Yoğurt | Turkish Eats

It is not exactly clear when and where yoğurt originated but according to the Wikipedia entry, yogurt is mentioned in the records of ancient cultures of India and Iran as early as 500 BC.  The use of yoğurt by nomadic Turks was found in books dating back to 11th century.

Yoğurt has a special place in the Turkish cuisine because it is used as a topping or side to countless dishes.  The popular Turkish drink, ayran, is also just yoğurt mixed with water and a little salt.

Why make yoğurt at home instead of buying at a store? Three reasons: First, it is a lot cheaper if you make it yourself.  Second, and this is important - most brands put the sweetener, pectin even in plain yoğurt, which does not agree at all with the Turkish recipes.  Finally, if you follow the recipe we have here, it is really easy to make the best yoğurt.


Let's start with the milk - we recommend non-homogenized milk for the best yoğurt.  We use 2% milk, but you can use whole milk if you like.  It used to be very difficult to find non-homogenized milk in US grocery stores, but nowadays, it is a regular item in Whole Foods stores and others such as Harris Teeter in NC.  It is sold in glass bottles.  You will need 1 Gallon of milk for this recipe.

You will also need to buy some plain yoğurt to serve as your starter.  After you start making your own yoğurt, you do not need store bought yoğurt as your starter.  When you buy your starter yoğurt , read the ingredients on the label and choose one with the fewest number of ingredients.  You will need about a cup of this yoğurt.

During the yoğurt making, you will need to keep the yoğurt mixture at an elevated temperature for several hours.  When we grew up, they used to wrap the pot in a thick blanket.  In our time, the easiest method to maintain a steady temperature is to use a cooler such as the one shown in the picture on the left.  These coolers provide sufficient insulation to make the perfect yoğurt and frankly, they obliviate machines with built-in heaters - so unnecessary!

Finally, we need to choose some containers for making the yoğurt. Fortunately, you can use any kind of container you like, glass, plastic, it does not matter. Also feel free to use the reusable plastic containers.  The only trick is that you should find two 1/2 gallon containers that fit the bottom of your cooler.  You will not be able to stack smaller containers, therefore, all your milk plus starter will go into these two containers.

You will need a thermometer.  A kitchen thermometer that can be inserted in liquids will come very handy.


  1. Measure 1 cup yoğurt and leave it outside so it can warm up to the room temperature.
  2. Heat 1 Gallon milk to 180F temperature at medium heat.  A non-stick pot is recommended but not essential. You need to stir the pot every once in a while to avoid forming a light brown film on the bottom of your pot.  Be careful not to boil the milk, otherwise useful bacteria will be destroyed, which you need for the yoğurt.
  3. Allow the milk to cool down to 110-115F.
  4. When the temperature is right, add a little hot milk to yogurt starter to raise its temperature, then pour the starter into your pot, stir well.
  5. Pour the mixture into your yoğurt containers. Do not cover their lids.
  6. Place the open containers at the bottom of your cooler.
  7. Spread a towel on top and close the cooler cover securing the towel in place.  The towel prevents water droplets from forming on the cooler ceiling by absorbing the condensation.  This will give you a silky smooth surface on your yoğurt.
  8. In about 6-8 hours, your yoğurt will be ready.  You can wait more if you like, the timing is not critical.
  9. Refrigerate for at least a few hours.
  10. Enjoy!

© Mehmet Ozturk 2017