2 ways of making Yogurt Starters at home with ingredients you may already have – so you can make thick, creamy, and delicious Yogurt at home whenever you want!
Making yogurt or dahi (Indian Curd) at home is so easy, not to mention cheap. All you need is whole milk and some leftover plain yogurt (as the starter) to get things going. However, what do you do when you run out of yogurt, forget to reserve a batch, and still wanna make another batch at home? Well just make it yourself!
Now, of course, you can choose to buy yogurt at your grocery store – they’re easily available, mostly affordable, and just save you the work. For convenience, I end up buying yogurt more often than I’d like. However, I’m also slowly becoming conscious of packaged foods and the stabilizers, preservatives, and flavor enhancers that are added to them. I don’t think store-bought yogurt is ‘unhealthy’ per se, but I do think the homemade version is healthier: primarily because I know exactly what goes into it. And, to be fair, I grew up hearing “homemade is healthier” so can you blame me for wanting to do things from scratch? 🙂
How to make Yogurt Starters At Home?
So you need a “starter or the yogurt culture” to make any kind of yogurt. There are brands out there that do sell pouches of these starters or yogurt culture. And if you’re feeling fancy, go for it!
I personally have never tried them. Growing up in India, I saw my mum make fresh batches of yogurt week after week, and our “starter” was always some yogurt reserved from the previous batch. You can keep the culture strong and going indefinitely. All you need is a couple of spoons to make a whole liter of the curd.
Now say you’re out of yogurt, then all you have to do is mix some green chili peppers (with the stalk on, bottom cut off) or fresh lemon juice with lukewarm milk. Cover & let it set for 12 hours. This becomes the first batch and can be used as a “starter”.
I wouldn’t consume the first batch, since it’ll lack the flavor and consistency of the yogurt we all know and love. But the yogurt made with this batch will be on point.
Now, to be very clear, I’m not saying this is how you should be making Yogurt (Dahi or Indian Curd) ALL the time. Pls, do remember to save some yogurt for the next batch, because the culture only gets stronger and more flavorful with every batch you make with the previous one.
Here’s a quick video on how to make yogurt starters and then make thick creamy yogurt with them –
How to make 2 Yogurt Starters At Home
For the Starters (makes 2 kinds)
- 1 cup Full Fat Milk
- 2 pc Green Chili Peppers (OR)
- 1/2 pc Fresh Lemon
For the Yogurt
- 4 cups Full Fat Milk
- Yogurt Starter (made above)
For the 2 Yogurt Starters:
- Boil the cup of full fat milk. Let it cool down to lukewarm temperature. It should be warm to touch.
- Divide the milk into 2 bowls (if you're trying both methods; if not just pour into one container).
- For the Green Chili Pepper Starter: Cut the bottom portion of the chilies (so that the bottom is exposed) and keep the stalk on. Add them to the milk and mix gently.
- For the Lemon Starter: Squeeze lemon juice into the other bowl, mix gently. It will curdle but don’t worry, it will set overnight.
- Whichever starter you choose, cover with a lid and let it rest in a warm spot overnight or for 12-13 hours. Let it rest until the yogurt sets. (*Refer notes on how to use the Instant Pot to set the Yogurt Starters)
- In about 12 hours, the two starters will have set. You can use them right away to make yogurt, or refrigerate to make a batch later. But use them within a few days.
- Important Note: These first batches are just starters and NOT yogurt. Although edible, you can't really consume them because they wont be as thick nor will they taste good.
For the Yogurt with the Starters
- Boil the milk on simmer until some of the water evaporates and the milk reduces a bit. This can help make your yogurt thicker and creamier. Make sure to use full fat milk.
- Once it’s lukewarm to touch, add into clean glass or stainless steel containers.
- Whichever starter you decide to make, add a few big spoons of it into the milk, mix well. Use 1 Tbsp of the Yogurt starter per 2 cups of Milk.
- Cover the container with a lid & leave in warm spot until@it sets.
- In about 6-8 hours (or sometimes longer), you will have thick, rich & creamy homemade yogurt.
- Keep it refrigerated and consume within a week.
How to keep the Yogurt culture going
- Once you have some yogurt, make sure to always reserve a spoon or two in the end. You can use this to make your next batch of yogurt, and don't have to make the starters from scratch.
Note on Milk:
- Make sure to use full-fat milk. This will give you the best results. Using low-fat milk will not yield creamy yogurt.
- You can continue boiling the milk to let some of the water evaporate – this will make the yogurt creamier.
- You can also add a few spoons of full-fat cream to the milk if you want it even creamier.
How to set the Yogurt in an Instant Pot
- Whether you’re setting the starters or the actual yogurt batch – the Instant Pot with a Yogurt Mode can be really helpful.
- If you’re making a big batch, you can directly add the milk to the pot. If you’re making small batches, then just add them to containers (with lids) and then place them inside the pot. I usually add some water to the pot and then place the steam rack – and then place my containers on it. This helps generate the warm temperature needed to promote the culture.
- For the starter: Set the Pot to Yogurt Mode to Low. The starters will set within 12-13 hours, so make sure to set your time accordingly. If you live in a warm region, they may set sooner, but we still recommend letting them rest for 12-13 hours to develop flavors.
- For the Yogurt Batches: Set the Pot to Normal on Yogurt Mode. Place your container in the pot, shut the lid, place it on the vent mode and let it ferment for 5-8 hours. Again, keep a close eye on the yogurt as timings can vary.
- With an Instant Pot (with the yogurt function), you can consistently see perfect results for both the yogurt starters and the yogurt.
How to set the Yogurt in an Oven
- If you don’t have an Instant Pot and you live in a cold region, another option is to use your oven.
- Preheat to 200F / 100C (or the lowest heat setting on your oven). Turn the oven OFF. This step is important. You just want the oven warm enough for the yogurt culture. Heating too much can kill friendly bacteria.
- Place the yogurt containers (with the lid on) inside the lukewarm oven (turned off).
- Turn the oven light on, this can keep the temperature inside the oven slightly warm.
- Then follow the same process of letting the starter/yogurt rest until it sets. You may have to monitor and adjust oven temperatures a couple of times in case it gets too cold.
- Unlike the Instant Pot, this method will need some frequent monitoring, but once you get the hang of it, it works too.
How to make Yogurt (Dahi) with leftover Yogurt and Milk
- These Yogurt Starters are great if you run out of yogurt to make more.
- However, the easiest and best way to make it is to reserve some yogurt (1-2 spoonfuls) of every batch – to make the next batch. It just keeps getting better and better.
- Homemade yogurt (curd/dahi) is cheaper, and hardly takes any effort to make. It will however not be as thick as store-bought yogurt (especially greek yogurt), since we don’t use any preservatives or stabilizers.
- If you want a thick yogurt: make the yogurt batches. Then add to a clean kitchen cloth, tie it at the top, and hang it from a pipe or kitchen counter for a few hours. You can also do this overnight in the refrigerator. Place something heavy on the top shelf, and place the yogurt with the kitchen cloth bag under the heavy object (so it holds the yogurt in place). Then place a bowl underneath the yogurt pouch on the lower shelf. This way, most of the liquid will be drained out and you’ll have thick yogurt.
If you liked this tip, you can also check out some other recipes you can make from scratch at home –