How to Make Yogurt, Greek Yogurt, and Skyr

yogurt-small-jarsThere’s almost nothing easier than making your own yogurt! With the back to school and back-to-serious season now in swing, you may be tempted to stock up on the Go-gurt style tubes for kids or even some of those new, beautiful little artisan yogurt tubs for you, to appease your healthy-slash-convenient sensibilities.  But nay nay!  Here’s a fun project for your weekend.

You can make your very own super delicious and wholesome regular yogurt, Greek yogurt, and even Icelandic-style Skyr Scandinavian yogurt right at home.  It’s not only less expensive and more holistic, but good for the environment, too, producing far less waste.  Let me walk you through the traditional stovetop method for making your very own homemade yogurt.  

It’s a good idea to get a little experience with this ol-fashioned method when you first start making yogurts, since you get really hands-on and up close with the process your milk goes through to become yogurt.  Once you try this a couple times, you can make yogurt even more easily in your crock pot with almost no effort at all.   (I’ll post that process next!)  If you begin this way, you’ll know what to look for and how to troubleshoot if any issues arise, even once you graduate to the super-slick crockpot technique.

Dairy yogurt is easiest, and most traditional as well, so also a good way to get started.   Since I’m going to the trouble to make homemade yogurt, I always use organic milk – and try to find a brand that is not Ultra-pasteurized (UHT – Ultra High Temperature) for best results.  You may have to look at a few brands, but it will be worth it.  I like using Organic Valley Non-Homogenized (non-UHT) Grassmilk, since it’s the closest I can find so far in my area to milk the way nature intended. I’m still on the prowl for a local cow… or maybe one of my own someday! ;)

It’s so very important to stay close to the land, isn’t it – and to our ancestral roots, however we best can, wherever we are now. New studies show this not only increases our physical health, but our mental health and happiness as well.  When we tune in to our sense of place and serve our bodies what our biology has called for through the millenia, instead of just today, there is a deep contentment that happens at every level. It’s as if our DNA actively responds and becomes satiated when we find our way back to the traditional ways.  {Visualizing happy dancing strands of DNA, like at a Grateful Dead concert or a yoga festival, totally zen, man…}

switzerland-cowsOne of my most favorite memories from when I was little is from when I was 7 years old, in Switzerland,
staying at a snowy mountainside chalet, and walking out in the morning snow to find the milkmaid in the milking stall, with a bucket right under the cow for the day’s yield, just as it’s been done for hundreds of years. This is kind of how I remember the scene…

But I digress.

On that note, since not everyone enjoys or partakes in dairy, non-dairy yogurts can be a little trickier in terms of consistency and entail a few more ingredients.  I’ll get to that method a little later, in another post… stay tuned!

So, here’s what you need to make yogurt, plus a few considerations…  The ingredients couldn’t be simpler. (Remember this the next time you’re at the grocery store and look at the back of a yogurt label… )

#1: Milk

As for type of milk you use, and yogurt you want to make, this is just up to your taste.  The higher the fat percentage (ie: skim, 2%, whole), the thicker and creamier the yogurt will be… and more foolproof in terms of a good consistency, especially at first as you’re learning.  Experiment and see what suits you best!  I started with skim, tried whole, and found I like using 2% milk best. Not too thick or thin, but with enough body and creaminess (and ease of use) to make me happy all the way around.

#2: Yogurt Starter

You need one cup/small container of yogurt to use as a “starter” for your homemade yogurt. The type of yogurt you choose affects how naturally tart or sweet it will be, what enzymes, bacteria, and probiotics it may contain, and even the consistency.  So the type of yogurt your “starter” cup is, is  the type of yogurt you’ll be making.   For example, Greek yogurt makes Greek, Skyr makes Skyr, and so on.

Use plain if at all possible – vanilla is ok as a back-up.  Do NOT use any kind of flavored or fruit blend variety.  Once you’ve made your own yogurt, you can reserve a cup of that as your starter for the next batch.  I make mine every week or two, so once you have a rhythm with it, it’s easy to do without needing to invest again in a starter cup.

Another thing to consider is yield… Plain, unstrained yogurt will give you the most amount of yogurt – and you’ll end up with almost a full gallon of yogurt deliciousness per gallon of milk!! Greek yogurt needs to be strained to separate the whey and thicken the final product, and you’ll get about 3/4 gallon of yogurt, or about 2-3 large supermarket-sized tubs (8-12 cups).  Skyr is also strained and provides an extremely thick and rich product… though you’ll only get about 1/2 gallon, or 1-2 supermarket tubs’ worth (4-8 cups).

How much you strain is just up to your personal preference, hence the variation in potential yield.  The by-product of strained varieties is whey, which you can then use in smoothies, buttermilk pancakes (instead of buttermilk), bread recipes, and even to feed your chickens. Because I know you have chickens (or you want some ;).

#3 Rennet – Last but not least, this is an essential ingredient and cannot be left out.  Rennet is a necessary enzyme for the fermentation process, as it essentially curdles the milk and helps make it into yogurt. (Did you know yogurt is a fermented food?? Interesting, yes?)

You may have to order rennet if you’re not already into yogurt- or cheese-making.  I use a vegetable-based rennet, rather than animal-based (derived from a digestive enzyme of calf’s intestines… errrrr…. and so not vegetarian to me).  You can order either from Amazon very easily.

Now – on with the show!  It may look like a lot to deal with at first glance, though after you do it the first time,  it’s very easy, and most everything you need is likely already on hand and pretty common sense!  And remember, if you’re typically a “grab and go” sort, I’ll be writing up the crockpot version soon, which makes the process *almost* automatic.

In the traditional stovetop method, I usually start in the afternoon, or even when I’m cooking dinner, and set the yogurt overnight in my oven, then strain and jar in the morning.  Be sure you can be around for a few hours to monitor your milk for the cooking and cooling process.


1 gallon milk

1 cup plain yogurt, your choice of style (regular, Greek, Skyr, etc…)

7-8 drops Liquid Rennet

1/4 cup Spring or purified water (non-chlorinated)

Tools  (Don’t freak out. Just take a deep breath and gather them up.)

1 Stockpot or Large Saucepan, Cooking spoon, Candy/Jam Thermometer, 1 Small Glass Mixing Bowl, 1 Large Glass Mixing Bowl (ideally with a lid, but not necessary – could also be ceramic or stainless), Cheesecloth, Colander or Strainer Basket, Glass or Ceramic Pan that will fit under your colander or strainer, Funnel, Glass Jars with Lids (ie: Mason jars of whatever size will best meet your needs), Glass Juice Bottle or other container to collect whey (if straining), 2-3 Clean Dish Towels or Hand Towels (medium to large-sized)

The bowls and utensils should be clean directly from the dishwasher or sterilized by boiling in water for 10 minutes in your stockpot before you begin.  Trust me… the dishwasher is your best friend for this job.  I speak from experience when I advise you… Gurrlll, just use your dishwasher.


  1. Heat the Milk.  Prepare your tools and place them on the counter across a clean dish towel. Pour milk into stockpot and slowly over medium heat to 180 degrees F, stirring constantly to avoid scalding. This will take about 20 minutes.  If scalding develops, reduce stirring and do NOT hit the bottom or sides so as not to get the scalded bits into the milk. Skim off and dispose of any skin that develops across the top.yogurt-stovetop

2.  Cool the Milk.  Once the milk is heated to 180 degrees, turn off and remove from heat.  Cool to 110 degrees F. Depending on how warm or cool your home is, the insulation quality of your pot, and etc, this could take an hour, or up to a few hours. Stay close to monitor the first time, and be sure to have flexibility to stay at home until you know your particular yogurt-making conditions.

3.  Mix the Milk.  Once your milk reaches 110 F, mix the water and rennet drops together in the small glass bowl. In the large glass bowl, take 1 cup of the warm milk  and the cup of your starter yogurt and mix together.  Pour the warm milk into the large glass bowl and blend the milk/yogurt starter together with it, then mix in the rest of the milk from the pot. Pour the rennet/water in to the mixture and blend.

4.  Set the Milk.  yogurt-settingCover your bowl with a lid, if available, or plastic wrap and wrap a towel or two around it snugly. Place in a warm spot where it won’t be disturbed for 8-12 hours, or overnight. Inside your oven or even just on top of it works well.  (I will sometimes preheat my oven to 200 or whatever the lowest setting is, and then turn it off right
before I put the yogurt in to have some warmth (but not heat) for fermenting and setting.

5. Voila – you have Yogurt! After setting 8-12 hours or overnight, remove the towel and open your bowl.  There should be some amount of separation of what is now yogurt – the white stuff – and whey – the yellow stuff.  If you prefer a “regular” American-style yogurt, you can simply pour the yellow-ish liquid off the top into your juice bottle, and your yogurt is ready to enjoy!

If you like a thick, creamy gourmet style, or you’re making Greek, Skyr, or etc, then set your yogurt up to strain.  Line your colander with cheesecloth and place over/into your glass pan, then pour the yogurt into the colander.   It may look kind of soupy and curdle-y like the photo below when you first pour it into strain, but never fear. It will all turn out.


Over a period of several hours, and however many rounds you like according to thickness, strain off the whey and pour it into the juice bottle.  The thicker the consistency, and the more it’s strained, the longer the yogurt will keep – even up to 3 weeks or longer.  If you strain too much liquid off, it may start to taste like cream cheese or sour cream rather than yogurt, so taste test along the way.

Once you’re satisfied with the consistency and taste, you’re done!  Use your funnel to neatly pour the yogurt into your jars, then cap and refrigerate.  If you eat yogurt mostly at home, opt for a couple of large jars, otherwise, use smaller ones to take for lunches and snacks on the go.


yogurt-wheyAs for the whey, reserve it as a protein-rich add-in for smoothies, pancakes, cornbread, feed it to your chickens, or one of many other great uses.  You can also pour into into freezer bags or containers and freeze in portion sizes you’re most likely to use later. (This is what I do because I love skyr, which produces a TON of whey!)  Otherwise, refrigerate and use for up to 1 week.

Dolling It Up

If you enjoy fruity or flavored yogurts, add those ingredients to your plain yogurt, to taste.

When you’re ready for flavor, let your imagination go wild!  Jams and preserves are excellent add-ins (and is basically what’s used in the commercial brands), but also think of unique combinations like canned pumpkin with nutmeg and cinnamon for pumpkin pie flavor, lemon or lime curd for a lemon meringue or key lime twist, and so on. The possibilities are endless!

I’ve found adding right before you want to eat it works better than adding your fruits or flavors and then storing… At least to me, things tend to get too “mushy” together when stored, you know, without those icky preservatives in the picture.  However, for a “grab n’ go” option, try putting the fruit or jam at the bottom, to keep it slightly separated.

Next up, I’ll show you how to make yogurt easy-peasy in your crockpot (seriously rewarding and simple), and then finally, we’ll explore non-dairy yogurt.

Let me know what you think in the meantime – would love to hear your own tips and tricks!

Love and light,

Samadhi ✷


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