Milk Kefir Recipe

Homemade Milk Kefir - Placeholder Image

The Spruce Eats / Colleen Graham

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Ferment: 24 hrs
Total: 24 hrs 5 mins
Serving: 1 serving
Yield: 1 cup
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
151 Calories
8g Fat
12g Carbs
8g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1
Amount per serving
Calories 151
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 10%
Saturated Fat 5g 23%
Cholesterol 25mg 8%
Sodium 115mg 5%
Total Carbohydrate 12g 4%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 13g
Protein 8g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 282mg 22%
Iron 0mg 0%
Potassium 330mg 7%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Milk kefir is a delicious fermented probiotic drink with a pleasantly tangy sour taste—a lot like drinkable yogurt—that's delightfully creamy and even a bit effervescent. While you can buy it, milk kefir is easy to make at home and doesn't require any special tools.

Used for centuries to preserve raw milk, milk kefir originated in the Caucasus Mountains. To make milk kefir, you need to acquire milk kefir grains (there are different grains for water kefir). They're not plant grains but symbiotic bacteria colonies sold as dried white pellets. When hydrated, these tiny living organisms work much like kombucha's scoby, fermenting the base liquid to create a semi-sour, slightly carbonated beverage. They thrive and grow as you nurture the grains, so they're also shareable. You might even know someone who makes kefir and has grains available.

The fermenting process is easy: Place kefir grains in milk, cover the jar and let it ferment for a full day. You'll then strain out the grains, start a new batch with fresh milk, and have kefir to enjoy immediately. As long as you keep the grains happy and healthy, they'll last indefinitely, so you'll always have a fresh supply of kefir.

As with any fermented food, there are several tips and tricks to kefir, but one key is to use either raw or whole milk (cow's milk is common, but it works with goat or sheep milk). Low-fat milk (even 2 percent) doesn't ferment as well. Pasteurized milk is a great option, though it's best to avoid ultra-pasteurized (UHT) milk as the sterilization process it goes through may inhibit the culture's growth.

When starting, it's best to consume small amounts of probiotic drinks and slowly add more to your diet over time to build up a tolerance. For that reason, this milk kefir recipe is a small batch that produces just one cup daily; to scale it up, use one teaspoon of kefir grains for every cup of milk. You can drink it straight, add flavor, blend it into smoothies, and even use it in food.


  • 1 teaspoon kefir milk grains

  • 1 cup raw or whole milk

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. In a 1-pint or larger jar, stir the milk kefir grains into the milk.

  3. Cover with a fine-weave cloth, coffee filter, or paper towel, and seal with a rubber band. Set in a warm, dark spot (ideally, around 70 F) and let ferment for 24 hours—in cooler temperatures, it may take 2 days.

  4. Once fully fermented, the kefir should have distinct layers, with thick curds on top of a semi-transparent liquid (the whey). Strain the kefir into a glass bowl using a fine-mesh strainer, shuffling the mix as needed to release all of the liquid.

  5. Transfer the strained kefir milk to a jar, seal, and refrigerate for up to 10 days. Rinse the fermentation jar thoroughly with hot water and use the kefir grains to start a new batch of kefir milk.

How to Use Milk Kefir

Store your strained milk kefir in the refrigerator for seven to 10 days. The cold prevents the sour taste from developing further because it halts fermentation, and it tastes much better when chilled. It can be stored at room temp for three to five days. If there's any separation, give the jar a good shake. Kefir is a good substitute for regular milk in a smoothie or yogurt in a lassi. Some kefir fans also use it to replace (whether whole or for a portion) yogurt or buttermilk in baked goods.


  • A clean environment is essential to any fermented food. Before working with kefir, thoroughly clean the jar and any utensils you'll need. Kefir makers differ on whether the jar should be cleaned in between batches; some leave it as is, others use hot water alone, and some clean it with detergent and water.
  • Avoid using metal utensils whenever possible. Minimal use of a spoon or strainer should not have severe negative effects, but metal can interfere with fermentation.
  • When starting out with dried kefir grains, they will likely require several days to become fully active. Keep exchanging the milk daily for three to seven days until you notice proper fermentation.
  • Store unused dry kefir grains in airtight packaging in the refrigerator.
  • When you want to take a break, make a batch of kefir milk, seal the jar and store it in the fridge. It's best to revive the batch with fresh milk every two weeks.
  • Over time, kefir grains will multiply during fermentation. Reserve a heaping teaspoon of grains for your next batch of kefir, and discard or share the remainder.

Recipe Variations

  • Milk kefir grains can be used with coconut milk, though ferment them in dairy milk for about a week before making the switch. Other plant-based milk does not create great kefir.
  • For a dairy-free option, make water kefir with sugar water. Stir 1/8 cup of organic sugar into 2 cups of dechlorinated water until the sugar is dissolved, then add 1 tablespoon of water kefir grains. The fermentation process is the same, though it often goes through secondary fermentation (similar to kombucha) once in the bottle.
  • Cultured water kefir (about 1/4 cup) can be mixed with 2 cups of coconut milk and fermented for 24 hours to make coconut kefir.

How do you make flavored milk kefir?

The method for flavoring milk kefir depends on the ingredient. For non-sugary items like a cinnamon stick, vanilla bean, star anise, or dried herbs, simply add them to the jar of strained kefir and let it infuse in the fridge for a day or two. Flavorings that contain sugar, such as fruits, should be blended into the kefir then drunk right away because the sugars will restart fermentation and the milk can become too sour. A splash of pure vanilla extract or a small amount of cocoa powder is also great in blended kefir.