Make your own yoghurt – Questions, answers and troubleshooting

You can make yoghurt with goats milk

What kind of milk can you use to make yoghurt?

Milk from any mammal can be used to make yoghurt. This includes cows, goats, sheep, camels, yaks, bison etc. I’ve only seen cow’s milk yoghurt on sale in Nigeria. The keeping of goats is quite popular in many parts of the country so goat’s milk yoghurt seems like quite a viable option.

If you want to use cow’s milk there are several options open to you.

  • UHT milk
  • Evaporated milk
  • Powdered milk
  • Fresh pasteurized milk

UHT milk


UHT stands for ultra-high temperature processing. In this method of preservation, fresh milk is heated above 137°C (280°F) for at least 2 seconds. It is also known as ultra-heat treatment or ultra-pasteurization. here’s the US FDA definition:

Ultra-pasteurized when used to describe a dairy product means that such product shall have been thermally processed at or above 280 deg. F for at least 2 seconds, either before or after packaging, so as to produce a product which has an extended shelf life under refrigerated conditions.

Some people have claimed that you can’t use UHT milk to make yoghurt. I don’t know where they got that idea! I do it all the time. In fact,  I’ve been using full cream UHT milk to make yoghurt for years. I’ve used many brands including:

  • Peak
  • Oldenburger
  • Dano
  • Hollandia

Even though there are slight variations in colour and taste, all of them make great yoghurt.

Advantages of using UHT milk to make yoghurt

  • You don’t have to reconstitute the milk as you would with evaporated and powdered milk.

Disadvantages of using UHT milk to make yoghurt

  • UHT milk can be hard to find sometimes. I usually buy mine from the big supermarkets in town. Often only the skimmed (0%) and semi-skimmed (1.5%) varieties are available. I only use full fat milk which can make things a bit difficult sometimes.

Evaporated milk

The ever popular Peak evaporated milk
The ever popular & familiar Peak evaporated milk

This is the type of milk that most of us grew up with. The most popular brand is probably Peak from what I can tell. When diluted to the right concentration (according to the directions on the tin) it looks and tastes similar to fresh milk.

Advantages of using evaporated milk to make yoghurt

  • You can get evaporated milk almost everywhere in Nigeria.

Disadvantages of using evaporated milk to make yoghurt

  • If you’re making a big batch of yoghurt, opening up all those tins one by one, pouring and diluting can be a real pain.
  • You need something to measure with so you get the right dilution. I guess you can eyeball it if you’re not too particular.

Be careful when using evaporated milk to make yoghurt. Cheap evaporated milk is cheap for a reason. Some brands of milk have some of the milk fat skimmed off and replaced with vegetable oil = filled milk.
United States FDA definition of filled milk:

The term ”filled milk” means any milk, cream, or skimmed milk, whether or not condensed, evaporated, concentrated, powdered, dried, or desiccated, to which has been added, or which has been blended or compounded with, any fat or oil other than milk fat, so that the resulting product is in imitation or semblance of milk, cream, or skimmed milk, whether or not condensed, evaporated, concentrated, powdered, dried, or desiccated.

I’ve never made yoghurt with filled milk before so I can’t say how it would turn out and how the added vegetable oils would affect the fermentation process.

Powdered milk

Kerrygold milk powder - you need to mix this with water.
Kerrygold milk powder – you need to mix this with water.

Milk powder is easy to use for yoghurt. For best results, dissolve in warm water.

Advantages of using powdered milk to make yoghurt

  • It’s available at every corner shop, which means you can buy it almost anywhere.
  • You can use a little at a time without the remnants spoiling, which is difficult with evaporated and UHT milk.

Disadvantages of using powdered milk to make yoghurt

  • You’ll need to reconstitute it before use.
  • Requires measuring of water to get the right concentration.
  • You need to make sure it’s whole milk and not filled milk to be sure of the best results.

Fresh pasteurised Milk

This is not readily available for most of us in Nigeria. I’ve seen it a few times in supermarkets. It tends to be rather expensive compared to other types of milk.

Do you have to use full fat cow’s milk to make yoghurt?

You can use semi-skimmed and skimmed milk to make yoghurt. The only problem is that it might not be as thick as yoghurt made with full fat milk. One solution I’ve heard of is to add some milk powder to the milk. This apparently makes the yoghurt thicker.

Condensed milk

Condensed milk is usually sweetened so it’s not the best milk for making yoghurt. It’s best to use plain, unsweetened milk to make your own yoghurt.

Can non-dairy milk be used to make yoghurt?

soybean (soyabean) milk can be used for "yoghurt"
Soybean (soyabean) milk can be used for “yoghurt”

You can make various vegan-style, yoghurt-like foods with the following:

  • coconut milk
  • cashew milk
  • rice milk
  • soy milk

This is technically-speaking, not true yoghurt.
When you buy these vegan milks commercially, they’re usually loaded with additives. These may affect your yoghurt. To avoid this, simply make your own.

Disadvantages of non-dairy yoghurt

  • Non-dairy yoghurt will have a different taste, texture and consistency compared to yoghurt made from cow’s milk.
  • Yoghurt cultures don’t survive for long in alternative milks. You’ll have to use a new culture for each batch of yoghurt.
  • Non-dairy milks may be more expensive than cow’s milk.
  • Making the plant milk is more energy and time consuming.
  • You may need a special vegan culture to make it work.
  • You may need to add a thickener to get it to the right consistency.

All this being said, I’m sure you can make it work if you’re determined to do so.

Do I need yoghurt to make my own yoghurt?

Pre-made yoghurt (either homemade or bought) contains bacteria. It is these bacteria that you’re trying to grow(culture) by mixing them with milk.
The easiest way to get your hands on these bacteria is to acquire food that already contains them, i.e. buy from the supermarket or get some from a friend or relative who makes yoghurt.

An alternative is to buy a yoghurt starter that contains the dried bacteria. I know a few years ago, some people used to use a yoghurt starter called Yogourmet which contains: Skim milk powder and active bacterial culture (l. casei, b. longum, l. bulgaricus, s. thermophilus, l. acidophilus). I don’t know if that is still available.

So once I start making my own yoghurt, I’ll never have to buy yoghurt again?

Theoretically, that should be the case. I usually take some spoons from a fresh batch of yoghurt and freeze them to use for the next. I find that that the older my frozen starter, the more likely I am to have problems with the new batch of yoghurt. To avoid disappointment and unnecessary stress, I usually buy fresh yoghurt once a month. Some people have been recycling their starter for years without problems.

Can I make my own yoghurt starter

Apparently you can, the source of your starter bacteria being pepper stems. I tried it once but I don’t think I put in enough stems. Anyway, the resulting mixture looked and smelt a queer. I wasn’t about to run the risk of poisoning myself when I can buy plain yoghurt round the corner.
There are several tutorials and even Youtube videos about making your own starter culture, a very detailed one here, another here, and yet another here.

The following video is in Hindi but it has great English subtitles.

To be honest, after watching this video again, I’m tempted to give this another shot.

More Reading

FDA regulations
Choosing milk
Non-dairy fermentation

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