Introduction: How to Make Natural Whey

Picture of How to Make Natural Whey

Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained, and is the starter for lacto-fermented fruits, vegetables, and beverages.

This is an adaptation of the whey recipe from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions. Using this method, you get wonderful cream cheese and whey, which can be used to make sauerkraut, ginger ale, or many other lacto-fermented foods.

It couldn't be easier: Put plain yogurt in a dish towel or cheese cloth and let the whey drip out overnight. I tied my dish towel together with rubber bands, and suspended it from a cabinet knob over a pitcher. Once the cream cheese and whey are separated, just save the whey in a glass mason jar, or similar. Refrigerated whey will last for months. In the images, I used goat milk yogurt. Cow milk yogurt will work fine.


VimanyuA (author)2015-02-16

They whey obtained will be acidic in nature if use this process. Is there any way to neutralise it?

JonT3 made it! (author)2015-02-06

I think I can answer a few question. I like to make Greek yogurt at home. The whey is left-over from the process. I don't know what to do with it. I see some here seem to have the opposite problem. ;)

If you make whey from store-bought yogurt, what do you do with the leftover yogurt? You eat it, silly! It is Greek yogurt, and will have a higher protein content than normal yogurt.

If you do this, use regular yogurt. If you were successful in extracting whey from store-bought Greek yogurt, it wasn't very good Greek yogurt. They cheaped-out and left a lot of whey in the product. Maybe they amped it up with nonfat dry milk solids, or maybe they used some stabilizer like a hydrocolloid or gelatin to give it more of Greek yogurt -"like" consistency and to keep it from separating in shipment. Alas, you WILL be successful in extracting whey from almost all store-bought Greek yogurt. Sigh.

When I make Greek yogurt at home, I buy a gallon of milk, and make 4 quarts of yogurt, in 4 one-quart mason jars. I then take 3 of those quarts, and use them to make 1 quart of Greek yogurt. I have 2 quarts of whey left-over. This is proper Greek yogurt. Then I have a quart of regular yogurt left-over as well. The regular is nice for breakfast, and because I culture for a long time (as much as 24 hours) it does not separate so long as it sits in the jar. It is in perfect equilibrium as long as it is in an unyielding container. That is why I use glass. If I take some to a friend, I am careful that it doesn't roll-around in the car or get disturbed too much! Store-bought yogurt either uses stabilizers to survive shipment, or it is simply runny. In fact, my starter was a "boutique" store-bought Bulgarian yogurt that comes in a glass jar. It is runny and not very appealing to the eye, but has a great taste. My yogurt - made form the same culture - is not runny at all.

I do the separation using a filter bag I bought from McMaster-Carr. You can probably get similar bags at a local aquarium-supply store, especially if they sell reef-tank supplies. I use 50 micron nylon, but you probably should not really use nylon, since it's not meant for food processing. I think I will buy some more appropriate FDA-approved polyester or polypropylene bag. Somebody sells these online for food applications at highly-inflated prices and calls them "super bags". They promote them for jelly-making, etc.

I use a one-gallon "decorative" Mason jar (it has no screw threads) that I got at a local Ace Hardware to drip into. I think it's a much neater setup than the typical collendar-and-cheesecloth setup. The bag is too small, though, and you have to feed more in every hour or so as it drips and there is more room. I am going to order a longer bag. The next size bag is actually too long for the jar, but now I've realized that I can just roll it up at the top, so long as I get the bag with a metal rim (as I use now) rather than the ridged plastic rim.

See the attached photo of the setup. Note that I put the jar in the fridge, I just had it out for the photo.

As for pasteurization and homogenization: it's not quite true that yogurt is not pasteurized. It HAS to be made from pasteurized milk - even if you buy unpasteurized milk to make it yourself, then you have to pasteurize it yourself anyway in order to kill any competing organisms. In fact, it's a normal part of yogurt-making to heat to scalding first. So - don't waste your money on raw milk! But, no it is not pasteurized again after making it into yogurt, because that would kill the yogurt culture. You can make yogurt (or whey) from homogenized or un-homigenized milk - each has it's merits. It can be nice to have part of the yogurt a different consistently when the cream rises to the top as it cultures. As far as the why produced - whey is whey.

Are there really some yogurts sold in stores that have been pasteurized after processing? If you use those, you will still have whey. It just won't be suitable for lacto-fermentation, as it would contain no live cultures.

JeffA1 (author)2014-11-27

where can i buy it? is it availble in supermarkets?

JeffA1 (author)2014-11-27

where can i buy it? is it availble in supermarkets?

JustAM1 (author)2014-11-25

Awesome tutorial, and I second hilma.labelle's question about using kefir whey instead.
Off topic... is that a giant beetle in the window (bottom/right). Because Holy Wow!

krwoolsey (author)2013-09-29

I use a paper coffee filter in a wire strainer over a large bowl, place another coffee filter on top of yogurt with a small bowl or plate to weight it down. I put the whole thing in the refrigerator for a day. makes great cream cheese too. I use home made yogurt .

JustAM1 (author)krwoolsey2014-11-25

I thought ferments and cultures didn't like metals (they react with it somehow)? I have a plastic strainer I use. Thanks for the tip about the coffee filter. I may try lining the strainer with one for this. :)

hilma.labelle (author)2014-08-11

Can you use kefir instead of yoghurt?

heastman (author)2013-03-18

I only buy Stoneyfield Greek or regular plain yogurt. I haven't checked the Greek carton, but the regular plain yogurt says on the side alive and active cultures and makes a LOT of whey. :)

keith11 (author)2013-01-24

is there a whey ! to dry out this whey and use the remainder as a protein source ? ie a powder.

Takelababy (author)2012-12-03

Will femented juice from making saurkraut work instead of yogurt?

younga2 (author)2011-11-18

I am not sure but I use to make fresh cottage cheese by adding acid to fresh milk and straining after letting it sit for ten minutes. This can also be used to make whey, but the whey has the acid residue in it. Acids include lemon juice and vinegar. The quanties needed depend on the strength of the acid. I believe by letting the milk sit for three days before straining will denature the protein in whey and cottage cheese. Hence the cottage cheese and the whey will have different proteins etc.
I believe by using this method, the cottage cheese will taste better and be better for you. As for the whey, you need to experiment with the correct quantities of acid otherwise there will be too much acid in the whey.
Any comments appreciated.

neldabean (author)2011-07-07

What do you do with the leftover yogurt?

Spiff73 (author)2009-07-24

Does the yogurt need to be special in any way (unpasteurized, etc?)

ewilhelm (author)Spiff732009-07-25

Typically, fresh yogurt is unpasteurized, but to be sure, you'd want to get yogurt that contains live or active cultures. For most uses of whey, you want happy bacteria.

wokwithme (author)ewilhelm2010-02-17

All diary products are pasteurized unless stated otherwise. Likewise for the milk in making Yogurt. Some yogurt are pasteurized again after the culturing process and hence it loses the active cultures.
Most Yogurt  containers don't label that it has been pasteurized after culturing. That's why ewilhelm says to check the "ingredients" for live active cultures.

=SMART= (author)2009-12-16

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet,
eating her curds and whey;
along came a spider who sat down beside her
and frightened Miss Muffet away

Phoenixmill (author)2009-09-29

so if i went to a store, and bought a tub of yoplait regular yogurt, i could make this? it doesnt need to be homemade, or goat? like is all yogurt for the most part unpastureized?

ewilhelm (author)Phoenixmill2009-09-30

As long as the yogurt has active cultures, you will be able to make whey.

altomic (author)2009-08-15

wait.....I thought of a better pun. me: I tried making whey from soy milk. ewilhelm: no way!!!

altomic (author)2009-08-15

make your own?!?!? No way!!!

knexsuperbuilderfreak (author)2009-07-23

whats whey? and what would it be used for?

Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained, and is the starter for lacto-fermented fruits, vegetables, and beverages. It's the first thing stated in the instructable...

ahhhhh thanks

Ninzerbean (author)2009-07-24

I never thought to hang my bag of yogurt on the cupboard door handle - obvious and great idea - thank you. By the "whey", I give it to my dogs in their food.

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Bio: Eric J. Wilhelm is the founder of Instructables. He has a Ph.D. from MIT in Mechanical Engineering. Eric believes in making technology accessible through ... More »
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