Everyone has their favorite store bought yogurt. Mine is Australian Wallaby Vanilla Bean Yogurt. It’s smooth and creamy with tiny flecks of vanilla bean, not too sweet and with a hint of tangyiness. Since its getting more common to make yogurt at home I wanted to try it out but I wanted to try a version that could compete with my favorite vanilla bean yogurt.
Making your own yogurt is actually quite easy. I learned this with my friend Julia, who let me come and watch her go through the process, which really meant we got to hang out and chat for a few hours while the yogurt did it’s ‘thing.’ After you heat up the milk to scalding or boiling, you must then let it cool to a warm bath-water temperature (about 1 hour). In the meanwhile, you can catch up on the last 3 month of a good friend’s life, get some work done, or walk the dog before the next step in the process.
As our yogurt was cooling, Julia told me the methods behind yogurt making. You basically need a bacteria starter to add to milk, which can be 1/4 cup of yogurt or a packet of yogurt starter, which is a powder. Their are brands of yogurt starters like Yogourmet that you can buy at Whole Foods or other natural food stores. Julia’s recommendation is to start with a starter then save 1/4 cup of that yogurt batch for the 2nd batch and continue to alternate using yogurt and the powder for every other batch you make. The yogurt will get less firm if you use the yogurt itself as a starter too many times.
Our first batch we made plain yogurt which is quite tangy. I like tangy yogurt but usually end up adding some preserves, fruit, or granola to sweeten it up a bit. You have to be careful to mix in additives right before eating or the yogurt will lose it’s consistency and become runny if you stir it. You also have to be careful of adding ingredients as the milk is cultivating so as not to mess up the good bacterias forming.
On my second batch I added in a small amount of sugar, vanilla bean, and extract, just as the milk was cooling down. This was an experiment because I didn’t know if the milk would still be able to cultivate into yogurt with the added sugar and vanilla. Luckily, it did and it was still firm in the end. So, after a few experiments I had found my equal to Wallaby’s Vanilla Bean yogurt, which is much less expensive and so satisfying knowing you can easily make high quality yogurt at home.
Homemade Vanilla Bean Yogurt Recipe
- 1 quart organic whole milk, 4 cups
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or vanilla beans scrapped from 1 pod
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 yogurt starter packet, or 1/4 cup yogurt with active cultures
- Bring the milk to a boil (180 degrees).
- Remove pot from the heat and add in the sugar, vanilla bean paste, and vanilla extract.
- Let the milk cool until luke warm (112 degrees). Stir in the yogurt starter, mixing well.
- Pour yogurt into 4 individual jars.
- Set the jars in a warm spot for about 7 hours, or overnight, to cultivate and set (time depends on desired firmness). Here are some ideas of how to keep the yogurt at the right temp: set in your oven with just the oven light on, set in a crockpot (turned off) covered with a towel by a sunny window, or use a heating pad on low.
- After the yogurt is set, place yogurt in refrigerator for at least 4 hours before eating.
- Serve with preserves, granola, or by itself... it's that good!
Tips for making yogurt at home:
• Use organic whole milk (you could also try a high quality goat’s milk).
• Because the milk sticks to the side of the pot during the heating process, use an easy pot to clean or you can use a glass bowl or large pyrex measuring cup and heat the milk up in the microwave until it’s scalding (about 15-18 minutes)
• You don’t need a yogurt maker (save the space in your kitchen for other appliances), all you need is milk, a yogurt starter, and a slightly warm place for the yogurt to cultivate
• You can use your oven to cultivate your yogurt but just turning the oven light on (don’t actually turn the oven on but the light itself will give off enough heat
• You can use a crock pot to cultivate your yogurt by placing the filled yogurt jars into a crock pot, then cover the pot, wrap with towels or with a crock pot cover if you have one and set it in a warm place in the house.
• Start with a yogurt starter then save 1/4 cup of that yogurt batch for the 2nd batch and continue to alternate using yogurt and the powder for every other batch you make. The yogurt will get less firm if you use the yogurt itself as a starter too many times.
Here are some frequently asked questions regarding making homemade yogurt.
I’m so glad you experimented with adding some things before culturing the yogurt! Maybe I’ll try that too…
The thought of making my own yogurt sounded too complicated until I read this about Julia’s method. I think I might actually try it sometime. Chris LOVES tart frozen yogurt. Has anyone tried putting homemade yogurt into an ice cream maker?
Kathryn, I’ve definitely seen frozen yogurt recipes online. I have yet to try it though!
So good, Becky! I’ve never made yogurt at home and we eat a ton of it. Where did you buy the starter?
I bought the yogourmet starter at Whole Foods.
What a great recipe! I can’t wait to try it.
This is a fantastic recipe, and great fun to make with the kids. Thanks so much for posting it.
All the best, Alex
Oh goodness! I am all over this! Seriously though, where did those little jars come from?? Did you say and I missed it? I read oh so carefully. LOve them
Carrian, they are my very favorite jars to use… weck jars! The best place to buy them is online at weckjars.com or at Crate and Barrel.
LOVE THIS!!! Thanks…gonna try it next week 🙂
looks delicious! where did you find those glass jars ?
They are Weck Jars and you can find them on the Weck site online. All of their jars are amazing!!
Hi- At any point do you stir/shake the yogurt? I noticed the vanilla beans have settled to the bottom of the jars. It would be nice if the yogurt was flecked with the beans. Just wondering if you did like 6 hrs. into the culture stage or once the it has set in fridge for 4 hrs or if you don’t have the settling problem on the jar bottoms. Thanks
Just stir in the vanilla bean when you add it to the mixture but after that no stirring or shaking or it will break up the bacteria that is molding together.
Thanks. Did your beans settle to the bottom? Mine didn’t stay flecked throughout the yogurt. I noticed in the second pic down flecks in yours, mine is white with lots of black seeds on the bottom of the jar. I must have done something wrong. It is seperating into weigh and thicker yogurt. So excited to try this tomorrow for breakfast.
I have noticed that the little specks tend to sink to the bottom. I make sure and add them in right before transferring the mixture to the jars or you could even put a little bit on the top of the jars before they have to “bake” and just stir gently. Hope that helps!!
Wonderful recipe!! This is so good with homemade granola and fresh berries!
So glad to hear you enjoyed it!
What about adding jams to add a fruit flavor? Would that work? I am taking a microbiology corse and our homework is to make yogurt I have basically done it the same way as you did but added a seedless jam for flavoring. The mixture tastes fine but it keeps curtailing! Any suggestions?
I always add my jams after the yogurt is done processing. You could try adding it at the bottom of the glass jars too! Let me know what you end up trying and how it worked!
Hi! I did this without a thermometer. I’m a little worried how it will turn out. How is the consistency when pouring it into the jars? Can’t wait till they are finished =)
When you pour it into the jars it will still be liquid but after it sits for 7 hours it will be firm with a little liquid on top. Hope that helps! Enjoy!
Hey miss Becky! Ive been expirementing with yogurt making myself lately since getting ahold of my moms old yogurt maker. We use raw milk – so creamy and good! Also, Ive had to strain it to make it thick like I like it. Im going to have to try a starter like you suggest and see if that makes it thicker! And of course, Ive got those weck jars on my Christmas list:) irresistable!
So great to hear from you Alicia!! This way of making yogurt is SO easy! And you don’t even need a yogurt maker if you have a spot in the house that’s pretty war (on top of a heating vent or in the oven with just the light on). The first time you try it, you should try with-out sweetener then start experimenting, like with vanilla bean etc! Let me know if you have any questions along the way!! Also, have you ever made Labneh (a thicker Greek Yogurt – almost like cheese)? I think you would like that too! Basically, you double strain Greek Yogurt and season it with Za’atar. Here’s a good recipe for it – http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2013/05/labneh-labne-yogurt-cheese/
Came across your recipe searching for a super fantastic vanilla yogurt and this certainly delivered. We gobbled up the first batch and the next batch is busy doing its’ thing. I got a yogurt maker for my birthday and it has been a real treat having homemade yogurt. Thanks for sharing this awesome recipe!!
So glad you’re enjoying it Sharon! It’s a favorite around our house too!
I tries making a different recipe of homemade yogurt once. It used powdered milk, reg milk, and a starter. It was so awful, I had to throw it out. I like unflavored yogurt with berries thrown in on top but this stuff was more “tart” and bitter than sour cream. I will defiantly have to try this recipe! I did have a question though, you said not to stir…does that also mean do not stir it even right before eating?
You can stir it before eating but if you put it all in one container and then stir it occasionally it will break up the yogurt and make it separate a bit. I make this all the time so I think you’ll find it an easy one to master. And skip the vanilla and sweetener for a tart yogurt! Enjoy!
Why does the yogurt end up more runny if you use your homemade yogurt as starter culture? Wouldn’t the bacteria counts still be high?
The starter culture begins to get weak after a few batches so you need to use a new culture every 2-3 batches or your yogurt will be runny. Hope that helps (not very scientific but that’s the main idea!)
I just came across your website and LOVE it. I have been looking for a homemade yogurt and I think this one sounds awesome. Few questions for you. what brand of vanilla extract and vanilla bean paste do you use? Also what type of sugar do you use? We eat very little processed and usually use honey to sweeten our stuff but I am not sure that would workout well… have you ever tried it? Was thinking I could use palm sugar maybe too.
Hey Brittany, You might just try making it plain the first time and adding honey to it after its done. I’m not sure either if the honey would affect the bacteria that molds the yogurt. I use raw cane sugar when I sweeten it. Much of the time I make it simple then add honey or jam to it later. As far as vanilla goes, I like rodelle vanilla and vanilla beans or Nielsen Massey pure vanilla bean paste. Let me know what you end up trying out!
Can you use raw milk?
Great question Lynda. I think raw milk should be fine. I haven’t used if for yougurt myself but it should work well.
I make my own yogurt–but just on the counter with a jar inside a gallon thermos–because I don’t have room for more appliances. LOL.
I have never tried vanilla bean paste, but recently got some. I am wondering, since mine states it is “three times concentrated”, why I would need the vanilla extract as well. Any comments on that?
Also, my recipe is almost exactly the same (except that I make it in the thermos)–but my recipe has calls for 1 T. yogurt. In fact, in my “Wild Fermentation” book, and the “Joy of Cooking”–they state more is not better in that case. I used to use up to 1/4 c. yogurt, depending on the other recipes I used to use–but found they didn’t thicken as well. Just a thought–in case you want to try reducing the amount to save money. Oh, and this recipe I only use now also states to heat the milk first, then cool to the body temp–perhaps that is why I need less? But if yours ends up being thick enough–it would only be useful if you want to reduce the amount of yogurt you have to buy as a starter. Blessings!
Thanks Heidi! It’s good to know that I don’t need the full 1/4 cup of yogurt to make the second batch. I have found that using yogurt instead of a starter culture after only works for me once then I have to return to the starter for a rich thick yogurt. And I too heat mine up and then cool to body temp. As far as the vanilla goes, I just like the balance of a little extract and a little paste but feel free to adjust to your preference! The vanilla bean paste just doesn’t mix in as well as the extract does for a vanilla taste throughout the yogurt. Enjoy!
Thanks for the recipe Becky. We’ve been making our own yoghurt for a couple of years and have talked about trying a vanilla one. Your approach was the most similar to our own, and it really tasted great!!!
In our base recipe we do a couple of things slightly differently, that may be of interest.
We heat it to 190 (so it stays above 180 for a bit longer). When we used the vanilla bean, we actually included it in the heating process too; but only added the sugar and extract during the cooling.
Also, while heating the milk, we boil water and pour it into a 1.5L food thermos. Once the milk has cooled to 112F we dump the hot water from the thermos, dry it, and then strain the milk with the yoghurt starter into the thermos, and close the lid.
This keeps the yoghurt at the right temperature without needing to find any particular location, and allows us to use less “starter” (2 teaspoons).
Lastly, when done we strain it with a cheesecloth for a couple of hours to get it thick, stir it well and then put it in the containers we will eat from. This also seems to have the effect of us not needing anything more than the next yoghurt batch as the starter .. and the results are always firm.
We can easily go a year and never need to alternate between starters as you and other sites have listed.
Just our 2 cents.
Oh man, this is all such great information! Thank you so much for all of your tips! I will definitely be trying it your way asap!! I’m so grateful you took the time to comment. Take care and happy holidays, Becky
i am doing this recipe for school
wonderful! let me know how it turns out!
I am not a huge yogurt person but I made Honey-vanilla yogurt and am addicted. Yum!!
That’s great to hear Gayle! I think homemade is so much better and you can control the amount of sweetness easier with no preservatives or additives! Glad you liked it!
What size Weck Jars are you using for storage/serving?
They are 6 ounce jars!
Hi Becky, both my daughters are in love with wallaby vanilla bean and their banilla yogurt so I was very excited when I came across your recipe. I was wondering when you put the sugar and vanilla and vanilla bean in after the boiling if you stirred it in or just let it sit as it cooled. And then maybe did your mixing when you put the yogurt starter after it cooled. I like you was very hesitant adding things because every time I added after the yogurt was done it became soupy. The only difference with our recipes is that instead of using sugar, I am substituting honey so I think I might have to mix it a little bit. So, this long question is whether or not you mixed your ingredients when you put them in. And also, I was wondering if you ever tried banana flavoring. Thanks so much! Best, Melissa
Yes, when to mix in the flavorings is actually very important. I add the flavors in right after boiling it so they really absorb into the milk. I do stir them in here. Then I stir again when I incorporate the starter. Hope that helps!! Take care, Becky
Instead of a vanilla bean, can you use a high quality vanilla paste? And, can it be added prior to putting i to jars and into the yogurt maker?
I have used vanilla bean paste before and it works well. Sometimes it integrate all the way through the yogurt. I usually add any flavoring after adding the starter culture.
This recipe is great. The yoghurt I made tasted just like the vanilla yoghurt I currently buy. Absolutely delicious.