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How To Pump Up the Protein in Homemade Yogurt

Are you looking to eat more protein?

If you like to make your own yogurt, you can practically double the protein content by straining it (aka Greek yogurt). Find out why this process pumps up the protein numbers.

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 quart jar of whey strained from 2 quarts of regular yogurt next to a quart jar of Greek yogurt

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. You can read more about the benefits or reasons to eat more protein here.

Let’s jump in! But first, a roadmap:

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

Dried whey is a processed product make 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. LOTS of milk (extra protein) must be added. That is why ricotta cheese is commercially made from sweet whey and not from yogurt whey.



2. Nutritional numbers 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 says 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 protein, according to The Calorie Counter. Accordingly, a half-cup of whey would contain .95 grams of protein.

That leaves 7.5 grams 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. The short answer to my reader’s question

Yes! 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 plum in the sun. Some water but little sugar will be lost 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. 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. A variable amount of whey is strained off with each batch. The more you strain, the higher the protein.

5. The reward for 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.” It 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. 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 and more satisfying and debatably less sour.

6. 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. Since it is “acid whey,” the taste is on the sour side. It is an acquired taste I have yet to acquire.

7. 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 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. 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.

Click here to get a FREE printable cheat-sheet for making Greek yogurt when you sign up for my FREE 6-day email course: “How To Make the Yogurt of Your Dreams.

What would you like to read next?


Pin the picture below to save for later.

Pinterest Image of straining regular yogurt that results in a quart of whey and a quart of Greek yogurt

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 a question or problem you need help with, please write it in the comment section below so I can respond back. You can also email me privately: paula at saladinajar.com.

Thank you for visiting!
Paula

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

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gabriella silveira

Thursday 23rd of July 2020

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

Paula

Thursday 23rd of July 2020

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.

Nicole

Monday 20th of July 2020

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?

Paula

Monday 20th of July 2020

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.

Margarete

Tuesday 5th of May 2020

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 ?

Paula

Tuesday 5th of May 2020

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?

Timothy Cota

Sunday 16th of February 2020

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

Paula

Sunday 16th of February 2020

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.