Wild Fermentation Tutorial: Homemade Cultured Yogurt (Dairy and Dairy-Free Option)
Homemade foods are without a doubt one of the best foods in the world! Making your own dairy or dairy-free cultured yogurt is incredibly easy. And once you get a culture going, the process gets even easier.
Though I invested in a yogurt maker (because they are cheap and we make about two batches of dairy and/or coconut yogurt every week), a thermos, your oven light, or dutch oven works too. I also have heard people using their slow cooker. Be creative!
Since dairy yogurt is the easiest to culture if you are not vegan, allergic to dairy or lactose intolerant, I recommend making a batch using regular milk first. After you get a culture going, you can start to experiment with different kinds of milk such as nut and seed milk. Coconut milk is one of our favorites.
ALSO READ: 7 Must-Eat Fermented Foods for a Healthy Gut
Homemade cultured yogurt recipe
- 4 cups milk (or 1 carton of 1 liter)
- Yogurt starter (see below for more info)
- Clean glass jar(s) with lid (washed with hot water)
- Oven/thermos/a yogurt maker/Dutch oven
- Thermometer (optional for non-yogurt maker or non-oven options)
Yogurt starter options:
Choose ONE of following yogurt starters
- 2 probiotic capsules
- 1 teaspoon, small vial, or probiotic powder/yogurt starter sachet (often requires to be dissolved in milk before its use, read instructions for more info)
- ¼ cup yogurt from your previous batch or store-bought yogurt that mentions life enzymes or bacteria on the label
Instructions (prep time: 5 min, culture time 5-24 hours)
- If using powdered starter culture: dissolve the powder in a little milk, stir well, cover, and let sit for 1 to 2 hours. Or follow the instructions on the package, since this may differ from the brand you use. Some do not require the 1 to 2 hours activation time and can be used straight away.
- Pour the milk into a cooking pot (or Dutch oven, if using that method). Heat over medium heat until it reaches the point where the milk just starts to come up and form a foam layer (near boiling point). When you reached this point, turn off the heat immediately. FYI: while the milk is cooking, stir regularly to make sure it doesn’t boil over or scorches to the bottom. The heating step is necessary to change the protein structure of the milk., resulting in a thicker, smoother, more solid yogurt.
- Allow the milk to cool completely (if using a yogurt maker or oven method) or until 110°F or around 40°C (or warm to the touch) when using a thermos. Keep the lid on the pot while cooling to avoid contaminations.
- When cooled, add bacterial culture/starter of your choice. Stir well to inoculate the milk of your choice. Do not add the culture when the milk is still hot (above 110 °F or 40°C ); this will kill the beneficial bacteria or probiotics.
ALSO READ: Probiotics 101
- If using a yogurt maker, pour into clean jars and incubate without their lids for 5-12 hours. The time depends on how sour you like your yogurt. The first time, do a few taste tests at different incubation times, using a clean spoon. When it has reached your sourness level, close lids and add to the fridge.
- Thermos/Oven/Dutch/dehydrator oven method: when the milk has come to a temperature of 110°F or 40°C, add culture, stir well and pour into clean jars (or keep into the dutch oven) and lightly seal the jar with the lid, allowing air to flow in. Turn on the light of the oven and place the jars or dutch oven as close as possible to the light. This will generate enough heat to make the yogurt, so DO NOT TURN THE OVEN HEAT ON! If you have a dehydrator, you can use that too. Turn it to 110°F or 40°C and incubate until the desired tartness. Or pour into a thermos to keep warm.
- Let the yogurt set for at least 4 to 6 hours. Avoid stirring or jostling the yogurt until it has completely set. Depending on the method and type of milk you used you may incubate as long as 24-48 hours. After a while, you will know exactly how long the yogurt needs to incubate to meet your preference, but in the beginning, you might want to do a few taste tests. I like mine after 10-12 hours in the yogurt maker. The exact time will depend on the culture you used, the temperature of the yogurt, the temperature of the room, used incubation method, and your yogurt preferences. The longer you incubate the yogurt, the more it will thicken and create a tart flavor.
FYI: Though I use the yogurt maker for both, dairy and coconut yogurt, in the past I successfully used the glass jar and oven method for my coconut yogurt I removed the yogurt out of the oven after about 24 to 26 hours. At that time it is still quite runny, but it always thickens after one day in the fridge.
ALSO READ: Homemade Coconut Yogurt
- They yogurt can be stored in the fridge for up to one or even two weeks. Don’t forget to save ¼ cup of your batch to make the next. Or why not start another batch with full-fat coconut milk straight away. If you are not using small, separate jars, make sure to add the 1/4 cup for your next batch to a clean jar when they yogurt is ready. This will avoid contamination in your start culture from spoons or opening to pot too often.
- IMPORTANT NOTE: Refresh your culture every few months. Depending on how much batches you make a week and a few other conditions, every few months (for me it is every 5-6 months) you have to start from a powdered yogurt starter or probiotic capsule again. When it is time for a change, you’ll definitely notice a changed smell and consistency.
- For coconut yogurt: no need to boil the milk. If not using an oven light or yogurt maker, slightly heat the milk to about 110°F or 40°C. You can use ¼ cup of your freshly made dairy yogurt per 2 cans of full-fat coconut cream or coconut milk as a starting culture. If you prefer a yogurt with a thick consistency, use full-fat cream and refrigerate the cans for a few hours. The cream will rise to the top of the can. Only use the cream to make the yogurt and save the water for a coconut flavored smoothie. If you don’t mind a runny yogurt, you may also use to water.
- Make sure to use clean materials. To avoid mold or other contaminations wash all materials with hot water and clean working surfaces and your hands before you start
- 110°F or 40°C is the ideal temperature for the bacteria or culture to multiply. However, close to cooler temperatures are also fine while it’s incubating. It will take a little longer to set and might end up a little bit runnier, but the bacteria in the yogurt culture will keep the milk from going bad.
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