yogurt in instant pot

Beginner’s Guide: Make Amazing Yogurt in the Instant Pot

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You might have noticed the “Yogurt” button on your Instant Pot or heard about making yogurt in the Instant Pot. However, if you’re like me, you may have lacked motivation to try making yogurt in the Instant Pot right away. Well, let me tell you, it’s so simple.

We had our Instant Pot for years and bought yogurt consistently over that time, especially after having kids. My daughter absolutely loves yogurt and eats several bowls a day, every day. Thus, we were buying about four quarts of yogurt a week.

We considered making yogurt at home to save costs, but believed the process was more tedious than it actually is. In my mind, the idea of cultivating a yogurt culture and fermenting milk sounded too complicated. My time as a mom was already too limited.

Well, let me tell you: I was wrong! Yes, I had to learn the actual steps of making yogurt, but they really were not that complicated. Also, making yogurt in the Instant Pot really simplifies the process!

Once we started making yogurt at home, we quickly realized how easy and economical it was. We haven’t bought yogurt from the store since! Once you try it, you’ll probably feel the same!

Plus, making something that once seemed daunting is always gratifying. Despite its easiness, other people are still amazed that we make our own yogurt.

You can now be among the amazing people who can make yogurt at home, specifically yogurt in the Instant Pot.

Benefits of Yogurt

Yogurt has a lot of health benefits, so should be on everyone’s list of healthy snacks, especially kids. It’s a terrific source of calcium, protein, and probiotics. Thus, we have no qualms with our kids eating so much.

Yogurts typically marketed for kids in the store, or even regular flavored yogurts, are loaded with sugars. Unfortunately, people often focus on the “organic” label and/or “baby/kids” label to assume a yogurt product is healthy.

When we bought yogurt, including for our kids, we would always buy plain, unflavored yogurt. Thus, making plain yogurt in the Instant Pot was not a big change flavor-wise. We will share a few of our family’s favorite ways to “dress up” plain yogurt later.

Benefits of Making Yogurt in the Instant Pot

Quality Ingredients for Yogurt in the Instant Pot

We try to buy organic foods as much as possible in our house, especially after having kids. Making our own yogurt lets us control the quality of ingredients used. You only need 2 ingredients for yogurt: yogurt cultures and milk.

You can either buy yogurt cultures or simply use store-bought yogurt as a culture starter. The latter requires less effort, since the “culture” is simply the yogurt itself. If you use store-bought yogurt, pick a flavor profile that you like. Also, ensure it contains active and live cultures and is plain (not flavored).

We use organic whole milk, since we don’t believe in any benefits of reduced-fat or fat-free diets with our lifestyle. However, you are certainly free to use reduced fat milk if you prefer.

Savings from Yogurt in the Instant Pot

If you eat yogurt as regularly as our household (and prefer organic), then the cost can definitely add up.

We love organic Greek whole milk yogurt, but finding that in the store at an affordable price is incredibly difficult. Thus, we didn’t buy our preferred brands of organic yogurt most of the time, because of the cost.

Making yogurt at home allows us to use quality organic whole milk. We can make organic Greek whole milk yogurt at a much lower cost.

Whether you buy yogurt cultures initially or just use store-bought yogurt, you only need a starter once. You just keep reusing your yogurt as culture from that point forward! You can store it in the fridge or freezer.

Taste of Making Our Own Yogurt in the Instant Pot

We like our yogurt much better than store-bought yogurt for the price!

Our Instant Pot yogurt has a similar flavor and consistency to store-bought Wallaby Organic Greek yogurt. However much we like it, we rarely want to pay full price for a quart of Wallaby.

Note that you can adjust your yogurt’s consistency and tanginess to your liking. We happen to like Greek style, but not everyone does!

Eco-Friendlier to Make Our Own Yogurt in the Instant Pot

Making your own yogurt also results in less trash. Considering we were buying about 4 quart-sized containers of yogurt a week, that’s a lot of container waste! I’d try to use the containers for crafts and such, but we accumulated too many.

Although you can put plastic in the recycling bin, whether all plastics are actually recycled is currently in dispute.

Tips Before Making Your Instant Pot Yogurt

• Ensure your Instant Pot is clean and free from odors, particularly the lid. We bought extra silicone sealing rings to designate on specifically for yogurt. We learned the hard way that broth-flavored yogurt is no bueno.
• Whole milk will make creamier yogurt, so I highly recommend it if you prefer creamier yogurt.
• Unless you like runny yogurt, definitely invest in a yogurt strainer. We didn’t realize the convenience until getting one. It makes adjusting the consistency of your yogurt incredibly easy.
• Use plain yogurt for your yogurt culture, not flavored. Choose a plain yogurt with a flavor profile you like. Make sure the yogurt container lists having live and active cultures!
• Use a meat thermometer to keep a passive eye on temperatures (See our “Note on Temperatures” section below.). If your thermometer has an alarm, then you needn’t monitor as closely.
• The longer you leave the yogurt cooking in the Instant Pot, the thicker and tangier it will be. We prefer at least 6 hours.
• Before you forget, take some of your freshly made yogurt to use as cultures for your next batch. Save as much as you need (i.e. 2 tbs for every quart of milk).

yogurt in instant pot
(whey strained out of our yogurt)
(yogurt after mixing some whey back in)

Note on Temperatures

Like many yogurt-makers, we used to preheat our milk. We don’t anymore. Many Instant Pot yogurt recipes say to heat the milk to 180 degrees using the “Yogurt” function, then let it cool before adding your culture.

The two main reasons many people give for heating the milk to 180 degrees is as follows:

  1. To pasteurize the milk from any competing bacteria (see our blurb below on pasteurization); and
  2. To denature whey proteins to encourage a better yogurt texture.

Regarding pasteurization, when we still heated our milk, we’d only heat it to 161 degrees instead of 180. Pasteurization occurs at 161 degrees

We trust that the manufacturer has properly pasteurized and sealed the container when we buy it. If you trust drinking milk cold from a milk container without pasteurizing it again at home, then you clearly also trust the manufacturer’s pasteurization.

Plus, the Instant Pot will heat the milk adequately in a pressurized setting.

Regarding denaturization, we’re not concerned about this step. Using a yogurt strainer allows us to control our yogurt’s consistency easier. Unless you like really soupy or thin yogurt, I would highly recommend using a yogurt strainer.

If you do decide to heat your milk first, we preferred the “Sauté” function instead of the “Yogurt” function. It allowed us to leave the lid off for constant stirring, which prevents milk browning at the bottom of the pan. 

Recipe for Making Yogurt in the Instant Pot

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon of milk
  • ½  cup of yogurt culture (i.e. yogurt with live and active cultures)

Note: If you want to make more or less, then use this proportion accordingly: 2 tbsp. of culture per 4 cups (1 quart) of milk. 

Yield: Your yogurt yield will be the same as the amount of milk used, if unstrained.

Directions

Step 1

(See Timesaver Note at bottom of recipe!) Pour milk into the Instant Pot. Set the Instant Pot to the “Sauté” function and leave the lid off. Stir occasionally to ensure milk doesn’t burn or brown on the bottom of the pot, until the temperature reaches 160 degrees.

Note: It takes about 20 minutes to heat a gallon of milk in our Instant Pot, but your time could vary depending on quantity of milk and whether you seek to heat above 160 degrees. (See our “Note on Temperatures” above.).

Step 2

Remove the inner pot from the Instant Pot, cover it, and allow it to cool on the counter. To cover, you can use any lid or plate that fits flatly across the pot opening (We use a large Tupperware lid.). Keep the pot covered and on the counter until the milk temperature drops to 110 degrees.

Note: In our house, the milk takes about three hours to drop from 160 degrees to 110 degrees, but your time could vary based on the starting temperature, quantity of milk, and ambient temperature.

Step 3

Once the milk has cooled to 110 degrees, mix in your yogurt culture and put the inner pot back into the Instant Pot cooker. Cover with the Instant Pot lid, but either remove the release valve altogether or turn the valve to the “release” position, and then push the “Yogurt” function. After the “boil” message appears on the screen, then leave the Instant Pot running for the full 8 hours. (It will turn off by itself.)

Step 4

You now have yogurt! If you like the yogurt’s consistency as-is, just pour the yogurt into a container and store it in the fridge to cool down and consume.

The yogurt will seem pretty soupy, so if you prefer a thicker yogurt like us, the next step is to use a strainer (Step 5).

Note: Save some of your yogurt now to use as cultures for your next batch.

Step 5 (Optional)

Wrap a yogurt strainer around the mouth of a colander, so that it lines the inside of the colander bowl. Ensure that your colander and yogurt strainer can handle the full volume of yogurt that you made, or you can simply strain the yogurt in smaller batches. Put a large bowl under the colander to catch the whey that will strain out of your yogurt.

Once your strainer set-up is ready, pour the yogurt in. If you’re not in a rush and have fridge space, just let the yogurt strain in the fridge overnight. This is our most effortless and convenient way to strain. You simply add the liquid whey back in to your desired thickness. We add about 2 cups of whey back when we make a gallon batch.

yogurt in instant pot
yogurt strainer in a colander, inside a bowl

Timesaver Note

If you start with pasteurized milk and are comfortable using it directly per our Note on Temperatures article section, you can skip Steps 1 and 2 (heating and cooling the milk first). Instead, start at Step 3 by pouring your milk straight from the fridge into your Instant Pot, along with your yogurt culture, and then starting the Instant Pot on the “Yogurt” function.

Ways to “Dress Up” Plain Yogurt

We enjoy dressing up plain yogurt the following ways in our house:

  • Parfaits (layering fruits, nuts, and/or seeds – with cinnamon sprinkled on top!)
  • Plain yogurt mixed with vanilla or almond extract and stevia or other sweetener
  • Plain yogurt mixed with a little bit of fruit preserves
  • Yogurt blended with frozen berries to make “frozen yogurt”

Also, feel free to see our article, “5 Guilt-Free, Healthy Kids Snacks for Picky Eaters – with Yogurt!” for more ideas.

Thank you so much for reading our article on making yogurt in the Instant Pot. Please tell us below how your yogurt turns out, or if you have any other tips or questions.

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