Instant Pot Yogurt

Instant Pot Yogurt? Not only is it easy—it’ll add a new spark to your love affair with yogurt! Just press the right buttons, give it a peek now and then, and in a few hours, you’ll have amazing homemade yogurt.

Instant Pot Yogurt? Not only is it easy—it’ll add a new spark to your love affair with yogurt! Just press the right buttons, peek at it now and then, and you’ve made amazing yogurt.

You don’t need an Instant Pot to make yogurt—but an Instant Pot is an ace yogurt maker.

If you love yogurt, give it a shot—I think you’ll be hooked. Where I live, I can’t find a plain, whole milk organic yogurt I like, so I make my own. And I love my homemade yogurt. It’s silky and luxurious. I’m a yogurt snob now.

Why make yogurt with an Instant Pot?

Yogurt technically isn’t cooked. It’s incubated—which means its held at a constant warm temperature (between 110 and 116°F). This encourages desirable, heat-happy bacteria to be fruitful and multiply.

An Instant Pot’s programming keeps the temperature right in that target zone, eliminating a bunch of potential issues—like stringy yogurt caused by too-warm temperatures.

Is this hard?

Nope! I have screwed up many other things in the Instant Pot—but not yogurt.

What equipment do you need to make yogurt in an Instant Pot?

  • Your Instant Pot (any model except the LUX)
  • An instant-read digital thermometer or candy thermometer
  • Optional: strainer, cheesecloth, little jars

Can you make yogurt in a stovetop pressure cooker?

No. An Instant Pot acts as an incubator for the yogurt, keeping the temperature around 110°F for several hours, which is something stovetop pressure cookers can’t do.

What ingredients do you need to make homemade yogurt?

You only need two ingredients:

  1. A yogurt starter
  2. The pasteurized dairy milk of your choice. Some sources say ultra-pasteurized milk won’t work, but where I live, that’s all I can get, and it works just fine for me. Reduced-fat milk makes a thinner yogurt than whole milk, but you can certainly use it. You can even make yogurt with half-and-half!

Some recipes call for adding nonfat dry milk to the regular milk before adding the starter. I used to do this, but I’ve not found it to make a difference in the final product, so now I don’t bother.

You can technically make an entire gallon at a time in the Instant Pot, but for your first few attempts, it’s good to keep it manageable, minimizing any (unlikely!) failures. Also, even in your trusty Instant Pot, the larger the volume of milk, the harder it is to keep the incubation temperature steady.

  • Can you use raw milk? You can use raw milk, but because it has its own microbial life already happening, your results might be inconsistent (the microbes in the raw milk and the starter sometimes compete).
  • Can you use non-dairy yogurt? Yes, but the process isn’t quite the same. Here’s a rundown on using soy milk, and one on coconut milk. People report having the most success with those.
  • What about goat or sheep’s milk? Those will work just as well as cow’s milk, though the texture and flavor won’t quite the same as cow’s milk yogurt. Goat milk yogurt is tangy and goaty, with a looser body; sheep’s milk is rich and intense.

What is yogurt starter, anyway?

A yogurt starter is the collection of desirable, living bacteria that turns milk into yogurt. You have a few different options here.

  • Any plain yogurt from the grocery store can be used as a starter, as long as it says “active cultures” on the carton. This will work, but only for a few batches, because the culture isn’t strong enough to go on for more than two or three generations.
  • Heirloom starters can also be purchased from a specialty retailer (I like Cultures for Health). It comes to you as a freeze-dried powder in small envelopes. “Heirloom starter” sounds fancy, but it’s just a starter that can culture batches of yogurt more or less indefinitely. This includes making a new batch every week or so to keep the culture healthy and robust. Usually there’s a packet of starter for your initial batch, and one for a back-up if something goes awry. Freeze-dried heirloom starters keep in the freezer forever. When selecting an heirloom starter, make sure yours is thermophilic, which incubates at 110°F. Cultures that incubate at lower temperatures won’t work in an Instant Pot.
  • You can use healthy, fresh yogurt gifted to you by someone who has made their yogurt with an heirloom starter (for you kombucha fans, this is like a friend giving you a SCOBY).

The flavor of your finished yogurt is going to depend a lot on the starter you use and the milk you use. Some starters make thicker or tangier yogurt than others. Think of this as an adventure! Consider how different the texture and flavor of assorted commercial yogurts are—same goes for homemade yogurt.

Get in the habit of setting aside 1/4 cup of your batch of yogurt to use for making the next batch. You’ll only need 2 tablespoons to get that next batch going, but I like to have 2 extra tablespoons around as insurance. I’ve also used a few tablespoons of whey as a starter, which worked well enough, but took a few batches to get ideal.

How much time does it take to make homemade yogurt?

For the yogurt to incubate and set, it can take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours. Since there’s so much variability the first time you do it, I recommend starting your initial batch in the morning on a day when you’ll be around the house most of the time. Once you have a good routine going, you can leave the house while your yogurt incubates or make it overnight.

This variability is because there are so many factors are at work with fermentation. The fresher and more active your starter is, the less time it takes (usually). The first time you use a dry heirloom starter, it often takes longer.

From milk carton to breakfast bowl, it technically takes anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. This includes chilling your finished yogurt and then draining it, if you like. If it seems excessive, remember: this process is 99% hands-off.

How do I know when the yogurt is ready?

It’s tricky at first to tell when your yogurt is yogurt, and not just warm, tangy milk.

When it’s done, the yogurt will all be one mass, not runny liquid. It’ll jiggle like loose Jell-O when you gently nudge the insert.

Sometimes the set yogurt will pull away from the sides of the insert, and you’ll see some clear liquid (the whey) floating between the pot and the set yogurt. This is all normal.

How long does homemade yogurt last in the fridge?

Yogurt is alive, and it gets tangier and thinner the longer you store it. My yogurt lasts about a week and a half in the fridge. Two weeks is doable, but pushing it.

Does homemade yogurt have the same texture I’m used to?

Most store-bought yogurt contains stabilizers (such as pectin, carrageenan, or starch) to improve its body. Your successful homemade yogurt might be a little thinner than you’re used to with commercial yogurt. It’s often a little lumpy, too. Don’t fret!

  • For smooth yogurt, just whisk it heartily once it’s chilled, and again right before serving.
  • For thick, creamy Greek-style yogurt, strain it through a cheesecloth. (Here’s how!)

What are some ways to flavor yogurt?

First off, don’t flavor yogurt until after it’s finished and chilled. Otherwise you risk messing with it setting right.

Personally, I prefer not to flavor my yogurt until before I eat or portion it. That way I’m not locked into anything, and I can use the plain yogurt in recipes.

Try some of these mix-ins!

  • Mixed Berry Chia Seed Jam
  • Lemon Curd
  • Cranberry Sauce

My favorite way to flavor yogurt is to serve it with a slice of blackberry pie for breakfast. To each her own!

Can I freeze yogurt?

Yes, for up to a month. If you use an heirloom starter and go on vacation for longer than a week, you can freeze a few tablespoons of your healthy, active yogurt for a month or so to use as a starter for your next batch. Any longer than that and results will be spotty.

What about making yogurt in little jars?

You can certainly do that—there’s even an Instant Pot accessory for it. You can also just use sterilized, heat-resistant jars. Look at the end of the recipe below for that variation.

If you like Greek-style yogurt, make one batch directly in the insert, strain it, and divide it in little jars for storage.

What are some things that can go wrong?

1. The yogurt does not set and is runny.

  • You perhaps added too much starter, which crowds the bacteria. In the case of starter, more is not better. Two tablespoons is enough to culture half a gallon of milk.
  • You may not have incubated the yogurt long enough. Keep at it, checking every hour or so.

You may have added the starter before allowing the just-boiled milk to correctly cool. Very hot milk can kill the cultures you’re depending on. Let it come down to under 120°F and above 116°F.

2. The finished yogurt is gritty or chunky.

This can happen when you incubate the yogurt too long. Next time, check your yogurt every hour or so after the first 4 hours of incubation.

Got yogurt? Make these recipes!

  • Swiss Chard Tzatziki
  • Cucumber Mint Raita
  • Turkey Soup with Yogurt and Chickpeas
  • Strawberry Yogurt Popsicles
  • Greek Chicken Skewers with Flatbread and Yogurt Sauce

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