How to Make Yogurt from Raw Cow’s Milk

Making Yogurt

You say you make your own yogurt, and people look at you like you’ve reached a whole new level of crunchy weirdness.  It’s okay…I make my own kombucha too, and that gets a whole other range of weird looks!

I’ve made yogurt quite a bit over the past few years, and it’s actually really easy.  However, I’ve never used raw milk before.  Since moving down to Boise, we’ve been able to get raw milk really easily, and last weekend I had an extra half gallon.  Of course, I decided to make yogurt out of it!  

Since this was kind of an experiment (first time ever with raw milk), it didn’t turn out quite as good as batches I’ve made before.  However, it’s still super rich and creamy, thick, and FULL of delicious probiotics.

It sounds super crazy complicated, but the raw milk actually doesn’t add anything to the process.  Cool, huh?  Here’s how it works:

Supplies Needed –

  • Raw Milk
  • A Crock Pot (I have one like this)
  • Thermometer (a candy thermometer works just fine)
  • Yogurt culture (you can get a fancy yogurt starter, or you can just use plain yogurt – just make sure there’s nothing added like sugar, and it has live cultures)
  • A heating pad (make sure it doesn’t have an automatic shut off)
  • A large towel
  • A white T-shirt
  • A strainer

Yogurt in 6 easy steps:

  1. Pour the milk into the crockpot and turn it on high.  Set aside for 2 hours.  After the 2 hours pass, check the temperature.  It should be very close to 180 degrees F.
  2. Once the milk reaches 180 F, turn the crock pot off, pull out the crock and set it in a sink filled with cold water to lower the temperature.  You can add ice to the sink to speed up the process if you’re impatient like me.
  3. After 10 minutes, check the temperature again, and keep monitoring until it drops down to around 110 degrees F.  The precise temperature is not important, so long as it’s close.  It can flex 5 to 10 degrees either direction and will still work just fine.
  4. Once the milk has cooled, pull it out of the sink, and set the crock on the heating pad, turned to a low setting.  Add in two Tablespoons of yogurt culture and mix in thoroughly.  It might help here to mix the culture into a small amount of the milk until blended, then add back into the whole container.
  5. Put the lid on the crock and wrap the whole thing, heating pad included, in a towel.  Set aside for 10 – 12 hours.  It works wonderfully to do the prep in the evening and then let it culture overnight.  So long as the heating pad stays on, the cultures will do their work.  The heating pad serves to keep the milk at the perfect temperature for the live cultures to grow and do their thing.
  6. After the wait period, the final step is to strain and separate the whey from the yogurt.  After the culture process has finished, cut a large section from the T-Shirt and line a strainer.  Set the strainer over another bowl and pour the yogurt/whey mixture in.  This will take a while, so I usually set the whole thing in the fridge and walk away for an hour or two.

Once it’s strained, you’ll have a pale, almost clear liquid in the lower bowl, and a thick, lusciously creamy Greek yogurt left in the strainer.  At this point, just scrape the yogurt into a container and enjoy!  If you want to thin it out a little, you can add some of the whey back in until it’s the right consistency for you.  Just remember, the whey contains most of the lactose and carbs from the milk.

A couple of notes about raw milk:

Heating to 180 degrees serves to kill off any harmful bacterias that might want to grow along with your healthy probiotics.  This is necessary even with pasteurized milk, and yogurt won’t set properly if it’s not heated first.

I left this batch to culture for over 12 hours.  That was too long for the raw milk, and the texture turned out a little lumpy and not as smooth as normal yogurt.  For pasteurized milk, I’ve never had that problem, so in the future, I’ll cut down the culturing time a little when using raw milk.  You can see the lumpiness here – almost bordering on cottage cheese consistency, although they aren’t really curds. Maybe ricotta?

The whey came out much milkier from the raw milk than from pasteurized milk.  I’m not sure why.  Normally whey is very nearly clear, but you can see here how cloudy it is.

Enjoy!  I have been craving mangoes for the past few weeks, and am loving my fresh yogurt with a little honey and some mangoes!  Have you made yogurt before?  Do you have any questions?  Let me know!  I’d love to hear your experiences!


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