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Cheesemaking – what to do with all that whey?

June 11, 2013

Look at all that delicious whey!

You’ve conquered your demons and made cheese- good for you!!  (If you haven’t yet made cheese, join one of our classes in SF & Oakland or check out our home cheesemaking kits – you won’t regret it).  Now you find yourself with a pound of delicious homemade cheese and three quarts of whey!  What to do with all that protein-rich goodness?

First, some things to know about whey: Whey is milk with the fats and solids pulled out (the solids are now in your cheese).  It’s primarily water but also contains lactose (milk sugar) which is water soluble and ends up draining off with the whey – for the lactose-intolerant, beware.

However, the most valuable ingredient in whey is the whey protein. Milk contains two types of protein – casein and whey proteins.  Most of the casein ends up in your cheese and most of the whey protein ends up in the whey, as you would guess based on the name.

In the early days of large-scale cheesemaking, cheesemakers would have to be creative to find uses for their whey.  Early on-farm cheesemakers fed it directly back to the animals as a protein source, of course, but once cheesemaking became industrial and moved off the farm, the industry had to find another way to dispose of all that “waste”. Because whey is an excellent source of protein the cheesemaking companies began marketing their leftover product to companies which make protein-enriched products such as protein shakes and bars.

Before too long, the protein industry became so huge that it nearly overcame the cheesemaking side of the business.  Today, there’s such a large demand for industrial whey protein (check ingredient labels on health foods and you’ll see it everywhere), that marginal cheese has become the by-product and whey the primary product for some large-scale cheesemakers.

That said, you’re probably not going to sell your three quarts of whey to a protein bar manufacturer.  Why would you when there are so many uses for it at home.  The end use depends upon whether the whey is salted or not and there are way more options for the unsalted variety but here are some general ideas:

 

Salted:

Whey contributes to a richer homemade stock

  • Super Rich Homemade Stock- Save up your bones and/or veggie trimmings (you can keep them in the freezer for a few weeks until you have enough).  When you have what you need, cover the bones and trimmings with whey instead of water, bring to a boil then simmer on low a couple of hours to extract the flavor.  Strain out the bones and trimmings and reduce the liquid until it’s about half or even a third of its starting volume.  Be sure to tasted for salt since reducing it will increase the saltiness.  Freeze in ice cube trays and use as needed in place of bouillon or stock.  DELICIOUS!
  • Baking – Use in place of water or milk in bread or pastry recipes.  Be sure to omit the salt.

Unsalted:

  • Protein Shakes and Smoothies – Big industry isn’t the only one able to take advantage of this protein rich product.  Add a little to your shakes and smoothies for a protein boost.
  • Powdery Mildew Assistance- If you’re a gardener, especially near the coast or in wet climates, you’ve battled powdery mildew, that icky whitish-gray powder that settles on your cucumber, pea and squash leaves.  No need to buy expensive treatments at the garden store – spray on some whey and the acidity will change the pH of the leaves, discouraging powdery mildew.
  • Lower Garden Soil pH – Do you grow plants that prefer soil with a higher acidity like blueberries or tomatoes?  Strain your whey incredibly well with doubled up cheese cloth or butter muslin then pour it into the soil.  The acidity will benefit your plants!
  • Lacto-Fermentation - If you’re a junkie for fermented goods like I am, you might appreciate the ability to speed up the process that whey gives you.  Instead of adding salt to produce you intend to ferment, you just add the whey – fermentation will occur much more quickly than you’re accustomed to so keep an eye on it.  You can add salt to taste if you like.
  • Rusk-Frog Close500Feed to the Animals – Obviously not everyone can take advantage of this use, but we mix whey in with feed for our backyard chickens for a protein boost.  It’s especially useful during moulting when they need a little extra protein.  Unfortunately, there isn’t much calcium left in whey, as it’s all helping to maintain the structure of your cheese at this point. I’ve heard of people feeding whey to their dogs as well, though we do not – I suspect that, like milk, it’s not advisable to feed whey to adult cats.
  • Drink Up! – The acidic tang of whey may be a bit of an acquired tasted but I actually find it refreshing.  Cultured whey has pro-biotics that can help balance the microflora in your gut as an extra bonus to the protein.  (see Booze it Up below)
  • Bathe in It? – Now this I have to admit I haven’t tried, but I’ve been assured by a true Swiss Miss who studied cheesemaking with the pros in the alps that it softens your skin like nothing else.  Worth a shot??
  • Booze it Up! – There are so many ways to get creative with whey.  Inspired by my awesome homesteading buddy Heidi Kooy of Itty Bitty Farm in the City, who brought a whey-based lemonade to a potluck, I turned my extra whey into a martini I dubbed “Lemon Meringue Pie”.  Vodka, limoncello (if you have it), lemon juice and whey mixed together made a lovely, almost (but not quite) creamy drink reminiscent of its namesake.  Equally tasty with lime – try it!
  • Ricotta – Many people ask about making ricotta from leftover whey.  If you made cheese using a culture then you must do this -it’s the ultimate re-use. You still end up with some whey to use up, but you get some additional cheese from it. Keep in mind, however, that if you made simple cheese by adding acid (like citric acid, lemon juice or vinegar), you won’t be able to get ricotta out of just heating the whey – you’ll need to add an acid like vinegar or lemon juice to get the tiny ricotta curds.
  • Freeze for later – You can always freeze your whey for later.  I recommend splitting it into smaller, manageable batches and freezing separately.  It will keep in the freezer for up to 6 months, possibly longer.

I know I’ve barely scratched the surface here on whey’s uses.  How do you use up your extra whey?

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  • I use it to make bread.

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  • Lemonade or other “sweet cold drink.” Perfect for outdoor work refreshment.

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    • Jen, I couldn’t agree more. I love whey drinks and the surprise on my guest’s faces when I tell them the ingredients.

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      • I have sour whey from yogurt making and the only thing that I’ve been able to do with it that actually uses it up is make berry smoothies with it. But for some reason the amount of whey does stress me out! I get this little tub of greek yogurt and then I feel like ACK now I have all this whey! For some reason (and I don’t fully understand why) the extra whey feels like more work for me. Like “great now here is another step I need to take care of”. Anyways, I’m likely going to need to have an attitude adjustment because the family really loves their fresh greek yogurt.

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        • I made greek yogurt yesterday and it was delicious but I ended up with about 1 1/2 c of yougurt and 3 c of whey. It’s also stressing me out because I hate to waste things.

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          • Hi LInda – I just read your comments about making yogurt – although you posted over a year ago. If you have not solved the excess whey dilemma, let me know. I make lots of yogurt & initially had many, many failures – too much whey, thin yogurt, etc. I finally conquered!! audreydalley@gmail.com

  • Thanks for shout out lady! i just made coffee cake with whey. made it super tangy and fabulous. think i’ll add it to a smoothie tomorrow :)

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  • I use it mostly for bread but I’ve used it in place of orange juice for smoothies. I like it better!

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  • Any time I can add some extra protein to something that my daughter will eat I feel like a rock star. I use whey in muffins and pancakes. I love the idea to use it to fight powdery mildew – I do something similar with milk but this would be equally as handy. Great post.

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  • How long will the whey last in your fridge?

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  • I’ve heard that you cannot make ricotta out of whey leftover from mozzarella (which uses citric acid). However, I made some fabulous ricotta out of the whey from citric acid mozzarella last week!! This week, I used the whey left over from making some white goat cheddar, and turned THAT into ricotta, too! I used the recipe where you set the whey out, covered, overnight to acidify it, instead of using vinegar or lemon juice.

    I tried making a drink out of it — wasn’t bad! I used about 2/3 whey (this is the clear-yellow whey, left after making cheese then ricotta), 1/3 unsweetened cranberry juice, plus some stevia and some xylitol. It was pretty good! Kind of weird and definitely sour, but good! I think I could acquire the taste. :)

    The rest of the clear-yellow whey, I’ve been pouring on my garden. I live in an area with naturally alkaline soil, and the acid does really well for the plants — it especially helps the plants take up iron, to keep the leaves nice & green & healthy.

    Hope that helps!

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    • Hi Karen Joy,
      Could you post your recipe for the white goat cheddar cheese and tell me how you made the ricotta for the whey? I made mozzarella cheese and tried to make ricotta from it. Didn’t work! Thanks for any help you can give.

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    • Can I please have your recipe for making ricotta cheese with the left over whey. I have made cheese and would like to make more.
      Thanks

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  • My Aunt has always told me that her Mother-in-Law used it as a natural hair remover. The unfortunate part is that she doesn’t know how exactly but she says her legs were always smooth as a babies butt. Anyone heard of that or want to give it a try?

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    • Hmmm, some people using it as a hair remover and others as a hair conditioner. I wonder what gives! I can imagine that anyone who is using baking soda to wash and vinegar to rinse hair could replace the vinegar with whey. The acid would work to neutralize the baking soda and seal up hair follicles in the same way.

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  • I’m curious – are you just throwing it in as a liquid to smoothies to make your own homemade whey protein smoothie? I’m a whey protein powder user myself – but I’m used to it in that form, that is, powdered (and chocolate flavored, lol). Do you have any recipes for this? I would be curious to try it! Thanks!

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  • warm a little up and put it on your hair after washing, leave on for a few minutes then rinse. You will be fondling your hair for the whole day ;) My hair tends to be dry and fly away. Whey is better than a salon treatment. Luscious and soft

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  • I have heard of people using it to cook their beans. I think that would be a great use for it!!!

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  • I use it to make homemade pizza crust. I have found that I need to add a bit more sugar to the yeast for it to rise properly. It adds a nice tang to the crust and is perfect for BBQ chicken pizza.

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  • I use it to make my home-made instant oatmeal for breakfast. Can’t tell the difference….I do add quite a bit of cinnamon to it but that’s good for you too!

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  • I’m making my first batch of lacto-fermented sauerkraut and realize the whey I saved in the fridge is two months old. Can I still use it with the cabbage or has it gone bad? Thanks for your time.

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    • I would have no problem trying it myself but for your first batch you might want to use fresh whey so you have a baseline to go off of. I think I’d even use the regular salt method for my first batch ever and move to whey later (or do a side by side test!).

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  • I use it for making risotto!

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  • I’m lactose intolerant so I probably shouldn’t drink the stuff but freezing it and using it when I start planting that should work. are there any specific vegetables fruits of flowers that really like the stuff and I plan on freezing it how long do you think it would keep if I am NOT going to injest it myself?

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    • Acid-loving plants like blueberries are a safe bet. I’ve stored it in my freezer for over a year before and still felt comfortable adding to my garden. ;-)

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    • I treat my milk/cream with lactase to make it lactose free before I make cream cheese. I would think that the whey left over would be acceptable for lactose intolerant people.

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    • I am not a doctor but I have many friends who are lactose intolerant that have found that home cultured Kefir (a liquid style yogurt) has provided the balance to thier intestines that makes them lactose intolerant. I acquired a Kefir start from an old german lady and started culturing my own Kefir from raw goats milk that I am able to get from a local dairy farm. Amazingly, I have no more intestinal problems and all of my previous lactose intolerant symptoms have gone away.

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  • I just used sour whey from making paneer ( using citric acid) in a corn, potato and salmon chowder. I used it like a stock and added some veg stock powder and then cream at the end. It worked really well to have the slight sourness, i just omitted the lemon juice in the original recipe.

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  • So many uses!!!! Thank you for sharing. I will use it for my soups after I harvest my veggie gardens. For now, I will keep it frozen for a couple of months. Oh, and my dog had some for breakfast; she loves it!

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  • I had heard the whey was doing terrible things to the environment. This article does not support that piece of information. Thank you.

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    • Thanks for this comment. Whey, much like manure, can be the best thing you come across in reasonable amounts. Also like manure, huge amounts of it (like what is produced by the gigantic greek yogurt makers) can be toxic to the environment. It’s all a matter of resource management, which of course is easier said than done in large scale.

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  • Can I make wheat dought with it and make chapaties with it
    My mother used to do it.

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  • ok mine’s salted, mainly because I recooked it after salting to get more ricotta ( i did!) I don’t see many options for salted whey except for stock.. Any other ideas out there?

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  • Enjoyed this site, I am wondering if my left over whey will act as a meat (beef, pork, lamb) tenderizer? My herbs quite enjoy the mild solution they are fed, next item is getting rid of the mildew on my rose bushes. Many thanks

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  • Wonderful info! Just what I was looking for! Thanks a bunch!

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  • I’m amazed at the variety of things you can do with left over whey. I had no idea! Thanks Nicole for today’s fun mozzarella class.

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  • You make GRiTS. When is done, add some cheese such as aged sharp cheddar, and top it with crumbled bacon. You’re welcome snob foodies! And don’t ask
    for my number, I’m already sold.

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  • can I use it for pigfood , and what amounts do I feed ?

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  • You can marinate chicken meet before you frie it, it gets incredibly incredibly tender

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  • I made ricotta the other day using lemon juice, and kept the whey. Made bread last night with it, and the bread came out so nice. I would recommend this to anyone.

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  • I love all you have here.. but I do want to debunk the ricotta comment.. I made mozarella using JUST white wine vinegar (have also tried using braggs apple cider vinegar) and the leftover whey resulted in just as much ricotta as was mozarella! I’m using raw goat milk so results may be different, however i’ve done this several times using the popular 30 minute mozarella recipe, though not using any renett, just vinegar!

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    • VERY cool. Thanks so much for sharing this. People ask me all the time if they can make mozzarella with goat milk so I’m happy to hear someone is doing it. Do you have to change the recipe at all? Also, I’d be curious to know how much vinegar 5% vinegar you use per gallon of milk. Thanks again for your great input!

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      • Oh that’s great I didn’t know that was a very common question! Yes actually I think it takes more vinegar than typical recipes call for because it’s not as effective at coagulating the curds as rennet like milk thistle, etc.
        It’s the standard method for making mozarella, but I use 1/2 to 3/4 cup vinegar (5%) at 55 degrees, then at 96 degrees I add another 1 cup or more, I typically just add it until I see the curds really starting to separate, then cut the heat and strain at 105 degrees. Then from there I use the microwave method to melt the mozarella – i’m weak so i use a wooden spoon to do the folding so as not to burn my hands (maybe that’s a male thing, haha). Then while i’m doing that I put the whey back on to boil to get the ricotta!

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      • 1/2 cup is what I use to one gallon of raw goats milk.

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    • I’m glad I hadn’t read these posts earlier because I probably wouldn’t have tried this. I made ricotta after making blue cheese using citric acid and rennet, and then added vinegar for the ricotta recipe, it worked perfectly and the whey is still wonderful.

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  • Warm whey with a spoon of honey, a pinch of salt and a dash of rum is the most divine winter warming drink I’ve ever come across! I love it just as much as a breakfast drink without the rum. I find myself now with the problem of not being able to use all the cheese that I have to make to get the whey that I want.

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    • Thanks so much for this information. I only knew about whey for bread making. I will definitely make stock and use on plants for powdery mildew. I had heard of putting cool-aid in it but didn`t see how that could be healthy. Will try my own fruit concoction with it.

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    • I couldn’t agree more about warm whey!!! Haven’t tried it with salt and honey or rum, although I will HAVE to give ir a try!
      (I use fresh goats milk, and bring it to 185 degrees on a low heat – take off heat, and add a lemon, cut in half, squeezed, add the rind, and poke the rind a few rimes until it curdles to the consistency I want.
      I salt the cheese after it drainss – and warm whey – Nothing better!
      Love this thread – thanks you for all the wonderful ideas!!!
      Anyone know how to make blue cheese without using rennet with goats milk??
      Thank you in advance!

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  • I just made french style white bread from King Arthur Flours recipe on their website. I used whey from the mozzarella i made the day before. Made a great texture and taste difference. I always use whey in breadmaking after i make cheese. I wouldn’t use it after making a blue mold infused cheese but who knows. Maybe illtry next time i make gorgonzola. It’s all about experimenting anyway, right?

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  • WOOW !!! What a useful blog and helpful article

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  • I add sweet whey to my drinking water. 1tsp to 8oz.

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  • I add it to my drinking water for everyday drinking

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  • I sometimes soak oats or other grains in it to get rid of the phytic acid. I would like to know how to make the ricotta from whey

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  • Hi! how many days the whey can stand in the fridge? I did fresh yogurt on june 26, today is july 8, I’ve keeped it in the fridge, is still safe to use it for lacto- fermentated lemonade? thankyou very much!

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  • My question is this. I have obtained a gallon of whey after a cheese making class. I have it in the frig and was wondering how long it will be a usable product? Will it go bad in a specific length of time? Also, if it is usable for consumption for some time, does it loose it’s benefits over time?

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  • I am wondering about whether whey is bad for your cholesterol count. I’ve been told I have to cut my cholesterol (eating too much of my own cheese no doubt!) and was wondering about whether whey is Ok to use – I put it in cakes and bread – the cat and chickens love it too

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  • I haven’t made cheese yet but I do buy raw milk, lightly pasteurize it, make butter from the cream, use the buttermilk and also the milk in making yogurt for smoothies. At one point I did use one gallon of raw milk..letting it sit out until it cultured, strained it and am using the whey in my smoothies, on cereal, etc. This method of culturing produces a whey that forms its own yeast which I strain it before use. Haven’t researched how to use the whey yeast.

    Thanks for all the good ideas.

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  • I culture my own Kefir and I separate the whey and keep in cool in my refrigerator and I drink it cool and straight with a meal. It gives me such amazing energy as it aids in digestion and supplements as a natural anti-biotic. I will try the idea of using it as a mixer with Lime/Lemons . . . that sounds great!

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  • I use the whey to add flavor to soups and also make hot cocoa out of it. The kids like it this way best.

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  • I use it when making rice, very good! Also I freeze it in quarter cup containers, and give it to the dogs as ice cream. They love it.

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  • Hello,

    I ‘m wondering, is it possible to multiply cultures just freezing whey for later

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  • Heard Ricotta is made from whey. Also wondered how muchy galactose is in this, as read about that is a book on healing digestion
    book by Elaine Gottschal called Breaking the vicious cycle. In the book are instructions for making 24 hour yogurt so the lactose is digested by culture.

    Reply