Homemade Yogurt in Mason Jars

April 26, 2012(updated on October 3, 2018)

My personal yogurt consumption goes up and down. I’ll go for weeks eating it every day and then suddenly, I’ll stop and a month will go by before I have it again. I have no good explanation for this. It’s just the way things happen in my edible world.

I’m currently is a very pro-yogurt phase. I’ve been eating more than a quart a week and started feeling guilt about consuming so many plastic containers. It was time to restart my homemade yogurt habit.

thermometer in milk

Truly, making yogurt at home couldn’t be easier. I stop doing it out of laziness, but once I force myself back into the routine of it, I’m always glad (sounds like so many things in life, doesn’t it?).

The first step is to heat the milk to 190-200 degrees F. You can use any milk you’d like. I made this batch using six cups of whole, un-homogenized milk (because it’s not homogenized, the cream will rise to the top, leaving me with a gorgeous, rich upper layer).

cooling milk

Once it reaches that temperature (take care not to let it boil), you want to cool the milk down to 120 degrees F. I do this by filling my sink with cold water and placing the pot in. The water helps reduce the temperature quite rapidly, so don’t walk away during this step.

pouring milk

Once it has cooled to 120 degrees F, whisk two tablespoons of yogurt into the milk. Over the years, I’ve tried using various amounts of yogurt to start my batches and I’ve actually found that the smaller amounts work better than larger amounts. A tablespoon for every 3-4 cups of milk just seems to work perfectly.

There was also a time during which I stirred some dry milk into each batch of yogurt I made. I’d heard it made for a thicker yogurt. In the end, I decided it had no discernable positive impact on the finished product and, if anything, left me with lumpy yogurt.

ready to incubate

Once you’ve stirred the yogurt in, pour the inoculated milk into your jars. You’ll see that my jars aren’t entirely full. There’s no reason why you can’t fill them up to the top. I just didn’t have enough milk in the fridge to make a full batch. However, I filled the jars evenly because I wanted to ensure that they’d process at the same rate.

A note about the starter yogurt you use: Make sure to use a yogurt that you like. There are a number of different yogurt bacterias out there and they all turn out slightly different yogurts. Splurge on the starter in order to make something you’re happy with.

cooler for yogurt

There are a number of ways you can keep your yogurt warm during it’s process. Some people have little machines. Others pop the jars in the oven with the light on. I’ve even heard that you can use a slow cooker or hot pads.

After trying all those methods, I’ve come to prefer using a cooler for this step (hat tip to the Frugal Girl for introducing me to this method). This Little Playmate holds two quart jars perfectly. I got it at a thrift store several years ago for a couple dollars, which has always pleased me.

jars of milk in cooler

Place your filled jars into the cooler and add hot tap water until they’re submerged, but not floating. You want the water to be around 120-125 degrees F. I’ve found that this is exactly how hot my hottest tap water is, so I use that. Makes life easy, too.

homemade yogurt

Once the jars are in the cooler and it’s filled with water, close it and tuck it out of the way for 6-7 hours. You can go as long as 8-9 hours, but keep in mind that the longer it sits, the more pronounced its tang will be. When I was working, I’d often start a batch of yogurt just before I left the house in the morning and let it process all day. It made for a tart yogurt, but I loved the simplicity of it.

When the time is up, remove the jars from the cooler and place them in the fridge. Use your homemade yogurt like you would any other kind of yogurt. If you’re interested in transforming your yogurt into a thicker product (along the lines of greek yogurt), all you do is strain it. Well Preserved has a good post on that, as well as suggestions for using up the resulting whey.

For those of you who regularly make yogurt, do you have any tips to share?

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177 thoughts on "Homemade Yogurt in Mason Jars"

  • great easy recipe and can be modified easily to your taste by adding stuff like honey to the finished products and hooray for philadelphia! i live in the NE

  • I’ve used this method with great success over the past year or two but due to time constraints had stopped for a while. Yesterday I had a gallon of raw milk that I needed to use so I made a batch of yogurt. Only thing is I forgot it and it sat in the playmate for 18 hours til I saw it on the table this morning. It passed a sniff test but I wonder is it ok to consume? I put it in the fridge right away but now I wonder should I eat it? Anyone else experienced this?

    1. You can keep it set out longer, and it will be fine. If set out even longer, you can make a soft cheese, which is edible. 18 hrs should be good. Yogurt can be “processed” for 24 hours.

  • I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong, I’ve been making yogurt with your way for almost a year, and now for some reason the yogurt isent working out. It comes out milk…I’m boggled…please help me….thank you Karen

    1. Have you been using the same culture the whole time? It might be that it has lost its potency and you need to buy some new yogurt to use as a starter.

  • Yay! Now I know I’m not alone in the way I eat yogurt! I too one day realise I haven’t eaten yogurt in a while and then a month or three later I suddenly crave yogurt and go and buy it. Then I realise I how much I’m eating and think I really should start making it again. So I do homemade yogurt and remember how fun it is. And so the cycle continues. Yes, I too will eat it daily and can eat well over a quart a week. (Sometimes wonder if there is something wrong with me.) Oh yes, the plastic guilt too.

  • I’ve been making my own yogurt for about 15 years. I bought an Instant Pot recently and am using that along with my gallon of organic whole milk. After I make a batch I freeze a small amount to use as my culture for the next batch. Before that I used a wide mouth thermos to incubate over 8-10 hours. It worked great, although I never cared for the plastic from the thermos. But I’ve always used my quart Ball jars to store in the fridge, and my half pints to transport in my lunch bag. Topping it with fresh or my frozen fruit, and my granola. So cost friendly and no plastic containers to recycle.

  • I put my milk directly in the quart jars, and then heat them in my water bath canner on the rack with water about halfway up the sides. When the milk reaches temperature, I take them out and set them on a towel on the counter to cool before inoculating. Less pots!

    Also, if you rinse the jar with water before putting the milk in, most times the milk won’t stick to the jar – easier to clean.

  • Thanks so much for the link to the tip about using an Igloo cooler to make a water bath. It worked like a charm and is so energy efficient!
    If you ever revise this post, I would love to hear whether you use some of a previous batch as starter. Some people boast about having a culture that is as much as 30 years old but just as many say that cultures degrade over time.

  • Thoughts on using a half gallon mason jar? Does the incubation time change or no, it just depends on the portions. Obviously you will need a larger cooler!