Homemade Yogurt in the Crock Pot

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Yogurt is a staple around our house.

Kids want a snack?  Go get some yogurt.

Quick lunch? Yogurt with some berries and nuts.

Baking, and out of milk? No problem, substitute yogurt.

However, at over $5 per quart for good quality yogurt, my kids could polish off $25 worth of yogurt in a week, easy.

There had to be a better (read: cheaper) way.

Enter every mom’s favorite kitchen tool: the crockpot.

Yogurt is simply the culturing of milk with beneficial bacteria.  In order for that to happen, the milk needs to reach a warm, consistent temperature while in a dark place until the culturing has been completed.  I’ve seen dozens of recipes that call for dehydrators, yogurt makers, and sometimes even small food coolers lugged into the kitchen and filled with warm water.  I know all of those methods work, but I have a hard enough time keeping my kitchen presentable and passable without pulling in my cooler and a bunch of towels.

Here is my (mostly) fool proof method for crockpot yogurt – without a lot of fancy tools or extra gadgets, except what you already own.

Homemade Yogurt in the Crockpot

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon of full fat milk preferably raw if you can find a local source
  • 1.5 cups of pre-made plain yogurt as a starter
  • food thermometer
  • 6 qt. crock pot
  • kitchen towel

Instructions

If using store bought pasteurized or lightly pastuerized milk: Set your yogurt starter on the counter (to allow it to reach room temperature while the milk heats.)  Heat the milk in the crockpot on high for approximately 2-2.5 hours until it reaches 180' F.  Once it has reached that point, turn off the crockpot and remove the lid, allowing the milk to cool to 110-120' F.  Once it has cooled, slowly stir in your yogurt starter until it has been thoroughly incorporated into the milk.   Turn the crockpot OFF, place the lid back on the crock pot and cover it with a kitchen towel (or two) to make sure that it is dark inside the crock.  Bacteria loves a warm, dark place, so make sure to cover it well.  Leave the crockpot on the counter overnight and allow the milk to culture for at least 8 hours (preferably longer).  If you start the yogurt in the afternoon, you can have it for breakfast the next morning!

If using raw milk: Set your yogurt starter on the counter (to allow it to reach room temperature while the milk heats.)  Heat the raw milk in the crockpot on high for approximately 2 hours until it reaches 110-120' F.  Once at that point, slowly stir in your yogurt starter until it has been thoroughly incorporated into the milk.   Turn the crockpot OFF, place the lid back on the crock pot and cover it with a kitchen towel (or two) to make sure that it is dark inside the crock.  Bacteria loves a warm, dark place, so make sure to cover it well. Leave the crockpot on the counter overnight and allow the milk to culture for at least 8 hours (preferably longer).  If you start the yogurt in the afternoon, you can have it for breakfast the next morning!

Recipe Notes

  • A few notes on milk choices: My preference is a local source of raw milk yogurt that is available at our health food store, or Trader's Point Creamery yogurt.   I've also used Trader Joe's, Danon's plain, and Stoneyfield Farm's plain yogurts.  In another blog post I'll argue the evils of commercial yogurt, but we are talking frugality here my friends.  Plus, once you have the starter, you won't need to buy any more yogurt, so you'll be consuming very little of the original starter.)
  • Notes (and some troubleshooting advice):
  • Store bought milk has been pasteurized and needs to reach boiling in order to kill any potentially harmful bacteria (pasteurized milk has NO good bacteria left in it to protect itself, which is why it can spoil, but raw milk will clabber - which means that it will curdle and separate but not spoil).
  • Raw milk should not boil, or it will kill the beneficial bacteria and will no longer be "raw".
  • Pasteurized milk yields a smoother consistency and raw milk yogurt will tend to be a little clumpier and more separated.
  • If your yogurt is too runny: It may need to culture longer.  Place the towel back on the top and allow it to sit out for a few more hours.  If it's still thinner than you are used to, you can either strain it through a cheesecloth to drain the whey, or just use it in smoothies and for baking.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with it, but every once in awhile, you might get a "dud" batch. Make sure that you are using a starter that includes "live and active cultures".  Not all yogurts will make this claim on the label, so make sure that you have a good quality starter. 
  • Your yogurt will most likely begin to separate in the container after a few days.  The liquid that rises to the top is the whey.  It is packed full of minerals and probiotics, so don't throw it out!  Pour it into smoothies, bake with it - you can even use it to water your plants!  But don't throw it away - it's liquid gold!!

 

 

Have you ever made yogurt at home?  What’s your favorite method?

 

photo credit

This post is linked to The Parent ‘Hood, Welcome Home Link Up, The Homestead Barn Hop, Better Mom Mondays, Traditional Tuesdays, Titus 2 Tuesday, Fat TuesdayWhole Foods WednesdayHomemaking LinkupSeasonal Celebration WednesdaySimple Lives ThursdayYour Green Resource, Pennywise Platter, Fight Back Friday, Fresh Bites Friday

 

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34 Responses to “Homemade Yogurt in the Crock Pot”
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  1. My yogurt always turned out thinner than your picture. It’s good to know I can culture it longer. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  2. Sherri

    Love the idea of doing this! I have a couple of questions though…how long after it is done culturing does it need to be refrigerated (or does it)? And how long would it last for? What would be the’ best before date’?
    Thanks! Can’t wait to try it!

    • Cheeky Bums

      Sherri – those are great questions and have multiple answers, depending on whether you are using raw or pasteurized milk. My experience has been:
      Pasteurized milk:
      -after culturing, I have stored it on the counter for 3-4 days with no problem, esp if it hasn’t been opened much. Much longer than that, and mine developed a layer of green fuzz. Also, the fuzz appears faster if the jar is constantly opened and served from/dipped into (because of the introduction of new bacteria) Also, if it’s stored on the counter, it will still (slowly) continue to culture, so it will get a little more sour with each passing day. This isn’t bad – it’s just the beneficial bacteria consuming the sugars in the milk and it’s actually healthier for you the more tart it is!
      -in the fridge, depending on whether or not it’s opened, mine has lasted at least 2-3 weeks (stored in the coldest part).
      Raw milk is a little different. I’ve personally found that it cultures faster on the counter and gets more tart a little faster than pasteurized milk (because there’s more beneficial bacteria present). Again, it’s very healthy, but may need a tad more honey to make it palatable. I try not to leave my raw milk yogurt out longer than a day or two because it does sour fast. In the fridge, it too should last several weeks. In short, if it’s fuzzy, I wouldn’t eat it, but my kids are vultures and it never really has a chance to get fuzzy around our house! 🙂 Hope that helps a little! good luck! – Kelsi

  3. We go through yogurt like water here, too, and I’ve been meaning to search around for a crockpot recipe. No searching needed. Thank you! And thanks for joining us at The Parent ‘Hood this week, too.
    Megan (FriedOkra) recently posted..The Parent ‘Hood Week 15My Profile

  4. You have just made my LIFE!!! My boys LOVE yogurt, but it is so expensive! Barbara Kingsolver had a recipe for making yogurt in “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” but she used a heating pad. My heating pad turns off after too short of a period of time. I have a crockpot, though! YAY!!!

    Do you leave the crockpot off after adding your yogurt, or should it be turned back on?
    Cluttered Mama recently posted..Organize-a-palooza: The KitchenMy Profile

    • Cheeky Bums

      Cluttered Mama – I’m so glad this helps (and hopefully saves you some moolah!) Yes – after you add in the yogurt starter, keep the crock pot OFF. In the summer, my kitchen is sweltering, so I get some great thick, creamy yogurt by the next morning. However, in the winter, it’s the coldest room in the house, so I usually wrap a towel *around* the crock pot as well as the one I place over the top to keep it dark. I’ve also read about the recipes that call for using a heating pad which definitely has it’s merits; I’m sure it would yield more consistent results, but I don’t own one. Although there have been some trial and error batches, as well as some that needed re-culturing, this has been the easiest (and cheapest!!) recipe for me! Good luck! Let me know how it turns out!! – kelsi

  5. I use a little gelatin in mine to help it firm up. This can be flavored or unflavored. http://virginiaknowles.blogspot.com/2010/12/crockpot-yogurt.html

  6. question: I made yogurt yesterday and opened my crock pot this morning to find “milk”. It didn’t firm. Can I save it? I am thinking I should stir in more yogurt. Also, I used plain Greek yogurt, will that make a difference?
    Rachel E. recently posted..Stocking a PantryMy Profile

    • Cheeky Bums

      Rachel – that stinks 🙁 Every once in awhile I’ll get a dud but you may still be able to save it. For whatever reason, I haven’t had the greatest luck with greek yogurt. Depending on the brands, they may use fillers and dry milk powder to thicken it, so it’s not necessarily more “cultured” it’s just thicker. Did you use raw or pasteurized? if it’s raw, you can try culturing it again or use it in smoothies, baking etc and you’re totally fine. if it was pasteurized and it still smells ok, I’d add a little more yogurt and let it set out again over night (don’t reheat, but try re-culturing) If it doesn’t work, I’d probably toss it at that point, only because the pasteurized milk doesn’t have the enzymes and bacteria needed to keep it safe from food-borne bacterias. hope it works for you! If you go with a store bought brand, I’ve had good luck with both Danon’s and Stoney Field Farm’s full fat plain yogurts. – kelsi

  7. Jen Krom

    Any suggestions for adding sweeteners or other flavorings? My boys don’t like plain yogurt, and could go through gallons of the sweetened if I let them. Could you add sugar or a sugar syrup before fermenting the yogurt, or should it be done after the yogurt is made?

    • Cheeky Bums

      Jen – my kids don’t like it plain either! You can definitely sweeten it, but you’ll want to do that after you culture it, otherwise it won’t set up. Our favorites are either raw honey or maple syrup. I also toss it in the blender with some fresh fruit if they want a fruity yogurt, or with frozen fruit for smoothies and milkshakes. Then we don’t need to sweeten it as much. enjoy! – kelsi

    • Mary

      When I was a kid, my mom always made homemade yogurt. Then she would dish up our individual servings, and we would flavor/sweeten it to our taste. We would use honey, or a small spoonful of brown sugar, but my personal favorite was always when Mom would pull out the jam or jelly from the fridge. Just a small spoonful, but it was fruity and sweet and delicious!
      Cheeky Bums: Thank you for sharing this! Mom’s yogurt maker broke, and now that I have kids of my own I’ve been wanting to recreate the experience (I’m a big fan of making everything you can at home). I can’t wait to try this!

      • Cheeky Bums

        we do the same thing! I love to dish them out into mason jars and then we have them ready to go throughout the week! My kids’ favorite (and mine!) is with strawberry jam! In fact…I think I know what we’ll have for lunch! thanks for stopping by! – kelsi

  8. Poppins

    I had been looking into buying a yogurt maker, but this is the perfect solution. Do you leave the crock pot on high while you culture it, though? Wouldn’t that much heat kill the bacteria?

  9. Mary

    Made my first batch last night. I used a local dairy’s hormone-free whole milk and two containers of plain, active cultures Greek yogurt. It is perfect! Still draining, have a jar filled, a quart of whey, so far. I’m really happy it came out so thick and creamy … great instructions plus the comments/questions and answers were very helpful. Thanks, everyone!

  10. Celeste

    For the raw milk yogurt, I wasn’t quite sure whether you left the crockpot on, or turned it off. Could you clarify, please?
    Thanks!

    • Cheeky Bums

      yep – for either raw or pasteurized, you need to turn the crock pot off, then let it set overnight/8 hours. Good luck with it! I made a batch this morning and we are enjoying it for lunch!

  11. Stacy

    I was wondering if you could use greek yogurt?

    • Cheeky Bums

      Stacy, yes I have used Greek yogurt before with great results. The main difference between Greek Yogurt and regular is that the whey is strained out. That’s really it. Therefore, you can also turn this yogurt into Greek once it’s done by straining it. Before you add ANY starter, you just want to make sure that it has LIVE and ACTIVE cultures. As long as the container says that, you should be fine. Hope that helps! All the best – kelsi

      • Stacy

        Do you strain it though a mesh colander or a bag that you make almond milk with ? Thanks so much for your previous reply I am excited to make greek yogurt!

        • Cheeky Bums

          Stacy, I use cheese cloth doubled up, inside a colander, set to drainer over a bowl. it sounds like quite the contraption, but it’s pretty simple, and worth it for Greek Yogurt!!

  12. Kerry

    How do you store the starter, after you make your first homemade batch? I am not sure, yet, on how long it will take for us to finish the first batch. I am starting this process now and very excited!

    • Cheeky Bums

      that’s great!! At first, I was just putting everything in mason jar in the fridge and when we got near the bottom, I’d use the last portion that was left as the starter. This works great if youy have family with self control, but more often than not, we were eating the starter too, so I’d be stuck! NOW – I first take out what I need for a starter and hide it in the back of the fridge so that no one can find it AND so that it stays extra cold. It’ll last for quite awhile (2-3 weeks at least) in the coldest part of your fridge. You can use it as long as it isn’t green on top 🙂

  13. Sara

    Hello, This is a wonderful easy recipe. I can’t believe how much it made! I am not sure how fast we’ll eat it all, can it be frozen? Thanks.

    • Cheeky Bums

      Sara, I’m so glad you liked it!! it is quite amazing how much you end up with!!! yes, you can freeze it, but when you thaw it out again, the texture won’t be as smooth anymore. it will still taste fine, but if I have a ton of extra, I use it as a dairy substitute in my baking (keeps things incredibly moist!!), or I blend it into smoothies (and sometimes refreeze the smoothies into popsicles!). hope that helps!! – kelsi

  14. jenny

    I have raw unpasteurized milk that i want to be using. I have a few questions. Out of dannon and stoney which is best to use as starter? If i turn my crock pot to high wouldn’t it heat up to fast/and or heat over 110 degree point? And is there a difference on how much starter one is to use, because I searched different recipes and some advise 2tbsp, others 4, and others 1 cup. So which is best, I don’t really want to experiment and ruin it. Thanks so much!

    • Jenny – I’ll see if I can help – I use raw milk as well, but still turn my crock on high. I have no scientific backing on this, and I haven’t tested it, but my crock on high still heats at a lower temp than a pot on my gas stove on high. I also find that it heats fairly evenly, so even though it heats fast, and the milk closest to the edges may in fact get too hot, I still do it…for time sake usually. Low would always be safe, so if you’re worried, then go with low!As for starter, it’s a toss up and personal preference, depending on how important it is for you to have organic. If I can, I use Stoney, but if I’m pinching pennies on groceries, I go with Dannon. There’s such a small amount per batch that I don’t lose sleep over it. And as for amounts, I find that I have more consistent results when I use more starter. I know some people have luck with using only a few tablespoons, so I’m sure it’s possible, but I’ve never been able to get it to work and I end up with thick milk, not yogurt. 🙁 If I were you, I’d error on the side of too much starter, see how thick it comes out, and then adjust accordingly for the following batches. Hope that helps!

  15. Absolutely love your yogurt crockpot recipes.

    Was thinking of getting mini sizes to create a whole batch, so that I can give them out as gifts for my daughter’s class party.

    Do you reckon there’s additional steps I need to take to preserve the freshness, or will the crockpot alone keep it fresh? And for how long can we keep it for? (Wanna make sure the other kids don’t keep it longer than intended!)

    Thanks in advance,

 

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