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Saving Money and Plastic with DIY Slow Cooker Yogurt

Make your own yogurt with less than 10 min prep time.

Now that I've made about 6 batches of yogurt with this method, I feel it's ok to share my "recipe" for Slow Cooker Plain Yogurt.  I put that in quotes, because it's a little too easy to call a recipe.   Definitely the easiest slow cooker recipes I've ever used...and ONLY because of that I think I can sustain this.

Did you know that flavored yogurt is loaded with sugar?  More grams of sugar are often found in strawberry yogurt than in strawberry ice cream.  So if you want the snack without all the sugar, you'll be better off with plain flavor and adding your own fruit & honey.

This recipe makes about a gallon of yogurt.  I recently priced out local milk and Nancy's yogurt at the co-op and found that we're saving about $8.50 on this every couple of weeks, so that seems worth it, right?  

  • Time Invested: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 Gallon + 8oz starter for next batch
  • Total Cooking/Cooling Time: 24 hours
  • Uses: Smoothies, in place of sour cream, in place of buttermilk, in soup, salad dressings, and as a healthy dessert with honey & fruit, DIY Keifer (with Vitamix & fruit), mixed with granola
  • Sugar: No added sugar

You Need:

  1. 2 half gallons milk in glass container (we get local milk from Twinbrook Creamery)
  2. 8 oz yogurt starter (or just plain yogurt) 
  3. slow cooker

Plastic Free Yogurt Ingredients include Milk and 8oz of Plain Yogurt


First, Add the milk to the Slow Cooker

DIY Yogurt in a Slowcooker, Just add Milk


Set it on Low for about 4 hours.  Check back periodically until it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit.  Don't let this get too hot, because you'll ruin the batch.  Set 2 or 3 timers if you must.

DIY Yogurt - Check every 30 Min Until a Thermometer reads 180 Degrees F


Turn off the slow cooker and remove the insert from the heating element.  Twist the lid sideways to let the heat escape and set in a safe place until it cools to 120 degrees F.  This takes about 2 hours and I recommend setting a timer.  Don't let it get below 120F, otherwise the culture won't work - it's a sad day when you lose your yogurt that way.

DIY Yogurt - Cool in a safe place until it reaches 120 degrees F


Next, gently pour in the yogurt starter you saved from the last batch and lightly stir to combine.

DIY Yogurt - Stir in the Yogurt Starter and Combine


Now set the insert back in the heating element (keeping it turned off) and cover with a towel to encourage very SLOW cooling.  This gives all those beneficial bacteria time to grow and thrive.  Leave it completely undisturbed overnight, or for a good 8-10 hours.

DIY Slowcooker Yogurt - Cover with a Towel and Set Undisturbed Overnight


Now for the fun part.  The next morning, uncover your creation!  Open the lid and gently stir the now thick yogurt you just made :)

DIY Yogurt - Stir the Yogurt to Combine the Layers

From here, I like to use an immersion blender to mix everything up to an even texture.  Alternatively, you could pour this into cheesecloth over a bowl and let it sit in the refrigerator for 1-2 days for thicker yogurt.  The only issue with that is that you get a lot of leftover liquid called whey, and it's not very appetizing (although you can put it in smoothies).   By mixing with an immersion blender, we get a full gallon of usable yogurt out of the recipe.  It IS thinner than store bought yogurt, but flavor is the same.

Finally, use a funnel to pour the yogurt into glass jars.  

PRO TIP:  It's so frustrating to run completely out of yogurt and to have to buy some at the store to make your own. Include a small 8oz jar in your group and put it in the BACK of your refrigerator so you don't use it.  This way you save just enough for the next starter.   

DIY Slowcooker Yogurt - 1 Gallon Finished!


And that's it.  Now you have plenty of jars of fresh yogurt to use in all kinds of meals and recipes.  Enjoy!


Heather is the founder of Wildini™, a zero waste company dedicated to supporting animal conservation through eco-friendly products for kids. "As a kid I always wanted to help save wild animals and Wildini is a vehicle to living that dream." says Heather. Heather writes about minimizing waste, animal conservation successes and clever products at Wildini.com.

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