How to make gorgeously creamy homemade yogurt
Homemade yogurt is surprisingly easy to make and whilst I’m never realistically going to abandon buying yogurt entirely (I’m far too lazy to do it all the time), I love that I’m able to make organic natural yogurt easily and cheaply at home when I feel so inclined – or when my digestive tract needs a little TLC.
Benefits of homemade yogurt:
- Easy to make
- Cheaper than buying commercial yogurt
- Simple to make ‘different’ yogurt – using organic, grass-fed cow’s milk, raw milk, A2 milk, goats, sheep or coconut yogurt
- More digestive friendly as fermentation time is under your control
Ways to use homemade yogurt:
- As a marinade for chicken with turmeric, garlic, ginger, lemon, cumin and coriander
- For Tzatziki with our falafels
- In Mackerel Paté – smoked mackerel mixed with the juice of half a lemon and yogurt
- As dessert – topped with fruit and raw honey
- To thicken smoothies – try our chocolate and mango smoothie
- As a breakfast topping for pancakes, mixed with our homemade granola or simply topped with a combination of nuts, seeds, cacao nibs and fresh fruit
- In soda bread
What is yogurt?
Yogurt is a fermented food – a ‘cultured’ dairy product made by adding probiotic bacteria to milk. This is one of the major health benefits of yogurt; the probiotic bacteria within yogurt can help to support gut health – which is why it can be a beneficial food to consume after antibiotics (if you want to know more about what to do after you’ve taken antibiotics read here – and if you’re still curious, for more information on what fermented foods actually are and do, take a look at our article here)
The bacteria in yogurt convert the lactose (milk sugar) to lactic acid. This is why some people who are lactose intolerant can often tolerate well-made, cultured yogurt.
The bacteria also partially digest the proteins whey and casein – which is why yogurt (particularly made with sheep’s or goat’s milks, which have a different protein structure to cow’s milk) is often better tolerated than milk itself. Cow’s milk yogurt containing A2-only milk (milk from Guernsey or Jersey Cows, which produce only A2 beta-casein protein rather than a mix of A1 and A2) may be even better tolerated for the particularly sensitive – although at this point the A1/A2 debate remains largely anecdotal rather than scientifically backed.
Yogurt as a therapeutic food
Assuming someone is not dairy allergic or intolerant, often we suggest using more yogurt in the diet to boost protein, support calcium intake (fermenting milk boosts the availability of calcium) and particularly to support the diversity of the gut microbiome as it contains beneficial probiotic bacteria.
Our recipe for homemade yogurt below is our preferred yogurt option, but if you’ve not got the time or inclination to make your own take a look at the points below before you buy. There’s a world of difference between natural, organic live yogurt – containing beneficial bacteria that can help to support the gut microbiome, and flavoured commercial yogurts, frequently laden with sweeteners, sugar and artificial flavours.
- Low fat or full fat? Always full fat – yogurt contains fat-soluble vitamins that simply aren’t absorbed if you don’t have the fat. Full fat yogurt doesn’t separate if you cook with it, and keeps you fuller for longer (so you use less).
- Sugar or no sugar? Yogurt naturally contains lactose, which is a milk sugar, so even a natural yogurt with no extra ingredients is going to contain sugar, albeit natural – and normally around 8g (2tsp). Flavoured yogurts normally contain added sugar (unless it’s 100% natural fruit) raising sugar content often to 4-5tsp – or otherwise contain undesirable sweeteners or artificial flavours. We find it easier to just start with natural yogurt (homemade or shop bought) and add fruit or a little maple syrup or honey to sweeten.
- Greek or standard? Greek yogurt is simply strained yogurt – making it thicker, lower lactose (and lower thus lower sugar and lower carb) but around double the protein of standard yogurt. If you’re using yogurt as a marinade a standard yogurt is sufficient but if you’re using it as a protein source for instance to support blood sugar levels we suggest using Greek. Watch Greek ‘style’ yogurts in the shops – these may be thicker due to thickening agents added rather than the longer process of fermentation and straining.
- Organic or Grass-Fed? We’re pretty hot on making sure our dairy food purchases are organic and grass-fed if we can find them. In the EU antibiotic and hormone levels in foods are tightly regulated but buying organic means you’re pretty much guaranteed you’re not ingesting extra artificial hormones or antibiotic residues. It’s a little trickier to find labelled organic, grass-fed yogurt but the benefits of grass-fed yogurt are extremely beneficial, with higher levels of Essential Omega 3 fats and CLA. Raw milk, organic, grass-fed homemade yogurt is our ideal!
Homemade Yogurt Tips
- Spend the money and buy an electric yogurt maker; they’re inexpensive and worth the money. I’ve tried to keep my yogurt warm in a thermos, and wrapped it in a glass jar in the airing cupboard (and then forgotten it for a few days = disaster) but a cheap electric yogurt maker takes away the guesswork by maintaining a constant temperature, avoids a smelly thermos and avoids soured yogurt being found in the airing cupboard weeks later.
- You don’t need expensive starters – a small pot of organic natural yogurt does the job perfectly, as does retaining some of your homemade yogurt for the next starter.
- Don’t skip the heating and cooling step – I used to think it totally pointless but then realised that my inconsistent grainy, runny yogurt was a result of me trying to speed up this first step (by being lazy, whacking the heat up and heating it only to just over the recommended temperature).
- More starter doesn’t equate to more yogurt – trust me, I’ve done it. 1-2tbsp of yogurt starter is plenty per litre of milk.
- Buy a cheap milk frothing thermometer from Amazon rather than trying to guess the temperature (yet another mistake I’ve made).
- Longer fermented yogurt is more beneficial for the gut as it has the lactose more fully digested – but keep an eye on it. Leave it too long and it will curdle: there’s a fine line. It’s also sourer so if this is your first attempt to make yogurt and you want it to be accepted by other members of the family – keep it simple and milder tasting at the 8 hour mark.
- Heat the milk slowly, stirring frequently to at least 180°F/82°C but without boiling the milk. This step is important as heating the milk quickly, or not making it hot enough can make the end product grainy and runny
- Let the milk cool to 110-115°F/43-46°C. This cooling down process takes a little longer than you might think; if you’re impatient, you can hurry this part by pouring the milk into a bowl and placing in a sink of cold water to cool it quicker.
- Take a cup of milk out and whisk it into your starter. Follow with the rest of the milk.
- Put into a yogurt maker (or thermos or glass jar wrapped in a tea towel and stored in a warm place e.g. above a radiator, on an Aga or in the airing cupboard) and leave for 6-8 hours. At this point you'll have made yogurt! The longer you leave the yogurt the more it will ferment, the easier it will be to digest and the better it will be for your gut: 24 hour fermented yogurt is our recommendation if you’re using yogurt to support digestive health. Note that if you’re using a yogurt maker that keeps the yogurt at 46°degrees consistently, your yogurt is likely to be done sooner. You don't want your yogurt to separate so check it regularly after 8 hours has passed.
- Let the yogurt cool a little before storing in the fridge. If you want to use this yogurt as a starter we suggest putting 3tbsp into a separate glass jar in the fridge right away.
- If you prefer a thicker yogurt, simply strain the yogurt through a fine mesh sieve, nut milk bag, cheesecloth, coffee filter paper or muslin into a bowl in the fridge until it reaches the consistency you like. For a thicker Greek yogurt this could be anywhere between 30 minutes to 10-12 hours. If you leave it straining for longer (e.g. anywhere between 12-48 hours) you’ll end up with labneh (yogurt cheese) which is also delicious. The liquid beneath your strained yogurt should be clear/yellowish rather than white (if not your straining cloth isn’t closely meshed enough) and is whey – keep it and use it in smoothies.
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