When I started looking into making some easy homemade instant pot yogurt–it’s gotta be easy and pretty foolproof to withstand my personal rendition of “cooking”–I was expecting to see a variety of recommendations.
I wasn’t expecting the crazy, overwhelming amount of advice, tips, secrets, and must-do mandates! No two seemed to agree. It seemed I’d stumbled onto the homemade yogurt religious order, with many, many branches. It was so intimidating!
I wasn’t sure at first if it was worth the trouble to figure out.
Well, let me cut to the chase right here: way worth the trouble!
Spoonfuls of Heaven: made this topping with frozen berries, so it’s thinner than using fresh fruit, but still delish!
I like yogurt from the store so-so. I seldom buy it. But I heard people raving about their homemade. So I thought if I could make some easy homemade Instant Pot yogurt, maybe I’d like it better than store bought. But I wasn’t even remotely prepared for how much I was going to fall in LOVE with this easy homemade Instant Pot yogurt. Seriously. I am sucking this stuff down like there’s no tomorrow!
I’m not sure why it’s so much better. It’s fresher? Creamier? Thicker? Maybe it’s because the milk is fresh and I’m not using any additives? I have no clue but I don’t much care. Even if you don’t like yogurt, you very well may like this stuff. And if you do like yogurt? We’re totally on the road to happy town.
My cat, Smokey, is loving it, too! She stalks me every time she sees me with a bowl, waiting for her turn. Because I know exactly what’s in it–no additives and no xylitol (toxic for pets)–I can let indulge her just a little. And it makes her so happy!
Side note: Many cats are lactose intolerant, but can still enjoy a spoon or two of yogurt. If your kitty is extra sensitive to dairy, I wouldn’t risk it. But for most cats, a little is okay. In the incubation process of making yogurt, the bacteria eats up the lactose in the milk to set. And if you strain off whey to make greek yogurt, there’s even fewer milk sugars. So this easy Instant Pot Homemade Yogurt is easier to digest, both for you and your cat!
I’m running a few batches of this a week now with no signs of slowing. Mr. Zen, head dishwasher here, may be slightly less enthralled with this whole obsession than I am, though. He doesn’t call this recipe Easy Homemade Instant Pot Yogurt. He calls it, “Making a mess.” Oh well! Good thing he loves me.
But before we get busy, here’s a list of what you’ll need.
What You Actually NEED to Make Easy Homemade Instant Pot Yogurt (or Almost-As-Easy Greek Yogurt)
Strainer of some kind, for thicker or Greek Yogurt. Options you may already have on hand: fine mesh strainers, nut milk bag, or paper coffee filters to line ordinary colanders.
Plain, unsweetened yogurt for starter (must list ingredients as milk and live cultures). You could get yogurt starter, but that 99¢ container of plain yogurt in the grocery store will get you up and running. After the first batch, use a bit of what you made or the whey drained off from your homemade yogurt to start the next batch.
What You DO NOT NEED to Make Easy Homemade Instant Pot Yogurt
I love grabbing Instant Pot accessories as much as the next gal. Okay, maybe more. But I don’t want folks to pass this deliciousness by, thinking you must have all kinds of Instant Pot doodads to turn out some good yogurt. Now, if you want them, more power to you! But don’t avoid trying this because you don’t have all the insta-bling, okay?
Specifically, you don’t need fancy little “yogurt making cups“–what, are they feeding birds yogurt? Toddlers? A batch that size wouldn’t last me the afternoon!
You don’t need any cute little mason jars either (although if you tell your spouse you do need them, I won’t open my big mouth). I’d recommend making the yogurt directly in the pot. It’s way easier and you can make so much more in each batch, with much less fuss.
You also don’t require a fancy yogurt strainer for greek yogurt, although I’m sure there’s nothing wrong with those if you want one. But since I’m making this stuff by the gallon here, I didn’t want to buy multiple, specialty-use items to compete for storage space in my modestly-sized kitchen.
Yogurt Heads: What You Might “Need” if You Fall in Love with Easy Homemade Instant Pot Yogurt
After you’ve made this a few times and decided it’s going to be a regular thing, you may want to beef up your tool chest. Here’s what I am deeming “necessary” for myself (using the term very loosely):
Line with two oversize coffee filters for Greek Yogurt.
A spare Instant Pot liner – On my list as we speak. Got one! Each batch of Easy Homemade Instant Pot Yogurt will tie up your Instant Pot stainless steel inner liner for a minimum of 10 hours or so, and you may want to be using that pot for something else! Make sure you get the right size for your pot.
Glass Instant Pot lid – This is more a nicety than a need. But it’s very nice to be able to see what’s going on in there!
A convenient strainer – Optional, naturally! But I love thick yogurt. I really like this strainer, which catches the whey in the bowl below as it drains. I’d like to have a few more than the one I bought, so a whole batch of yogurt from my 8-quart Instant Pot could be worked at the same time. Eventually…
Heirloom Starter – I’ve been doing well so far using my whey as starter for new batches, but I’ve read this doesn’t always give a reliable set after multiple uses (or “generations” as they call it). Heirloom starter may be a good investment if you’ll be making this a lot. I’ve got some on order now.
Commercial Size Coffee Filters – If (and only if) you’re going to make yogurt a lot, consider grabbing some 1.5 gallon sized coffee filters. Line whatever strainer you have on hand with one or two for a perfect strain; the yogurt peels right out when done. And just so you’re not as shocked as I was: one order of these filters is a darned near lifetime supply.
This batch of filters will have me making yogurt from now until the Apocalypse.
Random Tips for Foolproof Easy Instant Pot Yogurt Recipe Results
There are many ways to make yogurt! Some may be “righter” than my way. I tested many times to get the absolute minimum effort required for consistently great results. However, fails happen so you may want to try using less milk your first few times until you feel like you have it down.
Fresher milk makes fresher tasting yogurt.
The more fat in the milk, the thicker and creamier the yogurt. You can use anything from skim to half and half, but I have been using plain ol’ whole milk with great results.
You’ll probably want regular (pasteurized) milk, not organic. Often, organic milk is “ultra pasteurized” with an additional heating process which can put a kink in the works. Meaning you could end up with yogurt-soup rather than yogurt-yogurt.
Greek yogurt is lower carb, since it’s just regular yogurt, strained of more whey (milk sugars), making it thicker.
The longer you incubate, the tarter (and lower carb) the final yogurt. If you’re sensitive to dairy, incubate up to 24 hours and let the happy bacteria eat that dairy right up for you. Strain off as much as possible of the remaining whey and your yogurt will be beautifully thick and virtually dairy free.
The fresher the starter, the better the yogurt sets. You can use a little bit of yogurt or whey for starter. It keeps in the fridge for up to a week, or longer if you freeze it. But if your temperatures have been on target but your yogurt isn’t setting up to your satisfaction, try using new starter.
It’s normal to have a little pooling of liquid whey in any yogurt after being in the fridge. Spoon it off or mix it in. It doesn’t mean your yogurt is going bad. It’s the same as you see in store-bought yogurt or sour cream.
Some people sterilize their pot and/or containers beforehand. I don’t, because I’m not going to be sterilizing my digital thermometer, glass pot lid, spatula for stirring, etc. If you wanna sterilize, have at!
Make sure your Instant Pot steel liner is cool (to avoid scorching milk on the bottom). Add 1 gallon of milk and press the yogurt button until the unit says "boil."
Put on lid (IP lid on venting or I use the glass lid) and allow the pot to do it's thing. No pressure, stirring or other intervention is required. Yay for lazy!
When the timer sounds, the display changes to "ygrt" and the milk should be about 180F. I checked temperature for my first few batches to make sure the pot was on target but don't bother now since it just works.
Allow the yogurt to cool to between 90F - 115F. About 110F is ideal. I take my pot liner out of the base and stir occasionally to speed the cooling. Don't just stick the pot in the freezer, since sudden changes in temperature can upset your yogurt-making bacteria friends. You could place the pot liner in a sink of cool water if you're impatient (but make sure you dry the outside before putting back in your Instant Pot base). If you don't stir much and your milk forms a skin, just fish it out and discard. DO use a digital thermometer to ensure you are within this temperature range for a good set.
Once you're hit the magic temperature zone, snag about a cup of the warm milk out of the pot. Mix your starter into that milk to get the starter to the right temperature, too.
Pour the milk/starter mixture back into the Instant Pot. I usually give it a little stir here as well, but doubt the world will end if this doesn't happen.
Incubating Homemade Instant Pot Yogurt
Start pushing the yogurt button until the cycle lights up as "normal" in the middle (NOT less, with the default time of 24 hours)! The default for the normal setting is 8 hours if you have a DUO and have not made yogurt previously. Otherwise, it remembers your last selected incubation time. You can now set the time anywhere between 8 and 24 hours. I set mine to 23 and 1/2 hours, so it will just continue to incubate until I'm ready to pull it out. But not setting it to the full 24-hour max makes it easy to visually distinguish between the default time of the low cycle. The pot will keep the yogurt at the correct temperature throughout.
Let the yogurt incubate undisturbed! If your head is getting ready to explode from sheer anticipation, you could very gently jiggle the pot several hours in, to make sure it's setting up. But the more you leave it be, the better it will set. The yogurt smell will tell you it's working. The timer on your Instant Pot counts up for yogurt. I usually stop incubating somewhere between 8 - 13 hours total.
After incubation, let the yogurt chill for at least another 2 hours to finish setting.
Finishing off Your Yogurt
If you'd like thicker or Greek style, it's time to strain. Set up your strainer rig, dump the yogurt in there, and pop in the fridge for at least a couple of hours. As long as you chill before the strain, the whey should be transparent. If you see an opaque white in the whey, you're losing yogurt. Chilling first helps with this, as does a finer mesh strain.
When the whole deal looks thick enough to suit you, invert the strainer over your storage container and the yogurt will plop right out.
Now you can to add sweetener or flavoring if desired, or leave it plain. I love Greek Yogurt with some homemade fruit topping, or used in place of sour cream. Strain overnight to make a thicker Yogurt Cheese, like softened cream cheese in texture. Delicious!
Discard the strained off whey, or set aside and freeze some for a starter for your next batch.
NOTE: Carbs are adjusted to account for the difference between whole milk as it started and "yogurtized" milk, where the bacteria has consumed the milk sugars. It's really difficult to find clear information on nutritionals because commercial manufacturers have to use the numbers from the milk as-is due to labeling guidelines. I've done my best to extrapolate from the info I have, but your mileage may vary.I hear alternative milks often work, although the taste or texture of the yogurt may be different depending on what you use. Some people also add thickeners to make up for difference in texture. I haven't used anything other than whole milk for mine so I cannot comment on that from personal experience without experimenting more. You may find that you can do regular milk with a longer incubation time to eliminate more dairy and save yourself the trouble, though.