Six experiments, one goal: Find the one no-fail recipe for perfect yogurt at home, with or without sous vide.
I consume yogurt on a near-daily basis. And I’ve heard it’s pretty easy to make, but I’ve always been concerned about the temperature dropping too low or being too high. I don’t know, intentionally messing around with bacteria sounded like risky business to me. Sous vide seemed like the perfect solution.
So of course, I read a million recipes first to see where they all diverged and where they came together. I read about using store bought yogurt for a starter, and about using probiotic capsules for a starter. I also wanted to experiment with making vegan coconut yogurt. But all of the recipes I found for coconut yogurt had a bunch of extra ingredients added in to sweeten or thicken it. I wasn’t going to put up with that! I figured I could probably get away with following the same process as for dairy yogurt – add a vegan yogurt starter, or add probiotics. I decided to try a few different combinations for each and see which I liked best. Test kitchen time!
Off I went to gather my supplies. Then while I was at the store, I saw raw milk, and wondered if it would taste any different than the whole milk I’d planned to buy (considering I was going to essentially be pasteurizing [or re-pasteurizing] them both at home first).
I bought a dairy yogurt containing only milk and probiotics with no other additives. But then I noticed my coconut yogurt starter was full of additives! I wasn’t going for it. Ugh, it’s not even vegan. How did I miss ingredient #1??
So my split test for the vegan yogurt became using whole coconut milk and coconut cream, both with just the probiotics. I did make sure to get the ones I could find with the least additives.
Now our contenders are:
- Whole milk + yogurt
- Whole milk + probiotic capsule
- Raw milk + yogurt
- Raw milk + probiotic capsule
- Coconut milk + probiotic capsule
- Coconut cream + probiotic capsule
All essentially treated the same:
- Dairy milks heated to 180°F(82°C) then cooled (skipped this step with coconut milks)
- Add starter of choice
- Set in 110°F(43°C) water bath for 24 hours (6-24 is optional, but I went for optimal tang. And maximum convenience to my schedule.)
Here’s what I learned:
The stand out winner was the whole milk + yogurt starter. Very much like store-bought yogurt: thick and creamy, and I felt no desire to strain it, though if you want the full-throttle Greek-style yogurt, you can. Whole milk + probiotic was a close second.
The raw milk + yogurt was lighter in flavor than the whole, with a more noticeable tang to it. Still ok, but didn’t seem worth the extra cost and effort for obtaining raw milk. Raw milk + probiotic was even lighter and tangier. But not in an awesome way. Don’t recommend.
Finally, there’s a reason there are all of those extra ingredients in coconut yogurt. Coconut milk + probiotics = sour coconut milk. Don’t do it. Same for the coconut cream. Back to the drawing board for that one, and next time I’ll add a sugar of some sort to give the bacteria something to munch on.
As for thickness, I found that refrigerating the coconut milk overnight and only skimming the thick stuff off the top did the trick and produced a far thicker final product than even the coconut cream did. I’m hoping that means no need for tapioca or other thickeners when I try again.
Final takeaway: I’m not convinced this is a project that benefits from sous vide over traditional methods – leaving in an oven that stays about 110ºF when turned off overnight, or using a 110ºF water bath in an insulated cooler (poor-man’s sous vide). But it was really easy, and I don’t see any reason not to do it this way if you have the set up.
Use whole milk and store bought Greek yogurt. Stick it in an oven that can stay at 110ºF when turned off overnight for the easiest route to amazing homemade yogurt.
- 8 cups (2qt/1/2 gal/1.9L) whole milk
- 4 Tablespoons (1/4 c/60mL) plain yogurt with live, active cultures
- Prepare jars by sterilizing with boiling water or in the dishwasher.
- In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, bring milk to 180°F(82°C). Stir regularly to prevent scorching, but if it does stick to the bottom of the pan, just leave it. Don't try to scrape it up.
- Once milk has reached temperature, allow it to cool to 110°(43°C). (Place in an ice bath if you want to speed it up.)
- When milk has cooled, add yogurt to the pot and whisk thoroughly to combine.
- Pour into clean, sterilized jars.
- Place in environment that will maintain 110°-120°F(43°-49°C) for 6-24 hours. The longer yogurt sits, the thicker and more tart it becomes.
- Place jars in refrigerator for at least six hours to halt culturing and set yogurt.
- Place a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and line it with two layers of cheese cloth.
- Spoon yogurt into lined strainer and allow to drain for two hours or until desired thickness is achieved.
- Store in fridge for up to two weeks.
This recipe was made using the Nomiku Immersion Circulator.
P.S. The leftover whey from making Greek yogurt is great for overnight oats! Add equal parts whey, yogurt, and oats to a jar, and leave overnight in the fridge. Easy breakfast!