Straining Yogurt to Make Your Own Greek Yogurt (but is it worth it?)

January 21st, 2013 | Posted by Alison Spath in Healthy Habits

I’ve always been curious about straining regular yogurt to make my own Greek yogurt. I prefer Greek yogurt to regular yogurt these days – it’s thicker, it’s creamier.  It’s got more protein and fewer carbs compared to regular yogurt.  It’s a great sub for sour cream too.  (Hello, homemade burrito bowls!)

Plain and simple – I love (plain and simple) Greek yogurt.

With a quick glance at the numbers in the dairy section, I guessed I could save some money if I made Greek yogurt at home by straining it myself.  Of the two brands of yogurt I buy, the price breakdown looks like this:

Plain, whole milk Fage – $3.49 for 17.6 oz. That’s $3.17 a pound.

Plain, whole milk Stonyfield Farm – $3.99 for 32 oz. That’s $1.99 a pound.

It definitely seems like it could be worth it to buy regular yogurt at less money per pound and make your own Greek yogurt, right?

Sort of.

The How-To

What you’ll need:

Your preferred form of regular yogurt (fat content, flavor, sugar content, quality of milk, etc.)
Cheese cloth (or coffee filters!)
A colander or strainer
Bowl for catching the strained whey

Strain Your Own Greek Yogurt

Lay cheese cloth (2 – 3 layers thick) into colander or strainer. Pour desired amount of yogurt into cheese cloth. Cover lightly (with cheese cloth or plate), place in fridge and leave it alone for 12 – 24 hours.

Pour Yogurt Into Cheesecloth Wrap in Cheesecloth

When you come back, all the whey will be strained out of your yogurt and you’ll be left with thick, creamy Greek style yogurt!

Straining Out the Whey Homemade Greek Yogurt

It came out beautifully!

Straining Your Own Greek Yogurt

Amazingly thick and creamy, I was very pleased.

So this is great news, right?  Thick, creamy Greek yogurt for less money!

Well no, not exactly.

I was really surprised at just how much whey came out of that regular yogurt.  A lot!  So much whey came out that it made me wonder just how much Greek-style yogurt I actually got from that 32 oz container of regular yogurt.

The Math

It took two rounds of straining to do all 32 oz, and when all was said and done, I dragged out my trusty kitchen scale.

32 oz regular yogurt makes 17 oz of Greek yogurt.

Now remember that 32 oz container cost me $3.99, with a unit price of $1.99 a pound?

17 oz of my own Greek style yogurt for $3.99 – my math says that $3.54 a pound.

The Fage was only $3.17 a pound.

Womp, womp.

BUT, wait! All is not lost.

Fage is not made from organic milk. (that’s a very helpful link, by the way (by the whey?) – comparing a bunch of Greek yogurts on the market!)

Stonyfield Farms is made from organic milk – I can’t find full fat, organic milk Greek yogurt anywhere – even regular, whole milk Greek yogurt can be tricky to find.  Stonyfield Farms does have their own line of Greek yogurt (Oikos) – but it only comes fat free.  No thanks.

So if you want organic, Greek yogurt with some fat in it?  (I do!)  This is a win!

If that’s not what you want from your Greek yogurt, then it’s cheaper to let someone else do the straining for you.

Fortunately, this was really easy and the results were great.  At the very least, straining your own yogurt gives you more control over the source of your milk and allows you to avoid all the fun additives and questionable junk from other brands of Greek yogurt.  Making yogurt yourself from a trusted milk source is probably the best (and maybe cheapest?) option of all.  This is on my own foodie agenda at some point – but I’m limiting myself to one crazy, do-it-yourself thing at a time here.

There is another benefit worth mentioning when you strain your own yogurt – you’ve now got a bunch of separated whey and there’s a lot you can do with it!  I didn’t do anything with mine except dump it down the drain (dammit!) – I’m not going cry over spilled whey and will just remember this for next time.

Here are some additional articles I found helpful on the topic dairy and the choice to buy organic:

Organic vs. Conventional Dairy Farms

New Pasture Rules Issued For Organic Dairy Producers (from 2/2010)

What Foods to Buy Organic

Organic Milk: Are You Getting What You Pay For?

Are you a Greek yogurt lover?  Have you ever strained your own at home?  Are you glad you now know exactly what Little Miss Muffet was eating (drinking?) when she sat on her tuffet?

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20 Responses

  • jen says:

    this is intriguing because at our store, certain flavors of bare naked granola come with a coupon saying if you buy it you get $2 off your choice of stonyfield yogurt in the big (quart?) container.. and I never go for it because it’s not greek. but $2 off would be worth it! (if you already buy the granola, that is)

  • Lisa says:

    I went through a yogurt-making phase…. and then I got bored of it. But it really is cheaper to make and super easy… and easy to make into greek! And in CA, I can buy great quality raw milk at the farmer’s market (which is 2 blocks from my apartment twice a week). It really doesn’t get much more convenient than that… but I still buy Fage out of laziness.
    Actually, it’s funny, a while back I posted a response my friend got from Fage regarding their milk source. I don’t know if this will get spammed, but here’s the link to what they said:

    • That was good, I haven’t lost sleep over Fage using milk that’s not organic… I’m sure it will continue to show up in my cart too, although I can see a yogurt making phase in my future – I want to try it!

      How cool that you can raw milk so close to home! It’s not hard to get it around here, but I wouldn’t say it’s exactly easy either.

  • Lisa says:

    I agree way cheaper and easier to make homemade yogurt you can use organic dry milk and organic milk and organic yogurt starter and let it do its thing for as long as you like till it is as thick as you would like. I use the salton 1 quart yogurt maker.

  • jen says:

    so, do you re-use cheesecloth? Man, if you go on a yogurt making adventure I’m SO coming with you :)

    • I read that you can reuse cheese cloth, I hand washed mine with dish soap, rinsed really, really well and dried on my clothes rack… I’ve since folded it up and am storing it in a zip lock bag, I feel OK about using it again. I considered factoring that in to the cost of my yogurt straining, but because I’ll reuse it I decided not to. (And because it would have made the cost per pound go way up, it was $4!)

      I think yogurt making is in my future – pack your bags baby, the time for a homemade yogurt trek is near! I haven’t done anything but prowl around the web for some instructions, Zak’s mom sent me this link, she says it’s really simple.

      • jen says:

        Oh that looks so easy. The only concern I have is I won’t finish a whole big thing in 6 days! I guess I will make more work for myself in smaller batches? I’m curious how it tastes because I agree that the plain store bought stuff is too tart to just eat, and I always buy vanilla. J’s school has a milk delivery from a local farm, I should see if I can get organic milk from them.

  • Erin says:

    Keep your whey! It’s great for your immune system, can be used to sprout/sour/ferment things, and can be added to smoothies for a probiotic boost in a pinch.

  • Susan says:

    Have you tried different cultures? I wonder if they make a noticeable difference? I’ve been thinking that I’d like to try some from this place:
    I might be too lazy for the whole straining thing though. I pour our home made yogurt into small jars and tell my kids to drink it.

  • Jean says:

    I use aby-2c culture from the dairy connection to start my yogurt. I strained ALL the goat milk yogurt I made in colanders lined with coffee filters – since I couldn’t add powdered cow milk it came out very runny. I often had 3-4 colandars straining at once to keep up so the coffee filters were better than cheesecloth for me. I tried a nut milk bag but it was too runny for that. The cow milk yogurt I make is far thicker and I don’t usually strain it, with the addition of the bit of dry milk.

    I use the culture to start because we go through a quart + a day sometimes and I like guaranteed yogurt. I can make three quarts in 24 hours in my little incubator – I use quart mason jars rather than the supplied plastic tub. There’s easier and cheaper ways rather than having a gadget, but I like the reliability!

    And raw milk, it’s about to get much closer! At least for me. The walk to the backyard isn’t too bad as long as things go well in a month.

    • Thanks for this Jean – you make a good case for buying a yogurt maker, we eat yogurt daily here, it could very well pay for itself in a matter of weeks! The reliability is a good point too.

      Cool that you make goats milk yogurt and man, your own cow in the backyard… it doesn’t get more local than that!

  • Michael says:

    All this sounds good , now I make my own yogurt but it’s made from a powder with a yogurt maker and is called EASIYO can any one tell me if wen made can I strain this to make Greek yogurt ?.

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  • Kara says:

    I make my own yogurt all the time. It just costs me the price of a half gallon of milk. Look up crockpot yogurt recipes. I strain the yogurt, just like you did, to make Greek yogurt as well. I use the whey in place of milk or water in baking or smoothies. It is very simple to make.

  • Kara says:

    After reading the comments, I feel like I should post this: there is NO need in buying a yogurt maker! I do mine in the crockpot all the time! Here are the instructions:
    1.) Pour half gallon of milk in your crockpot. Cover. The key is to heat the milk up to 180 degrees. Mine takes 2 hours and 45 mins on high. On e it reaches 180 degrees, turn crockpot off.
    2. Let yogurt cool, covered, until it reaches 110 degrees. This takes about 3 hours or so. Once it is cooled to 110 degrees, add half a cup of yogurt starter. The key is for it to be plain and have active cultures. I used half a cup of saved yogurt from each batch I do but if I ever don’t have that, I like Stoneyfield plain whole milk yogurt. Stir in your starter. Coverage. Keep crockpot OFF and cover with a beach towel to insulate. 8-12 hours later (I always let mine sit while I sleep at night) you will wake up with yogurt! The yogurt will be runnier then store bought yogurt. My kids don’t mind but I place a coffee filter in a strainer and place over a bowl to catch the whey. Depending on your thickness desire, leave in fridge for an hour or several. Sweeten with honey or make a fruit syrup. This has saved me a TON of money! I buy the 1 cup lock and lock bowls from QVC and place in individual portions just like you can buy at the grocery. My kids love it!