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My friend Katie taught me to make homemade yogurt years ago and we’ve loved doing it ever since. It really is easy and only takes about 10 minutes of hands-on time total.
Being the lazy cook that I am, I hated scraping the scalded milk off the bottom of the pan after I was done. Not to mention trying to pour the hot milk from a large saucepan into a tiny mason jar without splashing or burning myself.
So, I found an easier way…
There is virtually no mess with this method. No scalded milk to scrape. No pouring hot milk into jars. Almost zero cleanup whatsoever, except the jars of yogurt themselves once you’ve emptied them of their creamy, delicious yogurt contents.
Here is the secret… pour the milk directly into the mason jars you’re using, then place the mason jars into a pot of water to heat up. After you’ve heated and cooled the milk, simply add a spoonful of yogurt (and for flavor, a splash of vanilla and a bit of sweetener- this is optional). Screw on the lids and place the jars into a cooler of hot water (125 degrees roughly) for 7-24 hours. (Close it tightly!)
If you just want plain yogurt, then all you need to add is a bit of yogurt to culture it – no vanilla or sweeteners needed! Plain yogurt makes a great substitute for sour cream. Most people don’t like to just eat a bowl of plain yogurt though. The good news is you get to control the ingredient list and add the sweeteners that work well for you!
Most of my clients get a Mediator Release Test (MRT) to identify any food sensitivities behind their joint pain and other symptoms. This recipe can be easily adapted to the foods that work best for you. Swap regular milk for A2 cow milk or goat milk. Swap sugar for stevia, honey, or maple syrup.
For years, I left ours in the cooler for only 7-8 hours and it was great. But recently, I accidentally left it in for 16 hours and it was even better! It came out thick and creamy, more like Greek yogurt, and still not too sour! So I now let it go for about 15 hours every time.
Tips for success:
- Get a thermometer like this one that will alert you when the yogurt is heated to the right temp. You just leave it in the jar, go do other stuff while it heats up, and it will beep when it reaches 180 degrees. You can leave this thermometer in the jar while it then cools down to the right temp, and later use it in the cooler to monitor the temp as the yogurt ferments.
- Make a big batch at a time. It lasts for weeks. I usually make 7 quart-sized mason jars at a time in my water-bath canner. It is pretty much the same amount of work as making one jar. My family goes through that many jars in less than a week, but hopefully it would last longer for you!
- Don’t over-babysit the temperature while it’s fermenting. I’ve found the more I try to keep the temperature steady, the worse the yogurt turns out. My water in the cooler usually starts around 120 degrees, then drops to 100 degrees or so by the time it’s done. It turns out great. If it does ever drop below 105 with several hours left, I will boil a little pot of water and add it to the cooler.
- If you don’t have a cooler big enough to fit all of your jars during the final fermentation step, there are other methods. My backup when my husband steals the cooler and takes it to work, is to put the jars back into the pot I boiled the milk in, cooled to between 115 and 125 degrees. Then turn the stove on very low. You will need to monitor this method more to find the right stove setting that will keep the yogurt between 125 and 105 degrees during the entire 7-24 hour ferment period. I’ve also heard of people putting the jars in the oven with the oven light on for heat… but I’ve never personally tried this method.
Homemade Yogurt- No Mess Mason Jar Method
- quart mason jar
- large pot or boiling water canner
- cooler large enough to fit all mason jars in
Per each quart-sized mason jar
- 3.5 cups whole milk regular, A2 milk or goat milk
- 2 tbsp yogurt with live active cultures store bought or previous batch
- 1.5 tsp vanilla extract, optional
- 1/4-1/3 cup sugar, optional or equivalent drops of liquid stevia, optional
- Pour milk in mason jar. Place mason jars in large pot and fill with water about 2 inches below the top of the mason jars.
- Place thermometer in one of the mason jars and set the alert to sound at 180 degrees. Turn stove to high and heat the jars of milk to 180 degrees. (This will kill any existing bacteria in the milk that could spoil your yogurt culture.)
- Remove the jars from hot water to a dish towel on the counter. Canning jar grippers are helpful for this. Let the milk inside cool to about 120 degrees.
- Add the yogurt and optional vanilla and sugar to each jar. (If you add the yogurt when the milk is too hot, it will kill the good bacteria in the yogurt needed to culture a new jar of yogurt.) Stir well with a fork or whisk.
- Place the jars in a cooler filled with the hottest tap water (usually about 125 degrees). Place the end of your thermometer in the cooler water to monitor. Close the cooler TIGHTLY and leave in a warm spot for 8-24 hours to ferment and become yogurt! (We leave them for 15 hours).
- Once the jars have fermented for the required amount of time, check to see that the milk inside has turned thick like yogurt. Place the jars in the fridge to cool before eating (unless you enjoy warm yogurt!).