Homemade vanilla Greek yogurt made from scratch, for a fraction of the cost of store bought yogurt. Pair with protein packed Nut-free Granola for a healthy meal or snack anytime.
A New Year often rings in with new goals to eat well and take better care of your body. Although if you ask me, eating well shouldn’t be limited to an annual event but rather an effort to make good choices throughout the year. Despite all of the butter-infused treats and cheese-sauced dinners here on the blog, I do make an effort to eat well in between the decadence. Goodness only knows that most of the time I run not for good is does, but just so that I can eat more cookies.
Honesty really is the best policy.
Greek yogurt is one of my go-to meals or snacks because it’s packed with protein so that I don’t end up with a bad case of the hangries an hour after eating.
Hangry = hunger induced anger.
The thing about Greek yogurt is that stuff is ex-pen-sive! Which is why I was thrilled a few years back when an old blog friend by the name of Cathy B. shared a post on how to make plain Greek yogurt at home.
Ever since then, I’ve been making my own yogurt for a fraction of what it would cost in the store. I’ve played with the recipe enough to come up with a solid vanilla version that I absolutely adore.
I often start the day with a vanilla Greek yogurt, a little fruit, and some really great granola. It’s my little Healthy Trifecta!
I garner tremendous satisfaction from whipping up a generous amount of homemade vanilla yogurt for pennies on the dollar. You can do it too! Nervous about attempting yogurt at home? Don’t be! Homemade vanilla Greek yogurt is fairly easy to make, using just four simple ingredients.
Start by gathering a half gallon of 2% milk, granulated sugar, yogurt with live and active cultures, and some vanilla bean paste.
I know it sounds a little redundant to be putting yogurt in a yogurt recipe, but that little cup of cultures will serve as the “starter” that gets the rest of the ingredients a’ culturing. I tend to buy organic yogurt, but so long as it’s not ultra pasteurized and it contains the live and active cultures I see no reason why you couldn’t try a conventional yogurt. Also know that if vanilla bean paste is hard to come by where you live, the caviar from 2 vanilla beans may be substituted with excellent results.
Set the yogurt on the counter to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 170° F. While the oven is coming to temperature, grab a heavy (preferably enamel coated cast iron) Dutch oven with a lid. Whisk together the milk, sugar, and vanilla bean paste inside the pot. Clip a candy thermometer to the side, ensuring that the bottom half inch of the thermometer is submerged, but not touching the bottom of the pan.
Set the pot over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to the scalding point of 180° F. Once reaching 180° F, reduce the heat to hold at that temperature for 20 minutes, whisking every 4 to 5 minutes. Do not walk away from the pot during this time! If the mixture boils or gets too cool, the yogurt won’t culture properly. Turn off the heat and let the milk cool to 120°F before proceeding.
Food Dork Trivia Alert! Modern milk is pasteurized to kill bacteria, so why the need to scald the milk? Well, scalding the milk at 180 degrees F (82 degrees C) will break down any enzymes not killed during the pasteurization process that might otherwise compete with the live and active cultures added to the yogurt; this process also denatures the milk proteins, allowing them to concentrate, thicken, and reduce whey separation. (The yellow-tinged translucent liquid on top of commercial yogurt or sour cream is whey that has separated from the protein solids).Commercial yogurts often contain added concentrated milk (or vegetable) gums and/or gelatin to help prohibit whey separation, such as agar, pectin, or carageenan. Homemade yogurt relies on chemistry rather than additives to inhibit whey separation.
By now, the oven should have come to temperature. Turn off the oven but do not open the door! The heat retained in the oven will keep the live and active cultures nice an cozy so they’ll go forth and…cultivate. When making yogurt at home, it’s all about keeping everything at the right temperature–not too hot and not too cold.
Whisk the room temperature yogurt into the scalded, then slightly cooled milk mixture until blended.
Place the lid onto the pot. I like to wrap the pot in a clean blanket or towel for added insulation. Pop the covered pot on a rack in the still warm but not turned on oven and close the door.
Leave the pot in the oven for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight. No peeking allowed. Walk away. Ignore the pot. Do not open the oven for any reason. Do not turn the oven on for any reason. Go on now! Shoo!
After a minimum of 8 hours, take the pot out of the oven and unwrap it to remove the lid and inspect the contents.
Some of the whey will have separated from the yogurt, but otherwise the yogurt should look mostly congealed. If the yogurt is not quite there yet, wrap it back up and pop it back in the oven to hang out for another hour or two.
Line a large colander with a clean linen towel, and then pour the yogurt into the colander. Allow the yogurt to drain for 30 to 60 minutes, until the yogurt is almost to the desired consistency. I often lift the yogurt in the cloth, twist the top, and give it a small squeeze to release a little extra whey before proceeding.
(If you’re feeling extra homestead-ish, then I have a few ideas as to what to do with the strained whey in the recipe notes below.)
Spoon the yogurt into clean glass jars with lids. Refrigerate the yogurt until thoroughly chilled before serving.
While the vanilla Greek yogurt is chilling out, you’ll have plenty of time to whip up a batch of my favorite Nut-Free Granola.
It’s crunchy, sweet, a little salty, and packed with a ton of protein. I can’t get enough of this stuff! Nut-Free Granola is the perfect companion to vanilla Greek yogurt.
**Important Notes about the Greek yogurt**
- In lieu of a candy thermometer, the milk can be scalded without boiling if done in a pan of boiling water. Pour the milk into a large jar or other heat proof container. Set the container of milk into a pot of water, ensuring that the top of the milk container is several inches above the water line. To scald the milk, bring the water to a boil. The temperature of the water won’t exceed its boiling point because the water evaporates as steam as it boils. The boiling point of milk is always slightly higher than that of water at the same pressure, so the milk will scald without boiling. If using this method, cool the milk until it is just a tad too hot to leave a finger immersed in it for more than 3 to 5 seconds. It’s not as exact as a thermometer, so results may vary with this method.
- ALL CANDY THERMOMETERS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL. In my experience, candy thermometers can vary widely in accuracy. I always check the accuracy of the candy thermometer that I plan to use beforehand by clipping it to a pot of water and bringing the water to a boil. An accurate thermometer should read 212°F when the water comes to a boil.
- The commercially available yogurt serves as a starter to get the fermentation process going. I specify plain Stoneyfield Organics Oikos yogurt because that is what I usually use. They aren’t paying me to say it–it’s just my favorite. I have also used Dannon’s plain Greek yogurt with good success. If you substitute an equal amount of a different brand of yogurt, be certain that the yogurt contains live, active cultures. Look for s.thermophilus, l.acidophilus, l.bulgaricus, bifidus, and l.casei. Also verify that the yogurt you are using has not been ultra-pasteurized. Using ultra-pasteurized yogurt will result in a failed recipe. Both ultra-pasteurization and the live and active cultures should be listed on the ingredients label.
- The live and active cultures need a consistent temperature in order to properly ferment the yogurt. Adjustments will have to be made for environmental factors where you live. Heat, humidity, and high altitude may affect the recipe results.
- After the first batch of homemade yogurt, you may use an amount of homemade yogurt equal to the commercial yogurt called for in the recipe for the next batch. You’ll have an endless supply of starter at your disposal!
- Homemade Greek yogurt will continue to thicken upon refrigeration. So, don’t strain off all of the whey initially, but rather leave the yogurt a little softer than the desired result.
- Don’t waste the whey by letting it run down the drain! Whey is packed with proteins, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that add flavor to yeast breads, pancakes, and muffin recipes. The whey will sweeten the dough slightly, give the yeast extra food, and aid in browning the loaf or batters. On bread baking days, I set the lined colander in a large bowl before draining the yogurt. This catches all the whey being strained out. Later, I substitute the whey (1:1) for up to 1/3 cup of the liquid in a bread recipe. Whey can also be frozen for later use.
- Squeezing too much whey out of the yogurt will result in a soft cheese rather than yogurt.
- Plain Greek Style yogurt can be made by omitting the sugar and vanilla bean paste, and following the directions accordingly.
- Homemade vanilla Greek yogurt does not contain any preservatives or stabilizers. The whey will separate a bit upon storage, and that’s all right. Just stir the whey back into the yogurt before serving. If the yogurt smells bad, the whey has a greenish hue, or the yogurt grows mold, please don’t eat it!