Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Making Super Yogurt – More Probiotics, Less Carb

Is yogurt a healthy diabetic food? Maybe not if you buy it at the supermarket. The tutti-fruity yogurt being marketed as a healthy treat can easily have more carb than a candy bar. Even the “plain” commercial yogurt has 11-13 grams of lactose (milk sugar) per cup. Commercial yogurt has too much carb for diabetics or people trying to lose weight, and all this carb is in the form of highly allergenic lactose which is not for people with autoimmune issues. I strongly encourage you to make your own yogurt that is healthy, low-carb, truly probiotic ... and much tastier!

Commercial yogurt is inferior in five ways:

Additives – Obviously, adding high fructose corn syrup can render any food unhealthy, but even the unsweetened plain yogurts have added carbs. Starches are sometimes used to make a thicker more pudding-like yogurt. Most commercial yogurts have added “milk solids” which increase the amount of lactose. Real yogurt is only made from milk, cream and live bacteria.
Little real probiotic organisms – Popular commercial yogurts usually just contain two yogurt strains that are not true probiotics. Although many yogurts are advertised as having live cultures, the number of live organisms is relatively low. Some commercial yogurts are pasteurized with zero live organisms.
Not fully fermented – Commercial yogurts use an abbreviated lower cost fermentation process (usually just 4-5 hours) that results in less probiotic organisms, more lactose and a less tart insipid taste. 
Not dripped – Most commercial yogurts are not dripped or strained. Only a few specialty Greek style yogurts use some straining. Dripping yogurt further reduces the lactose and makes it thicker.
Not fresh  Yogurt should be eaten within days of being made as most of the live organisms will die within a week even when properly stored in refrigerated conditions.  Yogurt sold in the supermarket is usually several weeks old.


1. I use an electric yogurt maker which has a one liter (1.06 quart) glass bowl. After sterilizing the bowl with boiling water to make sure there are no stray bacteria which may taint the fermentation process. I add about ½ cup (125ml) of heavy cream and then fill with whole milk. You can add more or less cream depending on how rich you want your yogurt.
2. Using a microwave oven and a food thermometer, warm the milk to about 85-95° C (180-200° F) to sterilize it. It should be warmer than 82° C (180° F) but no hotter than 93° C (200° F). A layer of scum will form on top which many people skim off believing it will give the finished product a better consistency. I prefer to stir it in so as to not lose any of the milk fat.  Set aside the bowl of hot milk covered by a clean towel until it cools to 108-112° F (42-44° C). 

2b. If you have access to UHT milk, it is safe to use an unopened carton of room temperature UHT milk poured directly into the sterilized bowl without further sterilizing the milk.  This saves  much time

3. Stir in a freeze dried probiotic yogurt starter. I strongly recommend an "ABC" probiotic starter.  What I refer to as "ABC" probiotic starters contain the two normal yogurt strains (L. bulgaricus and S. thermophillus) as well as the truly probiotic strains (A)  L. acidophillus, (B) some strain(s) of Bifidobacterium and (C) L. casei.  In China, there are many probiotic yogurt startes, but in the US, the dominant brand is the Yogourmet Casei Bifidos Acidophillus yogurt starter. These truly probiotic strains have the potential to colonize the gut with healthy gut flora and greatly improve one's health.
Freeze-Dried Yogurt Starter
4. Ferment the yogurt for a full 24 hours. Traditionally, yogurt is only fermented for 8-10 hours. This longer fermenting time will ferment away most of the lactose. The lactose is fermented into lactic acid which gives yogurt is tart tastes. This Super Yogurt is also super tart, a taste that I like, but others might need to get used to it. The longer fermentation also results in a higher probiotic bacteria count.

5. Drip the yogurt for 1-2 hours to make thick Greek style yogurt or 12-18 hours in the refrigerator to get yogurt cheese with the same consistency as cream cheese. Traditionally, yogurt is dripped through two layers of cheese cloth placed in a colander. I prefer to use two large reusable nylon coffee filters placed in similarly sized containers to catch the liquid that drips off. Throw away the liquid and enjoy the remaining delightfully thick yogurt. By dripping the yogurt, you also further reduce the lactose (carb) and reduce the lactic acid (less sour). Dripping yogurt reduces the volume about 25% for Greek style yogurt and 50-75% for yogurt cheese.

I have not measured the carbohydrate of this yogurt in the lab, but believe it is about 2-3 grams per cup compared to 8-13 grams of carb for plain commercial yogurt.  This 24 hour fermented Super Yogurt is estimated to have an average concentration of 3 billion cfu/ml of live organisms which works out to 750 billion probiotic micro-organisms per cup!

While common yogurt is a healthy food, only yogurt made with truly probiotic starters will greatly improve gut ecology and reduce chronic inflammation.  A fully fermented yogurt made with an "ABC" probiotic starter has the potential to colonize the gut with healthy gut flora.  No comparison with commercial yogurt.  


  1. I'm lazy. I have never heated the milk ahead of time. I add 1/2 cup of dried milk to mine.

    I throw fruit in mine to get the fructose level up :).

  2. I like plain, thick yogurt with all its sourness. Back in India, we always made yogurt at home, and did it every day because yogurt was mandatory at both lunch and dinner (not at breakfast). It was easy to make yogurt there - add a little yogurt to milk in the evening and keep it outside the fridge overnight. Keep it in the fridge in the morning when it would have completely fermented. In the distant past when middle class people in India could not afford a fridge (as in my boyhood), yogurt tasted better as it would never be kept in fridge.

    After coming to Canada we chose to buy yogurt because yogurt making was not as simple as in India. However, recently we have started to make yogurt at home again -- we purchased a yogurt maker last December. The home-made yogurt definitely tastes better than the store bought, but not as good as the really sour and thick yogurt of my boyhood days. For some unknown reason, the yogurt made in the yogurt maker is not getting thick enough.


  3. The key to "really sour and thick yogurt" if you are not using fresh milk in steamy Kerala is (1) add a little cream to milk, (2) ferment it for longer than overnight, that is, 24 hours rather than 8 hours, and (3) drip some of the liquid off. Glad you like that taste, too. It is much healthier.

  4. You can also add unflavored gelatin to make a thicker yogurt.

    I tried the cheese cloth thing and totally failed. No patience.

  5. Oh come on, Keith. If you can make a cup of coffee, you can make yogurt cheese.

    Put a coffee filter in a coffee cone over a mug. Fill it with your yogurt and stick in the refrigerator before you retire. In the morning, you have thick yogurt cheese about the same consistency as cream cheese and 1/4 cup of strange tasting liquid that you really did not want to eat anyway.

    I had this yogurt cheese for breakfast on my low carb flax meal muffins. I think it wonderful ... but I'm weird. However, I have corroborating evidence. My two year-old son, who has impeccable taste, also loves it. Since he started eating it, he has not had a single eczema outbreak. Could it be the long awaited cure?

  6. My mom makes a type of cottage cheese (or quark) in a process similar to this. We call it "twarog" in Polish. I think I've read that it has similar bacterial benefits.
    She cheats a bit: she pours buttermilk into a pot, then places that pot into another one with hot water and keeps it on low heat for about an hour. The solid layer that rises to the top is then strained out and dripped overnight in a cheesecloth or mesh strainer, and the result looks something like this:


    My mom often drinks the leftover water, which she says is extremely healthy.

    The cheese itself is delicious and we eat it with bread, in perogies, and just by itself (sometimes with fresh chives and a bit of salt or pepper).

    I know it can't be very high in carbs, but I don't know exactly how many it has. That's the tradeoff of making your own food, I guess!

  7. Marta,

    The Twarog Cheese in the Wiki picture looks delicious! The one on the right looks very similar to normal yogurt cheese. The one on the left has a more yellow color which looks similar to yogurt fermented with bifidobacterium. The shape is so nice. Is there some kind of traditional mold that can be used to form it?

    I am experimenting with different yogurt strains now and discovering there really is a culture of yogurt cultures. I will be writing on it as soon as I am a little wiser. Do you have any idea what kind of culture (bacteria) that traditional twarog uses?

  8. Everything is great about your instructions except the microwave. Why would you go to all the trouble of making such a healthy thing as 24 hour yogurt but microwave the milk? I have been reading for years on the danger of microwaving and I haven't microwaved anything since a guy in Planet Organic looked at me like I was crazy for asking if I could microwave one of their products. I heat the cream in a large sterilized pot, and use a candy thermometer (a meat thermometer will work, too) to get it up to temperature, and then back down to the right temperature to add the starter. I also ferment it in my oven with the oven light for 24 hours. I've tested with a thermometer and the oven light keeps the oven at exactly 100 degrees.

  9. Your method of yogurt making should work fine. I am told putting raw milk in a goat skin and hanging it in a sunny door frame has also worked well for hundreds of years. What is your specific concern about microwaving milk?

  10. I know this blog is fairly old, but I would just like to add that the liquid that remains from straining the yogurt is called whey, (remember little miss muffet sitting on her tuffet eating her curds and whey). Well that liquid is highly nutritious, as an earlier poster already stated. Instead of throwing it away, use it to make fermented lemonade which is high in good bacteria like homemade yogurt. You can also ferment cabbage and other veggies with it ( the whey) for even more probiotic food options and the procedure for fermenting is fairly simple for most of these suggestions. It's the 'whey' to go! Sorry, had to get that out. Lol

  11. i ferment my yogurt for 24 hours. i've tried various types of milk and for some reason raw milk is EXTREMELY sour. My raw milk yogurt tastes like lemon after a 24 hour ferment. This doesnt happen with normal pasteurized yogurt you buy in most grocery stores. Has anyone else noticed a difference between raw milk and pasteurized milk yogurt?

  12. This is something that I can make to have an alternative of my needed probiotic intake. I'll try this one out and hopefully, I will succeed.