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How to Make Yogurt Cheese (and Where Do I Find Whey?)

Whey is used for soaking grains, homemade ferments, and as a protein source (although it’s not a good one). I prefer homemade whey as the acidic medium for soaking my oats because I have found it least likely to impart a sour flavor to the finished oatmeal. PLUS you get gorgeous yogurt cheese, which is an amazingly frugal cream cheese substitute and makes really healthy frosting and more.

homemade yogurt cheese in bowl

What Is Whey? Can You Make It at Home?

My brother, a big weightlifter, is huge into the “whey protein powder” drinks for big muscles. Don’t get this sort of whey confused with the powdered stuff, which I’m sure has some “I-am-not-real-food!” sort of health issues. (UPDATE:  A faithful commenter tells me that powdered whey is just spray-dried regular whey.)

Regular whey is a byproduct of cheesemaking, just like Little Miss Muffet had: curds and whey. It is a nearly transparent, yellowish liquid that pours like water. You may be thinking, “Great, now I have to make cheese.”  Luckily, this is much easier than that sounds and one of the easiest ways to make whey is from yogurt.

How to Make Whey and Yogurt Cheese

What Is Yogurt Cheese? (Perfect Cream Cheese Substitute!)

I get my whey from yogurt, which I happen to make homemade, but you could use plain, unsweetened yogurt from a store with the same results (you’ll get less whey/more cheese with Greek yogurt and more whey/less cheese with regular).

Yogurt cheese has the same consistency and almost the same flavor as cream cheese, but with power-packed probiotics for good digestion and more. Plus no additives! If you use cream cheese, even if you don’t want the whey, this process is the most frugal substitute for cream cheese you’ll ever find. It costs less than 50 cents for 8 ounces of yogurt cheese if you make your own yogurt and your milk is on sale for $2 or less.

Watch this Quick Yogurt Cheese Demo!

Can’t see the video? View it here on YouTube!

How to Make EASY Yogurt Cheese and Whey

It’s almost embarrassing to post something this easy. Love it!

This recipe covers both how to separate the whey from the yogurt AND how to make yogurt cheese. You know me, I’m all about making my time in the kitchen as efficient as possible.

  1. Line a colander with a tea towel or cheesecloth.
  2. Place a large bowl or measuring cup (at least 4 cups) under the colander. Make sure the opening is wide enough to be underneath all your yogurt (see next step).
  3. Pour a container of yogurt (I do a quart at a time) into the towel.
    straining yogurt in cloth
  4. Wait. See the whey draining out? *peek*
    Straining yogurt through colander
  5. After an hour or so, rig up some way to hang the towel so that gravitational pressure gets all the whey out of the yogurt. Here’s my method:
    Straining Yogurt Cheese and Whey
  6. After approximately 4 hours, or whenever your yogurt stops dripping, that’s it! You have about 3 cups of whey in the bowl and 1 cup of yogurt cheese in the towel.

Yogurt cheese lasts 1 week (you’ll know when it goes bad) and the whey may last up to 6 months.

It looks, tastes, and behaves just like cream cheese! The only thing it doesn’t do great is melt, like in a hot food recipe.

A quickie version of yogurt cheese:

You can put a few tablespoons of yogurt onto a coffee filter on top of a jar, and in an hour or less you’ll have a smidge of yogurt cheese for your toast on top and whey to soak your oatmeal in the jar.

Straining Yogurt Cheese 1

Recipes and Uses for Whey

So what do you do with all of this whey? It’s easy to use in multiple different recipes, so it won’t go to waste!

Ready to try making more cultured dairy products and cheeses? Check out my friend Wardee’s Cultured Dairy and Simple Cheese making course .

Not sure it’s for you? Try her FREE Cultured Butter download first!

Recipes and Uses for Yogurt Cheese

  • Fruit Pizza
  • Creamy Garlic Veggie Dip (in Healthy Snacks to Go eBook)
  • Tuscan Beef and Bean Stew
  • Avocado Dip
  • Homemade Fudgesicles (now in Smart Sweets along with 30 other healthy desserts!)
  • Use in place of some or all of the ricotta in a pasta recipe
  • Yogurt Cheese and Jelly Sandwiches
  • Any dip, dessert or main dish that calls for cream cheese – this is such a frugal and quick substitute, I feel like we’ll put cream cheese brands out of business!

Need More Baby Steps?

Monday Missions Baby Steps Back to Basics

Here at Kitchen Stewardship, we’ve always been all about the baby steps. But if you’re just starting your real food and natural living journey, sifting through all that we’ve shared here over the years can be totally overwhelming.

That’s why we took the best 10 rookie “Monday Missions” that used to post once a week and got them all spruced up to send to your inbox – once a week on Mondays, so you can learn to be a kitchen steward one baby step at a time, in a doable sequence.

Sign up to get weekly challenges and teaching on key topics like meal planning, homemade foods that save the budget (and don’t take too much time), what to cut out of your pantry, and more.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

5 thoughts on “How to Make Yogurt Cheese (and Where Do I Find Whey?)”

  1. Hi Katie, I try to make Greek yogurt by following your steps here. I am wondering why I have many chunks. Any ways to make my Greek yogurt smooth, like we buy from store?


    1. Hi Laris,
      I’m guessing that you made yogurt cheese – to make Greek yogurt, you DON’T hang it at all, just drain the yogurt for about an hour, maybe two if you have a bigger batch. Of course the texture of the yogurt you’re starting with matters too, but you should be able to get smooth Greek-style yogurt by straining out whey. Hope that works! 🙂 Katie

  2. I make milk kefir instead of yogurt. Can I just use a tablespoon of the kefir for soaking oats without having to separate the curd from the whey?

  3. Hi Katie! I apologize if I missed the answer to this in another comment. I did scroll through and don’t think I saw this asked.
    I want to make the garlic dip from your snacks cookbook tomorrow to take to a friend’s house. I see it calls for some yogurt cheese and some Greek yogurt. I don’t have time to make homemade yogurt today or tomorrow (but it is on my list to try!!!), so do I need to buy a plain regular yogurt to make the yogurt cheese (maybe Fannon or stony field?) or do I use a plain full fat Greek yogurt (like Fage)? Would it matter much to the flavor? Sorry I am sure this is a really novice question 🙂

    1. Hi Melody!
      Now I’m curious to know whether you tried it or made something else! I know I missed when you were planning on making the dip, but I’ll answer anyway for next time:

      Any yogurt can make yogurt cheese – in fact Greek yogurt is basically regular yogurt halfway strained just to be thicker (meaning you can “make” Greek yogurt by following this process but stopping after about an hour). 🙂

      As for the flavor, once all that garlic is in there, I doubt it will make too much difference what you start with! You can also use cream cheese or goat cheese with the same flavorings in a pinch – obviously some different flavors there, but all delish.

      Hope your social time was fun!
      🙂 Katie

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