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If you’d told me I’d be making homemade yogurt a year ago…

I would have laughed in your face and then run away maniacally (it wouldn’t be the first time). But here I am: stirring, scalding and culturing fresh milk into thick, tangy goodness for my chunky Judgey Bear, who demands yogurt for his daily lunch (I dare you to deny him). If you’re already here, then I probably don’t need to convince you why homemade yogurt is awesomesauce.
However if you are still thinking, why would I want to make yogurt when there are so many more convenient store-bought options? Since you asked…

Here’s why making homemade yogurt is the Bee’s Knees:

You control the ingredients, from the quality of your milk to the probiotic strains.  Making your own yogurt empowers you to leave out the unsavory ingredients found in “light” and “fit” yogurt lining supermarket shelves such as modified corn starch, fructose, artificial flavors, Sucralose and Red 40. Barfarooni.

Unhealthy Yogurt Ingredients - Best Way Homemade Yogurt - The Maverick Mama

This also means you can tailor the yogurt to accommodate any number of food sensitivities and diets, such as GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) and SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet). Dairy free? No problem; homemade coconut and almond yogurt are just two yummy possibilities and there are no creepy emulsifiers or thickeners to worry about.

Yogurt loses friendly bacterial and enzymatic value every day. Those beneficial buggies have a limited lifespan, and you don’t know how long that tub has been sitting on the supermarket shelf. With homemade yogurt, you can enjoy those friendly organisms at their peak!

Homemade yogurt is eco-friendly. When The Judgey Bear starting going through tubs of yogurt like it was his job, I grew anxious over how many hard-to-recycle #5 plastic containers started piling up. Making yogurt is a great way to reduce the plastic load on our overstuffed landfills!

Homemade yogurt is CHEAPER. A gallon of the highest-quality 100% grass-fed milk at Whole Foods is around $12. While that sounds exorbitant, consider that this amount of yogurt made with same quality milk costs around $16. If your family consumes a gallon per week, that’s a savings of over $200 per year! You’ll save even more if you use organic milk, and if you are lactose-free like we are, that cost differential jumps to a whopping $500 smackers!

Convinced? Woohoo! Now, I am acutely aware that there are about 193,849,339 blog posts about homemade yogurt, so what’s so special about this one? Well, this post is partly an uncensored confessional on the funny follies transpiring in my kitchen through countless attempts at perfecting my recipe. So, not only will you have an airtight method for tackling the tang, you’ll avoid my many mishaps and maybe have a chuckle or two along the way!

Before we go any further, let’s review some yogurt vernacular:

Milk: The delicious snowy liquid that will be magically transformed into creamy yogurt. We use 100% grass-fed, VAT-pasteurized whole milk  (skim is not in our vocabulary) which contains 2-3 times more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than conventional milk. CLA is an anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting and fat-blasting nutrient, and the most bio-available source of CLA is found in grass-fed cows and dairy [source]. Grass-fed and organic milk also has a much healthier Omega 3 – Omega 6 ratio, essential for avoiding cardiovascular disease [

Grass-fed and organic milk also has a much healthier Omega 3 – Omega 6 ratio, essential for avoiding cardiovascular disease [source]. If you don’t want to go grass-fed, organic milk will work just fine! However I do not recommend using ultra-pasteurized (UHT) conventional milk for this or any other consumption for these reasons.

Yogurt starter: The collection of beneficial bacteria that will culture your milk.  These bacteria need a food to multiply, and they use the lactose (or milk sugar) in cow’s milk. Your starter will depend on the heat method and whether you want to reuse your yogurt to culture your next batch (heirloom vs. direct set) [source]. Your heat options are

Your heat options are thermophilic (Greek for lovin’ some heat), mesophilic (room temperature-loving) [source]. See, you’re learning how to make yogurt AND you get a bonus Greek lesson! You’re welcome. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go put some Windex on my joints…{Greek humor, I’m entitled.}

Please note that this recipe requires the use of pasteurized cow’s milk, a perpetual thermophilic starter and a dehydrator.  I have finally achieved beautiful, repeatable results with these conditions (and that appeals to my analyst ego). However I’ve provided a number of variations throughout this post in case these items aren’t available or you wish to experiment. As a New Jersey resident, I don’t have ready access to raw dairy (sale of raw dairy is illegal in NJ, and we’re still deciding whether it’s right for us). If you do, here is a great resource

As a New Jersey resident, I don’t have ready access to raw dairy (sale of raw dairy is illegal in NJ, and we’re still deciding whether it’s right for us). If you do, here is a great resource on making raw dairy yogurt.

OK people, let’s do this thing!

Foolproof Pasteurized Dehydrator Yogurt

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 3 hours

Cook Time: 8 hours

Total Time: 11 hours

Yield: 1 Gallon

8 ounces

Foolproof Pasteurized Dehydrator Yogurt

A straightforward recipe for homemade yogurt using pasteurized grass-fed cow's milk, perpetual thermophilic starter and food dehydrator.



  1. Wash and sterilize all of your equipment.You don’t want culture any nasty pathogenic buggies in there.
  2. Put a washcloth in the bottom of the stock pot to prevent the jars from rattling.
  3. Pour the milk into the glass jar, leaving about 2 inches of room at the top for stirring. If using unhomogenized milk, shake up the milk to incorporate the decadent top layer of butterfat. You’ll have some milk leftover so save it for your morning coffee or churn it into delicious homemade butter or homemade ghee (both o-mazingly nutrient dense and heat-stable cooking fats). If you don't want any waste, buy 1/2 gallon and 1 quart of milk.
  4. Place the jars in the stockpot, as far from each other as possible.
  5. Clip the candy thermometer into one of the jars.
  6. Fill the stock pot with cold water until the water level reaches about ¾ of the top of the jars.
  7. Add some salt to the water to help it boil faster.
  8. Turn the heat on to medium-high and cover pot.
  9. Set your timer for 15 minutes to check in on the milk temperature.
  10. Wait until the milk reaches 160 degrees; this is the key temperature for offing pathogenic organisms while preserving as many beneficial bacteria and enzymes as possible. I know that with my ceramic stockpot on medium heat, We clock in at 160 at around 35 minutes.
  11. Remove from heat immediately upon reaching 160. Now we play a bit of a waiting game. If you’d like to take a break, leave the jars in the pot and you’ll have plenty of time. However I like to actually get the yogurt culturing before bedtime, so I take the jars out (carefully!) and place them on a heat-safe cutting board or thawing plate to cool off.
  12. Whisk the milk a few times after removing the jars to get them cooling.
  13. Allow the milk to cool to 110 degrees. This is the sweet spot for culturing the probiotic organisms. For us, it takes about 90 minutes but this can vary so stay vigilant!
  14. Follow the instructions on the yogurt starter; I mix a scoop of mine in 1 tbsp of lukewarm water, then briskly stir into the milk. Alternately, you can add 2 tbsp of your previous batch or store-bought yogurt.
  15. Put the jars in the dehydrator well-spaced apart.
  16. Set the dehydrator temperature to 105 degrees and the timer to at least 8 hours.
  17. When the timer rings, remove the jars and gently place into the refrigerator to set for at least 2 hours.
  18. Dive into the creamiest, tangiest, yummiest yogurt you’ve ever tasted!

Delicious Homemade Yogurt - The Maverick Mama

Dietary Adjustments

The beauty of making yogurt at home is that you have full control over the method and ingredients, which allows for infinite possibilities! Here are just a few:

High-protein / Greek style yogurt: I learned this neat little trick from Katie over at Kitchen Stewardship.  You can create a thicker Greek-style yogurt by adding grass-fed gelatin or collagen! Mix 1 tsp per quart of milk (or 1 tbsp for the gallon) into 4 tbsp cool water with the yogurt starter and mix well to make it “bloom”. Now this part is super important: try to pour the gelatin into each jar while it’s still liquid, and then whisk that bad boy until your hand falls off! I prefer this over straining the yogurt on a cheesecloth for umpteen hours.  Just be careful to whisk really well or you’ll end up with a giant blob at the bottom of the jar. Too much and you’ll end up with yogurt jello, which is great if that’s your thing but this texture strikes fear into my heart for some reason.

Just be careful to whisk really well or you’ll end up with a giant blob at the bottom of the jar. Too much and you’ll end up with yogurt jello, which is great if that’s your thing but this texture strikes fear into my heart for some reason.

Lactose-intolerant / GAPS / SCD-legal yogurt: Think you have to use lactose-free milk to make lactose-free yogurt? Think again! If you culture your yogurt for a full 24 hours, the probiotic bacteria and enzymes will gobble up almost all of the lactose for extremely digestible yogurt.  This results in a very tangy lactose-free yogurt which is nicely balanced with fresh organic fruit, raw honey and soaked walnuts for a Greek-style treat! Since The Judgey Bear has a mean sour tooth, he inhales this by the quart with his

Since The Judgey Bear has a mean sour tooth, he inhales this by the quart with his fermented cod liver /butter oil (FCLO) and desiccated liver powder.  For GAPS you can use Custom Probiotics Yogurt Starter 2, and for SCD you can use Yogurt Starter 1 (does not contain Bifidus).

Non-dairy yogurt: The sky’s the limit when making your own yogurt. I’ve tried my hand at coconut milk yogurt (when I perfect that one I’ll definitely post a recipe), goat’s milk yogurt and even almond yogurt! Get creative with your cultured self!

And now…the DOHn’ts of making homemade yogurt:

Homemade Yogurt Don'ts - The Maverick Mama

DISCLAIMER: Proceed with these steps at your own peril if you wish to completely bungle your homemade yogurt and make it mostly unfit for human consumption. I cannot be held responsible for the consequences.

However if you wish to avoid ruining your precious yogurt:

  • DON’T start your yogurt late at night or before running out the door. Until you get those jars in the dehydrator or cooler, you are on call because like parenting a toddler, this process requires your undivided attention or it will go south fast. I always make sure to plan ahead so that I’ll be home when the jars need to go in dehydrator and then the fridge.
  • DON’T lie your unhomogenized milk on its side, or else the beautiful, creamy butterfat will plaster to the side of the container and will be impossible to scrape out. This is why for this purpose I prefer homogenized milk.
  • DON’T place your glass mason jars with cold milk in a stockpot filled with hot water. You’ll inadvertently witness a physics lesson in “thermal downshock”, which occurs when the temperature surrounding glass rapidly changes at different speeds. The tension between hot and cold against glass will literally unseal the bottom of the mason jar and dump the entire quart of milk into the pot. I’m fairly certain this was the one episode I missed of Bill Nye the Science Guy.
  • DON’T walk away from the pot while you’re heating up the milk; it heats up real slow in the beginning, but then takes off and flies right past 160 degrees when you least expect it. I may…have just made this mistake like, oh, 5 minutes ago. While I mourned the billions of beneficial enzymes I had just massacred, it still made incredibly light and delicious yogurt. #imoverit
  • DON’T leave the jars in the pot to cool. Your children will be in college by the time the milk is ready for culturing. I place my jars on this nifty iron plate called MiracleThaw which we mainly use for quickly thawing meat. It draws heat out like gangbusters and cuts our cooling time in half!
  • DON’T under-whisk the gelatin into the milk. It will sink to the bottom during culturing and result in a thick layer of yogurt jello which you’ll need a windshield wiper to excavate.
  • DON’T stir the yogurt after removing it from the dehydrator and before refrigerating. Someone I know [cough] MAY have jumped the gun because her Judgey Bear friend’s child demanded his yogurt yesterday. Breaching its delicate boundaries before refrigerating, even for just a spoonful, will prevent it from thickening properly and you will be left with a thin and runny yogurt soup. Actually, mmm…

OK. I realize this process sounds super complicated, but once you’ve gone through it several times, you’ll be a pro before you know it! And there’s nothing more rewarding than watching your little monster dive into a bowl of the freshest, most nutritious and delicious yogurt money can’t buy: the yogurt you make yourself.

And that’s my real food for thought. Dig in!

Have you tried making yogurt at home? What way do you find best (or worst)?

Photo credits: Homer Simpson

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Lea, The Maverick Mama

Head Chef at MavericKitchen
Lea is Head Chef of MavericKitchen, where she offers real food for thought on healing nutrition, holistic health, and progressive parenting. She is a seasoned digital marketer and doting mother of the monolithic Judgey Bear, her delicious deputy in smoking out sneaky toxins in the food we eat and products we use. She lives in the gardens of New Jersey where she feverishly hunts down elusive farmers’ markets and pastured egg purveyors.