The versatility of a rice cooker means that there are several dishes you can make with just this one appliance, from oatmeal to cake. However, many people don’t realize that these dishes aren’t all you can make with a rice cooker.
There are several other homemade dishes you can make with the help of a cooker instead of buying from your grocery store, including bread and yogurt.
You can make yogurt in a rice cooker. In order to ferment, yogurt needs to be kept in a warm incubator, and the insulation in a rice cooker makes it the perfect incubator. However, unless you use a multi-cooker with a yogurt setting, the rice cooker should not be turned on while incubating yogurt.
The rest of this article will look at how to make yogurt in both a rice cooker and a multi-cooker. It will also look at products you can use as a yogurt starter and the benefits of homemade yogurt over store-bought.
Making Yogurt in a Rice Cooker
If you’re using a rice cooker while making yogurt, it should strictly be used as an incubator and should almost always be switched off. When turned on, the rice cooker runs too hot for yogurt making, even if it’s on the keep-warm function.
Making yogurt in a rice cooker is a relatively simple process. To get started, you will need:
- A rice cooker.
- Milk of any type, though a higher fat content will produce thicker yogurt. If you’re a beginner to homemade yogurt, it’s recommended you start with whole milk, as it’s the easiest to work with.
- A yogurt starter. Unless you have some experience with making yogurt at home, you can use yogurt as a starter. You will need to use about 0.5 cups (236.6ml) of yogurt to 1 liter (0.26 gallons) of milk.
- A food thermometer.
- A whisk.
Once you’ve gathered all the tools, you will need to:
- Heat the milk to 181°F (83°C) over the stove, using a food thermometer to check the temperature. If you monitor the temperature carefully, you can also complete this step in the microwave or in your rice cooker itself. You will need to turn on your cooker should you choose to use it for this step.
- Hold the temperature at 181°F (83°C) for about 20 minutes, making sure not to scald the milk. You may need to stir the milk gently to ensure that bottom doesn’t overheat and burn.
- Allow the milk to cool until it is 110°F (43°C). This can take a couple of hours to happen naturally, so you can put it in an ice bath to speed up the process if necessary. If you have the time, however, it’s best to wait until it’s naturally cooled.
- Add the yogurt starter. You will need to whisk it into the milk vigorously. Make sure you’re only adding it in once the milk has cooled, as the bacteria in the starter will not be able to survive high heat and will die off if the milk is still warm. Without bacteria, your yogurt will not ferment.
- Transfer the mixture to your rice cooker. Ideally, your mixture should be kept at 90°F (32.2°C) to 110°F (43°C). You should not need to switch on your rice cooker – all you need to do is put the lid on and let the insulation do its job.
- However, if you’re worried about the heat, you can monitor the temperature while turning the cooker on. You’ll need to keep an eye out to ensure that the mixture doesn’t get too hot, as that will ruin your yogurt.
- The mixture will take about 7-8 hours to ferment properly. Once your yogurt is the desired consistency, it’s ready to serve. However, you will first need to stop the fermentation process. To do this, transfer the yogurt to a bowl and chill in your refrigerator for another 7-8 hours.
- The yogurt is now ready to serve. If you plan on making more yogurt soon (within a couple of weeks), save one cup to serve as a starter for your next batch of yogurt.
Making Yogurt in a Multi-Cooker
Making yogurt in a multi-cooker is slightly different from making yogurt in a rice cooker, though you will use most of the same tools. You will, of course, need to use a multi-cooker instead of a rice cooker.
It’s best to use a multi-cooker that comes with a preset yogurt function. I recommend using the Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Pressure Cooker from Amazon.com.
Aside from serving as a yogurt maker, it also does the job of a pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, and more.
Additionally, the compact size is perfect if you have limited shelf and storage space in your kitchen.
To Make Yogurt Using Your Multi-Cooker, You Will Need To:
- Pour the milk into your multi-cooker. Press the yogurt button until it says boil, and then press the start button. This step is essential to making sure that your milk is pasteurized correctly.
- Wait until your multi-cooker beeps, indicating that the milk has finished boiling. This should take between 25-35 minutes.
- Allow the milk to cool until it is at 110°F (43°C). This can be done by waiting for the milk to cool naturally or placing it in an ice bath to quicken the process. Use a food thermometer to ensure that it’s reached the necessary temperature.
- Take out one cup of milk and whisk your yogurt starter into it. You can also add any flavorings or sweeteners you want in this step. Return the mixture to the rest of the milk in your multi-cooker, and whisk to combine properly.
- Press the yogurt preset button on the multi-cooker, and set it for 8 hours. Check on the thickness and consistency of the yogurt in about 6 hours. You can let it “cook” for up to 10 hours if necessary. The longer you cook, the thicker and tartier your yogurt will be.
- Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. You can directly transfer your multi-cooker to your refrigerator or move it into a different container and then refrigerate. Save a cup of yogurt to serve as a starter if you will be making a new batch of homemade yogurt within the next few weeks.
Choosing Your Yogurt Starter
A yogurt starter is a product that contains the bacteria necessary to start fermenting milk and turning it into yogurt. The bacteria themselves are probiotic, which is what makes yogurt so good for your gut health.
There are numerous products you can use as a starter, depending on the taste and consistency you prefer. Additionally, if you have dietary concerns, you may be able to find a starter specifically tailored to your needs, including dairy-free starters.
The easiest starter to use is existing yogurt. You can either use commercial yogurt or leftover yogurt from the last batch you made at home.
If you opt to use commercial yogurt, check the ingredient list to confirm that it contains live cultures. You should never use flavored yogurt, as the flavorings can interfere with the activity of the bacteria.
Plain Greek yogurt works best and is easy to get your hands on.
If you’re planning to use probiotic powders or pills as a yogurt starter, you need to ensure that it contains one of the following:
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Streptococcus thermophilus
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus
You can check with a pharmacist for a brand recommendation or look for a dedicated yogurt probiotic starter. There are multiple options available on the market that cover various health concerns, including dairy-free and vegan options.
However, I recommend using the Cultures for Health Vegan Yogurt Starter Culture from Amazon.com.
This starter is tailored for non-dairy milk, such as soy milk and coconut milk, and contains multiple good bacteria. Each packet of starter culture can make up to 2 quarts (1.9 liters) of vegan yogurt.
SCD stands for Specific Carbohydrate Diet, an elimination diet that focuses on intestinal health. If you follow this diet, you will need a yogurt starter that does not contain the Bifidus Bifidum bacteria.
I recommend using the Yougourmet Freeze-Dried Yogurt Starter from Amazon.com.
Each box contains enough starter for 6 liters (1.56 gallons) of yogurt, and the starter is both gluten-free and kosher. Additionally, each 100g (3.52 ounces) serving contains over 100 billion good bacteria, so you can be confident your gut will remain healthy.
Benefits of Homemade Yogurt
Given how easy it is to buy commercial yogurt from the supermarket, it’s understandable to wonder why you should make yogurt at home instead. Homemade yogurt offers several benefits, including:
- Greater variety: You can flavor homemade yogurt according to your preferences instead of being limited by the selection at your local supermarket.
- Healthier: Commercial yogurt uses sweeteners like sugar, as well as several other additives and preservatives. However, these can adversely affect the nutrient quality of yogurt. By making your own yogurt at home, you can flavor using fruit and honey to boost the nutrient profile, not reduce it.
- Inexpensive: Yogurt is surprisingly inexpensive to make. All you need is the milk and the starter, and you can use leftover yogurt from your last batch to serve as the starter. It’s far more cost-effective to make your own than spend on store-bought options.
- Versatile: Store-bought yogurt is not always suitable for use outside of consumption, such as making face or hair masks. Aside from being a delicious addition to your diet, yogurt can make a great addition to your beauty routine. Making your own yogurt at home means you don’t have to check whether a brand is suitable for topical application.