Making Yogurt Without a Special Machine

My yogurt making set up

I really love yogurt. My usual breakfasts are plain yogurt and fresh fruit in the spring, summer, and fall, and oatmeal with almond butter, frozen blueberries, and maple syrup in the winter. Even though I live on a student budget, I like to buy organic animal products as often as possible. Except meat. I really can't afford organic meat. Organic yogurt is not cheap. Milk isn't that cheap either, but it's cheaper than yogurt. I decided to try making my own yogurt because (a) I love cooking, and (b) I would save some money. After reading through a ton of recipes, I thought about getting a yogurt maker. Then I decided to give it a go with my toaster oven. I use Ikea mason jars that happen to fit perfectly inside when I move the toaster oven rack below the little metal thingies that hold it. I also put my toaster oven temperature to the mark below the 150 degree mark. So far, all of my yogurt has turned out nicely. At first, I just heated the milk and mixed it with a starter culture i.e. store bought plain yogurt (Brown Cow full fat, in case you were wondering). I thought this was a little too runny. I didn't want to buy any specialty ingredients like powdered milk, which is an option for yogurt thickening. The yogurt does thicken while it's sitting in the fridge, but this wasn't good enough for me. While I was flipping through I Know How to Cook (or Je Sais Cuisinier, which has a more clever rhyme and rhythm), I found a French housewife recipe for yogurt. In this version, you start with 6 cups of milk and heat it down to 4 cups of milk. This has worked great for me. I also don't really drink milk, so this keeps that extra milk from hanging out in the refrigerator for too long. While I find the yogurt turns out a little thicker and smoother if you stir it while it is reducing, it also turns out fine if left alone to reduce. You'll just have to take off the milk skin that forms. When I choose to hang out with it and stir, I bring a chair and some study materials into the kitchen so I can read and mark texts with one hand and stir with the other. I have tried this with whole, 2%, and 1%, all with fantastic results.

Homemade Yogurt
Adapted from I Know How to Cook

6 cups milk (any fat content is fine)
about 2 Tbs plain yogurt

1. Heat milk on the stove top to the point where it is foamy, slightly steamy, and not boiling. Allow the milk to reduce to about 4 cups. This will take about an hour. (I pour in 4 cups of milk first to see about where on my pot it is and then eye ball it to see when it's finished. It's not a finicky or especially important process.)

2. Allow milk to cool to slightly above body temperature. You should be able to stick your finger in it without discomfort. Pour about 1 cup (or less) of the milk into a cup and stir in the yogurt until smooth.

3. Pour the milk-yogurt mixture back into the pot of milk and give it a good stir. Pour this milk into glass containers that fit into your toaster oven.

4. Place glass containers into toaster oven. Set temperature to 100-110 degrees F. I use the mark that is below the 150 degree mark. Allow to culture for about 4 hours. The longer you culture, the thicker and more tart your yogurt will be.

5. Cover and refrigerate until use.

I like my homemade yogurt because it has a slightly rich and buttery flavor. It takes sweeteners like maple syrup or honey well, which don't mix that great with store bought yogurt. It is also something that does not require that much attention. I've started using it instead of sour cream, which allows me to reduce the amount of stuff I keep in my refrigerator and cut down on packaging that I have to throw out. The mason jars are great too because I just close them and put them away. Once I tried it, I found yogurt making to be much less daunting than it appeared.


  1. Good for you! That's amazing!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing! I am a college student that has a toaster oven someone gave to me and I was wondering what to do with it. I love yogurt too and I put it in my curries and eat is as a snack so your version is very economical for me :) Will be trying your method once the semester is over!

  3. Just an update: I also started making yogurt with 4 cups of milk, heating it just to the simmer stage without reducing the volume, and then culturing it in the toaster oven. To thicken it, I've been mixing in a few tablespoons of chia seeds. If you have a gas oven with a strong pilot that tends to keep your oven warm while it is off, you can also culture yogurt in the oven without having to use any extra gas or electricity.

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