UnTour’s Old Beijing-Style Yogurt Recipe

Yogurt was most likely brought to China by the Mongolians, who are known to have consumed it every day at the time they invaded China. It also possibly travelled to Beijing along the Silk Road. Either way, yoghurt was originally produced by ancient nomadic herder populations that carried the day’s milk with them in goat or sheepskin bags.

Old Beijing Yogurt 老北京奶酪 (or 酸奶 suān nǎi – translates directly as sour milk) is prepared by heating milk and adding sugar to it. A special device called lào tǒng (酪桶 yogurt barrel) is used during production. A lào tǒng contains a heat chamber in the center, providing the heat needed for cooking. The milk is mixed with rice wine and honey or sugar and is rapidly poured into smaller containers. The bowls are then stacked along the inner wall of the yogurt barrel, heated for about thirty minutes, and later cooled.

We taste the authentic version on our popular Old Beijing Dinner Tour, but it’s so good, you might want to make it at home after the tour. Read on!


  • Whole Milk
  • Starter Culture: Unsweetened greek yogurt or sneak few bottle of Old Beijing Yogurt home
  • Sweet Fermented Rice
  • Honey


  1. Ratio of Milk, Culture and Sweet Fermented Rice wine should be 4: 0.5: 0.5. However if you can’t find the rice wine, you could skip it and make the mike/culture ratio to 4 to 1.
  2. Clean your tools – you don’t want rogue bacteria floating around to compete with the good variety in the yogurt culture. Take the time to sterilize/boil everything.
  3. Heat the milk with low heat to just before the boiling point. This helps make a richer end product, and kills any bad bacteria in the milk.
  4. Cool the milk to 43-45°C or 110-115°F
  5. Set your oven to its lowest temperature usually 75°C or 170°F
  6. Mix some of cooled milk and yogurt and rice wine together until fully incorporated. Pour back into the pot of milk and stir to combine.
  7. Strain and pour the yogurt mixture into storage containers with a lid
  8. Place the filled containers into the oven for 20 minutes; turn off the oven and leave the light on. Keep the yogurt in for 5-10 hours for fermentation. The longer the fermentation process, the more sour the taste.
  9. Remove the yogurt from the oven, and store in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Add honey to your taste.
  10. Save some of your homemade yogurt to use as the starter culture of your next batch! No more buying yogurt at the stores

To experience the real deal Old Beijing-style yogurt, join our Old Beijing Dinner Tour, to sample 15+ on a 3-hour culinary adventure.

old beijing yogurt

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