May 3, 2015

How to Make Thick and Creamy Vanilla Yogurt |


Have you priced yogurt at the grocery store lately? In my area, Stoneyfield’s organic French-vanilla yogurt is $5 per quart! The way my kids eat yogurt, I would go bankrupt if I had to pay that price.

Making yogurt at home is easy and saves a ton of money. More importantly, the yogurt is delicious. Doesn’t that photo above just look decadent?

It’s even better once you’ve mixed chocolate chips into it! (Not that I would know anything about that.)

Let me take you step by step through how I make my yogurt, why mine comes out so thick and creamy, and how the cost savings add up. Plus, I have some flavor variations you’re going to love. 

How to Make Vanilla Yogurt

To make vanilla yogurt, you’re going to need (amounts are based on my yogurt maker):

  • 4 cups of milk- raw or pasteurized, just not ultra-pasteurized
  • 3-4 tablespoons of yogurt as a starter or an equivalent of powdered yogurt starter
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract 
  • 1 teaspoon of gelatin
  • A double boiler
  • A thermometer
  • A yogurt maker- anything that works as an incubator for the yogurt
  • A muslin bag or cheesecloth 
  • Your choice of sweetener

How to Make Thick Creamy Vanilla Yogurt | Ingredients |

You aren’t going to believe how simple this is to make.

You’re going to put your milk in the double boiler with the teaspoon of vanilla and sprinkle in the teaspoon of gelatin. Heat the milk to between 160°F-180°F, and keep it there for 30 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent the milk from forming a skin.

After the 30 minutes is over, let the milk cool down to between 110°F-115°F, mix in your starter, and pour it into your yogurt maker.

Let it incubate for 6-12 hours, or even up to 24. The longer it sits, the thicker it gets. However, the longer it site, the more sour it gets as well. I usually make this before bed and let it set up over night. 

The next day, the yogurt has set up. A little whey will have separated from the yogurt, but much of the moisture is still in the yogurt. You can mix it all together, strain out some of the whey, or strain out as much whey as possible. It’s up to you. I pour the yogurt into a muslin bag and hang it with a bowl underneath to catch the whey.

Do NOT throw out that whey! You can use that why to help speed up the fermentation process when making homemade sauerkraut and other pickled veggies, as well as for soaking your grains to make them more digestible. 

If you used a muslin bag, just rinse it clean of yogurt under the sink, then boil and hang to dry. Perfectly clean and ready for your next batch.

That’s it. You’re done.

How Much Yogurt Does This Make and How Much Money Do I Save? 

It depends on how much whey you strain out. If you skip the straining, and just mix it into the yogurt until smooth, you will get as much yogurt out as you put milk in. So, if you have a gallon of milk you make into yogurt (16 cups or 4 quarts) that is how much yogurt you will get back. If, however, you strain out your whey, you can get significantly less. When I strain out as much whey as possible, I get about half the amount in yogurt as I put in milk. 

As far as savings, based on 1 quart of yogurt going for abut $5 where I live. By making it myself with milk for which I pay $6 a gallon, I will end up with at least 2 quarts of well-strained yogurt from a gallon. This would make my yogurt $3 per quart. If I were making more soft yogurt, and kept the whey in, I could get up to 4 quarts back, making my yogurt $1.50 per quart. I can’t even begin to figure out how tiny of a cost the vanilla or the gelatin would be. Toss in a nickle. Homemade still wins the frugal contest. 


If you’d like to know more, here’s some useful information for your yogurt making adventure. 

Your Milk

We have an incredible raw dairy nearby, so that’s what I use. However, you can use any kind of milk- raw, pasteurized, skim, low-fat, full-fat, homogenized or non-homogenized. Just do not use ultra-pasteurized. There’s just no life left in that stuff. You will almost always end up with a thin, runny end-product. 

In the demo video above, I used full-fat, raw dairy. After heating the milk, though, it’s not raw anymore. Full-fat milk makes a thicker yogurt.

When I make butter, I separate the fat from the milk. No one in the house will drink that, so I make yogurt from that skim milk. I do, however, add a teaspoon gelatin and a teaspoon of arrowroot powder to help it set and thicken. It’s not my favorite, but why waste the milk? 

Your Yogurt Maker

The measurements above are what I use with my yogurt maker. I have an EasiYo (actually, I have two of them). They are affordable, durable, BPA free, and work well. You can, however, use a warm oven, crockpot, or for more precision, get a fancy, programmable yogurt maker

Your Starter

Truth be told, I’ve used storebought yogurt, both Stoneyfield and Chobani, and had good results. Once I made my own yogurt from these, I would just keep some aside to use as my starter for the next batch. You must, however, get plain yogurt only. No flavors, thickeners, or stablizers. Otherwise, you will end up with flavor traces throughout every other batch you make from it and also get a strange texture.

You can also buy powdered yogurt starters. These typically have a better success rate than store-bought yogurts as starters. There are some that are good for one batch only and others, “heirloom” cultures, that you can keep making additional batches from.  The best place to get these is from Cultures for Health.  


For this, I used my own homemade vanilla extract. You could use any extract you like. Chocolate might be a nice treat. You could also use vanilla beans,cinnamon chips or sticks, mint leaves, or citrus zests while the milk is heating. Just strain these out before adding your yogurt starter. 

I’m going to experiment with making and using a vanilla glycerite instead of an extract. It should allow me to add both vanilla and sweetness at the same time. Glycerites are made with glycerin and are a sugar alcohol. The nice thing about glycerin is that it doesn’t cause spikes in blood glucose. So, this is something I’m eager to try. 

Another option, which is a flavoring/sweetener combo, is to add jam. Strawberry jam is my personal favorite. 


Use whatever you like to sweeten your yogurt. Plain sugar, organic sugar, coconut palm sugar, maple syrup, honey, stevia extract, etc. Something that’s not all that common, but is delicious, is yacon syrup. Yacon has a sweet flavor somewhat like caramel. It also a low-glycemic sweetener. I would love to try and grow my own yacons and make my own syrup, but one brand I like is this one from Nature Botanicals. 


This is my primary thickener. While I could use powdered milk, Ultra Gel (I use this gluten-free thickener for my sweet & sour sauce), or guar gum, gelatin has a clear advantage. We actually need gelatin. Gelatin helps to keep our joints healthy, improves digestion, and improves the appearance of our skin and hair. This is the one thickener that makes your yogurt even more healthy than it already is, so why not use it? 

I only use Great Lakes gelatin because it’s from grassfed cows, not from feedlot animals. 

How to Make Homemade Yogurt Thick Like Commercially-Made Yogurt

Homemade yogurt can be a little on the runny side. As mentioned above, however, there are a few things you can do to end up with thick yogurt like you buy at the store. Here’s a summary of those tips:

  • Simmer your milk between 160°F-180°F for 30 minutes. 
  • Use full-fat milk.
  • Use a thickener like gelatin, arrow root powder, powdered milk, Ultra Gel, or guar gum, especially with lower-fat milks.

Yogurt Cheesecake?

Sometimes, I strain out all the whey and make yogurt cheese. I add sugar and an extra teaspoon of gelatin, and make a small yogurt cheesecake from it. It isn’t necessarily “healthy”, because of the sugar content. But, hey, it’s got healthy bacteria, and that’s something regular cheesecake can’t claim. 

How do you like to use your homemade yogurt? 

About the Author Homesteading Mom

Homesteading Mom is run by Cat Ellis, an herbalist, prepper and aspiring homesteader. Cat is the author of two books, Prepper's Natural Medicine and Prepping for a Pandemic. Cat Ellis also blogs at,, and

  • I really enjoyed your post. I have experimented with making yogurt one time. I don't have a yogurt maker so I preheated my oven to 200 degrees and then turned it off and let my yogurt incubate that way. It worked really well! I am anxious to try your recipe! I used my homemade yogurt to make scrumptious parfaits. I have 3 boys, and they love those!!
    • Oh my gosh... I'm sorry. There are several ways you could add flavorings and sweeteners. First, make sure that you have saved some of the unflavored, unsweetened yogurt. I make some yogurt just plain and unsweetened and use that as my starter for other batches of yogurt. You can add the sweetener to the milk while its heating, or wait until the yogurt is done incubating and is set up. I will also leave it plain, and just stir in either honey or maple syrup right before serving to the kids.
    • For me, I've found that adding the sweetener after the milk cools down to incubating temp is right. I add the vanilla (or, we actually really like the pure almond extract for flavoring) and the sweetener (we use pure liquid Stevia extract for a sweetener) and stir them both in good, and then I mix in the starter and incubate.
  • Does this taste at all similar to the vanilla yogurt that is in the yogurt parfait at McDonald's? That's the only vanilla yogurt my kids will eat. .I've spent hundreds of dollars trying all of the vanilla yogurts at the grocery store and they are either to tangy or sour for their taste.
    • I have no idea what a McDonald's yogurt parfait tastes like. I imagine it's highly sweetened. You could certainly add sugar to this, but I'm not sure how to compare the two since I haven't had the treat you're looking to replicate.
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