How many of you really enjoy drinking reconstituted instant milk?
On the occasions when I had to drink it as a kid, it was with the deepest loathing. It had that stale “powdered milk” taste, and left me with the uncomfortable feeling that I was drinking white water. Ick! That’s what I say!
I’ve got a very creative use for instant milk, and it’s something you may not have thought of: turning it into homemade yogurt!
I bet some of you are thinking, “Ugh, that sounds pretty complicated. I’m sure it’s not for me.” Don’t despair! While some advocate carefully monitoring the temperature of your milk through the whole process, using special equipment, I’m much more laid back. I’ve been making yogurt on a regular basis for a few years now and have had great success.
The end product is smooth, tasty, and completely devoid of all the characteristics I hated about instant milk. Once you try this, you’ll want to make it all the time!
Homemade Yogurt Ingredients
This recipe makes eight cups. You’ll need:
- 1/2 cup yogurt (your “starter”) – This must be yogurt with LIVE bacterial cultures. It might be plain grocery store yogurt or 1/2 cup of yogurt from your own last batch. If using your own yogurt, it must be less than two weeks old. Any older than that and the cultures die off and the old yogurt won’t properly inoculate your milk to turn it into new yogurt. As an alternative to actual yogurt, cheese supply companies sell powdered bacterial cultures specifically formulated for yogurt-making. These keep in your freezer for up to a year.
- Enough milk powder to make eight cups when reconstituted – A quick word here about what kind of instant milk to use: There are many different brands on the market. I’ve tried several different kinds and some work better than others. I’ve stocked up on Thrive Life Instant Milk for its flavor and quality.
To make sure your yogurt is smooth and creamy instead of grainy or chunky, use a brand that is smooth and fine in texture while it’s still in powdered form, similar to powdered sugar or white flour. Grainy milk powder makes grainy homemade yogurt. I use a brand that says to use 3 Tbsp of powder for every cup of water. When making yogurt, I round it up a bit and use 1 1/2 cups of powder for my yogurt recipe.
- Eight cups of water
- A crockpot – If you have a yogurt maker, you can also use it. You may also be able to find online tutorials that use an electric heating pad, and Instant Pot with a yogurt setting, or a dehydrator. I understand that these methods also work well. I’ve always used a crockpot and have never gone wrong, so this tutorial will discuss that method.
- A whisk
- A food thermometer
How To Make Homemade Yogurt
- Put eight cups of water in the crockpot and then add the milk powder and whisk it vigorously until all lumps are gone. If you miss a teeny little lump or two, it’s not a big deal. Put the cover on the crockpot and leave it on low heat for three hours, after which your milk should be in the neighborhood of 180 degrees F.
- When the milk comes up to temperature and /or has spent the appropriate amount of time in your crockpot, turn off the heat and unplug it. (Unplugging it is very important if you live in a house with little children who live for toggling knobs and pushing buttons that should not be pushed.) Leave it to cool down for about 2 hrs and 45 minutes. The temperature should decrease to around 110 degrees. Do use a food thermometer at each step to make sure it’s at the correct temperature.
- Now, take one cup of warm milk from your crockpot and put it in a bowl with your yogurt starter. This tempers your inoculant. Whisk it together until it is smooth, pour it all back into the crockpot, and stir it together.
- Cover the crockpot with a beach towel to hold in the heat and let it sit for about 6-8 hours. You might think that a measly little towel isn’t enough to keep it warm – trust me, it is. If you peek under the crockpot lid after a couple of hours, a warm, slightly sour yogurty smell will greet you. That aroma tells you that the live bacteria are busy doing their little microscopic jobs to create homemade yogurt goodness.
- After the yogurt sits on the counter under the towel for the prescribed amount of time, move the crock into the fridge overnight. You might be tempted to stir it a bit at this point, but this isn’t recommended. In fact, this is a good way to get grainy yogurt. For best results, don’t disturb the gel until it’s completely cooled.
- If the yogurt isn’t as firm as you’d like, add additional instant milk. The increased volume of milk solids will thicken it.
- Use a thin result as drinkable yogurt.
- Full-fat milk powder yields a richer, Greek-style yogurt.
- Not all instant milk is the same, so when in doubt, follow the reconstituting directions on the package.
- Different brands of instant milk and yogurt (your starter) yield different consistencies and flavors. Experiment to find the combination you prefer.
- Although inconvenient for large quantities, some people use a Thermos to maintain temperature for small batches.
Other Reasons to Learn This Technique
Making homemade yogurt from instant milk is a great technique to learn if your access to milk relies on its availability in stores, and it’s a great way to use Instant Milk in your food storage pantry. In addition, if you also store shelf-stable yogurt starter cultures, you don’t need store-bought yogurt either. Many varieties of starter cultures, such as Greek, Vegan, Icelandic Skyr, and Bulgarian, are available. Which you choose depends on your taste preferences. While they are more expensive, the trade-off may make sense for some people.
Great! Now, what do I do with half a gallon of it?
My children love this stuff and have been known to go through a whole batch in less than four days. One of my sons prefers it with homemade jam, and the other likes it with a bit of vanilla extract and some sugar for sweetening. I also use it to make naan, a variety of Indian flatbread. You could also:
- Drain it in cheesecloth to make Greek yogurt or even yogurt cheese
- Mix it with granola
- Make smoothies
- Substitute for sour cream
- Marinate poultry
- Make a veggie dip
- Frost a cake with yogurt buttercream
- Whip up creamy dressings
- Dehydrate it into yogurt drops
- Create parfaits
- Substitute for some of the oil in recipes
- Use as hair conditioner
- Relieve sunburn pain and itchiness
To be clear, none of these instructions are hard and fast rules. Sometimes I leave the milk warming in the crockpot for four hours instead of three. On more than one occasion I’ve left the crockpot on the counter overnight! It still turned out fine.
I hope all of you try it and let me know how you liked it!
This post was updated 10/15/2021.