Why Whey & How to Make It

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I use whey in a lot of my cooking. I use it to make homemade condiments like homemade ketchup, for soaking grains and beans, as a starter culture for lacto-fermenting vegetables and fruits, and as a starter for beverages. If you’ve never made whey before you’re in for a surprise – it’s whey easy! (Corny, I know.) And when you’re done, you’ve also created sour cream and cream cheese (directions below)!

Why Whey?

Whey has been used for centuries. The Icelanders preserved their food with whey and Greek doctors referred to it as ‘healing water’. In the Middle Ages, doctors recommended whey for various ailments and up until the 1940′s spas in Europe treated gout, anemia, arthritis, and even tuberculosis with it.

What did they know that we don’t? Whey is a protein that provides your body with an excellent source of minerals, essential amino acids, and digestive bacteria. In 2000 a study by the Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center found that whey may also prevent breast cancer.

Homemade Whey is Better

Many health food stores rightly tout the benefits of whey protein. But if you’re really looking to build muscle, maintain your blood sugar, and boost your metabolism, skip the huge containers of powdered whey protein on the shelf and look no further than your own refrigerator.

Those powdered mixes contain artificial sweeteners, come from unknown sources (e.g. grain-fed, hormonally treated cows), they’ve obviously been processed in some way, and many of them contain heavy metals.

Isn’t that kinda counterproductive?

Making Whey

Homemade whey is really simple to make. You can make it from homemade yogurt, raw milk, or kefir. I usually get my whey from dripping yogurt because that’s what I first learned and I’m comfortable with the method. However, I wouldn’t hesitate a bit to use kefir or raw milk.

In the pictures below I’m using viili yogurt, but I’ll also explain how to make it with raw milk or kefir.

I don’t consider this recipe totally sugar-free because of the lactose in milk products. However, when you make either homemade yogurt or kefir there is very little lactose left in the end product and many who are lactose intolerant can eat them both. Still, be aware that there may be remnants of lactose in the whey.

Whey (egg-free, gluten-free, nut-free, low-carb)

yogurt, milk or kefir (each preferably raw or homemade)
large jar or bowl
*large tea bag, cheese cloth, or tea towel

*make sure you don’t use softener when you wash your tea bage because it creates a film and won’t let the whey drip through. Plus you might have odd tasting whey. :(

1. If you’re using raw milk, set about 2 quarts of milk in a jar or bowl at room temperature for 2-4 days or until the milk has visibly risen to the top and the bottom is a yellowish liquid whey.

If you’re using yogurt or kefir, no earlier preparation is needed.

2. Place a large tea bag, cheesecloth, or tea towel inside a half gallon size jar or large bowl. Pour the yogurt (raw milk or kefir) into the tea bag.

3. Pull the tea bag about half way up the jar and secure it with a metal ring or rubber band. Make sure the tea bag is pulled up far enough that the whey can drip out and the tea bag won’t be sitting in it. Put the jar in the fridge and let it drip for about 24 hours.

4. It’s up to you when your yogurt is done dripping. The yogurt that’s left in the cheesecloth is now a delicious, creamy sour cream, or if you want to let it drip longer and become even thicker, a nutritious cream cheese. You choose the consistency you want.

You can use the sour cream or cream cheese in any recipe just as you would store-bought.

The cream cheese/sour cream will last for about 1 month in the refrigerator and the whey is good for 6 months.

Carb counts:
whey – 13g per cup or 1.2g per T.
cream cheese or sour cream – 4.8g in 1/2 cup or 0.6g in 1 T.

See how easy it is to make your own whey! Plus, now you’ve got cream cheese or sour cream to use. In the end you’ve spent less than 15 minutes to create several whole food masterpieces. :)

Talk about multi-tasking!

You are the woman. . .or man.

P.S. How do you use your whey?


Shared at: The Healthy Home Economist, Harke Is Online, Nourishing Treasures, Homestead Revival, Whole New Mom, Real Food Forager, The Nourishing Gourmet, Real Food Freaks, Simply Sweet Home, The Shabby Nest, Food Renegade, Butter Believer, Tip Junkie, Vintage WannabeeSimply Sugar and Gluten FreeTime-Warp Wife, Confessions of A Frugal Mind, Far Above Rubies, Premeditated Leftovers, Confessions of A Stay-At-Home Mommy, At Home With K, At The Well, Women Living Well, Frugally Sustainable, The King’s Court IV, The Gluten Free HomemakerCrystal & Comp, day2day Joys, This Chick Cooks, We Are That Family, Raising Homemakers, The Thrifty Home, The Stuff of Success, Blue Cricket Designs, Everyday Tastes, A Little Bit of Spain In Iowa, Sorta Crunchy, Momnivore’s Dilemma, Life as Mom, Whipperberry, Real Food Whole Health, Mom Trends, Creation Corner, Keeping It Simple, Skip to My Lou, Make Ahead Meals For Busy Moms, Keeping It Simple, DIY Home Sweet Home, Coastal Charm, Permanent Posies, Hope Studios, The Girl Creative, Marvelous Messy, Delightfully Dowling, Heaven’s Homemaking Haven, Home Savvy A to Z, Chef In Training, Rook No. 17, Fingerprints on the Fridge, Thirty Handmade Days, Crumbs & Chaos, Kelly The Kitchen Kop, Celebrating Family, Flour Me With Love, The Modest Mom, Raising Mighty Arrows, Our Simple Country Life, Comfy in The Kitchen, Little Natural Cottage, Growing Home, Deep Roots at Home, Our Simple Farm, Living Oil Lady,

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I’m Paula - like many of you I wear a lot of hats. Child of God, wife of 17 years, mother of five, reluctant cook, full-time teacher, chocolate-snatcher, and children's author. Various family health issues including Lyme disease and candida has turned me into a 'researcher'. I don't have initials after my name, a degree in anything but motherhood, or a framed certificate on my wall. What I do have is a passion for understanding how our God-created bodies thrive or deteriorate based on what we put in it. Oh, and I also might mention homesteading, homeschooling, fitness, herbs, faith, and anything else I'm thinking about. . . like wow, I need to refill my tea. . .
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  1. Thanks for joining us on FF! So happy to see a new blogger joining us. I love whey and cream cheese too. I have never made it with yogurt . . always raw milk. I guess that makes me a freak too because I think it is easier and tastier with yogurt. I just started with the raw milk and I am just a creature of habit. :) One day . . .

  2. leslie@realfoodfreaks says:

    I use whey to make a probiotic lemonade. I'm also a fan of lacto fermented salsa! Thanks for linking up to Freaky Friday!

  3. This looks like a good, easy method! I haven't made my own yogurt yet but I have made whey with store-bought yogurt before. Baby steps…

    I ended up just adding the whey to a smoothie for an extra protein kick.

  4. I really like whey in bread making-exchange for water. I've used it in soups anf oatmeal…when available! I get my whey from cheese making from our goat milk!

  5. Jen – I've never made it with raw milk lol. Guess we're all creatures of habit. . .

    Leslie – Haven't tried the fermented salsa yet – but it's on my looooong list of recipes to try.

    Hannah – we all started or are still doing baby steps. No matter how big a step we take, it's that much closer to a healthy life.

    Jessica – wow, I've never thought of exchanging the water for whey for bread and such. What a great idea!

  6. Mindy @ The Purposed Heart says:

    Paula, why have I never thought of putting the cheesecloth in a jar and then using a ring to hold it in place? That is brilliant! I always rig up some ugly contraption with a wooden spoon and a big pot, but the jar idea is sooo much simpler. Definitely gonna do it like that from now on :) Great idea!

  7. Mindy – I used to hang a bag from my kitchen cupboard handle and let it drip into a bowl beneath, but I kept bumping it. :)

    I think you'll really like this method!

  8. Thank you! I have been wanting to do this! Shay

  9. New Follower! Shay

  10. Thanks for linking up to the Frugal Tuesday Tip!

  11. Oh how cool! I didn't know that's how you made sour cream and cottage cheese! I'll be honest, I'm more excited about that than the whey. I'll try the whey sometime though.

  12. Nicolette @ Momnivore's Dilemma says:

    Funny that you linked this to my party, I'm about to make whey for the first time! After two years of being GFCFSF with my sons, I'm ready to start lacto-fermenting veggies and fruits for them.

    Thank you for sharing at my Creative Juice party; I'll be featuring you next week in hopes of spreading the good word of old school cooking! :)

    Have a blessed holiday.

  13. Andrea @ The Greenbacks Gal says:

    I've always been a little afraid of whey. Thanks for making it so approachable.

  14. April @ The 21st Century Housewife says:

    I was very interested to learn more about whey and how to make it. Thank you for sharing this post with the Hearth and Soul hop.

  15. Shay – thanks for following, let me know how it turns out!

    Shiloh – honestly, I made and used sour cream and threw the whey away before I realized how good it was. This makes fantastic sour cream.

    Nicolette – wow, thanks for featuring me! The lacto-fermenting is a big step – but it is so good for their tummies. Have fun with it!

    Andrea – approachable is what I was aiming for. I'm glad you found it less frightening. :)

    April – Your welcome – and thanks for a great blog hop!

  16. loves2spin says:

    Great method. I have had my kefir cheese last for many months. I just stir it every so often.

  17. Thanks! This is exactly what I was looking for this week – making sauerkraut for the first time! Reading you from Sustainable Eats Simple Lives Thursdays

  18. Shannon, Food Channel Editor, Momtrends.com says:

    Very cool, that is much easier than I would have thought it would be!

    Hope you had a wonderful holiday! Thanks for linking up to Momtrends.com Friday Food!

  19. This is so interesting. Never tried whey, but one of my friends was just touting the benefits of it. Thanks for sharing. I am a new follower visiting from Keeping It Simple. Vicky from Mess For Less

  20. Welcome Vicky! So glad your friend shared with you about whey. I'm finding more and more that I can do with it myself.

    Thanks for following!

  21. You did such a great job describing whey! I drink it straight up when I am breastfeeding, as it increases breast milk production. I also use it to make pineapple chutney, salsa, beet kvass, along with my quick sourdough bread and gooey granola….so many uses, so little time ;)

  22. Hi Kristi – I've tried to drink it straight, but I just can't do it. :) Instead I make Mama's Milk tea which I buy from The Bulk Herb Store.

    Your right though – there's so many uses it's really one of those "wow" foods.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  23. MissFitness says:

    Stumbled upon this on the perfect day for me to be receptive to it…my whey powder turned to chunks of rubbery nastiness in my chai this morning. Definitely open to making my own. Any ideas on how to substitute 1 scoop of whey for the liquid? Also would have to figure out calories…Guess I got a new project to research. :)

  24. Not much into drinking powdered whey so I don't know how much you would want to replace it with. However, I did find this link that might prove helpful.


  25. air to air heat exchanger says:

    I really like whey in bread making-exchange for water. I've used it in soups anf oatmeal…when available! I get my whey from cheese making from our goat milk!

  26. Thanks for the great information Paula! Question for you….I was wondering if I could use this same approach using Organic whole milk? Thank you.


    • Hi Noah,

      Glad you stopped by today! If you’re using organic milk that’s been pasteurized, then yes, it would be the same. Let me know how it turns out!

  27. this was a link i ended up with…glad to have found it….i like the fact that we are proud to use God in blogs…He is indeed everywhere…i ran a blog called JUST PASSING BY…which I began just to put my thoughts on print…i mean…web or whatever it is really…once in a while I share them with my friends…entries are very seldom as i am 68 and a caregiver to my spouse who had a stroke five years ago…God is good and he is slowly recovering and i need to have good healthy food to restore him to good health…thanks…

    • Hi Luz,

      I’m glad you ‘just happened’ to end up here. :) Thanks for your encouraging words – I’m glad to hear your husband is recovering – good food is indeed necessary!

  28. Hi! Loved the post! Thank you!
    I just made my first attempt at whey & sour cream. I would love some feedback/tips from those more experienced than I. I’m just a newbie. ;)

    • Keesha –

      I’ve never made sour cream this way, but in my copy of Nourishing Traditions it says that if you use raw milk, to place the milk in a clean glass container and let it stand at room temperature for 1-4 days. Then pour it in a cheesecloth and let the whey drip.

      From what I read on your blog, it looks like you’re doing it right. :)

      • should you put a lid on the jar? Mine did NOT come out. It was moldly after about 4 days. I put a towel over it. Should I have put a lid on instead?

        • You can put a lid on it, yes. Because my cheese cloth bag is so big, I screw on a canning lid and then fold the top of the bag over it to cover it – but it should work with or without a lid while it’s dripping. I screw a full lid on after it’s dripped and separated.

          Did you let it drip while on the counter or in the fridge? I’d definitely let it drip in the fridge – especially as it gets warmer.

          • No, it molded when I was sitting it out to separate. I was using raw milk. It had a film over the top with mold on it. It also smelled awful, not sour.

  29. Hmm, if you do this with just the raw milk, what is the milk part that is left? You would have whey and ? My kids struggle eating the homemade yogurt so I don’t do much of it – they love to drink the milk so we stick with it that way. :-)

    • Do you mean letting raw milk sit without adding a yogurt culture and then straining it? I have tried that, but have not had good results. I’d venture to say you’d have something like sour cream left over.

  30. hi, i just want to know how much protein is there in a litre of liquid whey?

    • Hi Raul,

      I’m not completely sure about that, but from what I’ve read, 16 oz = 12.5 grams of protein. You’ll have to convert it to liters to get an exact amount.

  31. When using the raw milk, should it be covered for the initial 2-4 days? Do you want the air to be kept out?

    • Hi Brenda,

      You do want to cover it loosely, but the air doesn’t have to be left out. For things like this I typically place a clean washcloth over the jar and place a rubberband around it.

  32. Paula, I just found your blog. You have a really great, way recipe here. Thank you for sharing it! 1 question, where do you get the tea bags? Do you purchase or make them?

    • Hi Jessica – glad you like the recipe! Unfortunately I don’t remember where I bought the cheesecloths, it was many years ago – but when I type ‘cheesecloth bags’ into google, there are several options. Have fun making whey!


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