Beijing Yogurt Recipe – Sweet & Tart Drinkable Yogurt

February 2, 2018Van
Blog post

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 15 hours

Serves: 6

I love yogurt. Whenever I see a new form of this cultured treat, I have the urge to test it out and compare it to my list of all time favorites. Beijing Yogurt requires no spoon because it’s a drinkable yogurt, it’s sweet and tart at the same time – absolutely delicious! In China its often served in adorable little clay jars with paper tops that you insert straws into. Life moves pretty fast in modern China, and theres no time for sitting leisurely with a spoon—this is yogurt on the go!  Actually in China,  you have to drink it very quickly because you have to return the clay jars back to vendors!

I was perusing the aisles of my local Japanese Market and spotted these cute plastic cups with a vivid blue top in the refrigerated section. Turns out it was “Beijing Yogurt” or “suan nai” that was made in the U.S. Needless to say I was at the checkout stand within a few seconds! I used this Beijing Yogurt as my starter, but any plain yogurt with active cultures will work for this recipe. I found the adorable milk bottles on Amazon (link here).

The original version (nai lao) of this was first learned by the imperial chefs in the 1800s, the recipe transformed into a more mild and sweeter version that caught on in Beijing in 1950s when it became a hit among the health conscious and hip. In fact, its true debut was in the theater district where artists and actors gravitated towards this delicious drink. Each time I make this, I imagine sitting in a bustling corner of Beijing, watching all the people go by as I take comfort in this sweet & tart yogurt drink.

If you’re curious about the ingredients in the Beijing Yogurt that I used as my starter, here they are: Cultured Pasteurized Milk, Non Fat Milk, Sugar, Contains Live & Active Probiotic Cultures (L. Bulgaricus, L. Casei, L. Acidophilus, B. Bifidus, S. Thermophilus)

Beijing Yogurt Recipe Ingredients

Click on the image of the bottles to purchase them on Amazon
Beijing Yogurt Recipe

Yogurt Recipes

Print Recipe

Beijing Yogurt Recipe

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 hours
  • Serves: 6

Recipe for the Instant Pot or Yogurt Maker

Sweet & Tart Drinkable Yogurt


  • ½ Gallon Pasteurized Milk
  • ½ Cup + 2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar
  • ¼ Cup Plain Yogurt with active cultures
  • ½ Cup Cultured Buttermilk


  • 1)

    In a bowl, mix ¼ Cup Plain Yogurt and ½ Cup Cultured Buttermilk with a whisk until the mixture is complete smooth and there are no yogurt lumps and set aside.

    Almost any plain yogurt will work for this recipe, but I would avoid using Fage brand yogurt because it doesn’t get tart enough for this recipe.

  • 2)

    Add 1 Cup of Milk and ½ Cup + 2 Tablespoons of Sugar to a sauce pan or pot. On medium low heat, stir the milk and sugar until all the sugar is dissolved, this should take about 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and pour in the rest of the milk.

  • 3)

    Add the Yogurt and Buttermilk mixture last, give it a few good stirs with a whisk to ensure the cultures are evenly distributed.

  • 4)

    Pour the mixture into the Instant Pot and seal the Instant Pot with the lid. Use the Yogurt button and set it for 15 hours, make sure that it’s on the “Normal” Yogurt setting. Or use your yogurt maker and set it for 15 hours.

    ***If you have the glass milk bottles you can incubate the yogurt in the bottles, the yogurt ends up being a little thicker so I prefer this method. Fill the bottles with the mixture and place the bottle caps on them. Fill the Instant Pot with 2 cups of water and place the bottles into the Instant Pot. Use the Yogurt button and set it for 15 hours, make sure that it’s on the “Normal” Yogurt setting.

  • 5)

    Once the yogurt is done, take the liner out of the Instant Pot and place it in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, try to not disturb the yogurt during this time (don’t stir or transfer to another container)

    If you incubated the yogurt in the glass bottles, remove the bottles from the Instant Pot and refrigerate for 6 hours.

  • 6)

    After it’s been refrigerated, transfer to your bottles, jars or cups. Enjoy with a straw!


Supplies to make this recipe




  • kathryn

    February 9, 2018 at 8:30 am

    Is it necessary to use ultra pasteurized or ultra filtered milk, since this is a cold start recipe?

    1. Van

      February 9, 2018 at 8:44 am

      It doesn’t have to be ultra pasteurized or ultra filtered, you just use regular pasteurized milk for this recipe. I actually tried it with ultra pasteurized and it’s too thick to be a drinkable yogurt.

  • Kat

    February 28, 2018 at 7:48 pm

    Can I make it for 8 hours in the instant pot instead?

    1. Van

      February 28, 2018 at 7:56 pm

      Hi Kat, yes you can – it probably won’t be as tart after only 8 hours so you may want to cut back on the sugar a little.


    March 6, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    Hi! Do you think this would work by just placing the mixture in the oven with the light on? I don’t have an instant pot/yogurt maker but I’ve seen other yogurt recipes recommend that.

    I went to Beijing last year and was OBSESSED with the yogurt there. Truly a treat.!!

    1. Van

      March 7, 2018 at 5:35 pm

      Hi Christina, if you want to try the oven method, heat the mixture to 110F first before whisking in the yogurt and buttermilk – use a thermometer so you don’t accidentally kill the yogurt cultures. Leave it on the top shelf with the oven light on, turn on your oven for 30 seconds every 3 or 4 hours just to keep it warm.

  • Daniel

    March 15, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    I use an Annova sous-vide machine to warm the milk gallon jug to 110F. This seems to work well. I go back and forth about cooking the milk to 180 on the stove first for protein. I also use the same Beijing yogurt as a starter from this article, it is the best one. My attempts have been not quite the same as the original qualities, however reading this article it seems I have been missing the buttermilk, so I will try this. Exciting.

    1. Van

      March 15, 2018 at 9:46 pm

      Hi Daniel, when I first tried making this yogurt, I ran into the same issue – I tried it with just milk, sugar and the starter, but it didn’t taste like the original one at all, the flavor was flat and lacking that nice tang that Beijing Yogurt has. I realized that they use cultured milk as one of the ingredients so I tried buttermilk and the flavor is very close to the original now. Good luck with your yogurt making adventures!

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