How To Make Foolproof Crock Pot Yogurt

Homemade yogurt is actually very simple to make. And if you ask me the easiest and most dependable way to make yogurt at home is with an electric crock pot.
All you need is crock pot, a thermometer, some fresh milk and a little bit of the proper type bacteria.

A Gallon of Milk & Electric Crock Pot

A Gallon of Milk & Electric Crock Pot

Greek yogurt is a favorite of mine and is also very easy to make. Greek yogurt is simply ordinary yogurt that has most of the whey drained from it.



There are many recipes on the internet for homemade yogurt. Some of them actually make what I would consider yogurt – but plenty of them don’t.
Homemade yogurt does not have the same firm consistency as store-bought yogurt. Store bought yogurt is a fake out and is thicken and stiffen with pectin, milk solids and other thickeners.

Homemade yogurt created without added pectin or powdered milk will have a top layer of whey that makes the yogurt thinner.
Whey is the natural liquid by-product of cheese and yogurt making and is easy to strain off.

Fresh Homemade Yogurt With Cranberries

Fresh Homemade Yogurt With Cranberries

The important thing to remember about homemade yogurt is that if you want to make it thicker, the whey needs to be strained from the yogurt . The more whey that is removed from the yogurt the firmer the final product. In fact if you strain off most of the whey from yogurt, you’ll end up with a delicious soft cheese known as “yogurt cheese”.
The crock pot method of making yogurt produces very dependable results. It is pretty much foolproof as long as you follow the directions faithfully. If you want success – don’t improvise.

Here’s What You’ll Need

  • 1 Gallon of Milk (4 Quarts) – Doesn’t matter what type of milk
  • 2 Tablespoons of Starter Yogurt – The bacteria for the yogurt has to come from somewhere. If you don’t already have a starter you’ll need some yogurt. It can be any type of yogurt but must have both of the active and live cultures of lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus. Read the label to make sure you have the right starter bacteria.
  • Electric Crock Pot
  • Some Type of Cooking or Dairy Thermometer
  • A Wisk or Fork
  • A Colander
  • Muslin, Plyban Cheesecloth or Some Type of Woven Cloth
  • Bath Towel or Woolen Scarf
  • Oven or Other Draft Free Warm Location

Place the gallon of milk into the crock pot and cover. Heat the milk slowly until the milk is between 180°F – 190°F. It is vital to heat the milk to at least 180°F.

Heating Milk In Crock Pot

Heating Milk In Crock Pot

The milk must be made sterile and free from all types of bacteria. The only bacteria you want growing in the milk will be the lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophiles that you will purposely add when you inoculate the milk. This is an especially important step with raw milk.

* Note to raw milk people*
You have to get rid of the other bacteria if you want consistent and dependable results when making yogurt. Competing bacteria can be a problem.

Allow the milk to cool naturally and undisturbed to a temperature of 110°F. It takes about 3 ½ to 4 hours to cool to that temperature. It is critical to the success of the yogurt that you catch the milk at 110°F.  110°F is the ideal temperature for inoculating yogurt.

110°F Is The Ideal Temperature

110°F Is The Ideal Temperature

A temperature any higher may kill the added bacteria. And if the temperature is too cool the bacteria will not thrive.
If you are using non-homogenized or raw milk there will be a skin that has formed on the top of the milk.

Milk Skin Will Form On Non- Homozinized Milk

Milk Skin Will Form On Non- Homogenized Milk

The skin should be carefully and completely removed. If you don’t remove all of the milk skin you’ll get nasty hard flakes in your yogurt.

Remove about 1 cup of warm milk into a separate cup or small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of starter yogurt to the cup of milk.

Inoculating  Milk With Lactobacillus Bulgaricus and Streptococcus Thermophilus

Inoculating Milk With Lactobacillus Bulgaricus and Streptococcus Thermophilus

Do not add any extra yogurt. 2 tablespoons are all you need.
The bacteria must have adequate room to grow and won’t grow properly if overcrowded. With a fork or a whisk, gently but thoroughly stir the starter yogurt into the cup of milk to inoculate it.
Next pour the inoculated milk back into the crock pot and stir in gently going from side to side. Do not stir in circles – use a careful and slow up and down lifting motion moving across the length of the crock.

Gently Wisk In Inoculated Milk

Gently Wisk In Inoculated Milk

Carefully lift the covered crock out of the electric base and place it into a cool oven. Lay a bath towel or woolen shawl snugly around the crock and leave it undisturbed overnight or for about 10 – 12 hours.

Crock Of Milk Covered With Towel In Oven

Crock Of Milk Covered With Towel In Oven

You want the milk to stay nice and warm.
An oven with a pilot light or electric light turned on works great. Do not disturb the milk and keep the oven door closed. If you open the oven door you may have a yogurt failure.

After 10 or 12 hours your yogurt should be solid with a layer of whey on the top.

Proper Yogurt Consistency After 12 Hours

Proper Yogurt Consistency After 12 Hours

If you like a thicker yogurt you’ll need to drain or carefully pour off the whey.
The way that I do it is by pouring the yogurt into a colander lined with Plyban cheesecloth that has been set on top of a large pot. A rectangular piece of muslin or a clean dish towel can be used. I don’t like to use regular cheesecloth because the weave is too sleazy and open. If I have to use regular cheesecloth I triple the layers.

Straining The Whey From Yogurt

Straining The Whey From Yogurt

As the whey drains away from the yogurt it is collected into the pot and can be used later for another food purpose or fed to chickens or pigs.

Whey Left Behind From Straining Yogurt

Whey Left Behind From Straining Yogurt

It takes about 2 hours of draining to make a thick natural yogurt, and about 3 or 4 hours to make Greek style yogurt. Once the yogurt is the thickness that I want, I lift the cheesecloth from the colander and carefully dump the yogurt into a covered dish or large container.

Finished Homemade Yogurt

Finished Homemade Yogurt

I store my yogurt in a refrigerator or a cooler to keep it sweet tasting. Some people prefer a tart yogurt and do leave it out at room temperature for over 24 hours. The longer yogurt stays at room temperature the more tart it will become.
I try to always remember to save a little bit back so I have starter for the next batch.

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  44 comments for “How To Make Foolproof Crock Pot Yogurt

  1. Tammy
    September 12, 2013 at 9:39 am

    Hi Granny… Thanks for this tutorial. I was wondering how long the yogurt will keep as well as how you store the starter for the next batch and length of time before it is no good.

    Thanks!

    • KMG
      September 12, 2013 at 11:50 am

      Tammy-
      Yogurt keeps about a week to 12 days in the refrigerator. Same with the starter :-)

    • JJ
      June 15, 2015 at 7:32 pm

      I can keep yogurt a month to 6 weeks no prob. It gets a more mellow flavor the longer it sits around. I get powdered starter so it will keep a VERY long time in the freezer, but most of the time I just throw a couple TBSP of my current yogurt forward.

  2. Sara McD
    September 12, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    Do you mean 1 gallon (4 quarts) or 2 quarts of milk? Or am I confused about quarts to a gallon? Did I misread?

    • KMG
      September 12, 2013 at 4:58 pm

      Oops!! I mean 1 gallon. I use 2 half gallon jars and confused myself. Thanks for the comment – I’ll change it pronto :-)

  3. Glenda
    September 21, 2013 at 6:38 am

    Thank you so much for the information you share. I look forward to every post.

    • KMG
      September 21, 2013 at 7:56 am

      Thank you! :-)

  4. J. Miller
    March 11, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    How does it do for freezing and for frozen yogurt treats?

    • Katherine Grossman
      March 11, 2015 at 6:49 pm

      You know I really don’t know. Frozen yogurt has never been something that I eat. You could try and let me know :-)

  5. Lucia
    March 12, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Can you use ultra pasteurized milk?

    • Katherine Grossman
      March 12, 2015 at 1:40 pm

      I think so. Ultra pasteurized milk is not a product that I’m familiar with. Can’t see why it wouldn’t make yogurt :-)

      • Sheryl Tommila
        April 11, 2015 at 6:57 pm

        I made my own kefir for a while, and the ultra pasteurized milk did not work. Most of the organic milk in my local grocery store is ultra pasteurized. It must have killed off something that was necessary.

    • JJ
      June 15, 2015 at 7:34 pm

      yes! it might even make a denser/thicker yogurt because the proteins have cooked more. That’s why you heat the milk up to start with. it helps the proteins bind together when the bacteria go at it. If you make yogurt without heating to the higher temp first it’s cultured milk and doesn’t really thicken up at all…probably has the same health benefits, but you’d have to drink it.

  6. Ashley Kazmierczak
    April 19, 2015 at 9:16 am

    When you put the milk in the crockpot. Did you heat on “LOW” to bring the temp up to 180 or did you put it on “HIGH” ?

    • Katherine Grossman
      April 19, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      I put it on “HIGH” :-)

  7. Erin
    April 24, 2015 at 10:08 am

    I just tried this for the first time and followed everything to the letter, but I came out with warm milk at the end of my 12 hours. The temp of the milk was only 80-something degrees this morning so do you think it didn’t stay warm enough? I had to wrapped, in the oven, with the light in. What other options are there for keeping yogurt warm enough?

    • Katherine Grossman
      April 24, 2015 at 10:32 am

      Maybe you starter culture wasn’t live? Try a wool shawl or blanket next time. Good luck :-)

    • Lisa
      April 27, 2015 at 12:27 am

      Erin, two changes I would suggest: I use about 1/2 cup yogurt to inoculate a gallon … 1/4 cup each from 2 different sources/brands (just single yogurts I buy at the store), to be sure at least one is live. Also, after cooling to 115deg, I innoculate it, leave it right in the crockpot, unplug it, put the entire thing in the corner of my bedroom, wrap the whole thing in blankets and/or winter coats, (careful not to melt nylon on hot outsides of crockpot) and leave it overnight. It’s still very warm by morning, and all turned into soft-set yogurt. Then I chill it to firm it up, and drain off some liquid. I’ve never had a failure. Good luck!

  8. Lee
    April 27, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    Just made my first batch of yogurt in my crock pot and it turned out great!! Used 1 gallon of organic whole milk and freeze dried culture purchased at the grocery store (yogourmet brand). I followed your directions, wrapped up my crockpot in a wool cape, that I haven’t worn in years. Placed the bundle in my oven with the light on and let it go for 20 hours. I did 20 because I wanted to use up most of the lactose. I’ve read that the longer you let the yogurt go (24 hours) the more lactose sugar the bacteria will consume. It does however make the yogurt more sour, read that too. I strained the yogurt for 3 hours in a sieve lined with cheese cloth. It thickened up, like Greek style, I had 5 cups of whey left over that I put in the freezer, I read you can make ricotta cheese from it. That will be another new project for me.
    Do have one question I want to put out there for comment……my favorite store bought Greek yogurt is Fage, the ingredient list says milk and cream.
    1. Question, can you add cream to the milk and if so, how does that effect the final product? I’d like to get a consistency more like Fage, my first and only batch didn’t have the same density that I like, maybe if I strained more whey out, that may have may of done it.
    2. Has anyone used a thickener like adding powdered milk or gelatin? I’d like to try to make yogurt with goats milk and I know goat milk doesn’t sep up as well as cow.

    • Debi
      April 29, 2015 at 10:40 pm

      Lee,

      I like your question about the cream.

      Debi

    • Katherine Grossman
      April 30, 2015 at 6:34 am

      Lee, I don’t know if cream will change the consistency. You could experiment to find out :-) Straining does improve the constancy. In fact too much straining will produce a soft cheese. Goats milk works just as well as cow’s milk. There are recipes that use powdered milk & gelatin to make yogurt. But I think it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

    • Lisa
      April 30, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      I have always added 2 cups of nonfat powdered milk to one gallon of cold fat-free (cow’s) milk before I started heating it in the crockpot, and it works great to help thicken the yogurt, especially when using low-fat (and therefore more watery) milk to start with.

    • JJ
      June 15, 2015 at 7:38 pm

      Use whole milk. or even add cream in addition if you want. the yogurt will taste MUCH better. but the thick consistency comes from straining… and also I think depends on what culture you use. I found 2 sorts of powdered starter at the local health food store and the yogurt they produced was quite distinct from each other. One said it was designed to produce ‘greek-style’ yogurt if you strain it. The other did not mention this. I preferred the flavor of the ‘creamy’ starter. and once I’ve made one batch I just scoop yogurt forward to make the next one. I don’t bother to strain mine as I hate to lose all the nutrients that stay in the whey…but it def. won’t have the thickness of Fage unless you strain it well.

    • Katherine
      June 28, 2015 at 11:40 am

      Hi Lee,

      While it’s true you can make ricotta out of whey, that’s the whey drained off from making cheese. Ricotta means “recooked”; the whey left from cooking a cheese mixture is cooked again to get those last bits of curd to form. Cheese is made using mesophlic (lower temp) starter, while yoghurt is thermophilic (higher temp). However, if you freeze your yoghurt whey in ice cube trays, toss one or two into a recipe; it’s a lovely addition to smoothies, soups, sauces, anything. And it’s good for you, too.

      Either type of whey can be dehydrated and blended to make whey powder.

      xo

  9. Tina
    May 12, 2015 at 10:55 am

    We use a thermal picnic cooler to keep our inoculated milk warm. Works perfectly every time. Just size it to fit the jars according. I suppose you could maybe stick a whole lidded crock liner in it too, but I’ve not tried that. You could also fill the cooler with water around the jars at 110 degrees too, as an added insurance, but I’m not sure if that is necessary.

    • Katherine Grossman
      May 12, 2015 at 11:48 am

      Tina thanks! That’s a really good idea :-)

  10. Suze
    May 17, 2015 at 2:17 pm

    Thanks for the post, just what I’m looking for :) – I’m UK so not sure yet on all the pints/ gallons etc but will check out a conversion site, just wondered how much strained yoghurt did your recipe yield please?

    • Katherine Grossman
      May 17, 2015 at 2:36 pm

      A little more than a quart or so :-)

  11. Brittany
    May 18, 2015 at 10:19 am

    I love your recipe! It is so simple and it worked much better knowing temperatures than just times. I have been looking for more homemade recipes due to food allergies and sensitivities and this hits the mark! Thank You!

  12. Lee
    May 18, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    I had great success making goat’s milk yogurt last week. To help thicken the yogurt I used 2 tsp. of Pomona’s pectin (followed instructions on web site) for 2 quarts of goat’s milk. I let the yogurt go for for 24 hrs., and I strained out 3.5 cups of whey. The final product was thick, not as thick as a Greek style, more like a full fat traditional yogurt. I only strained the yogurt for 1 hr or so and I used an immersion blender to smooth out the consistency.
    I had a chat with the farmer that produces the goat milk that I buy and she stated goat’s milk yogurt doesn’t thicken as well as cow’s milk, the pectin really helped.

  13. Susan Smith
    May 19, 2015 at 9:42 am

    Can I use almond milk? My grandson is allergic to milk. I have made my own yogurt a few times and would like to make some he can have.
    Thanks,
    Susan

    • Katherine Grossman
      May 19, 2015 at 1:44 pm

      I don’t think so. But I don’t know for sure. Try it & see what happens :-)

    • JJ
      June 15, 2015 at 7:48 pm

      no. to make an almond milk ‘yogurt’ you need to use different thickeners. the bacteria in dairy yogurt will only want to eat dairy. Plus they would carry some dairy forward and contaminate your yogurt if he’s sensitive to dairy. There’s a good recipe for coconut milk ‘yogurt’ in a book ‘against all grain’ by Danielle Walker. you might be able to check it out of a library. It uses probiotic capsules and gelatin, I believe…but I’ve heard you can thicken coconut milk if you use coconut yogurt to start with (with LIVE cultures!!!) and it may have to sit longer than dairy milk – up to 24 hours.

  14. Richard and Angel
    May 20, 2015 at 3:39 am

    my wife and I love greek yogurt.we tried this recipe and came out with the best yogurt I have ever tasted.its unlike anything you buy in the store.Thank you so much.

  15. Heather Cormier
    May 23, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    This recipe is amazing. My kids and my husband all loved the yogurt. And it was so easy to make. Thank-you!!

  16. Danissa
    June 4, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Thank you for sharing your recipe. I am excited to try it. If you make Greek style yogurt, approximately how much yogurt do you actually end up with after you strain off the whey?

    • Katherine Grossman
      June 4, 2015 at 6:22 pm

      I end up with around 8 cups. Maybe a little more :-)

  17. GIna
    June 4, 2015 at 10:36 pm

    Crazy question, but could you use breastmilk yogurt using this method?

    • Katherine Grossman
      June 5, 2015 at 5:48 am

      Gina I don’t know. I suppose you could try it and find out :-)

  18. Abby
    June 9, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    So I used raw milk cream and all, has anyone tried it yet with the cream? This is my first time making yogurt. Should the starter yogurt be room temperature so it doesn’t cool the cup of yogurt too much that the starter is placed in?

    Thanks!

    • Katherine Grossman
      June 9, 2015 at 6:08 pm

      I take my starter from the refrigerator.

  19. JJ
    June 15, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    I have always made mine on the stovetop and incubated in a cooler. in winter I add a jug filled with hot tapwater, but in summer that’s not necessary. I like the idea of using the crockpot because a couple of times I’ve forgotten I put the milk on to heat and it boils over & makes a mess. Still makes fine yogurt, of course, but I have to clean up the stove… 😉 I have never taken the skin off when it forms, I just stir it back in. Never had hard flakes. I also haven’t ever strained it because a)it’s just fine regular yogurt as-is. and b) I hate wasting the nourishment of all the good whey down the drain. I found a different starter made a HUGE flavor difference. slightly different bacteria profile and yum. so much sweeter and more creamy. I use a bought starter to begin, then take spoonfuls of yogurt forward for the future batches. Often I forget and leave it 12 or even 24 hours and it gets richer and thicker. Yogurt is pretty forgiving and easy, in my experience!

    Thanks for sharing this! I look forward to trying the crockpot for my next batch!!

  20. igh
    July 1, 2015 at 6:10 pm

    I often forget my yogurt and have allowed it to go over 180 and below 110, but it still seemed fine to me. Is this okay? It didn’t seem to ruin it, but I admit I was a little scared to eat it. Other than that I have tried this recipe many times with no fail and love it.

    • Katherine Grossman
      July 1, 2015 at 8:24 pm

      There’s a lot of forgiveness built into this recipe :-) Glad you like it.

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