Homemade Yogurt: Tips About Ingredients

Homemade yogurt is very simple and requires just two ingredients. Here are tips about ingredients you need to get started.

Homemade yogurt, or Lebanese laban, MaureenAbood.com

Ready to make your own yogurt at home?! It couldn’t be simpler. There are great reasons to make your own yogurt–it’s economical, and also: so much more flavorful than commercial yogurts. Homemade yogurt is a Lebanese tradition we cherish. Here’s what you  need to know about ingredients.

Whole milk pouring  into a pan for homemade yogurt

The milk.

I always use organic milk, because anything I eat that much of, I like it to be as clean as possible. Yogurt can be made with skim, 1%, 2%, or whole milk. Of course, whole milk is the best in terms of flavor and texture. Heck, I’ve even taken a page out of Aunt Hilda’s play book and poured in a pint of heavy cream with my milk. Good Lord, that’s like the wedding gown of all laban—some seriously luscious, special-occasion loveliness.

Sometimes I make yogurt using a whole gallon of milk, especially if I’m draining it for thick labneh. That reduces the quantity substantially! But I especially enjoy smaller-batch. Read about my laban-making foibles here.

Yogurt starter in a blue bowl

The starter.

Yogurt is made like sourdough, with a starter—called “rawbi” in Arabic—from your last batch. If you have no last batch, use yogurt from the store. Much of your yogurt-making success depends upon the starter. If you do buy commercial yogurt for your starter, be sure it’s plain (not vanilla). I generally use a whole milk (not non-fat) rawbi, even if I’m making a low-fat laban with low-fat milk. Thicker labneh or plain “Greek” yogurt can work for rawbi, but I’ve experienced fails with that once or twice. I tend to stick with regular, unstrained (thinner) yogurt. The starter should be room temperature when it’s stirred into the milk, so let it sit out for a while before you make your yogurt, or warm it in the microwave for a few seconds. You’ll “temper” the starter (bring it to similar temperature as the milk) with a little warm milk from the pot as well.

Also: don’t use much starter! That may not feel intuitive–seems like “more” should equal “better.” But you need just a tablespoon or two for half-gallon to a gallon of milk.

It may be lore, but the less I stir the starter into my heated-then-cooled-to-110°F,  the smoother, glossier the resulting yogurt. So I just give the starter a quick stir into the milk and leave it at that.

The flavor.

Yogurt is made with such simplicity, and so few ingredients, that it is going to taste only as good as your ingredients. The Lebanese enjoy their yogurt with a certain tang, a certain depth of fermented flavor that is unlike the typical sweetened or plain commercial yogurt. Commercial Greek yogurts sometimes capture this flavor, but truly not quite.

When my homemade yogurt lacks depth of flavor, I add lemon juice to the starter (just a squeeze), then salt it a bit and leave it out on the counter for the day and it ferments some. I add more lemon juice after the yogurt is made for more tang, as needed. Or I try to find a starter that has better flavor for my next batch, from someone else’s laban or from the homemade laban you can purchase at Middle Eastern markets. Authentic Lebanese laban is often made with goat’s milk, which is super flavorful, rich, and good.

Here’s more about homemade yogurt:

My Homemade Yogurt Recipe

Labneh Thick Yogurt Recipe

 

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4 Comments

  1. Janet Fletcher on February 22, 2022 at 11:16 AM

    I’ve also learned that adding a little nonfat dry milk (2 Tbl per quart of milk) makes a thicker yogurt. The nonfat dry milk adds some protein, too, but I use it for the improved texture.

    • Maureen Abood on February 26, 2022 at 9:41 AM

      Thank you Janet, this is interesting and something I tried some time ago. I’m going to try again!

  2. A2B on February 22, 2022 at 1:41 PM

    To add depth, when adding lemon juice and salt to the rawbi , do you let the rawbi sit out on the counter for the day, or do you add it to the milk and let the milk sit out on the counter for the day?

    • Maureen Abood on February 25, 2022 at 11:59 AM

      You can let the rawbi ferment with the lemon but you can also just use it in the recipe immediately after adding lemon (adding the lemon rawbi to the milk that has been boiled then reduced to 110-115°F).

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I'm so glad you're here! You'll find among these pages the fresh and classic Lebanese recipes we can't get enough of! My mission is to share my tried + true recipes -- and to help our Lebanese food-loving community keep these culinary traditions alive and on the table. What recipes are you looking for? Let me know!

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