Making Yogurt

17 Nov

This week I’ve been experimenting making *yogurt* from powdered milk and shelf stable starts. Having made five batches of yogurt in all (with three that turned out) I’ve discovered is that it’s completely possible to do, even using powdered milk and no actual yogurt to start with– and it’s simple to make.  All you need is a good thermometer and the right ingredients.

As plain yogurt, it can be used as a sour cream topping substitute while flavored it can be enjoyed for breakfasts and snacks!


2 cups powdered milk

4 cups water

~either~ 3 “Acidophilus Three Billion” tablets, crushed or 1/2 packet of Yo’Gourmet freeze-dried yogurt starter

By the way … 

The Acidophilus tablet container states that it requires no refrigeration.  The Yo’Gourmet starter, on the other hand, was purchased off the shelf (not in the refrigerator section as I’ve seen it sold in some places) and since I bought it I never realized that it should be refrigerated until I saw this note on the bottom of the box.  Still, even though it was never refrigerated (and on top of that, expired!) it still worked even at half the strength as the instructions on the box suggest (as you’ll see below).  Happy surprise!

Three Successful Trials

In testing this out I learned a few things.  First of all, it takes 12 – 15 hours for yogurt to set up using these types of starts rather than using actual yogurt.  I’ve read in using yogurt as a start it takes  2 1/2 to 4 hours to set, so I’m expecting once I have yogurt made to use in starting subsequent batches it won’t take quite as long but all of my batches here took atleast 12 hours.  I’ve also read that the longer you let your yogurt incubate the more sour it will be, so that’s something to keep in mind.  Trials #1 and #3 tasted just like the plain yogurt you would buy at the store, trial #2  was more sour than the others either because of the extra starter or because of the extra time it took, I’m not sure.

Secondly, in my experience, I didn’t have success when I divided a batch into separate containers to incubate or when I didn’t fill the incubating container completely full.  I’m thinking that the concentration of start wasn’t high enough in the divided containers and the extra air space in the containers that were only partially filled interfered with the temperature staying where it needed to be.

Thirdly, I tried making yogurt using evaporated milk and it didn’t work at all.  Lesson learned.  In all three trials below the recipe for the milk was the same, 2 cups powdered milk to 4 cups of water.  It doesn’t matter how you initially heat the milk, microwaving it for 6 minutes does the job just as well as heating it on the stove in which you have to constantly stir it to keep it from burning.

Trial #1

In this trial I heated the milk to 180 degrees and allowed it to cool on the counter top until it was 125 degrees.  It took about 30 minutes for the milk to cool.  Setting a timer was helpful so that I didn’t forget about it.  At that point I mixed HALF of a Yo’Gourmet packet of yogurt starter -half of the amount that the instructions on the box suggest to use (it measured to a little less than a teaspoon) with a little bit of milk and then mixed that mixture into the milk itself, stirring well.  I divided this batch into 2 pint jars (which I’d heated ahead of time in hot water) and put them into my Wonder Oven to incubate.  After 12 hours one of the jars set up perfectly while the other one (the second jar I filled) didn’t set up at all.

While waiting for the yogurt to cool I heated my jars and lids in hot water.

Once the milk had cooled to 125 degrees, I mixed half a packet of start with some milk and stirred this into the batch.

Into the Wonder Oven to incubate.

12 hours later…

The first jar I’d poured had set up perfectly while the second jar was still liquid.  This is a picture of the successful one.

This yogurt was good and not too sour.  And you’d never know it was made with powdered milk — which was exactly what I was going for!

Trial #2

I heated the milk in a glass bowl in the microwave and then transferred it to another bowl to help it cool faster (which didn’t really make a difference, it still took about 30 minutes to cool).  Next, with this trial, I used a whole packet of Yo’Gourmet freeze dried starter and I used a quart jar for the container.  Following some directions I’d read for making yogurt in a Wonder Oven, I wrapped the jar tightly with a towel before placing it in to incubate.  I started this batch at 2:30 in the afternoon and at 10:30 at night I checked it and it still wasn’t set at all.  I left it overnight and in the morning it was done, so it took somewhere between 10 and 15 hours to set up.  This batch was more sour than the first, making it better (in my opinion) for use as a sour cream topping.

10 – 15 hours later …

This yogurt was noticeably more sour, either due to the extra starter or the extra time it was incubating.

Trial #3

In this trial I used 3 crushed tablets of “Acidophilus Three Billion” as the starter, which I found at a vitamin store.  After heating the milk to 180 degrees and allowing it to cool to 125 degrees I added the crushed tablets right into the milk.  Also, instead of using my Wonder Oven for this batch I used two wide mouthed 24 oz. Thermos’ as containers.  I started incubating this yogurt at 3:30 and checked it at 10:30 at night and it was still liquid.  After leaving it for another 8 hours overnight it was finished so my guess is that it took somewhere between 12 and 15 hours.  Also, one Thermos was filled to the top to incubate while the other was only filled half way. The one that was filled completely was the only one that set.  After it was set I emptied it into a fine meshed colander to drain off the whey and stirred it until it was smooth.

Using a pill crusher I crushed 3 tablets to use as the yogurt starter.

After leaving the Thermos’ to incubate 12 –  15 hours the yogurt was done.  This is a picture of the yogurt after I drained off the whey and stirred it well.

I’m excited to try my yogurt out in a recipe I’m going to be posting tomorrow!  Being able to make yogurt 100% from food storage opens a lot of possibilities in my food storage plan in addition to being so much cheaper than buying it in the grocery store.  Give it a try and see what you think!  Also, if you’ve made yogurt before using only shelf stable ingredients please leave a comment to tell us what your experience has been and what works best for you!



  • This blog post was helpful as I was learning how to do this.  Check it out!

  • To make vanilla flavored yogurt, add 1 TBS vanilla and 1/3 cup sugar (or less) to the milk mixture just before pouring it into the container to incubate.  For fruit flavored yogurt wait until the yogurt is set and mix in your favorite flavor of jam!

23 Responses to “Making Yogurt”

  1. PlicketyCat November 18, 2011 at 6:33 am #

    From my experiences, I suspect the extra thickness of Batch #2 was probably due to the extra starter, but the sourness was probably due to the extra time. In my batches, more starter might make it a little more sour and longer incubation might make it a little thicker, but not noticeably like “extra starter = thick” and “extra time = sour”. I usually make a quart at a time and incubate it in a cooler filled halfway with “bath temp” water overnight and then put it in a cool pantry corner to stop/slow the incubation for the rest of the week (no refrigeration required!!). It might be a teeny bit on the (naturally) sour side by Friday, but it isn’t spoiled.

    I like very thick yogurt that cuts cleanly with a spoon rather than the softer custard type. I normally incubate it until it sets up softly and has the right flavor and then hang it in cheesecloth for an hour or two so the whey drains outs (saves starter!). The drained thicker yogurt is also a little higher in protein and holds up well as a whole fruit topping with a little honey and ginger mixed in. (and the pets, chickens & pigs love the whey)

    You can also add a little gelatin to the water when making your milk to thicken your yogurt if you like it thick but don’t want to mess with draining it.

    I’ve also found that using whole milk powder (like Nestle Nido) makes a thicker and creamier yogurt than NF powdered milk… which makes a superior (IMO) fresh sour cream replacement when topping something hot or mixing dips (esp. dips with wet ingredients like diced cucumbers). I’ve even made yogurt with rice, soy and almond milk… soy was pretty good but a little rubbery, and the other two were pretty runny.

    • myfoodstoragecookbook November 18, 2011 at 9:35 pm #

      Thanks so much for sharing! I’ll have to try the Nestle brand now. Interesting idea in adding in the gelatin. How much would you add to a quart batch?

  2. Erica Ernstrom November 18, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    where did you find the yogurt starters? and how much were they? i’m impressed and interested in these experiments of yours!

    • myfoodstoragecookbook November 19, 2011 at 4:30 am #

      I bought the Yo’gourmet just at a regular grocery store in the baking isle over a year ago but you can also find it to buy on Amazon if you have any trouble. I don’t remember how much I paid, but on Amazon a box with 6 packets (so you could get 12 starts out of a box) is $13.00. The Acidophilus Three Billion tablets I bought at the local vitamin store for $10 and there are 90 tablets (yielding 30 starts) in that jar so it’s much cheaper. There was a tip I’d read up about that talked about using acidophilus tablets for making yogurt so I decided to try it and it worked!

  3. Julene December 28, 2011 at 3:42 am #

    I have a question for you. I heard somewhere that you don’t need to warm the milk if you are using powdered milk because it is already clear of all the impuritites that need to be killed when heated? Have you ever tried that? I have done it several times and I think it takes longer to set up but it does work. I got tired of waiting for the milk to cool and then I would forget about it (LOL) and it would get to cool. I just wondered if you had heard about not heating the milk or not. I can’t wait to try the acidophilus tablets!!! That would be so great to have those on hand for yogurt!! Thanks!!

    • myfoodstoragecookbook December 29, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

      Interesting, no I’ve never heard of that. How much longer would you say it takes to set? Based on everything I read I thought the heat was essential in allowing the milk to culture. It’s great to hear another experience — I’ll have to try it out!

      • Veee Schenk January 6, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

        I use NF dry milk (I add an extra 1/4 cup powder to the water) then I only heat it up to 120 degrees before adding starter (in my case, yogurt from the last batch). The dry milk has been heated so no impurities from that. If there is any concern about water quality then I would think you would need to heat the water long enough to sterilize it. It does require about 12 hours in the cooler to get to a set that I like.

      • Megan February 2, 2014 at 1:11 am #

        Thanks for your comment. For some reason I didn’t get a notice telling me about it (so I’m late replying). I appreciate hearing what works for you!

  4. Amanda February 1, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

    Are the methods to making the yogurt interchangeable? I want to use the Acidophilus tablets to make the yogurt in my wonder oven. 🙂

    • Megan February 2, 2014 at 1:06 am #

      Yes, your wonder oven will keep the heat in just the same as the thermos so long as the pillows aren’t moved during the time it needs. Give it 12-15 hours and you should be fine.

      • Kathy February 24, 2014 at 10:59 am #

        Thanks for this post. I plan on trying the acidophilus pills, as this will allow me to choose the most beneficial strains. I eat a gallon of non fat yogurt per week as it helps with candida yeast. My method is very simple, I combine a couple of tbsps. leftover yogurt with a small amount of skim milk from a gal. container in a dutch oven to blend. Then I pour in the rest of the gallon of milk and stir together. No preheating required. I put a lid on the dutch oven and stick it in a 100 degree oven for between 12 and 18 hours – time varies with the batch. As you can see, pretty easy and cheap! Your quantities can be adjusted as required.

      • Megan February 24, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

        Great, thanks for the comment and for sharing your technique. I agree, it’s an easy item to replace homemade and save considerably from grocery bills.

  5. Amanda March 21, 2014 at 6:51 am #

    I have used a whole #10 can of powdered milk attempting to make yogurt to no avail. I tried it in my wonder oven with the acidolphilus tablets, nothing. I bought thermos and cultures yesterday, and after it sat over night, still running milk, and I am going to leave it out while I travel today (in the thermos) and see if it will set. I am following the directions. I just don’t get it. Any suggestions?

    • Megan March 21, 2014 at 9:00 am #

      Double check to be sure your acidophilus isn’t expired. If it’s fine, I’d increase the amount of acidophilus to 4 crushed tablets. Another thing, from forums I’ve read on it not all acidophilus tablets (for whatever reason) work the same — I know the brand I shared here (“Now” I think it is) works. Also, be generous with your 12 hours incubation time. I’ve never exactly timed it, it’s always somewhere between 12-15 hours when it sets up (usually it’s set overnight, so I’ve never pin pointed it). Finally, be sure you’re being exact with your temperature. If the temperature is too low the yogurt won’t set but if the temperature is too high the bacteria will be killed — either way it won’t work if the temperature is off. You might want to try it with another thermometer, maybe your thermometer is off. Hopefully that helps!

    • Amanda March 21, 2014 at 10:27 am #

      I am hoping 17 hours in the thermos isn’t too long. That’s how long it will be before I get he to check it agaim!

      • Megan March 21, 2014 at 11:39 am #

        I’ll look forward to hearing back to hear what happens — 17 hours is plenty. I’m sorry for you, I’m sure this is very frustrating. The more I’ve thought about it, I’m thinking it likely could be your thermometer and that the temperatures have been off. Somehow your bacteria have had to be dead if it continues not to set up — either due to the product itself (expired or another less effective brand) or because the temperatures aren’t right. The extra hours shouldn’t matter except for taste. If it tastes bad spit it out and compost it. if it’s just extra tart (which is due to higher levels of lactic acid from longer culturing), it’s fine.


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