How to Make Yogurt without Starter Culture

Simon King
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What Is Starter Culture and How Does It Work?

Starter culture is a single-celled organism that converts milk into yogurt. When it is added to milk, it converts sugar (lactose) into lactic acid, pulling more minerals out of the milk. In a few hours, the bacteria multiply enormously, releasing enzymes that thicken the milk. This is how you end up with yogurt.

"Starter culture" is another word for “live culture.” It consists of a number of different bacterial strains (bacterial cultures) such as Streptococcus thermophilus, and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Because these bacteria convert milk into yogurt, they are known as "starter" cultures.

But how to make yogurt without starter culture? Before you can make yogurt without starter culture, you need some other type of culture. Unfortunately, you can't buy a culture at the store in your area (most likely). But if you are unorganized or you don’t know where to start getting one, I would recommend you order some yogurt culture online. It is not difficult and it is not complicated. If you follow the instructions and you are not in a hurry, then you should have no problem making your own yogurt.

How to Make Yogurt without Starter Culture

Making homemade yogurt is easy and fun. It’s also fun to be able to choose your favorite kind of yogurt with the health benefits that suit your needs and the flavor that you enjoy.

Yogurt is easy to make using a yogurt maker, but if you don’t have a yogurt maker, you can still make some great yogurt at home.

As a general rule of thumb, you will need about a quart of yogurt to start a new batch. (The only reason for this is that you will lose a bit of the mixture from scooping out about a cup from the previous batch to make the new batch.) So, it’s best to make extra to start with to give yourself something to work with.

You will need to take a clean pot and melt some butter in it. Then, add some milk. The best milk to use is either a whole, non-homogenized milk from your local farm, or milk that has not been ultra-pasteurized.

You will bring this mixture to a boil and then simmer it for 15 minutes. Keep stirring so the milk does not burn. Once the time is up, you can remove the pot from the heat and let it cool. This is an important step that you can’t skip.

Recipe 1

2 lbs of Whole Milk + 1 tbsp of Plain Yogurt

As long as you start with pasteurized milk from the store, you can make yogurt using this recipe. First, keep the temperature of your milk at about 110˚ F (43˚ C). Then, let it cool down to about 95˚ F (35˚C), creating the ideal environment for the bacteria. The good news is these bacteria are already in the milk, just waiting to be coaxed into action. So, let the milk cool down, then stir in one tablespoon of plain Greek yogurt, trying to get it into all parts of the milk. Add a few drops of nitrogen-rich vegetable capsules to expedite the process, although this is not necessary. Let the container sit undisturbed on the kitchen counter for anywhere between five and ten hours, depending on how thick you want your yogurt to be. Pour the yogurt into clean cloth and squeeze out some of the whey and put in jars. Leave the jars in a warm place for an additional four or five hours and your yogurt should be ready to eat and eat up.

Recipe 2

Yogurt in a Thermos

This method is also easy and does not use any starter culture.

The only difference in the principle applied here is to incubate the culture at a higher temperature.

Keeping it microwaved at 100°F (38°C) makes it warm enough to foster growth and maintain the culture.

Please note that this method is only suitable for yogurt made with whole milk. You should not try any of these yogurt making techniques with non-dairy milk as it probably won't work.

Recipe 3

Using your own yogurt culture is a great way to tailor a yogurt recipe to meet your needs perfectly. For example, you can choose to make a fruit-flavored yogurt by adding any fresh or frozen berries or other fruits to your yogurt maker after pouring the mixture into the jars.

Make sure that the yogurt culture you choose is designed for making yogurt at home. It should come with instructions for use.

All you need to do is add the yogurt starter culture to the milk and mix well.

The milk mixture should then be poured into jars and placed in the yogurt maker to incubate.

When the yogurt is ready, you can refrigerate it or eat it fresh.

You can also store the yogurt in a closed container covered with a piece of cheesecloth with a rubber band tied around it.

Recipe 4

1 – Basic Yoghurt – Make it Yourself!


  • 1 cup whole milk
  • Milk for culturing
  • 4 tbsp. of sweetener (honey, sugar or equivalent, optional)
  • 1 tsp. wild, natural yogurt (optional)
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • Thermometer
  • Thermometer
  • Cheesecloth or fine strainer
  • Clean sealable glass jars

{1}. In a small sauce pan, heat the milk until it is very hot but not boiling. The milk should be 165F. Do not let it boil!
{2}. Leave the pan over low heat for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Separate the skin that has formed on the top of the milk from the liquid.
{3}. Strain the warm milk through a strainer lined with cheesecloth.
{4}. Cover the container and put it in a warm place (70F – 85F). Allow the milk to sit undisturbed for roughly 12-24 hours. Don't forget to check it every now and then.

Recipe 5

You don’t need any starter cultures to make yogurt. You only need to add a pinch of a mild salt like sea salt and gypsum followed by a bit of live culture yogurt (or buttermilk) to the milk to mimic the starter cultures.

You can get live culture yogurt from the local organic store or simply add a chunk of fresh yogurt with active cultures to start the yogurt culture.

If you use powdered or freeze-dried yogurt culture that comes with heat-sterilized additive, make sure to follow the instructions provided. Some of them require you to heat the milk to 180 – 190 degrees F.

Here is the recipe:

  • 2 Liter milk container
  • 1-2 tablespoons white rock salt (iodized salt not recommended)
  • pure (not distilled) lemon juice or orange juice (optional)
  • 3 cups plain yogurt (used as culture starter) or homemade buttermilk
  • cooking thermometer

First pour the milk into a cooking pot. Set the temperature between 200 – 220 degrees F (93 – 105 degrees C).

If you want, you can add some citrus juice for tanginess.

Let the milk come to a boil and remove from the heat.

Recipe 6

All you need is milk. I used whole milk but you can use either; experiment to see which you like best. Heat the milk to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir it often. This kills off any bad bacteria. Cool the milk to 110 degrees. You can now add the probiotic powder. Stir it in well. Let the mixture cool to 95-100 degrees. This is the most important part. You cannot let the mixture cool too fast or the yogurt will not properly set up. In a quart jar, heat 1 C. of the yogurt you just made. I use a microwave for this. You must not let the yogurt boil or it will kill the bacteria. Add the boiled yogurt to the large container and mix well. Put the container in a space, away from the oven, that is 90 degrees. Leave it for 8-24 hours. After 8 hours look at the yogurt. If it has the texture of Jello, it is done. If not, leave it for another 4 hours and taste it. After 24 hours, it should be done. If not, put it in your refrigerator and use it within the next few days.

Recipe 7

8. How to Make Yogurt without Starter Culture

Making yogurt at home can be both fun and healthy. It also is a great way to help your kids learn the basics of making food.


Pour a cup of milk in a glass (2/3 cup if you have a bigger glass).

Pour the yogurt culture into the milk. If you do not have a culture, use 2 tablespoons of your last batch of yogurt to start the new one. Stir the yogurt-milk mixture well.

Place the glass with the yogurt-milk mixture in a yogurt maker. If you don’t have one, wrap the glass with a towel and put it in your oven.

Turn the oven on for 10 minutes (somewhere between 80 to 90 degrees). This is to preheat the oven and bring the temperature of the glass to a safe range.

After that, turn off the oven and leave the yogurt-milk mixture in the oven under very low heat for 8 to 10 hours overnight.

After 8 to 10 hours, check the milk. If you see some clear liquid on the surface of the yogurt-milk, you can take the yogurt out of the oven.

If you see that the yogurt has not yet set, you can put it back in the oven for another hour or two.

Mistakes to Avoid While Making Homemade Yogurt

As with any homemade meal, making yogurt has its challenges. Some folks give up before they even give homemade yogurt a shot, because they assume it is too complicated for them. Fear not! There are plenty of ways to make yogurt if you like.

Another mistake people often make is using milk that is either too hot or too cold.

As you heat up the milk, do so in a stainless steel or glass pot. Using a pot that is made of aluminum will cause your yogurt maker to break down the acidophilus microorganisms in the milk, thereby changing the flavor of the end product.

Pour milk into a glass or stainless steel pot and allow it to warm to approximately 107F.

Once the milk is within 1 degree of the set temperature, you have to cool it down before adding the starter culture. This is because the probiotics are not strong enough to change the temperature of the milk. In order to ensure that the temperature of the milk is not too hot or too cold, you can use a yogurt maker thermometer.

After cooling the milk, you can add the culture. Stir. Then, set the temperature to 110 degrees for a few hours.

Keep in mind that it takes a certain amount of time for your yogurt to culture. Once it has the consistency you are looking for, place it in the fridge for 4-6 hours.

Afterwards, you can store it in the fridge.