For years – in fact, 2 decades – whenever I saw a yogurt maker, I’d have an urge to buy one so I could make my own yogurt at home.
I’d try convincing myself that it was a smart purchase by saying, “I eat yogurt almost daily, and it would be so much cheaper to make it myself.” Both of these statements are true and 100% valid.
But then, I’d walk away from the fancy yogurt maker or delete it from my online cart.
Why? I couldn’t convince myself to buy yet another single-purpose appliance. I was certain a yogurt maker would take up too much space on the kitchen counter or get pushed to the back of the cupboards.
This one issue kept me from making homemade yogurt, something I was convinced I would enjoy and do often.
Then, one day, I came home from work and my husband announced he had purchased an Instant Pot.
I was skeptical at first. We already owned a slow cooker. Did we really need a pressure cooker? It turns out we did.
His main reason for buying the Instant Pot was to make preparing dinners (something he’s in charge of) quicker. I thought, okay, that’s fair. Then he said, “It even has a yogurt function.” Suddenly, I was madly in love with the appliance. Finally! I could explore that nagging desire to make my own yogurt at home.
Since that day, I’ve been making fresh homemade yogurt – saving all that money and enjoying yogurt exactly the way I like it – super-strained, Greek-style, and without the surprising amount of added sugar that comes in packaged yogurt from the supermarket.
How to Make Homemade Yogurt with an Instant Pot
The Instant Pot makes it very simple to make yogurt. The functions on the Instant Pot for making yogurt depend on the model, so you’ll need to read your instruction manual, but the basic steps for making yogurt remain the same.
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- Half-gallon (8 cups) of milk. Whole and 2% are terrific. You can also make yogurt with goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, and other types of milk.
- Approximately 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt. I prefer using my favorite brand of Greek yogurt to achieve a similar texture and flavor. You can also buy a yogurt starter culture. You might want a yogurt starter if you are looking to make a vegan yogurt with a plant-based milk or if you are interested in a specific style of yogurt that you can’t find in the grocery store.
Tools You’ll Need:
- Instant Pot
- Food thermometer for measuring the temperature of the milk. A digital food thermometer is best because, as you’ll see below, temperature accuracy is fairly important to the process.
- Cheesecloth, bowl, and colander or fine-mesh strainer for straining or separating some of the whey from the yogurt. I recommend investing in reusable cheesecloth with a grade of 90. It has a nice tight weave. The cheesecloth available at the grocery store commonly has too loose of a weave. You want the yogurt to remain in the cheesecloth, not drain through the cloth along with the whey.
- Containers for your finished yogurt. I like to use 8-oz. canning jars because they’re easy to pack in my lunch and allow me to leave a little room for adding maple syrup, fruit, and nuts. You can use anything that allows you to refrigerate your finished yogurt and protect it from refrigerator odors.
The Process of Making Homemade Yogurt
Step 1 – Pasteurizing – The milk needs to be pasteurized to get rid of potentially harmful bacteria by briefly heating it to about 180 degrees F. The Instant Pot has a pasteurization setting that will automatically do this for you. It takes about half an hour. When this process is complete, you’ll want to quickly check the temperature of the hot milk to make sure it has reached 180 degrees F. If it hasn’t, you can run the pasteurization function again, and the milk should reach the desired temperature.
Step 2 – Cooling – After the milk has been pasteurized, you need to let the milk cool down to 116 degrees F so that you don’t kill the starter culture you’ll be adding in the next step. If you remove the inner pot with the milk from the Instant Pot and set it on a cold stovetop, the cooling process should take between 45 minutes and an hour. The time depends on the surrounding ambient temperature. I find it is best to start checking the temperature of the milk after 30 minutes. The cooling process can also be sped up to about 5 minutes by placing the pot of milk in an ice bath. When the milk reaches 116 degrees F, remove the thin skin that forms on the top of the scalded milk, and then you’ll be ready for the next step, which is adding the yogurt culture.
Step 3 – Adding the Yogurt Culture – Temper 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt in a separate dish with a few tablespoons of the heated milk, then add the mixture to the pot of milk and gently stir it in. This should be done fairly quickly, as the temperature of your milk should not be allowed to drop below 110 degrees F.
Step 4 – Fermenting – Place the pot of milk and yogurt culture back into the Instant Pot. The Instant Pot will do the work of holding the mixture at about 110 degrees F for 8 hours so that it ferments properly. The fermentation time can be increased from the standard 8 hours to up to 12 hours, which would give you a tangier yogurt.
Step 5 – Chilling – After the fermentation process is complete, you should transfer the entire pot of yogurt, covered in plastic wrap, into the refrigerator to chill it for several hours or even overnight. This stops the fermentation process and sets the yogurt up to strain well through cheesecloth.
Step 6 – Straining – Whether you want a thick Greek-style yogurt or a smooth, thin style, you’ll want to strain the yogurt to remove excess whey. Whey is the cloudy, protein-rich liquid that is a byproduct of making yogurt and cheese. The longer you strain the yogurt, the thicker it will be. Place a fine-mesh strainer or colander over a bowl and line it with cheesecloth. Spoon or pour your yogurt into the cheesecloth-lined strainer, cover with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator. After 4 to 6 hours, the whey will have started collecting in the bowl and the yogurt should be thickened. Because of our schedules and because I like thick yogurt, I always end up leaving the yogurt straining in the refrigerator overnight.
Step 7 – Adding Flavors, Placing in Containers, and Keeping Refrigerated – At this point, your homemade plain yogurt is finished. You can eat it or bake with it as is, or you can flavor your yogurt with vanilla extract or any flavor of extract you desire. You can also add the sweetener of your choice, such as maple syrup, stevia, or honey. The containers you choose should have tight lids to keep out refrigerator odors, and the yogurt should be good for up to 2 weeks if you keep it refrigerated. But, if you’re like me, a batch made with a half-gallon of milk is only enough yogurt for 4 to 5 days.
Step 8 – Saving 2 Tablespoons of Your Homemade Yogurt for Your Next Batch – If you get in the habit of regularly making homemade yogurt, you can use the yogurt you’ve made as the culture for your next batch. Potentially, you could be making homemade yogurt without buying a yogurt starter or tub of plain yogurt indefinitely and enjoying a bit of self-sufficiency. However, over time, the yogurt culture can weaken, so if, after a while, you’re not getting the results you’re used to, it means it’s time to either purchase store-bought plain yogurt or a yogurt starter to begin again.
Making Homemade Yogurt Can Seem Complicated Until You Try It
If you’ve just read through the instructions above that walk you through the steps of making yogurt, you might be thinking it’s a complicated process. If that’s the case, I can assure you, while yogurt making is a unique process that might seem foreign, once you’ve done it a couple of times, it is one of the easiest “from scratch” activities to incorporate into your routine. While making yogurt takes at least 8-9 hours, the majority of the process is hands-off time that you don’t even need to think about.
Aside from saving money, as a half-gallon of milk is far less expensive than individual yogurt cups, the best part about making homemade yogurt is the control you have over what goes in it and what goes into your body.
Are you an avid homemade yogurt maker? Are you thinking about trying it out? I’d love to hear your thoughts about the topic in the comments section.