I don’t know about you, but I LOVE yogurt in the mornings. It is definitely one of my all-time favorite breakfast foods, partially because it is just so easy! I also love to add granola on the top to give it some extra flavor and crunch!
But did you know that store-bought yogurts tend to be in high in sugar? I remember growing up, my mom used to be Yoplait yogurt and then she started buying the “light” version so that it didn’t have as much sugar. Nowadays, greek yogurt is all the craze because it is better for you. Greek yogurt has less sugar and more protein in it, however, it is more expensive because it takes more milk to make the same amount of greek yogurt as regular yogurt. Also, depending on the brand you purchase, there could be additives in the yogurt that definitely don’t make it natural. Things like fructose, corn starch, and soy lecithin, to name a few.
I admit, I was first intrigued by the idea of making my own yogurt purely to save money (because I’m cheap) but I loved the idea of controlling how much sugar my little one has in her yogurt as well as being able to control the other additives in the yogurt and not be concerned about preservatives either.
When I first tried making yogurt, I was dairy-free because I was breastfeeding Kylie and her tummy didn’t take too well to the dairy in my diet. If you’ve ever bought dairy-free yogurt, you know it is even more pricey than regular yogurts and they don’t sell big containers of it (at least, not of the flavors I preferred) which meant that I was buying a LOT more plastic as well. I tried a few times to make a dairy-free yogurt and failed multiple times. I’m still on the quest to find the perfect recipe, so if you have a fool-proof one, send it my way! In my research, I had learned that dairy yogurt is actually pretty hard to screw up which helped my confidence in trying it.
I made 2 batches before I really got my recipe down right so that it is perfectly creamy and not too tangy. The first time, I made it in a crock pot. It was fairly easy, but I didn’t love how how I needed to wrap it up into a towel and stick it into a cooler bag and hope that it stayed at a good enough temperature to help my little bacteria multiply. The next time, I tried making the yogurt in my mom’s instant pot since she has the yogurt button–and I mine does not. Biggest mistake EVER when buying my instant pot… but I digress. The instant pot was fairly easy and if you have one, I definitely suggest using it to make the yogurt. However, since mine doesn’t have that button, I decided to turn to my other handy-dandy kitchen appliance: the Ninja Foodi. Ya’ll, if you don’t have one of these contraptions in your kitchen arsenal, you definitely need to rethink your budget and save for one. My husband was actually the one who had heard about it and told me we needed one and it took awhile for me to be convinced but I LOVE it. It dehydrates, air fries, as well as does everything the instant pot does. SO AMAZING. It is a pretty big appliance but definitely does pretty much everything you could want.
So, the Ninja Foodi is where I have decided is the easiest place for me to make my yogurt, but you can use a regular yogurt maker, a crock pot, or an instant pot instead. This recipe is going to be universal as long as you follow the temperature guidelines.
Greek Yogurt in the Ninja Foodi
1 Gallon Whole Milk
1/4 C yogurt starter with live and active cultures (either from a previous batch with nothing added or a greek yogurt from the store. Try to find the least amount of additives. I wouldn’t recommend using Chobani, however, I think it made those yogurt batches more tangy than my preference.)
Whisk and appliance you are cooking the yogurt in (I love my Ninja Foodi for this)
1. Sterilize everything you’ll be using. You will be keeping your milk at a temperature to help the bacteria grow to make yogurt, which means bad bacteria can grow easily too. Make sure everything is CLEAN! To sterilize my Ninja Foodi, I put in 1 cup of water and a couple drops of lemon essential oil (I use plant therapy!) and pressure cook on high for 1 minute.
2. Pour in your milk and heat to 180 ° F. It is best to go low and slow if you don’t want milk burning on the bottom of your bowl BUT I normally don’t have the patience for this. On the Ninja Foodi, I will use Medium or Med-High with the Saute button. This takes a little bit of time so I just periodically check on it. I think it took about 30-45 minutes for me. If you are using the LOW function on the crock pot, it will take 3-4 hours.
3. Keep the milk at 180 ° F for 30 minutes. THIS STEP IS SO IMPORTANT and often neglected. It will make your yogurt so so creamy so don’t skip this! To do this, I preheat the oven to 180 ° F and once my milk is at that temperature, I transfer the bowl to the oven and leave it for 30 minutes.
4. Cool the milk to 110 ° F. You can sit around and wait for it to cool, BUT as I’ve already mentioned, I don’t have the patience for that so I put ice water in my sink and put the bowl in. I keep my thermometer inside and stir to make sure all the milk is registering at the same temperature. Once it hits 110 ° F, take it out immediately.
5. PRO TIP: Take a spoon and take off the milk “skin” on the top of the yogurt and discard it.
6. Whisk in your yogurt starter. You’ll only want to add 1/4 C because the bacteria does not like to be crowded. You also want to make sure you whisk really well so there are no chunks left otherwise your yogurt will have a weird consistency. After I’ve whisked in the yogurt started, I have bubbles on the top because of how hard and fast I’ve whisked it in. PRO TIP: If you’ve burned milk on the bottom, just be sure to not scrape that up. We want that to stay attached to the bottom of the bowl so it’s not in our yogurt–yuck!
7. Keep your yogurt at 105-115 ° F for 6+ hours. Here’s how to accomplish this with the Ninja Foodi. Cover your bowl with aluminum foil, set the Foodi to dehydrate at 180 ° F (NO THAT IS NOT A TYPO) and then the amount of hours you want. I personally like doing 6 hours for my yogurt, but if you want your yogurt to be more tangy, add some more hours on.
8. After “x” amount of hours, transfer the yogurt straight to the fridge. When I’ve looked at mine, it still looks liquidy–that’s ok! It will thicken in the fridge. Often, I just leave mine overnight and then strain it in the morning.
9. At this point, you have yogurt! Yay! If you want to make greek yogurt, you’ll want to strain out some of the whey with either a yogurt strainer or a nut milk bag. I prefer a yogurt strainer since it is easier and makes less of a mess but you definitely can use a nut milk bag. While straining, you do want to keep the yogurt refrigerated though, so keep that in mind. I like to strain my yogurt for 4-6 hours because I like mine REALLY thick! Whey does come out in the beginning looking more white but once you have a bit of it is a yellowy liquid! PRO TIP: If you want, you can save the whey you collect for different purposes! I save mine in mason jars and freeze it if I don’t use it right away!
10. After straining, just remember to pull out 1/4 C to use as your yogurt starter next time and then sweeten and flavor according to your preference! I like to add 2-3 TB of sugar and then I add raspberries and granola in as well.