How to Make Yogurt with Raw Milk: A Step-by-Step Guide

Making yogurt with raw milk is one of my greatest joys and a way to enjoy the benefits of nutritious raw milk while avoiding the additives and preservatives often found in commercial yogurts.

Making yogurt and raw butter were stepping stones in our homesteading journey.

Once I realized how simple it was to make these seemingly complicated foods, a whole new door of opportunity opened up to me. What was next, mozzarella cheese??

Raw milk yogurt is rich in probiotics, enzymes, and beneficial bacteria that can help support digestion and overall health.

Making yogurt with raw milk is a simple and easy process that can be done at home with just a few ingredients.

One of the main benefits of making yogurt with raw milk is that it preserves the natural enzymes and beneficial bacteria that are destroyed during pasteurization.

Raw milk yogurt is also richer in flavor and creamier in texture than yogurt made from pasteurized milk. However, it is important to note that raw milk can carry harmful bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella, so it is important to source your milk from a reputable and trusted source.

There are several different ways to make yogurt with raw milk, including using a yogurt maker, a slow cooker, or simply leaving the milk to ferment at room temperature.

Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages, and the method that you choose will depend on your personal preferences and the equipment that you have available.

I’ve made yogurt using an Instant Pot, and it worked really well.

However, I returned to using my simple stovetop method because it created less dirty dishes and the yogurt was just as good (if not better).

Choosing the Right Raw Milk

When it comes to making yogurt from raw milk, choosing the right milk is crucial. When choosing between pasteurized milk and raw milk, I always choose raw milk for the added nutritional benefits.

Grass-Fed vs. Grain-Fed Milk

Grass-fed cows produce milk that is higher in nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. This can result in a creamier and more flavorful yogurt.

Grain-fed cows, on the other hand, may produce milk that is higher in omega-6 fatty acids, which can lead to a thinner and less flavorful yogurt. This isn’t a deal breaker for our family though.

Organic vs. Conventional Milk

Organic milk comes from cows that are not given antibiotics or growth hormones and are fed organic feed. This can result in milk that is free from harmful chemicals and additives. Always, always the top choice. However, price can be a huge set back, as organic feed is EXPENSIVE, and therefore milk is more expensive.

Conventional milk, on the other hand, may contain residues from antibiotics and hormones, which can impact the quality of the yogurt.

Additional antibiotics and hormones are not good for us and can lead to a host of problems. However, I will still choose conventional raw milk over store-bought milk.

Know your farmer. In most cases, they will never use antibiotics unnecessarily.

When choosing raw milk for yogurt, it is important to consider both the source of the milk and the conditions in which the cows were raised.

I am very picky when it comes to raw milk. I need to know that the milk was properly cooled, and stored.

Now on to Making Yogurt!

Preparing the Milk

Heating the Milk

To make yogurt with raw milk, the first step is to heat the milk to a temperature that will kill any harmful bacteria that may be present. This process is called pasteurization.

Even though we are using raw milk, which has not been pasteurized, we need to heat it to a temperature that is high enough to kill any harmful bacteria, but not so high that it will destroy the beneficial bacteria that we want to keep.

I heat mine to 180°F, stirring repeatedly to prevent scorching. As soon as it hits that temperature, I turn off the milk and repeatedly stir it to bring down the temperature.

Cooling the Milk

After heating the milk, it needs to be cooled down to the temperature required for adding the starter culture. The ideal temperature for adding the starter culture is around 110°F (I shoot for between 112°F-109°F).

Cooling the milk can be done by letting it sit at room temperature until it reaches the desired temperature or by placing it in a cold water bath.

Adding Starter Culture

Once the milk has been heated and cooled, it’s time to add the starter culture. The starter culture is what will turn the milk into yogurt. There are several different types of starter cultures available, including yogurt cultures and kefir cultures.

When using raw milk, it’s important to choose a starter culture that is compatible with raw milk.

I have always used store bought yogurt as my starters. However, there are different cultures in different brands of yogurt.

If you raw milk yogurt is not as smooth and creamy as you would like, try a different culture. I’ve had most success with Activia or Danone yogurts as my starter.

Incubating the Yogurt

After mixing the starter culture with the raw milk, the next step is to incubate the yogurt to allow the bacteria to grow and ferment the milk. This process is crucial to the success of making yogurt with raw milk, and can be what makes or breaks your homemade yogurt experience.

You need it warm, but not too cold or hot.

Temperature and Time

The ideal temperature for incubating raw milk yogurt is around 110°F.

This temperature is optimal for the bacteria to grow and ferment the milk. However, it is important to maintain this temperature consistently throughout the incubation period.

The incubation time can vary from 4 to 24 hours, depending on the desired thickness and tanginess of the yogurt.

If the temperature drops below 100°F, the bacteria will not grow, and the yogurt will not set. On the other hand, if the temperature is too high, it can kill the bacteria, resulting in a runny or slimy yogurt.

This is where using a slow cooker or Instant Pot with yogurt feature can be helpful. The pot maintains the low temperature for you.

Another thing that works wonderfully, is placing your pot of cultured milk into an oven with the light on. This light creates enough heat that the yogurt cultures.

However, when using an oven with an LED light, this might not be enough. Wrapping the pot with a thick towel also helps it to maintain the heat.

Maintaining the Yogurt Culture

During the incubation period, it is essential to keep the yogurt culture undisturbed.

Any movement or disturbance can disrupt the growth of bacteria and affect the texture and taste of the yogurt.

It is best to avoid stirring or shaking the yogurt during incubation.

Once the incubation is complete, the yogurt should be thick and tangy, with a creamy texture. If the yogurt is too thin, it could be due to too little incubation time or low temperature.

If the yogurt is too thick, it could be due to over-incubation or high temperature. Too thick is never a problem for me, but it also becomes very tangy after a while so it depends on your preference.

Overall, incubating the yogurt is a critical step in making yogurt with raw milk. By following the right temperature and time, and maintaining the yogurt culture undisturbed, you can achieve a delicious and healthy yogurt with raw milk.

Straining the Yogurt

Straining the yogurt is my favourite part of the process, because it take regular yogurt into a thick, greek style yogurt. Removing the whey ups the protein content of yogurt, and makes it even more creamy.

Using a Cheesecloth

To strain yogurt using a cheesecloth, follow these steps:

  1. Place a cheesecloth over a strainer and set the strainer over a bowl.
  2. Pour the yogurt into the cheesecloth-lined strainer.
  3. Allow the yogurt to strain for several hours, or until it reaches the desired thickness.
  4. Once strained, transfer the yogurt to a container and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Using a Fine-Mesh Bag

A friend recommended a fine mesh laundry bag from a dollar store to strain yogurt, and it’s very helpful. It has to be fine mesh though, otherwise, it won’t separate the whey from the yogurt, but will instead all flow through, which you don’t want.

To strain yogurt using a fine-mesh bag, follow these steps:

  1. Scoop yogurt into fine mesh bag.
  2. Close, and hang up if possible, placing a bowl beneath to catch the whey.
  3. Continue until all the yogurt has been strained.
  4. Once strained, transfer the yogurt to a container and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  5. Save the whey for a Ricotta from Whey.

Straining yogurt is an optional step that can be used to achieve a thicker, creamier consistency. The longer the yogurt is strained, the thicker it will become.

Keep in mind that straining will also remove some of the liquid, or whey, from the yogurt. It is important to note that straining yogurt will also result in a reduction in the amount of yogurt produced.

As a general rule, one cup of yogurt will produce approximately half a cup of strained yogurt.

Overall, straining yogurt can be a simple and effective way to achieve a thicker, creamier consistency. Whether using a cheesecloth or a fine-mesh bag, the process is relatively straightforward and can be done with minimal equipment.

Flavoring and Storing the Yogurt

Adding Sweeteners or Fruit

Raw milk yogurt has a tangy and rich flavor that can be enjoyed as is or enhanced with sweeteners or fruit. To sweeten the yogurt, you can add honey, maple syrup, or sugar to taste.

Mix the sweetener into the yogurt until it is fully incorporated. Add some vanilla for extra flavor.

For a fruity twist, you can add fresh or frozen fruit to the yogurt. My favorites include peaches, pineapple, and mangoes. Cut the fruit into small pieces and mix it into the yogurt.

Need more protein? Mix in half a cup of cottage cheese. Even better!

Storing and Preserving the Yogurt

Raw milk yogurt can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. If you have made a large batch of yogurt and cannot eat it all within the recommended time frame, you can freeze it for later use.

Yogurt can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Raw milk yogurt can be flavored with sweeteners or fruit to enhance its taste. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 3 months.

Making yogurt from raw milk is a simple step towards making more food from scratch. You only need two ingredients: raw milk, and starter culture (yogurt from the store, or a previous batch of yogurt).

What’s your favorite way to eat yogurt?