What Can I Do with Failed Homemade Yogurt?

If you have ever cried over milk that didn't turn into yogurt like it was supposed to, read this.

“What can I do to redeem failed yogurt? I have made it before, successfully, but the odd time it fails, I hate to throw it out…”

If you have been making yogurt for very long, you have probably experienced a failure. Oh, the disappointment, not to mention the anguish over wasting all that money on milk that isn’t cheap these days. I cannot count how many times I get desperate emails seeking to recover and make good yogurt from the same batch of milk or recycle the non-yogurt-milk into something entirely different.

The answer to these questions can go several ways. If you know why your yogurt failed, you have a good chance at success if you try again with the same batch. Was your incubation temperature too high or too low? Was your starter too old or dead? Check out my yogurt trouble-shooting post if you aren’t sure. If you don’t know and do everything the same way again, as the old saying goes, you can probably expect the same poor results.

Here are some suggestions based on my own experience:


  • FIRST: Does the milk smell bad? 

If so, throw it out. No need to ask any more questions. If the milk still smells fine and you aren’t feeding it to anybody who is immuno-compromised such as the very young, the very old, or someone who is ill, then proceed to the next step.

  • SECOND: Assuming you have already heated the milk to 180 degrees and no higher the first time around, reheat milk to 100 degrees. 

I put mine back in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, but the time may vary according to the size of the batch and your microwave.

  • THIRD: Add more starter.

If you suspect the original starter was the cause of your fail, try a different starter.

  • FOURTH: Re-incubate per my original instructions as seen here

I’ve had several failures through the years, mostly due to my forgetfulness. Just last night, I heated 3 batches of milk (2 quarts each), then set them on the counter to co0l down to approximately 110 degrees. Later in the evening, I went to bed without thinking about the milk ever again until I awoke at 6:00 this morning, and as I lay in bed, it hit me that I forgot to add starter and put the milk into the oven to incubate. Throwing out all that milk was unthinkable. It didn’t smell bad, so I heated the milk to 100 degrees, added a little more starter, and incubated as usual. Five hours later I had perfect yogurt.

Another scenario I often hear about is forgetting to turn on the heat for your incubation “system.” Again, if the milk still smells OK, reheat milk mixture to 100 degrees or so, turn on your heat source for incubation, and give the milk a few more hours to make yogurt.

Perhaps your “fail” could be better described as yogurt that didn’t get as thick as you hoped or expected. As long as it smells good, you could try the process described above, but I would recommend using it as is even if it is not what you originally planned. Try it in smoothies or substitute it for buttermilk in baked goods such as these cinnamon biscuits. I have not purchased buttermilk in years since I always have yogurt on hand. I usually have to thin it with milk to get the right consistency unless I have a batch of yogurt that didn’t get as thick as I wanted.

As one of my readers once told me, “The yogurt gods can be fickle.” Whenever you’re dealing with a live organism, the results can be somewhat unpredictable. But don’t be discouraged. The more experience you have, the fewer failures you will experience, unless you forget, like me, and go to bed without finishing the process. I have no remedy for that unless it would be a timer with a loud buzzer.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kwunset May 7, 2017 at 6:58 am

Exact same scenario just happened to us, woke up realizing we hadn’t added the starter at all last night. The successful routine has been to heat it in a crock pot, then cool to 110, add starter, wrap in a towel overnight while it cools the rest of the way…
The milk smells ok to us, so we’re a going to try again, but Question is, you write about microwaving to get it back to 100– do you think it’s fine for us to just reheat the batch in the crock pot it’s still in, which just takes more time…?


ben May 27, 2015 at 6:56 pm

I’ve had good success with the progurt incubator. Perhaps my previous yogurt maker was less forgiving, but with the progurt I rarely get a bad batch. Of course the downside (other than the price) is that it makes a single big serving instead of small individual batches.

What do you think of yogurt makers in general?

Also do you know if it’s possible to make a kefir / yogurt concoction? In the morning, I usually drink a few ounces of store bought Kefir (Lifeway) mixed with a few tablespoons of my homemade yogurt. But I would love to somehow make Kefir together with the yogurt… unless the different types of bugs don’t play well together.


Paula May 28, 2015 at 7:09 am

Ben, Since you asked, yogurt makers,to me, are like training wheels for newbie yogurt makers. They usually work fine and success is pretty much assured if you follow the directions. My objections? Number 1,they aren’t nearly large enough for me as I use a gallon to a gallon and a half of milk every time I make yogurt. Number 2, the individual servings (if you’re using that kind) are worthless for making Greek yogurt, and that’s my thing. You would have to remove the yogurt from each container to strain it and then I guess you could pour it back into the cute little containers, but what a hassle. Number 3, you have to store it, and I don’t want to use my precious kitchen storage for that. Number 4, cleaning can be more complicated. Nothing easier than throwing my Pyrex pitchers in the dishwasher–and I use 2-3 each time I make yogurt. Number 5 is the cost, of course. If you have issues with keeping your temperatures regulated for incubation, I would be prone to buy an incubator (also good for proofing bread) instead of a yogurt maker.

I have tried making kefir. Not my thing. Have never attempted what you suggest so can’t offer an opinion on that. Good luck. Thanks for writing.


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