How to Make Homemade Greek Yogurt and Yogurt Cheese

Making homemade Greek yogurt is so easy to do that I hesitate to even call it a "recipe."  I've been buying Greek yogurt for a long time now and using it as an ingredient in lots of recipes, but before this week I had never tried making it myself.

I had originally set out to make some Yogurt Cheese after reading Mollie Katzen's recipe for Yogurt Pie.  Katzen uses the thick, strained yogurt, aka "yogurt cheese," as a replacement for cream cheese.  I figured that I could find about a million uses for a non-fat cream cheese substitute in my kitchen, so I decided to make the yogurt cheese without making the pie.  As promised, after straining the yogurt for about 8 hours, the result was a thick, creamy, and tangy bowl of yogurt cheese.

Most of the recipes for making cheese and straining yogurt involve the use of cheesecloth.  I don't keep cheesecloth in my house, and I wasn't really interested in going out to buy any, but I remembered the episode of Barefoot Contessa where Ina Garten makes homemade ricotta cheese.  I thought I remembered her using sheets of paper towel instead of cheesecloths and decided to give it a try.  Paper towel worked like a charm, and I was able to just toss it in the trash when the process was complete. Moral of the story: don't bother with the cheesecloth unless you already have some sitting around and want to finally put it to use.

After the successful experience with the yogurt cheese, I realized that I could make my own batch of Greek yogurt in even less time.  The good news about making your own Greek yogurt is that it ends up being cheaper than the Greek yogurt you can buy at the store, and you can control the quality of the yogurt.  I always was a little frustrated when I couldn't find organic Greek yogurt at the store, and as much as I love the consistency of Fage, I was having a hard time paying $7.49 for a large container of it at Whole Foods every few days.
Will I make my own Greek yogurt every time?  No, of course not, but it's nice to know that it's an option - an option that will save you a couple bucks and give you a small sense of accomplishment at making "homemade" yogurt.  I suppose the next step would be to make my own yogurt and then strain it myself, but that experiment might be left until retirement, or at least until I'm feeling really adventurous.  For now, I'll stick to straining.  I can handle that.

(Organic) Greek Yogurt - Makes about 3 cups from a 32 oz. container of plain nonfat yogurt

Only ingredient: One 32 oz. container of organic plain non-fat (or low-fat) yogurt*

*Using non-fat yogurt will keep the calories low in the final result and also boost the protein content of your resulting Greek yogurt.  Straining yogurt with a higher fat content will condense the fat and calories to produce an even richer Greek yogurt.

1.  Place a mesh strainer over a large bowl.  Layer a few sheets of clean paper towel inside the mesh strainer.
 2. Pour the entire container of yogurt into the paper-lined strainer.  Cover the yogurt with a piece of plastic wrap, and place the bowl in your refrigerator. (Note: Lots of recipes that I read for Greek yogurt indicated that people strain their yogurt on the counter or in the sink rather than in the refrigerator, but my personal preference is to keep it refrigerated during the straining process).

3. Allow the yogurt to strain for 1.5 to 2 hours.  The whey will drain into the bowl sitting below the strainer. After the yogurt is done straining, you can pull out the paper towels holding the yogurt and transfer the strained yogurt right back into the original container.
You can save the whey to use in breads, or discard it if you like.
*Note: I kept reading about using the whey to replace water in breadmaking and decided that I should actually try it first before telling you to save your whey.  I enjoyed the taste of the whey - it gave the bread a hint of a sourdough flavor, which I like.

Yogurt Cheese - Makes approximately 1.5-2 cups of yogurt cheese from a 32 oz. container of yogurt

Follow the instructions for making Greek yogurt above, except allow the yogurt to drain for at least 8 hours or overnight. I would also recommend putting a weight on top of the piece of plastic covering the yogurt to help it drain - I used a glass storage container filled with water. The resulting cheese will have the consistency of cream cheese and can be stored in the refrigerator.

I imagine that the Greek yogurt and yogurt cheese have a comparable shelf life to the yogurt that they're made from.  I would guess that if you use a fresh container of yogurt, the Greek yogurt and yogurt cheese should be good for at least a week or so in the refrigerator.

Unfortunately, I don't have clear nutrition facts for these recipes, since they involve straining out the whey, and I'm not sure exactly what nutrients get strained during that process.  In any case, the protein content in both the Greek yogurt and yogurt cheese is high, and both are non-fat.


  1. Form one Greek yogurt lover to another: If you use a bouillon strainer or chinois, you don't have to use any liner-- not cheesecloth or paper towels. Nothing! To clean, just throw it in the dishwasher.