How to Make Curd / Yogurt / Dahi at Home

Yogurt (US) / Yoghurt (UK)  / Curd (India) / Dahi (Hindi) is a dairy product produced by bacterial fermentation of milk, the bacteria called as 'yogurt cultures' [wiki].

Used in various cuisines around the world, from condiments to snacks, desserts to dips, and much more, even used for face masks & as natural hair conditioner - yogurt is one of the most versatile products to have in the kitchen.  And what's better than knowing the fact that you can easily make yogurt at home?!

spusht | fresh homemade yogurt | how to make curd at home
fresh homemade yogurt - how to make curd at home

The steps below to make plain homemade yogurt are without using any candy thermometers, double boilers, ice water bath, freeze-dried yogurt starter powder or any other fancy stuff.
to make curd at home heat milk until lukewarm
heat milk until lukewarm

1.  Heat 2 cups milk on medium heat, stir occasionally so it doesn’t stick to saucepan or scorch at the bottom.  If you’ve already once boiled and chilled your milk, then just heat it again until it is lukewarm (you should be able to test the lukewarm milk with your pinky without burning the finger), switch off heat.  If you have over-boiled the milk, just wait until it reaches a lukewarm stage.  If there’s any layer of cream formed on top of milk, remove it before mixing curd starter.

add curd starter to lukewarm milk
add some curd to lukewarm milk

2.  Add 1 Tbsp unsweetened plain curd/yogurt (stir it gently beforehand so that it’s not a lump) to the lukewarm milk.  You can buy various yogurt brands (they should have something like active/probiotic cultures written on box) from store to use as a starter initially and compare which brand's curd turns out better.  Or borrow some curd from neighbor to use as starter.  Before adding starter check the milk: if it’s is very hot, the bacteria from curd starter will die.  Milk should be lukewarm.
mix curd starter well with lukewarm milk
mix and stir until combined

3.  Now pour milk from one saucepan into another just couple of times so that curd/yogurt mixes in well, otherwise gently whisk it using hand whip or beater (Blunder Alert!  Don't try to churn in blender; I once did & spoiled that batch!).  Then pour milk into any container you want to set it in, cover with any lid, and store it in a dry, warm and cozy place, such as in the microwave or oven (when you’re not using those).  In cooler climates, cover container with a thick cloth/napkin/towel & then store so there’s more warmth.

cover container and store in warm place to make yogurt
cover, store in warm place

4.  Resist the urge to check on the curd for at least 5-6 hours, leave it alone, you won’t be able to see the bacteria anyway, and by disturbing them they’ll only mess your homemade curd.    After 5-6 hours see if the milk has thickened to a yogurt-like texture, else keep it for longer.  During summer the yogurt will set faster in a warm place (in 5 hours or less).  During winter or cool temperature controlled house, it could take over 6 hours or overnight for curd to set.  I prefer doing all these procedures at night and leaving the yogurt to set overnight.

5.  Once the yogurt is set transfer it to refrigerator, it will set better & firmer in couple of hours in refrigerator.  Might not be as thick as store-bought ones because the ready-made yogurt has additives to preserve and thicken it.  You know your yogurt has set well when you scoop out a little and it still maintains it's shape.

If you forget to check on the homemade yogurt sitting at the warm place for too long instead of refrigerating yogurt when it is set, it will start to taste a little sour – well don’t throw it, you can still use it in different recipes in several cuisines.  For instance: Kadhi Pakora (accompaniment), Grapes & Walnut Raita (condiment), or Khandvi/Pittod (snack).

If your yogurt turns out too thin or gooey, there are plenty of reasons why this could happen  - you may have added too little or too much starter, may have used a cool or too hot milk instead of lukewarm, your warm place may not be warm enough, you may have kept for too short or too long a time, or you need to change your starter.  Try again.

Keep yogurt refrigerated.  You can also make Greek Yogurt at home with this plain curd/yogurt.

how to make yogurt at home
set curd - how to make curd at home

(i) You can use 2% or whole milk, cow or buffalo milk, even add half-n-half, it's up to you.  Whole milk variety will give a thicker and creamier yogurt.
(ii) 2 cups of milk yields 2 cups of plain dahi/plain yogurt/plain curd.  And yes, dahi - yogurt - and curd here mean the same thing and the terms are used interchangeably in this post.
(iii) 6 or 8 cups of milk would require only like 2-3 Tbsp plain curd as a starter, unless you're making for a gallon then you'll need a bit more, but putting too much starter also makes the curd sour.
(iv) If your homemade curd turns out perfect, you can continue to use the same as a starter for next time.
(v) I’ve read that store-bought yogurts have gelatin (since gelatin is not vegetarian I don’t use it), pectin or dry milk powder to get a thicker, creamier consistency artificially at low cost.  I've never added anything to my plain yogurt at home, there has been no need to.

Yogurts from grocery stores aren’t very expensive, so it’s not like you & I will save hundreds of bucks.  But it feels good to make some fresh homemade yogurt minus the artificial preservatives, isn’t it?
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