Why Straining Homemade Yogurt Doubles the Protein Content

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Sneak Preview: Read why straining homemade yogurt doubles the protein content of your yogurt. Learn more about yogurt whey and how the straining process affects the amount of protein in your yogurt.

a quart jar of whey strained from 2 quarts of regular yogurt next to a quart jar of Greek yogurt makes for more protein in your homemade yogurt

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Are you looking to eat more protein? If you like to make yogurt, you can double the protein content by straining it (aka Greek yogurt). Find out why this process pumps up the protein numbers and makes your yogurt more satisfying.

To be clear, we are talking about dairy yogurt and specifically, homemade yogurt. You can use full-fat milk, low-fat milk, or fat-free milk.

If you prefer to add protein to your yogurt, skip to the last section for some ideas you may not have thought about before.

A while back, I received the following question from a reader:

If Greek yogurt is plain yogurt with the whey removed and whey is 100% protein, then why is Greek yogurt higher in protein than plain yogurt?”

Answering this question sent me down an eye-opening path. I’m excited to share my findings with you, my favorite yogurt makers and yogurt lovers.

The commenter appears confused about the different types of whey. Not uncommon! Whey is the secret to increasing the protein, but not in the way this reader is thinking.

The pros and cons of eating lots of protein are not the subjects of this post. However, you can read more about the benefits or reasons to eat more protein here.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Yogurt Whey

1. What’s the difference between cheese whey, yogurt whey, and dried whey?

Dried whey is a processed product made from highly concentrated sweet whey. It comes in several forms. You can read more about the different types of dried whey here. Many people add it to smoothies and other beverages as a high-protein ingredient.

Sweet whey is a by-product of making cheese, not yogurt. It contains considerably more protein than yogurt whey.

Greek yogurt releasing whey after sitting for a week.
Greek yogurt made a week ago is still releasing whey.

Yogurt whey lands in the category of acid whey. When you open a jar of yogurt that has been sitting for a while, the clear liquid you see on top is “acid” whey.

When you drain the liquid off regular yogurt to make Greek yogurt, whey is the liquid you will see in the bowl.

The simplest definition of Greek yogurt is regular yogurt with much of the whey removed.

straining whey from yogurt using a fine bouillon strainer

Contrary to the commenter’s assertion, yogurt whey is not 100% protein. In fact, according to The Calorie Counter, yogurt whey (liquid acid whey strained from yogurt) contains 1.9 g of protein per 1 cup serving.

Not convinced?

Try to make ricotta cheese from yogurt whey instead of cheese whey. There is not nearly enough protein left in yogurt whey to make much ricotta cheese.

One must add LOTS of milk (extra protein) to whey to make cheese.

That is why ricotta cheese is commercially made from sweet whey and not from yogurt whey.

2. What are the nutritional numbers of yogurt and whey as they relate to protein content?

(I’m no mathematician. Many thanks to “Alexa” for helping me with the math.)

Start with 8.5 grams of protein per 1 cup of regular full-fat yogurt per The Calorie Counter. Strain it.

For the sake of simple numbers, let’s say you reduce the solids by half (50%) when straining the yogurt.

This would result in a half-cup of whey and a half-cup of Greek yogurt. 1 cup of whey contains 1.9 grams of protein, according to The Calorie Counter. Accordingly, a half-cup of whey would contain .95 grams of protein.

That leaves 7.5 grams of protein in a half-cup (4 oz) of strained yogurt.

Double 7.5 grams for one cup of strained (Greek) yogurt. By my calculation, you get 15 grams of protein in 1 cup of Greek yogurt.

The winner is…

Compare 8.5 grams of protein in one cup of regular yogurt to 15 grams in 1 cup of Greek yogurt. See what I mean?

3. Does Greek yogurt or regular yogurt contain more protein?

Greek yogurt contains more protein than regular yogurt.

With concentrated yogurt (Greek yogurt), the protein content increases. Only a small part of the protein leaves when the whey separates from the original yogurt.

Think about it this way.

Place a fresh, sweet grape in the sun. You will lose some water but little sugar in the transformation to a raisin.

Result? Raisins are sweeter than grapes. Why? Because the relatively same amount of sugar occupies a smaller mass.

Likewise, straining yogurt causes it to lose lots of whey but little protein. So most of the protein is now compressed into a smaller amount of yogurt that we call Greek yogurt.

4. Are the numbers different if you make your own yogurt?

If you make homemade Greek yogurt as I do, the numbers will vary from batch to batch. This is because a variable amount of whey is strained off with each batch. The more you strain, the higher the protein.

5. What are the benefits of straining yogurt?

Less sugar. Less lactose. Creamier texture. More filling and satisfying. And of course, more protein.

“Strained Greek yogurt is lower in sugar than regular yogurt. Removing the whey produces a thicker, creamier yogurt with a tart taste.”

Is Greek yogurt good for you?

Please notice I did not say “fewer calories.” The calorie count depends on the fat content of the original milk used to make the yogurt.

Greek yogurt made from fat-free milk will be lower in calories than regular yogurt made from fat-free milk. This is because a majority of the sugar leaves with the whey. (This assumes you have not added any form of sugar or other add-ins.)

Straining Greek yogurt made from whole milk will concentrate the fat as whey contains negligible fat. However, it is creamier, more satisfying, and debatably less sour.

6. What is the best way to strain yogurt?

The most common way is to use cheesecloth. I detest using cheesecloth because it’s messy, so I’ve devised other ways to strain my yogurt. Have a look and choose your favorite: An Easy Way To Strain Yogurt Without Cheesecloth, A Yogurt Bag as a Cheesecloth Alternative for Making Greek Yogurt, How To Strain Yogurt with Paper Coffee Filters.

7. Now that I’ve strained my yogurt, is it OK to drink the whey?

Greek yogurt leaking whey from a quart jar

Yogurt whey is safe to drink. However, since it is “acid whey,” the taste is on the sour side. It is an acquired taste I have yet to acquire. Read about many other ideas for what to do with whey.

8. Straining seems like more trouble than I’m up for. Any other ideas?

REMINDER: These ideas will also add calories. Proceed with knowledge.

  1. Add powdered milk to the milk before you incubate your yogurt. It will also help to make your yogurt thicker. I think it changes the flavor and makes the texture a bit chalky, so I’m not a fan. Each to his own. You might like it.
  2. Add protein powder or whey protein. Again, this can change the flavor and texture.
  3. Add peanut butter powder, nuts, flax seeds, or chia seeds. Check out the Chocolate Peanut Butter Yogurt recipe on this blog.
  4. Make yogurt with milk that has been processed to reduce the water. This results in concentrating the milk and increasing the nutrient count. I often use Braum’s milk (a regional brand). They boast of 50% more protein in a cup of their fat-free milk.
  5. Use ultra-filtered milk such as the Fairway brand to make your yogurt with the cold start method. It starts out with 13 g of protein per cup. If you strain it to make Greek yogurt, you can multiply the amount of protein, depending on how much whey you drain off.

yogurt crash course signup

Conclusion:

Whether you make it yourself or buy it from the store, Greek yogurt is a delicious way to increase your protein intake.


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

Disclaimer: As part of my Home Economics degree, I’ve completed formal training in nutrition, but I am not a registered dietitian.

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20 Comments

  1. Timothy Cota says:

    Thank you for all the info I found on your site. I bought a simple yogurt maker for my mother-in-law. She thought that she would like to go back to making her own yogurt but she decided that at her age (93) it was a little more than she could handle. I have thought about making yogurt for a long time so now is the time.
    I did notice one little glitch. You mentioned making raisins from plums. Plums actually make prunes. Grapes make raisins. Other than that your site is a treasure trove. Tim

    1. Timothy,
      You are so right about the raisins. I will correct that immediately. I think you will enjoy making yogurt. Let me know what you think after you try it.

  2. Margarete says:

    Hi thank you for all the info. one question please. I have noticed with some greek strained yogurts in the supermarket that the 0% fat one is higher in protein . Do you know why this is ?

    1. Margarete, Pretend you have a cup of full-fat yogurt with x amount of protein. Now take all the fat out of that yogurt. You now have the same amount of protein in a lesser amount of yogurt (which is now non-fat) so it is slightly concentrated. There’s not a big difference between the amount of protein in whole fat yogurt and non-fat yogurt. The difference is greater in Greek yogurt because the amount of protein is more concentrated in the full-fat yogurt. Does this make sense?

  3. I have been buying and eating Liberte Greek Lactose Free yogurt and want to start making my own lactose free yogurt. What I am planning to do is use Natrel Lactose Free Skim Milk and a cup of Liberte Greek Lactose Free yogurt in my homemade batch. Does this make sense? I’ve not done it before. Do you know how I would calculate the protein content in this recipe for homemade yogurt?

    1. Hi Nicole,

      I’m not sure where to start. But let me first say that a cup of yogurt is way too much starter for even a gallon of skim milk. For half a gallon, you only need 2-3 tablespoons. Maybe you weren’t asking that, but it jumped out at me.

      It is impossible to figure the protein content in homemade yogurt, especially Greek yogurt. The amount of whey you drain out is usually different every time. This will affect the protein content. I find the best way is to look at a commercial yogurt that seems to be the closest in consistency and ingredients to your homemade yogurt and take their word for it.

      Thanks for writing.

    2. @Nicole,
      Hi! I have been searching for a good lactose free yogurt( for the days when I’m too lazy to make my own..lol)
      Where do you find the liberte lactose free yogurt?
      I’m in NY.
      Thanks,
      Deb

  4. gabriella silveira says:

    Hi!! First I would like to tank you for this great post!! I was looking for information like these for weeks!!! hahaha Thanks God I found your website.

    Just a question, if I want to increase a bit more the amount of protein in my greek yogurt with casein or whey protein with no flavor. Should I do this in witch part of the process? In the milk at the beggining or in the end when the yogurt is ready?
    What do you recommend?

    Many thanks, best regards from Brazil. <3

    1. Hi Gabriella,

      I would do it at the end, when the yogurt is ready. If you plan to make more yogurt, be sure to hold back a small amount of yogurt that has nothing added to it to use as a starter.

      Thanks for your kind words. I’m also glad you found this website.

  5. Thank you so much for all the research required for this great post! Just what I was looking for. I have been contemplating how protein and fat content make up both my strained Greek yogurt and the resulting whey. I had no clue! You have very clearly described this. I watch my LDL intake, and now I have a much better understanding of the resulting fat, creaminess, and flavor as I move across the milk source spectrum. i can’t wait to read more of your writing. Thanks again!

    1. Thanks for the encouraging note. What a day-brightener!!

  6. Hi Paula,

    Great post! It answers a lot of the questions I had about home made yogurt. I just made my first batch yesterday and I loved the results. I made greek yogurt with whole milk and I’m thinking about using some of it to make greek yogurt with 2% milk next time. Do you have any uses for the whey? I would say out of 1L of milk there was about 3 cups of whey drained. I do have to mention the recipe I followed used 250gr of yogurt which, after reading your post, I’ve learned it’s too much and will reduce next time.

    1. Hi Natalie,

      So glad to have you as a reader. I’m happy that post was helpful. Making yogurt seems to be a lifetime learning process. Just when I think I know how to make a perfect batch every time, I get tripped up. That’s the way it goes with live organisms.

      I have lots of ideas for whey.

  7. Joan Rumet says:

    Thank you very much, guess Greek is the best way to getting lots of Protein ?
    Adding Fruits to sweeten the taste makes it easier than Sugar?

    1. Hi Joan,

      Yes, Greek yogurt is a good source of protein. I’m not sure adding fruit is easier than sugar. They are both pretty tasty. 😜

  8. This looks yummy! I can’t wait to try these.

  9. “Place a fresh, sweet plum in the sun. You will lose some water but little sugar in the transformation to a raisin.”

    A dried plum is called a prune not a raisin. Raisins are dried grapes.

    1. Hi Andy,
      Of course, you’re right. You probably noticed I talked about raisins and grapes in the very next paragraph. Thank you for letting me know so I could correct that first sentence.

  10. Jessica Smith says:

    Wondering how to calculate the carb content in Greek yogurt homemade. Totally willing to measure the whey by volume or grams each time i make a batch. Also willing to let it sit longer if that will remove more sugar (I’m aware this will also make it more sour). But need to keep carbs as low as possible and need to figure out how to actually calculate the carbs in each batch. I know how to calculate nutrients but just need some guidance on how much of the lactose is eaten by bacteria and also how much sugar per either volume or weight amount is in the whey. I don’t actually need help as to how to do the calculations, just the information so that i can make the calculations… Anything you can share will be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Jessica,

      When it comes to homemade yogurt and Nutritionals, there are so many variables that I can’t tell you how to calculate precise numbers. I suspect you would need a chemist to answer your question–especially about the amount of lactose. I use the Calorie Counter to estimate the numbers. Those are linked in the post. Here is the link again for whey Another variable is the milk you use. You can use the Nutritionals listed on the carton of the milk you use.

      If lactose is something you are required to be very careful about consuming, it might be safer to buy yogurt that has been made under strict and consistent conditions.

      I hope this helps.