Can I Use Whey From Straining Yogurt to Make More Yogurt?

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Sneak Preview: Have you ever thought about using whey as a yogurt starter to make more yogurt? I’ve tried it. Here’s all the information you need to know.

yogurt made with whey drained from yogurt

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Making Greek yogurt produces a lot of whey in the straining process. Many people ask if they can use whey to make more yogurt. Let’s talk about it.

I’ve tried it. Here’s all the information you need to know.

If you’ve never tried to make yogurt before, see this post or watch the video below to start using my method.

After you’ve made a successful batch, come back and read about this variation. Here is my answer to lots of questions I’ve received lately about recycling whey.

What is yogurt whey?

Whey is that yellowish liquid that rises to the top of yogurt. Many people stir it back in, but I prefer to drain it off. The result is Greek yogurt and lots of leftover whey.

whey drained from yogurt

Can I use yogurt whey to make more yogurt?

YES! Add 2-3 tablespoons of whey to 2 quarts of heated and cooled milk.  (More or less whey may also work–this is just what I do.) Whisk it well and incubate as usual.

In the picture below, I made the yogurt on the left with whey as the starter. I made the yogurt on the right with my homemade yogurt as a starter. The results were identical in taste and texture.

comparing yogurt made with whey as the starter and yogurt made with yogurt starter

Why you might want to use whey as a yogurt starter:

1. If you make very much Greek yogurt, you will have more whey than you can use.

If you need some ideas, read this post for more than 18 Ways to Use Yogurt Whey.

2. You won’t have to “waste” any of your precious homemade yogurt by using it as a starter.

Instead, you can enjoy eating every last drop.

3. Always save a little whey to make your next batch.

Consequently, you won’t have to worry about keeping some yogurt back to use as a starter. It’s also good insurance if somebody inadvertently eats the last of your previous batch of yogurt.

4. Perfectly smooth texture

If you use a grainy or lumpy yogurt as a starter, you are sure to make more grainy or lumpy yogurt. Start over again by using whey.

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FAQ about Yogurt Whey Used as Starter

1. How long does yogurt whey last?

I get a lot of questions on this subject. In my experience, it’s good for at least three weeks, but I’ve read it can last for six months. Although it may last longer, since I make yogurt twice a week, there’s no reason for me to keep it around.

The next question is related to this question but not the same.

2. How long does whey stay fresh enough to use as a starter?

Use a traditional yogurt starter at least once a week to ensure the most vigorous starter. I’m assuming the same goes for whey.

yogurt crash course signup

If you have questions or suggestions, email me privately to Paula at Hope to see you again soon! Paula

What would you like to read next about making yogurt?

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  1. this is wonderful news>> see never to old to learn and never new you could use whey in next batch omg dahhhhhhhhh been making my own yogurt for about 4 months now
    thanks for sharing
    Ontario Canada here

  2. Not only that, you can also use whey as the liquid part in bread making. Gives bread a sourdough taste without having to make a starter.
    Saltspring Island ,BC, Canada.

    1. Thanks for the reminder about using the whey in bread, Judith. I especially like it in french bread and pizza dough.

  3. I make handcrafted soap and substituted yogurt whey for water in a batch. It was very interesting. The soap smelled like fresh bread and felt lovely on my skin.

    1. Hi Debra,
      Making soap? That’s a new one for me. Must add that to my ongoing list of things you can do with yogurt whey.

  4. Love your blog Paula. I am wondering if the whey can be frozen. I live alone (well,with my three dogs:) and it’s a rare happening when I make yogurt and anything else in the same week. I just don’t cook much for just myself, but would love to try using the whey in pizza dough, etc., but like I said, it would probably go bad before I could use it.

    1. Yes, you can freeze the whey, Shawna. I have done it for both yogurt and bread making. I also use the whey from making what I call Hungarian cottage cheese.

    2. Shawna,
      I haven’t tried freezing whey but I have frozen yogurt to use as starter and it works great so don’t see why it wouldn’t be the same for whey. Perhaps you saw in the comments that Judith says, yes, you can do it.

    3. I also use the whey on my dogs dry dog food. They love it and stools and breath are great. Urin isn’t as acidic as it shows with my less brown spots on my grass.

  5. Sarah Galvin (All Our Fingers in the Pie) says:

    Very interesting experiment. I must try this. And you are right about whey being easier to incorporate into the milk.

  6. Tina Yeamans says:

    Thanks for the tip! I started using whey for the starter last week, and it was perfect!

  7. thank you for sharing these great info 🙂

  8. Allen Bennett says:

    In making yogurt from all heavy cream (three pints), would I get enough whey to start another batch?

    1. Hi Allen,
      I’ve never made yogurt from heavy cream but it doesn’t take much whey (a couple tablespoons?) to start another batch so I’m guessing you would have enough.

  9. I don’t make yogurt as often as you, so can I freeze the whey and still use it as a starter….at a later date?

    1. Although I have never frozen whey, I have frozen yogurt to use as started and it worked great. I can only imagine that whey would also freeze well.

  10. Pam Carlson says:

    I have a yogurt maker in which for which I do not do anything to the milk before adding the yogurt starter and pushing start. Do you know if I could use the whey in the machine the same way as I use some of my yogurt as a starter?

    1. Pam,
      I would certainly think so. Should be no difference whatsoever.

  11. I tried using whey…. It did NOT work. What went wrong?

  12. Melissa White says:

    Hi Paula,

    Love your blog!! Just started on my yogurt adventure. It was a little intimidating at first but truly yogurt is pretty forgiving. Really, clean containers and utensils and mind your milk temperatures are the only musts. At first I would stress about how much yogurt for a starter, how long to hold the milk at 180 degrees and what if it went above 180?? What if I went longer than 10 minutes? And what is the correct temperature to heat it to? or cool it to? Everyone had a different answer… Well I have been at it about a month now…I have heated it as high as 200 degrees, and held the high temperature for 10, 15, or 20 minutes…I use any combination of 2% whole milk, cream 10%, 18% or a splash of 32% (decadent yes), also I love coconut milk yogurt, love the flavor, have made yogurt using pure coconut milk, though that is pricey, but it is only the flavor that I am going for so I throw in a can of coconut cream, splash of cream and fill it up with whole milk…. delicious!!

    As a result of finding your blog today and your posts about using whey as a yogurt starter there is a coconut/whole milk yogurt on the go as I type … very excited about this because the waste of whey weighs heavily on my mind…couldn’t resist.

    All I know is yogurt is so easy and the methods so vastly accommodating to what you have on hand that I should have been doing this long ago!!

    But seriously thank you for all the whey info, I will make good use of it!


    1. Cindy L Bradley says:

      For some reason whenever I use my fresh whey from my previous batch, the chances for my yogurt turning out is maybe 50/50. Sometimes less. 1 tablespoon for 1 gallon of yogurt doesn’t look like enough so I end up adding a little extra. Could this possibly be the reason it doesn’t thicken the same as when I use regular yogurt as my starter, instead of the whey? I’m gonna try and fix this last batch that didn’t thicken enough by doing what you suggested. I’m gonna add some fresh starter to this 104- degree batch and set it for about 5 hours. Should this work? I’d hate to ruin a gallon of milk. Wish me luck. Thanks for being here for all our mistakes. You are very much appreciated!

      1. Hi Cindy, Wishing you luck. Your plan should work. For a gallon of milk, I would definitely use more than 1 tablespoon of whey. Try at least 2 tablespoons or even 3 or 4 for a whole gallon.

  13. Thank you so much for this information! I found it right after dumping some whey down the sink…glad I still kept some 🙂

  14. Can I make way as a starter for making kvass and just keep the way in the refrigerator

    1. Whey is a by-product that is produced by straining yogurt. I’m not familiar with kvass so I’m sorry, I can’t answer your question.

  15. Can frozen whey be used as a starter

    1. Temi, Haven’t tried it so cant say for sure. Since you can freeze yogurt to use for starter later, I’m assuming the answer is “yes.”

      1. tia adler says:

        I often freeze the whey and use it as a starter. It works fine.

  16. Hi. How many times can I keep using my own culture as a starter, whether whey or yoghurt before it loses it’s power. How will I know?

    1. Mari,
      That is a VERY GOOD question. I’m not sure I have a very good answer.

      In general, it’s when your yogurt is not quite up to par, particularly the texture. If your yogurt has a “gluey” texture, definitely start over. If it’s not as thick as usual, I would probably start over. And if the taste takes a turn, start over. I have used the same “culture” for as long as a year. But sometimes I start over after 3-4 weeks. There are so many variables, I don’t think one can go with a hard and fast rule.

    2. @Paula, If your new batch of yogurt turns out well the yogurt and the whey are as strong and fresh as what you started with. In this way its lifespan is infinite. You can freeze about 1/4 c of either yogurt or whey as the starter for your next batch.

      Filtered whey lasts for months in the fridge. If you put fruit in whey in the fridge you can have surprisingly fresh peaches, pairs, berries… in the dead of winter. Before refrigeration was common in our homes, whey was used to preserve fruits in a jar in a cool place like a root cellar. It is high in acid and doesn’t allow mold to grow. The options of freezing and canning don’t give the fresh and beautiful results of preserving in whey.

      1. Thanks for taking the time to write, Liz. I know about freezing the yogurt or whey or starter. Although it was safe to eat (but not a nice and smooth texture), eventually it loses the power to make more good yogurt. At least that’s my experience.

        What do you mean by “filtered whey?” Is that whey with no bits of yogurt settled at the bottom? I’ve never tried preserving fresh fruit that way. Guess I was afraid the acid whey would give them a sour flavor. I will experiment with this.

    3. Caryn Hart says:

      @Liz, maybe you have some insight into this. My yogurt has always worked so far using 1/4 cup of whey and fermenting 18 hours, but now my most current batches, though thick and smooth (I strain it.) are too tart. Has that been your experience, and do you have any thoughts?

  17. Frank Kasha says:

    Yes you can use yogurt whey to make yogurt that is the only way I make Yogurt

    1. Thanks for the confirmation, Frank. I’m curious. What proportions do you use when adding the whey?

      1. Twice I’ve used 1T whey per quart of milk and ended up with warm, but not soured, milk. The first time I added some yogurt, reset the time on the instant pot, and thankfully had a wonderful batch of thick yogurt (I do add powdered milk. The second time I was more worried when I realized ALL of the yogurt was gone, so I added a few more tablespoons of whey, and in 8 hours I had a delicious pot of yogurt.
        I strain only a portion to use as a substitute for cream and for spreading on toast.

        1. Rose, I’m glad to hear that neither batch was a loss. Because of so many variables, feel free to use more whey if that works for you. I always prefer to use yogurt over whey, but if I find yourself without any yogurt, it’s nice to know that whey will work–however much it takes.

  18. Kathryn Odell says:

    Thanks so much for this tip! Using whey works great, and produces an identical result with using the actual yogurt. I’ve started the instant pot to make my yogurt, and it had simplified even more the process! I use my leftover whey in place of water when I bake bread. One question…I’m going to be traveling and am wondering some whey without killing the active culture, so it’s ready when I return in a month. Thanks for all your help!

  19. Kathryn Odell says:

    Oops! I just read the rest of the comments and see that you answered my question, so please ignore that! By the way, I’ve been using the same starter for nine months now, and it still working great!

    1. 9 months? You are doing GOOD!!!

  20. I make yogurt with the cold start method in the instant pot. I always strain to make Greek yogurt and last time I saved the whey after learning all the different ways to use it.
    I made a batch of yogurt last night and used the whey for starter and 10 hrs later I only have warm milk ?.
    Any idea why it failed?
    I also used the whey in my homemade mayonnaise which is supposed to give it a shelf life of a few months but it got moldy after a couple weeks.

    1. Lisa,
      You must be disappointed–and I don’t blame you. I have never tried the “cold start method.” Does that mean you didn’t heat the milk to 180 degrees F and then let it cool back down? If so, I’m probably not qualified to answer this question. I ALWAYS recommend you heat the milk because it rearranges the proteins so the result will be thicker yogurt. Meanwhile, add some yogurt to your “failed” yogurt and re-incubate. I hate to ask this, but did you set your Instant Pot to the yogurt setting? In other words, was the yogurt warm enough to incubate or was it too hot and killed the yogurt babies?

      Re: mayonnaise. You did keep it refrigerated. Right? Homemade mayonnaise, even with whey will not last more than a month in the refrigerator.

  21. Made and strained yogurt today. My cheesecloth was very fine and my whey very clear. Just want to check, does clear whey work as a starter or do you need a little cloudiness (yogurt solids) in there to work? I’m excited about not having to hold back any yogurt if this works!

    1. Heather,
      Cloudiness is not necessary. Even though I’ve made successful yogurt with whey several times, for some reason, I still prefer to use yogurt as a starter. Try it and see what you think.

  22. The short answer to this is no. We’ve tried on several occasions now, increasing the amount of whey added each time until we were adding a quarter cup of whey to each quart of milk and intubating for up to 8 hours, and all we had was warm milk. Save the time and energy and just use yogurt as your starter.

  23. I just made ricotta with my leftover whey. I will never buy it again! So delicious & quick. All this time i’ve been pouring it down the drain. Thank you for the info!

  24. We use all our whey in waffle batter. Generally, I don’t feel well after eating something sweet with syrup for breakfast, but when I use whey in the waffle batter, the added protein makes all the difference and I feel fine. My kids call them WHEYfuls.

    1. WHEYfuls? That’s cute. Reminds me of Chaffles. Good idea!

  25. You say that left over whey can be used as a starter .. awesome. So how do I store it for the 2 weeks before use? Thanks for your time.

    1. It’s always best when you re-use starter at least once a week. So in the case of the leftover whey, perhaps you could try freezing it since you want to store it for 2 weeks. I’ve done it with yogurt but never actually tried freezing whey. Just a thought.

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  27. Bonnie Toney says:

    But does the whey have the same probiotics as the yogurt you are adding?

  28. Can you make greek yogurt using the homemade Greek yogurt that you make before?

  29. Great Yogurt. I froze a cup of fresh whey, thawed it in the fridge and made yogurt overnight in the Instant Pot. It took a little longer than usual to set. It is just right and tart enough after 19 hours. I’m happy with it. I used 52 oz. Fairlife Low Fat Milk, 1/2 c. Instant Non-Fat Dry Milk and 1 c. thawed whey. Next step is straining it using your coffee filter method.
    Thank you for the information about using whey as a starter.

    1. Congratulaions Louise. I do a little happy dance every time I make yogurt successfully. I can tell you feel the same way. Even better that you made it with whey. No need to waste any precious yogurt.

  30. Hi i tried to use the whey leftover from last yogurt making fed days ago (i used 1 gallon wholemilk plus 2 pints of heavy whipping cream) for some reason it didn’t worked it cured but still very runney. I tried to reheat it and put in some more culture through yogurt it still didn’t worked.8 hours. Wondering if it’s because of the heavy cream in the whey? Thanks for your help

    1. Hi Jenny,

      I’m sorry the whey didn’t work for you. How old did you say the whey was? It’s best if less than a week old. How much whey did you add? I’ve never made yogurt with that much heavy whipping cream but it sounds delicious. I have made creme fraiche with whey and heavy cream only and it worked great. What happened when you reheated your milk mixture? Did you reheat all the way to 180˚F? If so, the milk should have curdled? If it didn’t, that’s a sign the whey didn’t have many live cultures working in it. Since you added yogurt and it still didn’t work, that tells me something else is going on here.

      I’m curious. Are you using my directions for making yogurt or something else? I could be more helpful if I knew more details about your process. Hope to hear from you again soon.

  31. I’ve made two batches very nice. Making it to low fat I drained off half as whey.i had frustrating losses when transferring after straining , got your tip on a conical strainer thanks. Scott

  32. Hi. I make my yoghurt from unpasteurised, non-homogenised full cream milk, using starter from my previous batch. I heat it to finger warmth then put it in Kilner jars in my picnic cooler box, with 2 hot water bottles. I usually put about 12 crushed cardamom pods in at the beginning of the process. I surround the Kilner jars with newspaper, then leave overnight. It makes really tasty, creamy yoghurt. The whey is great to drink, with maybe some pineapple blitzed into it.

    1. Hi Patrick,
      I love to hear how people make their yogurt. You are one privileged person to have access to full cream milk. The cardamom pods are a new idea to me. Sounds fabulous. And pineapple added to the whey also sounds delicious. Can’t wait to try that.

      You’re right about using whey in bread. As long as you remember it is “acid” whey and not “sweet whey” like you get from making Mozzarella cheese, you can use it in things that are OK with the bitter/sour taste.

      Thanks for taking the time to write and joining into the conversation.

  33. PS. I also use the whey in my nutty wholemeal and rye breads instead of water, and in my scones and wheaten bread. I’m sure it can be used in just about everything where liquid is required.

  34. Can I use raw cows milk with whey to make yogurt?

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