How to Make Raw Milk Yogurt in a Dehydrator

How to Make Raw Milk Yogurt in a Dehydrator
by Sue Gregg

Over the years I’ve experimented with how to make raw milk yogurt and told my readers about them in my Breakfasts cookbook. I found, however, that most of them were unsatisfactory because the recipes never made a large enough quantity. The recipe for raw milk yogurt below is wonderful because it makes five quarts and all you need is raw milk, yogurt, and a dehydrator.

The Benefits of Raw Milk Yogurt 

  1. Using whole raw milk avoids the destruction of its abundance of nutrients and enzymes through high heating during pasteurization.
  2. In yogurt form, the fermentation converts the milk lactose to lactic acid, much easier on the digestion, especially for adults, while encouraging friendly intestinal bacteria.
  3. The enzyme phosphatase is especially effective in neutralizing phytic acid in grains, making it an ideal acid medium for soaking grains and serving with whole grain cereals.
  4. For most, raw milk is expensive. Converting it to yogurt extends its shelf life.

Raw milk is also high in Vitamin K. This vitamin facilitates the transfer of calcium from soft tissues such as blood vessels where it doesn’t belong (and clogs up arteries) to hard tissue such as bones where it does belong. All you need is a way to use your unpasteurized, unhomogenized grass-fed raw milk to make yogurt efficiently in quantity.

I don’t have a cow (my husband says he has milked enough cows) or a neighbor who has one. I do have a health food store that sells whole raw milk for about $15 per gallon.

Dehydrator Method

It was quite by accident that I found out how to make raw milk yogurt in a dehydrator. Decades ago I purchased a Nesco® American Harvest Snackmaster Dehydrator. While I enjoyed using it, it did not have a thermostat to control the temperature. So when a newer model appeared with a thermostatic temperature control, I was delighted. When I was showing off my new dehydrator to my older daughter, she responded, “Mama, you could use this to make yogurt. Just cut little holes in the trays to set in your little yogurt containers.” When I mentioned this idea to her dad, he said, “I can go one better.”

He found an inexpensive black planter pot, 13 inches wide and 9 inches deep, at a nursery store that will hold up to six one-quart jars. He covered the drain holes with black electrical tape to keep the heated air from escaping. It fit the Nesco Dehydrator cover top perfectly.

How to Make Raw Milk Yogurt with a Dehydrator

raw milk yogurt with fruit

Equipment you’ll need for making yogurt:  

  • Nesco American Harvest Snackmaster Dehydrator Lid
  • A planter pot that measures 13 inches across the top and 9 inches deep.
  • 5 one-quart jars with lids (we use wide-mouth canning jars)
  • Candy deep-fry thermometer (with wire clip)
  • Regular thermometer
  • Wire whisk
  • Double Boiler

Yogurt Ingredients

  • 1 gallon whole, raw milk
  • 1 1/4 cups (minimum) plain whole yogurt

Raw Milk Yogurt Directions

Shake up milk to thoroughly mix cream and divide evenly into 5 one-quart jars. Then, one jar at a time:

  1. Pour milk into top of a double boiler
  2. Attach a candy thermometer to side of double boiler into the milk.
  3. Heat the milk to 110–115 degrees.
  4. Pour heated milk back into the jar.
  5. Whisk 1/4 cup whole plain yogurt into the milk.
  6. Cap jar and set in the planter pot with dehydrator lid on top
  7. Incubate jars in planter pot for 8 hours or more
  8. Refrigerate. Will keep for up to two weeks.

Simplified Yogurt Making Procedure

Omit preheating the milk (steps 2–5). Consistency will be less firm and incubation over 8 hours may result in separation. Whisk it back together before refrigeration. Hopefully, it will firm up in the refrigerator after several hours.

Culturing Results

Making raw milk yogurt without destroying the enzymes (which happens at 118 degrees) produces a less firm yogurt than what you purchase in the market or make using a higher temperature.

Helpful Recipe Notes

  • Nesco American Harvest Snackmaster, about $65.00.
  • Milk heats rapidly. Using a double boiler reduces chances of overheating the milk, scorching, or boiling over.
  • Our preferred quality of yogurt to add to the heated milk is Trader Joe’s® Cream Line whole plain yogurt. It is pasteurized, but not homogenized.
  • Turn the thermostat on the lid to about 130 degrees to maintain the temperature inside the planter pot between 110–115 degrees. Tape a regular thermometer to the lid of one of the jars to verify this temperature inside.
  • The length of incubation depends on the tartness you desire. Eight hours suits our taste. Longer for the alternate method with unheated milk may cause separation.

Did I do a good job making yogurt from raw milk?

I evaluate my yogurt on the following criteria:

  • Nutritional quality—for us, getting vitamin K2 and avoiding heat that destroys enzymes is important.
  • Aesthetic appeal—thickness and separation of whey may be important to some people but not to others; how tart the flavor will be another consideration.
  • Cost and efficiency—is it worth the time and expense to do it yourself if you can purchase an acceptable quality product commercially?

I did find a commercial yogurt source while visiting my younger daughter at her bed and breakfast in Nashville, Indiana. Her favorite health food store carries a brand that meets the standards I’ve described. That was a rare find. For further study on this subject request “Sue Gregg’s Talking Food Pages” research papers and recipes related to “Making Yogurt from Raw Milk.” Just email [email protected].

If you’ve mastered the art of how to make raw milk yogurt at home, tackle making hard cheese next! It also uses raw milk. 

Sue Gregg, author of the Sue Gregg Cookbooks, and her husband, Rich, of 54 years welcome young adults for apprenticeship training in their Southern California home. They model whole foods cooking, hospitality, and mission vision.

3 thoughts on “How to Make Raw Milk Yogurt in a Dehydrator”

  1. I don’t know about raw milk, but I make yogurt a much easier way with whole milk and no electricity. It’s just me, so I do 1/2 gallon. Bring it to a boil,pour it into quart canning jars,cool in the fridge for one hour. Add a few spoons of room temperature yogurt with the live cultures (I freeze them in ice cube trays.1cube to 1 quart.) Stir it up really well and put the lid on. Then put them in a couple of big insulated cups, the kind that have the lids that snap down on them. Pour hot water up to the neck of the jar and put the lid on. Place them somewhere they won’t get bothered for 8-10 hours. Perfect yogurt every time.

  2. I bought several gallon size glass jars that can withstand high heat. I put the raw milk in the jar and then put the whole jar in a huge stock pot. I have a milk thermometer that floats in the jar. Once it has heated to @112 degrees, I add the starter, put on the lid, and then wrap the whole jar in a large towel. The towel wrapped jar goes in the oven right next the light which I leave on. I culture it for 24 hours to remove all the sugar.

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