My somewhat sobering review of the best and worst brands of store yogurt has apparently resulted in some folks considering a switch to homemade.
If this is your thought process too because not a single yogurt brand is optimal (grassfed, organic, non-homogenized milk, 24-hour, no additives), I would recommend slow cooker yogurt as an ideal solution.
Most of us have this type of appliance already as it makes dinner a snap on busy days. In fact, nearly everyone I know who does a lot of home cooking has one.
No need to buy another appliance to clutter up the kitchen countertop!
Making Yogurt in a Slow Cooker
Convenient, easy, and infinitely more nutritious, making yogurt in a slow cooker is also more probiotically active than nearly all brands from the store, organic included.
It is also optimal for those on a ketogenic diet because it is much lower in carbs than store brands.
You don’t even need to buy starter culture!
What Type of Milk to Use
If you choose to forgo starter culture to save money, I recommend using dairy milk for making slow cooker yogurt.
Coconut yogurt requires a dairy free starter culture for the fermentation to take properly, in my experience.
With that in mind, which type of milk is best?
Of course, unpasteurized grass-fed milk is the most nutritious as it is completely unprocessed with all the nutrients, probiotics and enzymes intact.
However, not everyone can get easily obtain this type of milk. (1)
If that is your situation, I would recommend finding non-homogenized, aka cream top milk that is vat pasteurized and preferably packaged in glass.
Most health food stores can order some for you if they don’t already carry it on the shelf. Natural by Nature is a good organic grass-fed brand to ask for (be sure to specify the cream-top milk), although I’m sure there are plenty of others!
To Heat or Not to Heat
Yogurt made from raw milk that is heated no higher than 117 °F/47 °C during the fermentation process is the best of the best. This is because all enzymes and probiotics are preserved.
However, the results can be somewhat unpredictable.
This is because the probiotics naturally present in raw milk compete with the yogurt cultures during the fermentation process.
When the fermentation is successful, raw milk yogurt is a bit thinner than pasteurized yogurt. The texture is reminiscent of homemade dairy kefir.
Sometimes, the fermentation fails and you end up with sour milk most useful for cooking or baking.
When I make raw milk yogurt in my slow cooker, it turns out perfectly. However, in your neck of the woods, it might be less dependable.
If you want to ensure that your yogurt is very thick and perfect every time, I would suggest to boil the raw milk for a minute or two and then cool down to 110 °F/43 °C before you put it in the crockpot and add the cultures. Yes, this will destroy the probiotics.
But, the end result is more consistent with the scoopable texture many people prefer. Little damage to the milk proteins occurs from the slow heating process on the stovetop unlike the violent denaturing that occurs with regular or UHT pasteurization.
So, the decision is up to you. If you are using raw milk, the results are less predictable, although I can say that in my experience, slow cooker raw yogurt turns out amazing!
I hope this discussion makes sense! If you have further questions about it, please let me know in the comments.
With that, here is my recipe for making yogurt in a slow cooker. You can use either a crockpot or a Vita-Clay.
24 Hour Crockpot Yogurt
Crockpot yogurt is a bit more complicated than using other types of slow cookers like the Vita-Clay because some models don’t have a setting that keeps the milk at a constant 100-110 °F(38-43 °C).
Here are the suggested steps for making yogurt in a crockpot.
- Pour 2 quarts of milk into the crockpot, put on the lid and turn on low.
- After 2.5 hours, turn the crockpot off.
- Let the milk cool for 2-3 hours, checking the temperature after 2 hours with a candy thermometer.
- When the milk is 110 °F/43 °C, whisk in 5 tablespoons of plain, whole milk organic yogurt or a packet of starter powder.
- Put the lid back on and wrap the crockpot in a thick bath towel.
- Leave for 24 hours.
- Spoon out yogurt into glass jars and refrigerate.
While this recipe works, there is some risk based on whether the milk will stay warm enough for 24 hours to ferment properly.
Temperature variations in your kitchen based on season and location leave open the possibility of fermentation failure.
For this reason, I recommend making slow cooker yogurt in a Vita-Clay. This reduces the risk of fermentation failure to virtually zero because the temperature remains constant at 110 °F/43 °C throughout the fermentation period. No enzymes are destroyed at this temperature, by the way, in case you choose to use unpasteurized milk.
If you must make yogurt in a crockpot, I would suggest doing it only during the warmer months!
How to Make Slow Cooker Yogurt
Method for making yogurt in a slow cooker that is more nutritious, lower in carbs and more probiotically active than any store brands.
Add milk to Vita-Clay pot and stir in the plain whole milk yogurt.
Put on the lid and turn on the yogurt setting.
When the yogurt is finished, turn off the Vita-Clay and leave on the counter until room temperature. If making fruit yogurt, spoon in the optional jam and blend with a handheld blender. Enjoy some warm ... it's amazing!
Place the pot in the refrigerator and chill for 2 hours or longer.
Transfer the yogurt into a glass mason jar and store in the refrigerator.
I recommend using fruit jam that does not contain added sugar.
Be sure to reserve 5 tablespoons of your finished yogurt to start the next batch!
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.