By now, it's kind of a well-known fact among my friends and family that I love my Instant Pot - specifically, making yogurt in my Instant Pot. (If you haven't tried it yet, GO HERE!) I've been doing it for a little over a year now and I've usually yielded thick, rich, creamy Greek-style yogurt.
Unfortunately, every now and then I get a batch that flops. It could be due to an old starter culture or a slight difference in temperature. I honestly experience a mini-heartbreak when I wake up to a pot full of warm-ish milk after letting my yogurt incubate overnight. But just like any type of cooking, yogurt-making is a scientific process, and when even one component of the process isn't exactly right, your yogurt might not set up.
My Dutch roots come out in full force any time I have to throw food away - it's like seeing dollar bills washed down the drain! But the good news is that through some troubleshooting, you DON'T need to dump that flopped batch just yet! As frustrating as it can be, there are a few ways you can salvage the flopped yogurt. Read on for some methods proven to save that hard-earned homemade yogurt!
If your yogurt smells like yogurt, but looks runny...
Sometimes my yogurt sets up slightly after incubating, but it doesn't thicken as normal. The first thing I do is smell it to see if it smells like normal yogurt. (If you're not sure, taste it to see if it tastes tangy as usual.) If it's thicker than milk but thinner than you'd prefer your yogurt to be, I'd recommend straining it.
To do this, line a large strainer with coffee filters and pour your yogurt in. You may need to leave it alone for a few hours to strain, and it should be okay for a while outside of the refrigerator. I haven't experienced spoilage, but if that's something you're worried about, you can always strain it over a large bowl in the refrigerator.
When you strain the whey from the yogurt, you're making it "Greek style." While this method will definitely decrease the volume of your yogurt, you'll enjoy what you've got much more when it's the texture you like.
If you're left with a pot of warm milk after the incubation cycle...
The last time I made yogurt, this is exactly what happened. *Heavy eye roll.* But never fear! Even if you've got what seems like a wasted pot of warm milk, you can still make a salvaged batch of thick, creamy yogurt. (Remember that whole thing about me being resourceful? Ya gurl's got you.)
If your yogurt doesn't incubate properly, I recommend adding more starter culture to the batch and running the entire incubation again. To do this, first reheat your milk to about 110 degrees. Then add about a cup of the milk to a small bowl, stir in your starter culture, and return to the rest of the batch, stirring well to mix. Run another incubation cycle, and in another 8-9 hours, you should have a salvaged batch of homemade yogurt.
This has happened to me a few times, and each time I've run a second incubation cycle, I've come away with perfectly good yogurt. I'm not promising it'll work for you, but it's definitely worth a shot!
If you don't have time to fix your flop...
Hey, I get it. Sometimes the effort of fixing the flopped yogurt isn't worth your time, and there are still ways you can use it. If you drink smoothies, try adding your runny yogurt as a base. You can even freeze it in an ice cube tray to use later.
You can also use runny yogurt as a substitute for buttermilk - try making a batch of buttermilk brownies or in a quick-bread recipe. The possibilities are endless!
If your yogurt smells sour or spoiled...
Throw it out. Definitely don't eat it.
What went wrong in the first place?
Honestly, there are a whole slew of things that might have gone wrong, and the only way to know is by experimenting with the recipe. Your failed batch may be due to...
- Temperature miscalculation in the early stages of heating and cooling the milk. Remember, there are bacteria at work in yogurt, and they're pretty particular about what they like when it comes to temperature.
- Something you added. If it's your first time making yogurt, try not adding anything at all. Even vanilla can mess with the bacteria in your yogurt.
- Unsterilized inner pot. I've had yogurt batches turn out grainy because my inner pot wasn't as clean as it should've been. Try sterilizing your pot first and making sure you wash it thoroughly after every use.
- The type of milk you used. I recommend using whole milk rather than skim to produce thicker, creamier yogurt. Also, be sure to use dairy milk if you're going to follow the standard process of yogurt-making. There are nondairy methods out there - I just haven't tried any yet!
All in all, remember that yogurt-making is a scientific process and failure is part of that process. Don't default to throwing a failed batch out right away - try these troubleshooting solutions first, and make a note of any variables you might have inadvertently changed. If you keep at it, I know you'll love your homemade Instant Pot yogurt as much as I do!