You can easily make smooth and delicious homemade yogurt in the Instant Pot for twice the taste and less than half the cost of what you can buy. Two ingredients, a little bit of hands-on time, and an overnight stint in your Instant Pot is all it takes.
My husband greatly prefers yogurt that has very little sweetness. There are a few lightly sweetened options that have come on the market, but they can be hard to find and quite expensive. Many commercial yogurts have lots of sugar and taste as sweet as a dessert to me. This homemade plain yogurt is perfect for us.
What’s needed for making yogurt?
- An Instant Pot with a Yogurt Feature
- PASTEURIZED (NOT Ultra-Pasteurized) whole milk
- Culture yogurt: 1/4-1/2 cup plain yogurt with Live & Active Cultures
- An instant read thermometer, such as this one
- A cloth lined colander set over a bowl for straining
- A gasket for your Instant Pot not used for spicy food. I’ve purchased extra gaskets for that purpose.
Regular prices in my area, at the same store: Chobani whole milk yogurt, 1 quart: $5.49. My homemade yogurt, per quart: $1.88. (That’s 1 gallon of store brand whole milk at $3.89, plus one 5.3 oz. container of Greek yogurt for starter culture at 80¢, which together, yielded 2.5 quarts of yogurt.)
Big cost difference! Homemade yogurt is almost 3x less expensive and definitely twice as yummy.
Steps For Making Homemade Yogurt in the Instant Pot
- Scald the milk using the Instant Pot’s Boil feature. Many things made with milk require it to be heated just below the point of simmering, which is scalding. This scalding denatures the protein, basically making the milk behave better.
- Cool the scalded milk. Place the Instant Pot liner full of hot milk into an ice bath in a large bowl. Cool to approximately 110°.
- Stir in culture (starter) yogurt. Use 1/4-1/2 cup store bought plain yogurt with live and active cultures.
- Ferment the milk 8-12 hours. The Instant Pot’s YOGT setting will heat the milk and maintain it at the proper temperature for the culture to multiply, making yummy yogurt for you.
- Strain yogurt to desired consistency. Set a colander over a large bowl and line it with a thin tea towel or several layers of cheese cloth. The towel works best.
- Whisk, chill and enjoy!
Cooling the Milk to Add Your Culture
If you were to add the starter culture yogurt directly to the hot milk, you’d kill those important live cultures that will work their magic. Cooling the milk to approximately 105-110° (95-115° is fine) will ensure they happily multiply, creating yogurt for you.
If you cool the pot of milk in an ice bath, it will be ready in about 15 minutes, give or take. Cooling the milk by sitting it on the counter will take at least an hour.
The YOGT setting on the Instant Pot will raise the milk to 140° and hold it there – the perfect temperature for yogurt to ferment. This is the beauty of making homemade yogurt in the Instant Pot. Otherwise, it is very hard to maintain a consistent temperature using different methods. Without that consistent temperature, yogurt doesn’t happen.
Fermented yogurt thick enough to hold a spoon Strain yogurt in towel lined colander Strained about 1 hour
Yogurt Straining Tips
When you remove the Instant Pot lid after the long fermentation period, there will be excess water in your yogurt, which is whey. Straining it away makes your yogurt thicker.
Old Dish Towels to the Rescue!
A lot of online instructions have you strain your yogurt through several layers of cheesecloth or a nut milk bag; those options will work too, but they can be a hassle. A thin, finely woven cotton dish towel – not loopy terry cloth! – works beautifully. Sometimes old school methods work the best.
Figure out which large bowl fits your colander with clearance so the bottom of the colander won’t be sitting in whey. Line the colander with the towel and set the colander over the bowl. Gently pour or spoon in the warm yogurt.
Straining is a slow process, but you can speed it along by scraping the yogurt away from the towel now and again. The strained yogurt that lines the cloth will be blocking the excess whey from leaving. Simply run a rubber scraper from the rim down to the center, working your way around like you were loosening slices of pie. You’ll see the whey start dripping shortly.
One gallon of milk made into yogurt will take about an hour or two to strain. Each batch is a little different.
When is my yogurt strained enough?
Your yogurt is done straining when it is a little thinner than you’d like your cold finished yogurt to be. It will thicken up as it chills, so allow for that. Pour off the whey and turn out the yogurt into the bowl.
A little maneuver for turning out your homemade yogurt
Lift up the corners of the towel and set it in the bowl with some clearance in front of the yogurt to pour out. Swiftly and gently pull up the towel, scraping the yogurt into the bowl. I put my towel directly into the sink for a thorough rinsing before it hits the washing machine.
Support the mass of yogurt with the towel Gently lift towel, pouring out yogurt Lift up the towel, scrape excess yogurt off
It may look lumpy and not very appetizing. No worries! Whisk it well and it will be smooth and shiny in about one minute.
How I fit yogurt making into my week
You might be reading this thinking that this takes way more time than you have – in actuality your hands-on time is very little. Here’s how I work it.
I pick an evening in my week when I’ll be home the next morning to be able to deal with the finished yogurt. We tend to eat dinner around 6:30 pm or so. Before dinner is ready to serve, I’ll get the milk heating in the BOIL phase in the Instant Pot. It’s usually heated and ready to cool by the time we’ve finished dinner and done the dishes.
I cool the milk and set it to ferment for 12 hours. It will be ready around 8 am the next morning. In the morning, I strain it while going about chores or working from home. It takes a few scrapings of the straining yogurt to flow efficiently, usually about every 20 minutes or so – while I’m going about my regular day.
The first time you do it, like with anything, you might spend more of your attention on it because it’s a new thing. When you’ve done it a few times it will become second nature and you’ll fit it into your schedule easily.
If you like making this yogurt, you might also like Homemade Crème Fraiche.
Homemade Yogurt in the Instant Pot
- Instant Pot with Yogurt Feature
- Instant Read Thermometer
- Colander lined with a thin woven towel (not terrycloth) set over a large bowl.
- 1 gallon whole milk (Pasteurized NOT Ultra Pasteurized
- ½ cup plain yogurt with live & active cultures
- Pour milk into your Instant Pot. Plug it in and close the lid. No need to set the pressure valve since no pressure will be used.
- Press the Yogurt button until BOIL shows on the screen. This setting will automatically heat the milk to scalding, about 175-180°. This will take approximately one hour for a gallon of milk.
- When the indicator beeps, remove the lid and don't let it drip back into the pot. Remove the stainless inner liner of milk and set it into a large pot or bowl of ice water to cool to about 110°, stirring the milk occasionally. I find that this takes about 20 minutes. Without the ice bath it will take at least an hour to cool.
- When the milk cools to 110°, stir in your yogurt. Place the pot of milk back into the Instant Pot and return the lid as before. (If the temperature is higher than 115°, you will likely kill off the live culture. No worries if the temperature goes below 110°.)
- Press the Yogurt button on the Instant Pot until the YOGT setting shows. Set the timer for 9-12 hours. I prefer 12 hours. This setting will gently heat your milk and hold it at the proper temperature for the desired length of time. The time shown will count up.
- At the end of the timed fermentation cycle, set a colander in a large bowl. Be sure that there are several inches of clearance so the whey will drain away from the yogurt. Line a large colander with a squeaky clean thin cotton tea towel or clean piece of muslin cloth. Pour or ladle your newly made yogurt into the lined colander carefully. Let drain for an hour or two, regularly scraping yogurt from the towel so the excess water continues to drain. About every 15 minutes, I go around it with a rubber spatula, scraping from the top rim to the center, as if I was loosening slices of pie.
- When the yogurt is a little thinner than you'd like your finished yogurt to be, remove the colander and pour off the whey from the bowl. (This is acid whey and doesn't have as many uses as sweet whey.) The yogurt will thicken as it chills.
- Pour the yogurt into the bowl by collecting the corners of the towel and deftly dumping it out, leaving room to pour and the towel in it as little as possible. Slowly raise the top edge of the towel, scraping the yogurt into the bowl. (Place the towel in the sink and give it a thorough rinsing before laundering.)
- Whisk your yogurt thoroughly for a minute or so and it will become smooth and shiny. Portion it into containers and refrigerate.
- Your yogurt will keep 10 days to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
- I often get 2 1/2 quarts of yogurt from 1 gallon of milk. It depends how long you strain it and how thick you want it to be. I like mine in between the texture of regular yogurt and extremely thick Greek yogurt. Like sour cream.
- The recipe is easily halved. “Boiling” and cooling times will halve, approximately, but fermentation time will remain the same.
- Be sure to use an Instant Pot gasket that has not been used for spicy food or your yogurt will taste like the gasket smells. I keep a separate gasket for this purpose.
- The longer you ferment your yogurt, the tangier it will be. I prefer 12 hours.
- Each batch will turn out a little differently. When you find a starter yogurt and brand of milk you like together, make a note so you can replicate it.
- I generally use commercial yogurt for the culture, but if you want to try using your own, separate some into its own container and label it for that purpose so the culture doesn’t get contaminated with spoons and such. I’ve read recommendations of only using homemade yogurt 6 or so times, then start again with commercial yogurt.
- I understand that the concept of straining through a towel might seem off-putting if you’ve never done that kind of thing before. I wash them thoroughly in hot water, only dish towels together and use no fabric softener. I find it cleaner, less fuzzy and much simpler than using multiple layers of cheesecloth. I have one particular towel that I use for this purpose and nothing else.