College Kitchen: Homemade Yogurt

The true queen of dairy.

Homemade yogurt with berries, orange zest and honey make for a sweet snack or breakfast.

Juliet Farmer

Homemade yogurt with berries, orange zest and honey make for a sweet snack or breakfast.

by Cecilia Mazumdar Stanger

Yogurt is arguably one of the most useful refrigerated products.

Lauded for its gut-friendly bacteria, yogurt has many applications: It works as a tangy substitute for buttermilk and sour cream, and marinades and smoothies demonstrate that it works in both sweet and savory preparations.

Blending your own lassi is great, but handcrafting the fermented food that composes it is even more impressive.

A successful homemade yogurt is a cost-effective badge of honor. You can make two quarts of yogurt for the price of one half-gallon of milk, plus you control the quality of milk and the cultures it contains.


Homemade Yogurt


Fermented foods require a “starter” bacteria, which means you need the remnants of previous yogurts to produce new containers. Start with a purchased yogurt, then use your own for subsequent batches.

Look for products that contain live active cultures. (That information is usually listed on the label, so you can choose preferred strains when you pick a brand.) My mother cites success with Nancy’s, Kalona, Seven Stars and Old Home.

Drain (and save) the liquid whey to make thick, Greek-style yogurt. Whey contains protein, so it is a useful addition to many recipes, including soups, pancake batters and smoothies.


1/2 gallon whole milk

2 tablespoons plain yogurt with live, active cultures

Containers to hold an 8-cup yield.



1.     Boil the milk and watch carefully. Remove from heat as soon as it begins to foam (about 12 minutes).

2.     In the meantime, brush the containers’ interiors with yogurt starter.

3.     Let the milk cool to slightly warmer than body temperature and pour it into the prepared containers. Do not add milk that exceeds 110 degrees. (Excess heat kills the cultures.)

4.     Cover and store in a warm, insulated spot* for 12 to 24 hours. More time makes for a sour, thick batch, while less time produces a thin, mild yogurt.

*Undisturbed areas near radiators or heat sources work. If those options aren’t available, preheat your oven on the lowest setting for two minutes. Then turn it off, and place the yogurt inside. Make sure you warn your housemates — oven storage can lead to accidental heating.


Savory Yogurt Base


The following ingredients provide a base for savory sauces and marinades.


1 cup yogurt

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons lemon juice


Adding chopped fresh herbs like mint or cilantro makes a zesty vegetable dip or pita topper.

Combine with stronger aromatics like pulverized onion, garlic, cumin, jalapeño or ginger for a flavorful coating for grilled meats.


Potential Parfaits:


Yogurt is a common replacement for custard and ice cream in parfaits. It frequently makes an appearance between layers of granola and fresh or frozen fruit.

For creative strata, make flavored yogurt with extracts or fruit purees. Otherwise, keep it simple: my favorite parfait combination is frozen blueberries, yogurt and honey.