Norwegian Brown Cheese




About: I'm a biologist interested in all things sciency. I love to figure out how things work and to make my own stuff, be it food, woodworking, electronics or sewing.

Brown cheese is a very Norwegian thing. It is made from whey, and tastes great on bread, waffles, pancakes or just on its own. It exists in multiple varieties and is relatively easy to make.

Step 1: What You'll Need

The ingredient list is very short for this recipe:

Cream or milk

For this I used 5 liters of whey and 6 dl of cream, but this is not a fixed ratio and highly subjective to personal tastes


Wooden spoon or similar to stir with.
Container for the cheese to harden in.

Step 2: Background

Brown cheese is technically not a cheese, but as it is a product of the cheese making process we'll just keep calling it so.

It has been produced in Norway for a very long time, both as a way to conserve valuable resources and because it simply tastes great.

When you make cheese, you are left with a lot of whey after separating out the curds. The whey contains a lot of lactose and proteins. In much of the world, this whey is simply thrown out as a waste product.

Check out this instructable for a good introduction to making hard cheese.

Long ago, someone, for reasons unknown, kept boiling a kettle of whey until all they were left with was some brown, sticky goo. They must have liked it, repeated the action, told their neighbors who liked it, and a traditional piece of food was born.

Brown cheese exists in a lot of varieties made from cows milk, goat milk, or a mix of the two. It is sold under many different names like mysost, gjeitost, fløtemysost, brunost.

Step 3: Reducing the Whey

First you need to get hold of some whey. This usually happens when you make cheese, but if cheesemaking is not your thing, ask a cheesemaking friend to donate some. A commercial cheese producer might also be willing to give you some.

If salt has been added to the whey in the cheese making process, it might not be useable for brown cheese. We are boiling away all the water from the whey, so the salt is going to be concentrated in the finished product.

Whey from yoghurt making is not very suitable for brown cheese, as the bacteria in the yoghurt culture digest most, if not all, of the lactose in the whey.

When you have got yourself a bit of whey, put it in a kettle on the stove and start boiling it. This is going to take a lot of time, as we are removing all the water. Keep stirring now and then to keep it from burning. The first few hours you just have to stir occasionally, but as it thickens, you need to stir more often. Towards the end, it needs constant stirring.

The resulting brown cheese will differ depending on how you got the whey. Whey from a fresh cheese will make a sweeter brown cheese than whey from making a hard cheese. This is because the bacteria involved in making hard cheese will eat the sugar and produce acid. Whey from hard cheese production needs to be boiled immediately after separating out the curds, to kill the bacteria and preserve the sugar we want.

The whey in these pictures was from making hard cheese. The acid produced by the bacteria might also give a different effect when you start boiling the whey. The white stuff you see floating in the second picture is whey protein and remaining milk fat clumping together. This is actually what ricotta cheese is made of, so you can keep this too and get three different cheeses from one batch of milk. This process only happens if the whey is acidic enough, and you should remove the white coagulate even if you are not making ricotta.

Step 4: Add Cream or Milk

When you whey is reduced to something resembling soft caramel, it is time to add some cream or milk to it. This does a lot to determine the taste of the finished product. A lot of cream gives a milder taste. Goats milk gives a more intense flavour.

After adding cream or milk, you need to reduce it down to the caramel consistency again.

Step 5: Cool and Stirr

When you have reached the desired consistency, remove the kettle from the heat and keep stirring as it cools. This is important to avoid the formation of sugar crystals in the brown cheese.

Step 6: Put in a Suitable Container.

When you have reached the desired consistency of thick molten caramel, pour the brown cheese into a suitable container and leave it in the fridge to cool. Here I used one of the cartons from the milk to shape my cheese block.

Step 7: Unwrap

After cooling down for a few hours, you can unwrap your product. What you see here is the result of trying to take pictures and cooking at the same time. The brown cheese cooled down a bit too much before I put it in the container, so it ended up crumbly and full of holes.

I'm showing this because it might happen to others, and it is not a big problem. We'll fix it in the next step.

Step 8: Cheese Repair

All you have to do to fix a crumbly brown cheese, is to melt it again and cast it one more time. Melting it directly doesn't work very well, so you need to add some milk or cream. This also means you have to boil away the water again.

This remelting can be used to add a different flavour if you are not happy with the first product. You can for instance add more cream to make the cheese milder.

Boiling it less gives you a spreadable product called Prim that tastes about the same.

Step 9: Eat

Now this is more what we were aiming for. You now have a nice block of brown cheese you can enjoy on bread, waffles, pancakes,or whatever else you can think of. This is a sweet cheese as one of the main constituents is lactose ( needless to say, not for the lactose intolerant). It goes well with other sweet stuff like jam, but you can also use it to give a twist to sauces.

Wrapped in plastic or wax paper, this cheese keeps for a long time in the fridge. Due to the high sugar content, it rarely grows mold.

As a variation, you can add spices like cinnamon og cardamom to the cheese.




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    15 Discussions


    Question 7 months ago

    can it be done with leftovers from ricotta making? i'm not sure it;s the same stuff as whey from making rennet cheese, because to make ricotta there is some acid (vinegar or citric acid) added to the whey in the proces.

    1 answer

    Reply 7 months ago

    I have never tried this. As far as I can see, cheese producers normally have such abundance of whey that they make either ricotta or brown cheese. The best way to find out would be to try ;-)


    Question 10 months ago

    Hi, I just tried to make this, but it never thickened.

    I used 1 quart whey that was leftover from making quick cheese / curds. I brought to a gentle boil, then gentle simmered for 1 hour. It never thickened. Did I just not use enough whey (I didn't want to use all my whey in case it didn't work). Or do I need to keep it at a rolling boil the whole time? Not sure what I did wrong. Thanks!

    1 answer

    Reply 9 months ago

    Hi. This takes quite some time to make. First you need to boil away all the water, then the sugar will start to caramelise. If it doesn't thicken, you simply need to boil it longer.


    Question 12 months ago on Step 7

    I tried to make this cheese but ended up with
    something like very hard and very dark toffee. What did I do wrong?
    Could I have overcooked it?
    When I was boiling down the cream with the caramelised whey, at some point there was a separation between: 1) quite a lot of oil 2) a mass.
    I couldn't even pour or spoon the "cheese" in a container, I formed the cheese with my hands (it was that hard).
    Thanks so much for your advice!
    2 answers

    Answer 12 months ago

    It sounds like you may have overcooked it. I have never seen the separation you mention, so I don't really know what is going on with that. If the fat separated out of the cream it makes sense that the resulting brown cheese goes hard and crumbly. If it otherwise tastes ok, you can just remelt it in some more cream and repeat the last step.


    Reply 12 months ago

    Thank you very much for your feedback, I really appreciate it! I had never made cheese before and don't know anyone who's made brunost (or any cheese), so I didn't know where to ask.
    I thought so too: hard, because the fat has left the cheese. I have no idea why it separated, other than overcooking. The taste is great, but it's barely usable as it is. I don't know if I want to attempt remelting with more cream, given the separation I saw, but I think I'd like to make the cheese again from scratch. My only concern is how to know when to stop with the cooking, how do I know I'm not stopping too early? Thanks a lot again!


    2 years ago

    Wow - I had no idea that there was no sugar added to Gjetost - I love this kind of cheese but my wife won't let me buy it because it's so sweet (she does a good job of keeping my diabetes in check!) - but we'd always assumed the cheese was made with added sugar. Never realised it was just lactose from boiled-down milk. (Which I think is not so dangerous to diabetics, at least that's the excuse I use when I buy Indian sweets like Kaju Katli which don't have sucrose either :-) )

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    PS At least in South Texas, this is sold in the local supermarkets such as HEB.

    This brand specifically: (cheaper in the stores than that Amazon seller)


    2 years ago

    Finally, something I can use my leftover whey for! normally I save my whey, and use it in cooking throughout the week, but 3/4 of it still goes bad since there's not many things I can put it in (that I make at least). this seems like something good to experiment with flavor.


    2 years ago

    I assume the whey from making yogurt can also work here?

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Whey from yoghurt doesn't really work well for this. The bacteria in the yoghurt usually digest most, if not all, of the lactose in the milk, so there is not much left to make brown cheese from. I updated the instructable with this information.


    2 years ago

    Where do you get whey from? Can you buy it in the U.S.?

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    The easiest way to get whey is to make some fresh cheese at home. You simply heat the milk and stirr in lemon juice until the cheese proteins clump together. Sieve the whole thing through a cloth, and you have whey and a batch of fresh cheese.


    2 years ago

    Wish I had access to whey, I love cheese, except brie, aweful stuff