You are about to fall in love. With breakfast, and specifically this Instant Pot Vanilla Yogurt. It is so easy and so delicious, you will be hooked!
I am a creature of habit in a lot of ways. Maybe you are too? I like a lot of variety in my dinners, but for breakfast is a different story. Almost every single day, yogurt is the base of my breakfast because I simply love it!
My breakfast love is this homemade Instant Pot Vanilla Yogurt topped with fresh blueberries, some banana slices, and my homemade Buttery Maple Almond Granola. No other yogurt will do – this homemade yogurt is the very best and I never get tired of it. Even my husband, who is not typically a yogurt fan, likes this version!
Support Gut Health
Eating yogurt regularly is one of the easiest ways to support gut health. All of that good bacteria helps to keep your gut healthy, reduce inflammation and bloating, and keep you feeling great.
Think making yogurt at home is too hard? Too complicated? Too intimidating? It seems impressive, so feel free to play that up, but it is really so simple. Especially if you have an Instant Pot. (Or you could also use a yogurt maker, like this one.)
Seriously, though, if you can heat milk, you can make yogurt.
I think you are out of excuses now. So let’s make some Instant Pot Vanilla Yogurt!
The Yogurt Basics
Basically, yogurt is milk in which good, healthy bacteria has grown. To do this, you need the milk, the good bacteria (your “starter”), heat, and time. Though most of that time is hands-off work that is done by the machine.
If you don’t have an Instant Pot, I recommend this one. You could also use a yogurt maker, but I like the Instant Pot a bit better because it does so many different things. Both devices are great for yogurt and do a really great job of maintaining a constant temperature for your milk during the fermentation process.
Here are the steps:
- First, kill the bad bacteria by heating the milk.
- Second, cool the milk so you can add your starter without killing the good bacteria.
- Third, add the starter.
- Finally, let the Instant Pot keep it all at a steady temperature while the bacteria grows. After 8 hours on its own, you have yogurt!
Step 1: Heat the Milk
Start by heating the milk to kill all the bacteria already in it. You want to be very careful that you are only growing the healthy bacteria that will ferment your milk so that you don’t make yourself or anyone else sick! So, heat your milk to 180 degrees F and use only scrupulously clean bowls, pots, and utensils.
I use a regular large pot on the stovetop for this because it’s a lot faster. Once the milk reaches 180 degrees F, turn the heat to low and let it steam away for 10 minutes. Evaporating some of the water out of your milk at this stage will leave you with a thicker yogurt later on. If you don’t have time for this step, or simply don’t want to do it, feel free to skip it!
You can also add 2/3 cup powdered milk at this step to create a thicker yogurt with or without this steaming step.
A Good Thermometer
A good thermometer comes in very handy here. And it’s a good, inexpensive tool to have on hand for a number of things, so I highly recommend getting one. This one is a great budget buy and this one is my new favorite.
However, if you don’t have one, your milk is hot enough when it is steaming and bubbles are barely forming around the edges. Don’t let it simmer or boil! This will take around 5 minutes over medium heat.
Vanilla and a Touch of Sweetness
If you are using a vanilla bean, you should add it to the milk now, while it’s heating. Scrape out the seeds, then add both the pod and the seeds to the milk while it heats. Remove the pod later before you add your starter.
Also add your sweetener while the milk heats so you can dissolve it and kill any bacteria. My favorite sweeteners are granulated sugar or maple syrup. Usually I use granulated sugar because it helps the yogurt set a little better but maple syrup is delicious here too. Stir often to prevent scorching and sticking at the bottom of your pot.
Even if you like your yogurt on the sweet side, resist the urge to add more than 4-6 tablespoons of sweetener, which could interfere with the fermentation.
Step 2: Cool the Milk Back Down
Once you’ve heated the yogurt and let some of the water in your milk evaporate, you want to bring the temperature of the milk back down so you won’t kill the good bacteria when you add it. The fastest way to do this is with a water bath. I simply fill my sink with cold water and immerse the bottom third of the pot into it. Be careful not to get water into your milk!
Stir often to keep the liquid moving so that it all cools evenly. You want your milk to be between 110 and 120 degrees F before incorporating your starter. If you don’t have a thermometer, test the milk by touching it with a clean pinky finger. It should feel warm to the touch but not hot, about the temperature of a warm baby bottle. If you are using a vanilla bean, remove the pod now. This will take between 5 and 10 minutes.
Step 3: Add Your Starter
While your milk is cooling, place your starter in the pot of your instant pot. I use plain whole-milk store-bought yogurt for my starter because it is readily available and easy to work with. Be sure to buy a version that doesn’t have any additives (like cornstarch) and that contains live active cultures. For later batches, you can use a portion of your own yogurt as your starter.
Add your vanilla paste if you are using it. When the milk is ready, pour about a cup over the starter, then whisk it together. (This is tempering your starter.)
Add the rest of your milk and whisk it well. Put the pot into your Instant Pot base, cover with the steam valve OPEN, and set the yogurt button to 8 hours. Then walk away!
You Just Made Yogurt!
After 8 hours, remove the lid and transfer your yogurt to one large jar or several smaller jars, then refrigerate overnight before eating. It will firm up more when it cools completely.
You can add jams or preserves to the jars for flavored yogurt, or simply add fruit to your serving when you eat it, like I do.
Definitely try it with some homemade Buttery Maple Almond Granola!
Instant Pot Vanilla Yogurt
- 1/2 gallon whole milk
- 4-6 tablespoons granulated sugar or maple syrup, or other sweetener
- 2/3 cup powdered milk optional, to thicken
- 1/4 cup prepared plain whole milk yogurt with live cultures
- 1 tablespoon vanilla paste or 1 vanilla bean or 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- In a large pot over medium heat, heat the milk with the sugar until it reaches 180 degrees F, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved and stirring occasionally afterwards. Split and add the vanilla bean if using. At 180 degrees F, the milk will be steaming but not boiling (do not let it boil). If you are using the powdered milk, add it now and stir until it is dissolved.
- Once the milk reaches 180 degrees F, turn the heat down to low and heat for an additional 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. This will allow more water to evaporate and result in a thicker yogurt. You can omit this step if you prefer.
- After 10-15 minutes, or immediately after the proper temperature is reached, cool the milk to 110-120 degrees F. Placing the pot in a cold-water bath (I use my sink) and stirring constantly will speed up this process.
- While the milk is cooling, place the prepared yogurt into the pot of your Instant Pot.
- When the milk has cooled to 110-120 degrees, remove the vanilla bean, if using, and whisk approximately 1 cup of the milk into the prepared yogurt to temper the yogurt then whisk in the remaining milk. If you are using vanilla paste, whisk it in now.
- Set your Instant Pot to vent/open (you do not want pressure here!) and hit the yogurt button. Set to 8 hours.
- If you are using vanilla extract, add it at the end of the 8 hours. Pour the now-thickened yogurt into glass jars or other containers and place in the refrigerator overnight before eating. Store in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks.
- You must use whole milk here. Lower fat milks simply don’t set up as well. Non-dairy milks won’t set up at all with this method.
- Using granulated sugar results in a slightly thicker yogurt. Maple syrup is excellent for flavor but will not help thicken the yogurt. Feel free to add more or less depending on your taste.
- Adding the powdered milk (low-fat is okay here) will help the yogurt thicken. It’s totally optional!
- Add extracts or other flavoring agents, such as jams or preserves, after you remove it from the instant pot.
- For thicker yogurt, strain it after refrigerating overnight. Keep the liquid that drains out and use it as a nutritious addition to smoothies!
- Reserve a portion of this batch for use as the starter for your next batch of yogurt.
- This recipe makes a lot! You can halve it if you don’t want to make quite as much.