Have you heard of the Instant Pot? I first learned about them from The Prairie Homestead blog and picked one up during a sale on Amazon before Christmas. It’s quickly become one of my very favorite kitchen gadgets. Primarily, it’s an electronic pressure cooker, and I love using it for that purpose. (Whole chicken cooked in 25 minutes? YES!) Even better — it does so much more than pressure cooking: it can be used as a slow cooker, rice maker, steamer, and yogurt incubator. We have a very small kitchen, so having one small device that does so many things is a huge bonus.
Since getting our Instant Pot, I’ve started making weekly batches of homemade Greek yogurt, and it’s quickly become one of our favorites. Who doesn’t love Greek yogurt? We eat it with all sorts of mix-ins or in cooking (see below for some ideas).
I realize this sounds like a sales-pitch (and yes, there are affiliate links below) but truly I just LOVE this thing SO much that I wanted to share how our family uses it. My days are super busy so anything that can help speed along meal prep, while still allowing me to cook REAL food for my family is definitely a winner in my book!
What you’re going to need to make Greek yogurt:
- An Instant Pot with the stainless steel steam rack in the bottom
- 2 to 4 pint mason jars, cleaned and dried
- A Greek yogurt starter OR fresh plain Greek yogurt with active cultures from the grocery store
- A Greek yogurt strainer OR ultra-fine butter muslin cheesecloth
- Wooden or plastic spoon
- Enough whole milk to fill the number of jars you decide to use (pasteurized is fine, but do not use ultra-pasteurized milk)
Begin by putting the steam rack in the bottom of your Instant Pot. Add one cup of water.
Next, you’ll need clean pint-sized mason jars. You can use wide or narrow mouth, though you may find the wide mouth easier to work with when it comes time to scoop out the yogurt with a spatula or spoon.
If you are just getting started and working from a powdered starter culture (I use the Greek yogurt starter from Cultures for Health and LOVE it!), I recommend using only two pint jars. If you are using plain yogurt with active cultures (either from the store, or some you made prior), you can use up to four pint jars.
Once you’ve decided how many jars you’re going to use, fill them up with whole milk. If you are using yogurt to inoculate (rather than a powdered starter), be sure to leave an inch of head space so that the milk doesn’t overflow when you add the yogurt to it in a later step.
Place the milk-filled jars into the Instant Pot on the steaming rack. Close your Instant Pot and press the “Steam” button. Use the “+” and “-” buttons to set the time for 1 minute. (Yes, that’s it!) The pot will take some time to heat up, then it will steam the milk for one minute.
As soon as the one minute is up, carefully open your Instant Pot (the steam will be hot!) and set the lid to the side. Now you’re going to use your thermometer to keep checking the temperature of the milk, until it comes down to 110ºF. This will take some time, but keep checking regularly because you don’t want it to drop below this temperature.
Once the milk has reached 110ºF, it’s time to add either your starter culture or plain yogurt.
If you are using a powdered starter, open the package carefully and pour half the powder into one pint jar, and the other half into the second pint jar. Mix thoroughly using a wooden or plastic spoon.
If you’re using plain yogurt to inoculate your milk, add a heaping tablespoon of the yogurt to each jar. Again, mix thoroughly with your spoon.
Close your Instant Pot again with the pint jars still inside, and press the “Yogurt” button. Depending on the culture, it could take anywhere from 5 to 12 hours to finish. I usually set my Instant Pot to 10 hours then check it at 6 hours and 8 hours. You’re looking for the milk to have thickened and “set up” into yogurt. There may be some liquid on the top, and that’s okay! In my experience, if you’re working from the powdered starter culture, it tends to take a bit longer (for me, often the full 10 hours) than if you are using yogurt (usually 6 hours). Once the yogurt has set up, you can carefully remove the jars from the Instant Pot.
Because we’re making Greek yogurt, we need to strain it so that it gets the thick, creamy texture that Greek yogurt is known for. Use your plastic spoon or a spatula to scoop the yogurt out of the jars and into a Greek yogurt strainer, then place the strainer into your fridge overnight. If you’re using butter cloth, lay the cloth into a strainer, and place the strainer into a larger bowl or container that will keep the strainer from sitting on the bottom. Scoop the yogurt onto the cloth in the strainer. Again, place the entire thing into the fridge overnight so that the whey can drain into the bottom bowl.
By the next day, most of the liquid whey will have drained and can be discarded (or you can try other uses for it!) and you can move your yogurt into whatever storage containers you want to use. (I like to use glass Pyrex containers with lids.)
Using your yogurt
I recommend leaving your yogurt plain, then add things to it on a per-serving basis. This way you can use it for various uses (both eating and cooking) and when you start to get low, you can make more using the remaining plain yogurt to start your new batch!
Homemade Greek yogurt, in my opinion, is almost as amazing as a bowl of ice cream, and maybe even moreso because I don’t have to feel as guilty indulging in it. Here are a few ways we like to eat and use our yogurt:
- Sweeten with honey or real maple syrup
- Top with granola for extra crunch
- Add fresh fruits like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, or mangoes
- If fresh fruits are out of season, add homemade jelly, jam, or other fruit preserves from your pantry
- Mix with a little milk, ice, and protein powder to make a protein smoothie
- Use it to substitute for sour cream in recipes
- Use it to substitute for buttermilk or heavy cream in recipes
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