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Home » How To Make Fresh Ricotta from Yogurt Whey (+Video)

How To Make Fresh Ricotta from Yogurt Whey (+Video)

Preview: Try these directions for making fresh Ricotta cheese with whey drained from making Greek yogurt. It’s a neutral-flavored good form many recipes.

Are you a Greek yogurt maker with lots of whey on your hands? If so, here’s an easy 3-ingredient recipe for making fresh Ricotta using whey drained from yogurt.

Homemade recipes normally call for lemon juice or vinegar to make Ricotta. Using yogurt whey creates a neutrally-flavored cheese perfect for any recipe.

Not a yogurt maker? Substitute buttermilk for the whey.


To all of you Greek yogurt makers: This is a great idea for using up some of the whey you get from straining regular yogurt.

Save yourself a last-minute trip to the store the next time you get hungry for lasagna. It’s one reason I always keep a quart of whey from my latest batch of yogurt in the fridge

yogurt with whey strained off in bowl below

How is yogurt whey different from the whey leftover from making cheese?

Traditional ricotta cheese is made by boiling whey leftover from making cheese. It’s called “sweet whey.”

Whey drained from yogurt is called “acid whey.” Most of the protein is removed from the whey in the yogurt-making process, unlike sweet whey.

Here’s why the difference matters:

A huge amount of yogurt whey is required to produce a minuscule amount of ricotta by simply boiling the whey.

To make ricotta with yogurt whey, you must add whole milk or 2% milk to the whey. Or to put it more accurately, we add whey to milk so the protein can be accessed.

Can I use yogurt whey as a substitute for vinegar or lemon juice?

Recipes for homemade ricotta cheese often call for lemon juice or vinegar to separate the curds from the whey. This method/recipe uses yogurt whey instead.

Lemon juice is appropriate for ricotta you want to use in a dessert or a recipe with sugar. Vinegar is better for a savory dish like lasagna.

The good thing about yogurt whey is that it produces a neutral flavored-ricotta. Use it for savory or sweet recipes. You can substitute buttermilk if you don’t have yogurt whey available.

microwave-safe bowl, milk and yogurt whey

Why does this recipe produce even more whey?

The recipe calls for a half-gallon of milk and 2 cups of yogurt whey. This will yield about 1-1/4 cup of curds, aka ricotta cheese. That means the rest will be whey.

At this point, I throw out the leftover whey. I’ve heard that animals like it but can’t speak from personal experience on that one.

Using a Microwave vs. Stovetop To Heat the Milk

milk mixture n the microwave

I’m a microwave person, so I always choose the microwave when possible. For me, it’s faster, easier to clean-up, and there is no risk of scorching.

On the other hand, heating the milk and whey on top of the stove is perfectly doable. Be careful not to let the milk boil over, or you will have a mess on your hands.

How To Make Ricotta Using Yogurt Whey

It’s simple. Grab a half-gallon of whole or 2% milk along with a couple of cups of whey you’ve saved from making Greek yogurt.

Whisk together in a saucepan and heat on top of the stove or in a microwave without stirring.

measuring the temperature of the milk (showing separation) with a quick-read thermomether

As the milk mixture heats, you will see the milk begin to curdle and separate into curds and whey. (Watch out for spiders!) 🙂

Remove from the stove when the temperature reaches 180-190˚F. Allow to sit for 15 minutes.

3 Ways To Separate the Curds from the Whey


Use a fine-mesh strainer

Use a slotted spoon to remove curds to a fine-mesh strainer. Let the ricotta drain to your preferred dryness. Season with a pinch of salt. Easy. Right?

separating the curds using a slotted spoon and fine-mesh strainer
Separate the curds from the whey using a fine-mesh strainer.
straining excess whey from cheese with fine-mesh strainer
Ricotta cheese seen inside a fine-mesh strainer


Use a nutbag or yogurt pouch.

using a yogurt pouch to strain curds to make ricotta


Line a cheap colander with 3-4 layers of cheesecloth.

You could also cover a colander with a thin cotton t-shirt (a very clean one, of course).

TIP: Don’t pour all of the curds and whey into the colander at once.

I tried this. Once. The microscopic curds quickly clogged up the system. It took forever to separate the curds from the whey.

Also, the big chunks of curd fell apart.

Get a slotted spoon or small strainer (like a tea strainer) and carefully dip out the curds. You want to leave most of the whey in the original container.

How long should I strain my ricotta?

Strain the whey out of the curds until they are as dry or as moist as you prefer. It doesn’t take long. Maybe 15-30 minutes.

If your ricotta drains a little too long or you are just feeling decadent, stir in a little heavy cream. YUM!

How do I store homemade ricotta cheese?

Store in a glass bowl or jar in the refrigerator for 4-7 days. If you are a vacuum-sealer (you know who you are), vacuum-pack the finished ricotta in a Mason jar and double the storage time to approximately 2 weeks.

Homemade ricotta can also be frozen in a plastic container or bag.

Homemade Ricotta--storing in vacuum pack jar

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    Yield: 1.25 cup

    How To Make Fresh Ricotta from Yogurt Whey

    How To Make Fresh Ricotta from Yogurt Whey

    How to make ricotta cheese using the whey gathered from straining yogurt

    Prep Time 1 hour
    Total Time 1 hour


    • 2 cups whey drained from making Greek yogurt
    • 1/2 gallon whole or 2% milk
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt


    1. Stir the milk and whey together in a large saucepan.
    2. Heat on stove to 180 degrees. Milk will curdle.
    3. Remove from the stove and allow it to stand for 10-15 minutes.
    4. Gently retrieve curds from pan using a slotted spoon and place it into a fine-mesh strainer or use whatever strainer you have, lined with two layers of cheesecloth.
    5. When curds have drained to your preferred dryness, store in a glass or plastic jar up to 4-7 days.


    Making Ricotta Cheese in a Microwave:

    • Stir the milk and whey together in a microwave-safe container.
    • Heat on HIGH for 18-20 minutes or until mixture reaches 180-190 degrees. (This is just a starting point. Microwave ovens vary hugely. Best to use a thermometer until you figure out how long it takes.) Don't stir.
    • Proceed with step 3 above.

    Nutrition Information:


    20 tablespoons

    Serving Size:

    1 tablespoon

    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 88Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 64mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 0gSugar: 5gProtein: 12g

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    Friday 6th of November 2020

    Thank you for your directions. Worked out great for a not so great batch of yogurt that I ended I with lots of leftover whey. Much appreciation!


    Friday 6th of November 2020

    Hi Jan, Glad the ricotta worked for you. And using that liquid to make bread is always a good idea. Did you know you can make and maintain sourdough starter with whey, too? Works really great. The directions are at the end of this post. 18


    Friday 6th of November 2020

    @Jan, p.s. I will use the leftover whey to replace liquid when making bread, and pizza dough. Thanks again!

    Kim Turcotte

    Sunday 31st of May 2020

    Is there anything more I can do with the leftover liquid from making the ricotta? It seems like a lot of liquid leftover.

    Kim Turcotte

    Sunday 31st of May 2020

    @Paula, Awewsome thank you for this info as I just planted some blueberries and they need acidic soil so I may just use it in that way.


    Sunday 31st of May 2020

    Yes, Kim. I agree. It's a lot. Have you already read this post about 18 Ways to Use Whey, a By-Product of Greek Yogurt My only suggestions would be smoothies or to use in baking like buttermilk. Even then, you don't need much. I'm told that animals like it. Some plants like it. For example, acid-loving hydrangeas. Hope your cheese was good.


    Wednesday 19th of February 2020

    Can I freeze some yogurt whey to use as a starter?


    Wednesday 19th of February 2020

    I have frozen yogurt to use as starter but never yogurt whey. Seems like it would work but can't say for sure.

    Miguel Pérez

    Tuesday 4th of February 2020

    Today I made made this but it just didn’t work for me. I used the whey from yesterday’s yogurt, and when I was heating the milk mixed with the whey, it just didn’t curdle. To fix it I added 5tbsp of vinegar and the curdles formes right away. Do you have any explanation for this?


    Wednesday 5th of February 2020

    Hi Miguel, Evidently, your milk needed more "acid" to start the curdling process. Just add more whey until it starts to curdle. It's sometimes difficult to specify exact measurements because the whey made from homemade yogurt is going to be a moving target because of all the variables involved.


    Wednesday 25th of December 2019

    This is a great recipe and you explained everything, so it all makes sense. Other recipes for ricotta from yogurt whey call for vinegar or lemon juice, so I really appreciate that you explain here that the yogurt whey is already acidic.

    Followed your instructions and it worked! We had ricotta cheese!

    AND I accidentally discovered something important - since I finished this ricotta process at night, I left all the remaining whey in the stockpot overnight. In the morning I took it out and started to pour it on my plants -- and to my surprise ricotta cheese curds poured out too! There was a whole bunch of ricotta cheese in there! So this keeps making whey if you leave it for longer. I'm on my second batch now and took out all the cheese with a slotted spoon, and now I'm going to leave the leftover whey sitting in the stockpot overnight, so I'll get more ricotta!

    Thank you for this page.


    Wednesday 25th of December 2019

    Sorry - typo above and no edit function * So this keeps making ricotta cheese if you leave it for longer...