating pad.) I was interested to see you said the casein is metabolized also in culturing yogurt. I’d never heard that before. Do you have any references on that?

  11. Maggie says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever come across raw milk yogurt, even growing up in Iran where raw milk and yogurt are consumed. The yogurt is always made with boiled milk because it gives the cultures a better chance to reproduce and thrive. You may have ended up with yogurt, but you may not have all of the strains you desire (and the key to healthy yogurt is having enough of a particular strain of lactobacillus). My concern is the possible proliferation of pathogens (how alliterative) when raw milk is warmed and then left in a warm place for 12 hours.

    • Maggie, I can understance those concerns, but here’s my personal take on it: traditional cultures made a lot of use out of soured/clabbered/curdled milk. It was not uncommon to leave plain milk out for several days before it was consumed. So in that sense, I’m not at all concerned about leaving raw milk out for 12-24 hours to culture, as long as it’s quality milk. I feel like the natural cultures, enzymes, and nutrients in milk are simply enhanced by the souring process, whether or not yogurt cultures are involved.

      What does concern me is the fact that when milk is heated at or above 118 degrees F, enzymes, macronutrients, vitamins and minerals immediately begin to become less bioavailable. By the time milk is boiled, the structure of its nutrients have dramatically changed and I don’t consider that a desirable outcome.

      • Maggie says:

        Thanks for your response!
        On the other hand, making buttermilk out of clabbered milk is a multi-stepped process of clabbering several batches of milk until you reach the final result. And then I have to wonder why Hawthorne Valley Farms, an amazing biodynamic farm near Hudson, NY that nurtures a herd of fully horned, pasture-fed cows who produce delicious raw milk, pasturize their milk for their yogurts. They pride themselves on their raw milk, cheeses and lactofermented vegetables that are DIVINE! Next time I’m there I will ask and let you know!

        • Mary Beth in MN says:

          I would guess that it might have to do with having a consistent result in texture. If you heat it, it makes a thicker product, and pretty much turns out the same every time. If you leave it raw, it is much thinner, although adding gelatin helps, but there is more variety in the end result. I would definitely be interested in what they have to say about it!

  12. sandymunroe says:

    I know this is an old post and thank you so much for showing how easy it is to make yogurt. I was just wondering how long the yogurt lasts after it’s made? Would it last at least a week? Thanks!

  13. Veronica says:

    I have used this method until I found that a lightbulb, 60-75W on a long cord in the oven produces the exact temp for yogurt culturing.
    Once you have watched your oven with a thermometer and have discovered whether a closed door or door propped slightly with a potholder will produce a steady OVEN temp of about 110 degrees, you can just set your container(s) (I make it in a gallon jar!) on the rack or a pan, close the door and peek at the thermometer from time to time rather than adding boiling water…I also wrap my jar in a dark dishtowel, in case there might be any vitamin degradation from light.
    Fast, easy, cheap!

  14. I wonder about other cultures proliferating too. I tried to make yogurt once and didn’t heat it sufficiently (I normally do a crock pot method, heating it to 180º and let it culture at room temp) and I ended up with a yeasty smelling culture. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I didn’t have yogurt. I always understood that make yogurt without heating the milk sufficiently just wouldn’t work because the different types of bacteria would compete – but you found this works. Any ideas what I did wrong that one time or tips to make it work better?

    • Honestly, culturing things can sometimes be a really mysterious business, lol. I tend to personally notice the quality of my starter affects my end result significantly. A fresh store bought starter tends to work best for me. I tried Oikos Greek yogurt the last time it did much better than my previous batches.

      • betsyanne says:

        I would love to know how to make raw milk yogurt without ever heating the milk.  I mean, what’s the point of using raw milk if you have to heat it to any degree??  It just seems contradictory to me.

        Also, I have a question . . .  when using raw milk to make pudding or potato soup or even my last batch of yogurt, mine got slimey, stringy and gross.  I hardly ever make “heated” foods with my raw milk, but when that’s all you use and you’re hungry for potato soup, whatcha gonna do?  But I was not prepared for that slimey mess.  What the heck did I do wrong?  Do all puddings and soups get this way when using raw milk?

        I tried to ask this question of Jenny (at Nourished Kitchen) but that was over a week ago and I’ve not received any answer.  HELP!

        • For raw milk yogurt, you only heat it up as warm as it would be coming out of the cow. This encourages the yogurt cultures to develop. Some yogurt and kefir cultures do not need heat to culture well (i.e. they  can be cultured at room temperature). Perhaps you would be more interested in looking into those.

          I’ve never had that experience with my raw milk. I’ve used raw milk for things like potato soup before and it always turned out well (though, I agree, it feels a little wasteful cooking the milk!).

          • betsyanne says:

            I have, just yesterday, found a little trick for the potato soup that might help others, too.  I cooked my potatoes, carrots, celery and onions in water on the stovetop until the potatoes are tender (about 20-25 minutes on medium heat after it boils).  Then I let it cool down and smash a few of the potatoes, put some of this into the bowl I will use for eating, and add milk to the desired amount.  Some people prefer more milk than others.  Then I heated the bowl in the microwave for about 1 minute and 35 seconds and it came out just lovely.  I know a lot of people who don’t like microwaves, but for a quick re-heat I don’t think there’s much problem.  Frankly, I think we overdo the “consciousness” sometimes.  I just don’t have time to wash two separate pots when making potato soup just for myself.  This is part of the idea you conveyed on the “no stressing” article you had a couple of days ago.  If I have to stress about every little thing, I don’t enjoy things and that detracts from the goodness, no? 

          • betsyanne says:

            Oh, I forgot to add to my last post — thank you so much for answering so quickly, Elizabeth.  I was hoping you would be able to tell me “the milk was too fresh” or “the milk was too old” or “the milk probably had more fat content and therefore isn’t as good for cooking” — or something.  But I’ll figure it out at some point.

            You mentioned looking into culturing my yogurt at room temperature – do you have any suggested sites with good information on this or should I just start a general web search?

          • I wish I had a better answer for you, too! I really don’t have a clue what causes that.

            I believe Cultures for Health sells a couple of yogurt cultures that work at room temperature. But I think you still have to heat a small amount of “starter” every time or the culture will stop working. Kefir is the only cultured milk option I know of that can be done very simply at room temperature.

          • betsyanne says:

            Ha! I have trouble with making kefir, too.  You’d think I was a beginner cook here, and I’ve been cooking/baking with real milk almost all of my soon-to-be 58 years of life.  sheesh.

            My kefir grains don’t seem to want to multiply.  I’m tempted to toss them and get a new batch.  But my kefir is generally a little too tart for my taste, even if I only leave it out for about 8 hours.  The raw milk I have access to is very high fat (from Jersey cows) and I’m wondering if maybe it’s almost too high fat for making stuff like kefir and yogurt, and of course, cooked items (as mentioned), too.  It’s the only thing I can think of which might make cooked soups and puddings stringy.  Anyhow, I’m just going to have to strain everything, which is a pain, but I still prefer doing that to using store junk (like pudding mixes – eeeeyuck).

          • I agree that we can overthink healthy habits sometime! There’s definitely no reason to get too extreme about it all.

          • betsyanne says:

            Yes.  That’s why I was so happy to see your last two entries about stress and overthinking.  We are definitely on the same page about those issues.  You’re younger than I am, by far, but you have been blessed with good common sense.  Thank your lucky stars!  So many young people today who don’t think past the end of their noses.

  15. Declareduntohim says:

    New to your site and very thankful I stopped by! Thank you so much for this recipe!

  16. Dan says:

    I purchase my probiotics from Dr Mercola and I was just wondering if I opened up a capsule and tipped the content into the raw milk along with the starter to make yoghurt, would it add any benefit? Or not a good idea?

    • Hi Dan. From what I understand, there is such a thing as too many cultures when you’re trying to ferment foods like yogurt. Basically, they compete and in a way cancel each other out. Most find that small amounts of simple cultures make the best yogurt. Because Mercola’s probiotics contain such a large amount of varied cultures, it may not help the yogurt-making process and may actually hinder it.

  17. Shannon says:

    Hi, I found your recipe in Google and just tried it yesterday! Unfortunately it didn’t turn out at all.. I must have done something wrong. Is it supposed to be curd-like? Mine all separated with thick stuff on the bottom of the mason jar, and then curd like stuff on top, and then very clear liquid on the top… And it didn’t thicken in the fridge overnight – it is still a runny liquid today. Any ideas? Did I not keep it warm enough? I really liked the idea of not having to use a thermometer…

    • It sounds like you made clabbered milk! The clear liquid is whey.

      This could have to do with the culture you used, or it could be the milk was on the verge of turning anyway, I’m not sure.

  18. Jana Silvey Hesselton says:

    Great blog…I just discovered you via Homesteading Survival.

    I’ve been making Kefir and yogurt from raw milk for some time, now, and I do find it extremely easy and I love the product. I use a gallon and a half of milk at a time in a large pot, heat to about 110, then simply put it in the oven with the light on overnight. I think the sheer volume of milk keeps the product warmer, and I sometimes heat the oven just a tiny bit first (usually in the winter) to keep the yogurt warmer. Often in the winter, by morning, the yogurt has cooled to the low 90s (I do use a thermometer) but it doesn’t seem to matter much. It seems that the worst thing you can do is overheat…I’ve done this and ended up with something more like ricotta cheese (it was still good, just not yogurt-like). In the morning, my yogurt is finished, although I really like thick yogurt, so I strain it using a regular colander and a plain weave dishtowel before putting it in quart size containers. This method yields a thicker yogurt, but you get a lot less, so it’s not as economical. It’s just that I love that thick, smooth consistency. I can’t help myself!

    PS Another key to good yogurt is really fresh milk. I buy the milk the day I plan to make yogurt.

    Thanks for doing what you do!!

  19. Jana Silvey Hesselton says:

    Oops…correction to my previous comment. Found you on Immunitrition, not Homesteading Survival. Just wanted to be accurate. : )

  20. Kailie says:

    I read that you can add gelatin to your yogurt when pouring it in the jar to help it firm up like store bought yogurt. Thanks for the recipe!

  21. I really LOVE yogurt and have been wanting to make it homemade for a while now, but I’m pretty much against dairy! lol Has anyone tried using raw goat’s milk or even almond milk? Thanks in advance!

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