How to Make Homemade Greek Yogurt

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Got homemade yogurt? Want to make it into thick, creamy Greek yogurt? Here's how! You just need a strainer and some cheesecloth. Works for store-bought yogurt, too!

Photography Credit: Alison Conklin

This one simple step transforms homemade yogurt into thick, creamy Greek yogurt. It’s completely worth it. Whey makes yogurt tangy and loose; straining it out makes it sweet and rich.

HOW TO MAKE GREEK YOGURT

Line a strainer or colander with cheesecloth. Double it up if the cheesecloth’s weave is loose. (A coffee filter or heavy-duty paper towel works for smaller amounts.) Set the colander over a bowl. The whey will start to drip from the yogurt down into the bowl.

You can do this in the fridge, but if the weather is cool and the ambient temperature in your kitchen is around 65°F or below, straining your yogurt on the counter is fine.

You’ll be surprised how much whey strains out. From straining yogurt made from one half gallon of milk, you can get nearly 4 cups of whey. This does decrease your yield of yogurt, but not as much as you’d think. Ideally, strained yogurt has a textural lightness, a hint of fluffiness.

Greek Yogurt Recipe add the yogurt to strain

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?

Depending on how stiff you’d like your yogurt, it takes anywhere from 1 to 8 hours. I like to strain my yogurt a day after making it, because by then it’s set and fully chilled.

GET THE CONSISTENCY YOU LIKE

After straining, your yogurt will look curdled and chunky. Whisk it thoroughly by hand and you’ll see it transform, becoming smooth and shiny.

Don’t be afraid to use a little muscle. I give every little bowl of yogurt I spoon out a good thrashing before I dig in. This whisking will turn the yogurt back into the creamy, dreamy yogurt you love.

If you strained your yogurt too much and it’s stiffer than you like, just whisk the whey back in, a few tablespoons at a time, until it’s the consistency you like.

Homemade Greek Yogurt Recipe

CAN YOU REUSE THE CHEESECLOTH?

You can use your cheesecloth multiple times. I have a special yogurt straining cloth, and it’s showing no signs of wear and tear. Make sure you rinse it well after straining, getting any clinging blobs of yogurt off. Soak it in a solution of warm water and baking soda for an hour, then rinse it and let it air dry.

I don’t wash my cheesecloth in the washing machine, for a few reasons. You don’t want your yogurt to taste or smell like laundry detergent, especially if it’s scented. You don’t want to bleach it, for the same reasons. You can run it through the dryer, but keep in mind this will cause it to shrink, making the weave tighter so it takes longer to strain.

Greek Yogurt Recipe strain the whey

WAYS TO USE LEFTOVER WHEY 

Yogurt whey is acidic, with sour power. It’s a little trickier to use than regular sweet whey (from making cheese or butter), but it can be handy in the kitchen.

  • Use a 1:1 ratio of whey to water when cooking whole grains for a little tang.
  • Add it to bread doughs to give them a sour edge.
  • Mixed it with milk as a stand-in for buttermilk in batters.
  • Use it instead of water when making pie dough. The acid helps make a flaky crust.
  • Use it half water, half whey, if using it as a cooking liquid for beans.

Whey lasts a long time. Refrigerate it anywhere from two weeks to a few months. If it’s on the older side, check your jar for mold—if it doesn’t look or smell good, toss it. I promise you’ll have a lot more whey than you’ll ever use up.

More DIY Cooking Projects!

How to Make Homemade Greek Yogurt Recipe

  • 1 to 8 hours time:
  • Yield: varies based on initial batch size

Ingredients

  • Plain yogurt, any amount, homemade or store-bought

Special equipment:

  • Strainer
  • Cheesecloth
  • Large bowl

Method

1 Set things up: Line the strainer with the cheesecloth (use a double layer, if needed) and set it over the bowl.

Homemade Greek Yogurt Recipe

2 Strain the yogurt: Add the yogurt to the strainer and let the whey drip out for anywhere from 1 hour to 8 hours. Do this in the fridge if it’s warm or intend to strain your yogurt for more than a few hours. Check the yogurt occasionally and stop when you reach a consistency that you like.

Greek Yogurt Recipe add the yogurt to strainGreek Yogurt Recipe strain the whey

3 Whisk and store: Whisk the strained yogurt until smooth and shiny. Don’t be afraid to whisk hard! If it’s too stiff, whisk in a few tablespoons of whey. Transfer to a storage container, and store for up to two weeks. Discard the whey, or refrigerate it in its own jar for up to 2 months.

Homemade Greek Yogurt Recipe

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Sara Bir

Sara Bir a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and the author of two cookbooks: The Fruit Forager’s Companion and Tasting Ohio. Past gigs include leading chocolate factory tours, slinging street cart sausages, and writing pop music criticism. Sara skates with her local roller derby team as Carrion the Librarian.

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Homemade Greek Yogurt RecipeHow to Make Homemade Greek Yogurt