I am a firm believer in early success when it comes to trying something new in the kitchen. This minimizes discouragement which can lead to the resurgence of old habits or relying on lower quality convenience foods. Success with a traditional food technique also increases the probability that the new skill will become part of your regular kitchen routine.
Therefore, if making cheese is your goal, I would suggest starting with the most easiest cheese I’ve ever attempted: yogurt cheese. If yogurt cheese sounds like something you’d like to try, there are four basic decisions to settle on before you get started:
- Will you use store bought or homemade yogurt?
- Will you use raw or pasteurized yogurt?
- Will you use yogurt or kefir, or some other fermented dairy?
- Will you use dairy or nondairy yogurt?
Then again, you can just save yourself all the trouble and buy yogurt cheese (where to find). But, you won’t get the satisfaction of learning how to make this most basic of cheeses yourself, not to mention the budget busting price of quality cheese these days.
Store Versus Homemade Yogurt
You don’t need any special type of yogurt to make yogurt cheese. Plain, whole milk yogurt from the store will do just fine although you will certainly obtain a nutritionally superior cheese if you make homemade raw yogurt with grassfed raw milk or purchase raw yogurt from a local pastured dairy.
If you plan to buy store yogurt for your first attempt at making yogurt cheese, I recommend seeking out quality grassfed yogurt like this brand. This is the brand I used for years before I finally started making my own or buying from a local dairy. Just be sure that the yogurt is plain and that it is whole milk and not lowfat especially if you are trying to get pregnant or are already expecting. This is because fertility is lowered eating lowfat dairy and babies born to mothers eating lowfat yogurt are more likely to develop asthma.
Yogurt Cheese Can Be Pasteurized or Raw
As it turns out, the process of making raw yogurt cheese or pasteurized yogurt cheese is exactly the same. The process is exactly the same whether you are using Greek or regular yogurt as well. The only difference is that raw yogurt cheese will be a bit softer and easier to digest due to the presence of additional enzymes that were not destroyed by the pasteurization process. The most important enzyme present in raw yogurt cheese that is not present in pasteurized yogurt cheese is lactase which faciliates digestion of lactose (yes, if you have a lactose intolerance, you can probably consume raw yogurt cheese and other raw dairy products!).
In addition, the enzyme to absorb the precious calcium so bio-available in yogurt cheese has been destroyed if you use pasteurized yogurt. This means your digestive system has to produce it or you won’t absorb it. This is why people who consume pasteurized dairy may still suffer from osteoporosis, but those who consume raw dairy are more greatly protected.
Can Kefir Be Substituted for Yogurt?
If you would prefer to use kefir instead of yogurt to make cheese, by all means do so.
On the upside, kefir has many more strains of probiotics than yogurt, but on the downside, the resulting kefir cheese will be much stronger tasting and perhaps not as pleasant to eat. The important and significant probiotic differences of kefir vs yogurt are discussed in the linked article.
Non-Dairy Yogurt Cheese
If you have a dairy allergy, you can substitute coconut yogurt or coconut kefir. If you are going to make it yourself, I would recommend using coconut kefir as it produces more consistent results. You can buy plain coconut milk yogurt at the store if you’d like to keep things as simple as possible.
Once you’ve decided what type of yogurt you are going to use to make your yogurt cheese (raw vs pasteurized, store vs homemade, dairy vs nondairy), the rest is easy!
Yogurt Cheese Recipe
Yogurt cheese is a soft, mild, flavorful cheese that is simple to make with a quart of plain yogurt from the store. Full of probiotics and enzymes!
- 1 quart Plain, whole milk yogurt
Gather up the ends and tie securely with the rubber band. Attach the rubber band to a knob or other fixture on one of your upper cabinets with the bowl underneath to catch the drips.
Allow the liquid whey to drain out of the yogurt. This will take several hours. Greek yogurt will take about half the time to drain as regular yogurt.
When there is no longer any whey dripping out of the yogurt cheese bag, remove the bag from the kitchen fixture and place on the counter. Remove the rubber band and lay the dishtowel out flat.
Scoop the yogurt cheese which will have a firm but moist texture into a container (preferably glass), affix a lid and refrigerate.
How to Enjoy Yogurt Cheese
Yogurt cheese is delicious on bagels instead of processed cream cheese or as a base for dips. Mix in some fruit or herbs to add flavor variety.
You can also use it to make no bake cheesecake as a healthy substitute for that nasty, additive filled cream cheese from the store!
Yogurt cheese also makes a great filling for lasagna.
Yogurt Cheese Video Demonstration
Below is a video of how I make yogurt cheese in my home. The resulting liquid whey left in the glass bowl can be used as a probiotic rich starter for fermenting your favorite vegetables. Don’t know where to start? Try basic sauerkraut or the digestive tonic beet kvass.
I promise you, once you make your first batch of yogurt cheese, you will be delighted at how easy it is. Making yogurt cheese is also a great activity with the kids in the kitchen because it only requires a few simple steps and they can enjoy eating the results!
Happy cheese making!
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
Sources and More Information
Babies Born to Lowfat Yogurt Eating Mothers More Likely to Develop Asthma
Reduced Fertility in Women Consuming Lowfat Dairy
How to Make Cream Cheese and Whey
How to Make Quark
Perfect Probiotic Cottage Cheese
How to Make Ricotta Three Ways (plus Video How-to)
How to Make Gjetost Cheese
Why I Gorged on Brie Cheese When I Was Pregnant
Sarah Pope has been a Health and Nutrition Educator since 2002. Her work is dedicated to helping families effectively incorporate the principles of ancestral diets within the modern household. She is a sought after lecturer around the world for conferences, summits, and podcasts.
Her work has been covered by major media including USA Today, ABC, NBC, and many others.