The lazy way to make yogurt


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The lazy way to make yogurt

I practically fell over the first time I read that you could make yogurt.  I love yogurt. I’ve eaten it since I was a kid.  But I thought yogurt was made in some mystical process that required lots of special equipment and knowledge.

(You may notice a theme around here – demystifying things.  So many things we eat, drink and buy are just given to us without any explanation of HOW they’re made.  Turns out, most of these things are really easy to recreate yourself!)

When I first read that you could actually make yogurt yourself, I didn’t believe it.  Then, I was slightly grossed out – you’re supposed to leave milk slightly warm for 12 hours?!?!  (This is my germ-phobic American side showing…)  Wouldn’t that give you food poisoning?!?!

My first attempt at yogurt-making was while I was living in Paris. I bought a special yogurt making set on Craigslist.  Turns out it was a faux-yogurt powder that you put in milk, and are supposed to ferment in little jars with individual lids.  After 12 hours I had … milk in little pots.

I gave up on that idea until a couple of months ago when I read a recipe about making yogurt in a crock pot.  I love my crock pot! And generally I have good luck making tasty things with my crock pot.  (I suppose it’s pretty hard to screw up a crock pot recipe as you just add ingredients and let it do its thing!). I could do this!  I still had a lingering fear I would get food poisioning, but I decided to give it a shot.

It’s very simple. You can even make this yogurt without a crock pot, as long as you have a warm place for it to ferment.  I think the key is the ratio of milk to yogurt (for 1 liter of milk, I use 1/4 c of yogurt, scale accordingly)

I like to serve for breakfast with granola, or as a snack with honey or fruit coulis (basically, cooked down sweetened fruit.  This is how I use up extra fruit that is about to go off).

How to make yogurt in a slow cooker

1) Pour 1 liter of milk into crock pot, cover, turn on low, let cook for 2.5 hours. (We’re trying to get the milk to 180F. Alternatively, and I do this to save time, just heat on the stove to 180F).  I prefer whole milk, makes delicious creamy yogurt, but I’ve also had good luck with semi-skimmed (2% milk in the USA).

2) Turn off crockpot.  Let sit for 3 hours. (We’re trying to cool the milk to 110F.   If you have a thermometer, you can just watch it, but you don’t have to be super precise)

3) Whisk in 1/4 c. yogurt (this provides all the happy bacteria!)

4) Wrap in a big towel (or set in a warm place) and let sit for 8-12 hours.

5) Pour yogurt into containers and refrigerate 8 hours before eating.

How long does it take to make yogurt in a slow cooker?

This sounds like a lot of time – and it is a long process – but the vast majority of it is hands-off.  You just need to remember to go back and check the yogurt after a certain number of hours.  I’ve even “forgotten” about the yogurt, and let it ferment for 15 hours, and it was still fine.

I’m now on a weekly-yogurt making schedule.  If I make it on Saturday morning (using 1/4c of yogurt from the previous week), I can put the finished yogurt in the fridge on Saturday night, and I have fresh yogurt for the week starting Sunday morning!

Do I have to buy yogurt first?

Ok, yes, you do have to start off by buying yogurt – but if you make it regularly, you can use a bit from the old batch as the starter for the new.  I’ve had mine going for a couple of months, and it’s still working really well.  I used plain, unsweetened greek yogurt for my first batch.

Have you ever made yogurt?  Any tips & tricks to share?

About the author

Amanda Cook is an author, entrepreneur & alchemist. She helps entrepreneurs, business owners & executives rediscover their inner guidance, so they can create meaning, success & magic in their next stage of life & work.

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  1. Actually a friend taught me a very lazy yoghurt making method. you mix your starter with milk put it in a jam jar lid on tight then put in a flask of warm water over night… then in the morning tada nice yoghurt.. i’ve been doing it the last few months, depending on the amount of starter and how much whey you stir in or tip out, its thin and smooth or thick and smooth. it’s good

  2. Hi Amanda…I’m impatient so after the milk heats on high to 180 I fill a gallon Ziploc full of ice and sit it in the milk and stir it with my instant read thermometer…sometimes I need to dump out the melted ice and refill…usually takes two bags and about 10 minutes doing this to cool to 118…then after whisking in my yogut I wrap it in a flannel throw and then a large bath towel and into the oven with the light on…I’ve also used a small cup of plain yogurt with a gallon of milk…the cultures grow so I guess they just need to be present-ratio is not as important…
    I also disastrously bought a flavored yogurt and discovered this late at night after I had heated the milk…I had active cultures capsules in the fridge so I figured, can’t hurt…I opened about three capsules and stirred it into the milk and it turned out just fine…

  3. I heat 1 Qt of whole milk to 110 F in the mason jar in a water bath. I then add 1/4 c. of prior week’s yogurt. I wrap the mason jar with a towel covering the opening and then wrap that again with a electric heating pad (on the low setting). You then let this go for 12 hours. Been doing this for 3 months or so. I will likely by another live culture yogurt in the future, but for now I am saving a lot of money on the stuff.

  4. HI Alissa, After the initial 2.5 hr. heating time just turn it off – it needs to cool way down and crockpots retain the heat pretty well! I think leaving it on ‘keep warm’ would still keep the milk too warm (and you don’t want to kill the yogurt bacteria!) Then when the milk is at about 110F, add the yogurt.

    To be honest, recently I’ve been heating the milk on the stove to 180, letting it cool to 110, and then pouring into a pre-warmed crock pot. I get more consistent results making sure the temperatures are right.

    Give it a try and would love to hear your findings!

    1. Hi Amanda, I finally tried this! Ended up doing kind of a hybrid method…to simplify things, I put the milk in a glass pyrex storage bowl, then put that bowl in the crock pot. Heated for about 2.5 hours, then took the milk out of the crock pot to cool. Whisked in some plain yogurt, put it back in the crock pot wrapped in a towel while I used my oven to make dinner. Then, since it gets cool in my kitchen at night, it transferred it to the cooled down oven with the light on for the night. Woke up this morning to yogurt! Amazing! And doing it right in the glass bowl meant I could just cover and stick it in the fridge…there was pretty much nothing to clean up! Next step, make granola 🙂

  5. Hi Amanda! I am thinking of trying to make my own yogurt, and since I just unpacked a new crockpot, this approach sounds so easy! One question – my crockpot has a “keep warm” setting…do you think that would be useful for the stages after the initial heating (both before and after you add the yogurt starter), or do you think this setting might still be too warm? I’m thinking it would be so convenient to cook on low for 2.5 hours, turn down to keep warm, wait a few hours, add yogurt, stir, and then let it sit overnight. Is that just too easy? Or should I give it a try and test the temperatures as I go? Thanks for your help!

  6. I’ve done this once with great results – I also made a blackberry pomegranate compote sort of thing that I added to the completed yogurt. My question is this, can you add fruit etc to the milk before pouring it into the crock pot or will that somehow screw up the chemistry of it all? I prefer a slightly ‘stiffer’ set than I get when I have to stir in the fruit mixture.


    1. Hi Diane, the compote sounds delicious. I’ve never read anywhere about adding fruit during the setting time – I think that would disrupt the bacteria (or worse, grow some weird ‘fruit’ bacteria!).

      If your yogurt is too thin, you could try Harsha’s tip above of adding more yogurt to the warm milk to start, or you could strain the yogurt through a cheesecloth to pour off some of the liquid … or I’ve read other recipes where they add some nonfat milk powder to thicken it. If I come across a great tip I’ll post it!

  7. A tip: The more yogurt you add to your warm milk, the thicker it gets, and the faster it sets. And no, this process has Never caused any sort of health issues; even when my granny sometimes makes her with fresh milk straight from the farm. 🙂

  8. This is surprising to me; I’ve grown up watching my granny, my mum, and everyone else making their own yoghurt. I guess it’s just another thing that comes naturally with being Indian. 🙂

  9. Loree, my yogurt was thinner than the Greek yogurt I used to start it with, but not thin enough to call liquid.

  10. I’ve been making yogurt in the crockpot for several weeks but have drained the whey, which makes for a super thick yogurt, by putting yogurt in a lined colander (I use coffee filters) & let the whey drain into a bowl. I notice that everyone on this site is not draining but putting the yogurt directly into containers after letting it sit up to 12 hours. Isn’t the yogurt more liquid than thick?

  11. I’m making my second batch today.
    I really like this easy way of making yogurt!
    Thanks so much


  12. I made my first yogurt last week, and kept it warm in a Thermos flask. It worked great – and the yogurt was YUMMY!!

  13. I definitely am going to try this because I love yogurt too. Two questions:
    Can you use Greek yogurt?
    And once you have your yogurt made, can you just keep using your own yogurt to keep making batches? Sort of like a starter that you can continually use from your own batch?


    1. Hi LPM, thanks for visiting! Yes, I’ve used Greek Yogurt and it’s worked really well.

      And yes, you can use a spoonful of your own previous yogurt batch to start the next one. I’ve read that after several batches, it loses strength and you need to buy yogurt for a starter again, but honestly this hasn’t happened to me. I usually make 2 or 3 batches in a row, then either get lazy or forget to make another one, and always end up buying some yogurt to restart.
      Have fun and let me know how it works! 😉

  14. I’ve tried a few ways to make yoghurt, including the slow cooker, and found the best way to keep it warm was to put it next to the heater (on low) on a cold day at home when I have the heater on anyway. Other ways seem to turn out too runny for me

  15. You definitely don’t need a crock pot for this … Jen is right – just use your oven! You really just need to keep it warm and slightly above body temperature for the whole 8 hours. So you could also probably use a really sturdy thick bowl that you warmed first, and then wrap it in towels.

    Ooh in fact I do know how to make my own museli – well, granola. I’ll share that recipe soon! 🙂

  16. Great! Thanks for this recipe! I like Sophie’s idea of a muesli recipe. Got one? Would go great with the yogurt!

    Also, a crock pot in French is “mijoteuse,” I think.

  17. I’ve made yogurt, too, in exactly this way. It turns out great! I use my oven as “the warm place,” with just the light on (don’t heat the oven). The lightbulb gives off just enough heat to keep it warm in there. I drizzled mine with honey and it was wonderful! Since I recommend to so many The Svelte Gourmet readers to substitute yogurt for mayonnaise or sour cream in recipes, I’ll be sure to refer them to this post!

  18. Hi Amanda,

    I’m French, and i’ve been looking for a way to make my own yogurt.
    This sounds like the receipe I need but I was struggling with some vocabulary and measure conversion.
    I guess a crockpot is what we call here a “cocote minute”. Is it a presurised device? Lets suppose I don’t have one, I should just heat it in a pan, right?
    The other point is temperature, you’re giving Fahrenheit, it’d help if you have the Celcius equivalent (I know I’m a pain).
    Bonus question: do you make your own muesli? I had a collegue baking her own muesli, I was very impressed and would be interested to know how to do so.
    Thanks a lot!!!!
    Sylvie from Paris

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