Homemade yogurt in a glass jar incubates inside an oven that's turned off.

If you can buy yogurt at the grocery store for less than $2 a cup, why go through the effort to DIY?

"By making your own yogurt, you can control the ingredients, use whatever type of milk you like, and avoid added sugars, gums, and other thickeners,” says Trisha Calvo, CR’s deputy health and food editor.

More on Yogurt

Basically, you get all the pros—probiotics, protein—without the cons. You can save money, too, especially if you eat yogurt often and tend to go for the boutique stuff, which can sell for as much as $6 a cup.

Plus, fresh homemade yogurt smells and tastes amazing!

We’ll cover the most straightforward yogurt-making method. The only appliances required? A stovetop and oven. You’ll also need a medium pot, an instant-read thermometer, and a 2-quart ceramic or glass container.

The Ingredients

While you can certainly make yogurt with low-fat or nondairy milk, nothing beats whole milk for making it rich and creamy. Get the freshest, best-quality whole milk you can find. (Tip: Check out your local farmers market.)

It needs to be pasteurized, but avoid "ultra-pasteurized" milk. The high-heat treatment affects the structure of whey protein and will prevent your yogurt from thickening.

“Organic milk in the supermarket is often ultra-pasteurized—you can tell by the crazy-long expiration dates,” says Calvo. “But there are some brands, including 365 by Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's, that offer organic milk that’s not ultra-pasteurized.”

Check your favorite store-bought plain yogurt for active bacterial cultures. If it’s got them, save a few spoonfuls to use as your starter. You’ll essentially co-opt that yogurt’s probiotics to culture your own yogurt. Later, you can use your DIY yogurt to start your next batch. Or you can buy freeze-dried yogurt culture online or at health food stores for $2 to $3 a pack (which yields about 2 quarts), but it's more expensive and trickier to find.

Thick and creamy plain yogurt in a glass jar.

The Method

1. Heat your milk. Pour half-gallon of whole milk into a large saucepan over medium heat. Gently heat the milk to around 185° F, and maintain the temperature for 10 minutes. Watch it carefully because it can quickly boil over if it gets too hot.

2. Cool it down. Remove the pot from the heat and let it cool to 110° F. It can take over an hour to cool down, but you can speed things up by dunking the pot into an ice-water bath. 

3. Add your starter. Skim off the skin that forms over the milk and pour a cup of the milk into a ceramic or glass container. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of yogurt and add the remaining warm milk into the container, being careful not to scrape the bottom of the pot. (The solids that stick to the pot can make your yogurt grainy.)

4. Let it ferment. Cover the container, place it in the oven with just the oven light on (no heat), and let it incubate for at least 8 hours, or up to 12 hours for a thicker, tangier yogurt.

5. Finish it in the fridge. At this point, the yogurt should look custardy. Refrigerate the container, and the yogurt will continue to thicken and set for another 8 to 12 hours.

The Extras

If you prefer Greek-style yogurt, line a fine-mesh strainer with cheesecloth or a couple of paper coffee filters, place it over a large bowl, and transfer the yogurt to the strainer. Cover it and refrigerate for several more hours, or until it reaches your desired consistency.

Don’t toss out the whey that drains out; it’s packed with protein, probiotics, and calcium. Add the nutritious liquid to smoothies, oatmeal, or soups.

Homemade yogurt is good for up to 2 weeks in the fridge, but if you want to re-culture it for a new batch, you should do that within a week.

Another bonus to making yogurt yourself is that you can add your own fresh fruit purée, compote, or vanilla without extra sugar—a rare find among mass-produced yogurts. Enjoy!