Cooking Time

The recipes on this site were developed with the SousVide Supreme, a very capable cooking device which uses water convection. More recently, we’ve been cooking with immersion circulators which maintain even cooking temperatures by moving water in the bath with a pump. If you’re using an immersion circulator, slightly reduce cooking times for best results.

Homemade Yogurt

Homemade Yogurt

While there are certain things that a water oven absolutely cannot do, I am constantly surprised by just how many tasks it can handle. Take yogurt, for instance.

I’ve been making my own for years now. I’m something of a snob about my yogurt, preferring the looser consistency and softer texture of European-style yogurt to the gelatinous, stiff products that predominate here in the U.S.

I generally make a batch a week, but today, when I went to turn on my electric yogurt maker, it had given up the ghost (after years of dependable service). The milk and culture were all set to go, but I’d lost the even, gentle heat source provided by the specialized machine.

What could I use as a substitute? Why… my SousVide Supreme, of course. I set the temperature for 105°F, added the glass jars, and in 5 hours, had perfect yogurt. Actually, it always took 8 hours to make yogurt in the now defunct machine, so the water oven provided an added bonus!

If you enjoy yogurt but haven’t tried your hand at the homemade variety, give this version a try. Many commercial yogurts include a thickening agent such as pectin, starch, gum, or gelatin, not to mention artificial flavors and colorings. Here’s what was on the ingredient list for a vanilla yogurt my husband purchased: fructose, sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and artificial flavors. Interestingly, no mention of milk, although surely this is an oversight (one hopes, but it’s tough not to be cynical these days about our food system). Fructose is generally made from GMO corn syrup, and the next three listed ingredients are all variations of artificial sweeteners. Doesn’t sound good.

No living or active yogurt cultures, either, which is kind of the whole point of eating yogurt. It’s the live active cultures in yogurt that make it a probiotic, a source of friendly bacteria that has numerous health benefits, including aiding digestive health and bolstering the immune system.

If this isn’t enough to get you to consider making yogurt, remember that it’s much cheaper to make your own, and very satisfying, as well! No plastic tubs and foil lids to recycle, either.

If you prefer a thicker yogurt, simply bring the milk to 185°F. Also, the longer the yogurt is in the water bath, the thicker and tangier it will become.

Use any kind of milk you like: whole, 2%, skim, soy, or goat. I generally don’t add flavors to my yogurt, but once in a while (when peaches are in season) I add a tablespoon of ginger syrup to each -cup jar. Yummy.

Makes six -cup jars or about four 1-cup servings

½
cup plain yogurt with live and active cultures (this is essential)
4
cups organic milk

  1. Add about 2 inches of water to your water oven. The depth of the water will vary depending on the jars that you use. Place empty jars in the water oven before filling them to determine the proper water depth. The water should come within ¼ inch of the top of the jars.
  2. Preheat the water bath to 105°F (41°C).
  3. Remove the plain yogurt from the refrigerator, measure out ½ cup, and set aside at room temperature while you heat the milk.
  4. Place the milk in a clean saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until it reaches 150°F (66°C) or so. If you want a thicker yogurt, heat the milk to 185°F (85°C). You can do this in a double boiler to ensure the milk doesn’t burn, but I’m lazy and just use a regular saucepan, stir a lot, and monitor the temperature closely. An instant-read thermometer such as a Thermapen is useful.
  5. Once the milk has reached the desired temperature, it needs to cool to 100 – 110°F (39 – 43°C). The fastest way to do this is to place the saucepan in a bowl of cold water, and stir occasionally. Again, an instant-read thermometer simplifies the process. If the temperature of the milk falls below 90°F (32°C), you will need to reheat it.
  6. Whisk the room-temperature plain yogurt, which acts as a starter culture, into the cooled milk. If you wish to sweeten the yogurt, add ginger syrup or honey to the mixture and whisk to blend. One tablespoon per -cup jar is a good ratio. Divide the mixture among clean, dry glass jars. I use either glass yogurt jars which hold cup or 1-cup glass canning jars.
  7. Place the open containers in the water oven and cook for 5 hours.
  8. Remove the jars and refrigerate until the yogurt is cold. Once the yogurt is chilled, cover the jars tightly. The yogurt will keep under refrigeration for a week to 10 days. Two additional caveats: I don’t cover the jars while they’re in the water oven, and I do place the lid on the machine. While I thought that water condensation dripping from the lid of the SousVide Supreme might be a problem, it didn’t prove to be an issue at 105°F.

15 comments to Homemade Yogurt

  • Lynn McGaha

    When you’re heating the milk up to 150 degrees, why don’t you do that in the water oven? That way you’ll never have to worry about the milk burning. One possible disadvantage is that you will then have to wait for the water in the water oven to cool back down to 105, but I think that disadvantage is offset by never having to worry about the milk overheating or cooling too much.

    • Good point, Lynn. Pam said that for her, the 5 minutes it takes to heat the milk on the stovetop seems faster and easier, but to each her own, huh? If you do heat the milk in the water oven, you could add cold water to rapidly reduce the temp down to 105°F.

  • Tim

    I tried this over the weekend for the wife and CLEARLY did something wrong. It didn’t turn out like this at all. In fact, the wife said as soon as she spit out the first bite, “It tastes like paste!” I used plain, live culture yogurt and 2% organic milk that had been “Grade A Pasteurized.” No luck at all.

    • So sorry you had a funky experience, Tim. Tough to troubleshoot, but when your wife said it “tastes” like paste, assume she was talking actual flavor and not consistency/texture? Either way, you can tweak the thickness by modifying the temperature during the stage when you preheat the milk, and both thickness and tartness by adjusting the length of time it’s in the water bath. As Pam says in her notes: “If you prefer a thicker yogurt, simply bring the milk to 185°F. Also, the longer the yogurt is in the water bath, the thicker and tangier it will become.”

      • Tim

        Haha, yeah she was talking about the taste, not the texture. I had read other places about adjusting the length of time and the temps. I went for 167 at first to split the difference between kinda runny and Greek style, and then went down to 105 for about 6 hours.

        I’ll give it another go this weekend. It actually was quite funny when she got that look on her face like, “OMG, this is awful.” We both had a good laugh.

  • Bob Beck

    I purchased a Sous Vide Supreme from my local Sur la Table store about a month ago. Thanks to your web site, I’ve been using it almost every day. I’ve attended a few cooking classes at this store. Unfortunately I missed a recent class on making homemade cheese. One of the cheeses they made was (Sous Vide) Mozzarella. They then made Ricotta with the remaining curd. Any idea on how this is done?

    • Hi Bob: First, thanks for the feedback, much appreciated. As to cheese making with the SVS, intriguing question, and no answer off the top of our heads. But Pam’s taken some cheese-making classes, has made both mozzarella and ricotta at home the traditional way, and is brainstorming… Meanwhile, any ideas from your end?

  • Eric

    I am trying this as we speak, but I did not have any jars. I put the milk in the chamber vacuum and bagged it then heated it to 185, then cooled the bag to 109. Then I opened the bag added the starter and resealed it.

    I wounder what I will wake up to.

    Thanks for all your recipes
    Eric

    • Eric

      Well it was a little lumpy, not sure if it was the bag. It might be that i did not mix in the starter well enough

      • Sounds like you used starter powder, rather than pure yogurt as your starter? If so, yeah, you have to whisk it like crazy to ensure it dissolves completely to avoid the lumps. Cool experiment!

  • Eric

    No, I used Greek yogurt, but according to my Georgian yogurt expert (country not state) I needed to agitate the yogurt more thoroughly. He skyped his mom and she suggested making a slurry with the yogurt and the warm milk and then putting it in the bag. She was not very impressed with the sous vide. She evidently heats the milk on the stove and once it has cooled (she knows what warm cool enough by touch) she puts the culture in and wraps it in a towel and lets it sit until morning. Of course they are using raw milk.

    I will try again!
    E.

  • Hi, I love this blog. I received a SVS for Christmas this last year and love it.
    My question is are you having to buy new lids for every time you use the canning jars in the cooking process?

    Thanks and keep up the good work.

    • Pete Johnson

      Thank you, Kara. Some websites suggest that you can reuse metal canning jar lids if you wash them thoroughly and make sure that the gasket material is intact, but these metal lids are designed for one-time use, the seal is fragile, and new lids are cheap. If you want a reusable solution, you should get reusable lids, which are slightly more expensive.

  • Selah

    I’ve been making yogurt for about 6 months with in a home-made sous vide cooker. I generally use a greek yogurt starter, whole milk and a little honey, and it always comes out with a little bit of a grainy texture on the top. It doesn’t bother me– I just mix it in, but my husband doesn’t like it. Do you know what’s causing this, and how it might be avoided?!
    Also, I’ve been setting my water to 115 and haven’t experimented much since it’s been working fine. I’ve read online about people suggesting anywhere from 104-125. Any thoughts on the the differences between a higher or lower temp?

    • Hey Selah: A couple of educated guesses from Pam. First, if you’re going to play with the temperature, she suggests going lower. If that doesn’t work, try making it without the honey (add honey to the cooked yogurt instead). Honey has a crystalline structure, which could be the source of the graininess.