How to Make Whey for Soaking and Fermenting

Making whey is easy! To start, you will need yogurt, cultured buttermilk, milk kefir or raw milk. If using just raw milk (not cultured first) then you will need to allow the milk to sit at room temperature for several days until it separates (don’t try this with pasteurized milk!).

To make whey, place a colander in a bowl on the counter. Lay a piece of multi-layered cheesecloth, a tight weave dish towel or a pillowcase in the colander. Pour the yogurt, buttermilk, milk kefir or raw milk into the cloth, gather up the edges of the cloth and tie it so the cloth hangs from an upper kitchen cabinet and drips into the bowl (you can remove the colander if desired). Allow the whey to drip until no more whey escapes the cloth or the desired consistency of the yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, etc. has been reached. This process can take 2-24 hours. Once the process is complete, place the whey in a jar and the resulting soft cheese in the cloth in a container. Store both in the refrigerator using air tight lids.

Whey is used in many Traditional Food recipes including fermenting vegetables, soaking grains, etc. Excess whey can also be used in place of water in most recipes or added to a smoothie, etc. Whey can generally be stored in the refrigerator for up to six months (and will smell spoiled once it’s past its prime).

This process also yields a soft cheese from the yogurt, kefir, buttermilk or raw milk. Depending on your taste preferences and the final consistency, this resulting soft cheese can often be used to replace yogurt or cream cheese in recipes or can be mixed with fruit, vegetables, herbs, etc. to make a spread or dip for crackers, fruit, vegetables and more. The soft cheese will generally keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert

Julie Feickert started Cultures for Health in late 2008. She is the mother to three young children and enjoys cooking and reading. Her favorite cultured foods include water kefir and kombucha. Julie lives with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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  1. Doreen Jezequel says

    I am on Synthroid of which I have to take all my life, does kefir clean out the effects of my synthroid meds ? ?

    • Julie FeickertJulie says

      Thanks for your question! Unfortunately we are unable to give any sort of advice related to how any of these foods might interact with medications. The best thing to do would be to speak with your care provider.

  2. Karlene says

    I’d like to try to make whey from raw milk, but I need more details. I’ve read to put it in a clean mason jar, but covered or uncovered, and if covered, with what? I don’t want to catch unwanted microbes but also don’t want to cause anaerobic stuff to happen, so I am assuming it should be covered with a towel or something? Thanks!

    • Julie FeickertJulie says

      Just a tight weave towel is fine. Generally I’ll just a tight weave towel, paper towel, or paper coffee filter. I’ll also generally secure the covering with a tight rubber band especially during ant season.

  3. Diane says

    I have made some mascarpone and I was wondering if the liquid drained from it is whey and if it can be used like whey?

  4. jess says

    if i start from raw milk and make curds and whey before straining, what can i make with the curds? is it the same as the above yogurt/cream cheese? can i make something different with it?

    • Julie FeickertJulie says

      The curds are a naturally cultured dairy product similar in consistency to yogurt or cream cheese (depending on the amount of whey removed). While technically making yogurt or cream cheese requires a specific type of starter culture which wouldn’t have been used in the this case, the curds can often be used in place of yogurt or cream cheese in recipes. The only factor you have to watch for is the taste. Naturally cultured raw milk tends to be a bit unpredictable in terms of flavor. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just a reality of life. The taste profile is ultimately dependent on the bacteria present in the milk and sometimes it may taste more tart, sometimes more sour, etc. Another option is to mix the curds with some herbs or other flavorings and use as a soft cheese similar to something like Fromage Blanc.

  5. says

    I did make the pancakes on Saturday – feedback was “you can make these again!” i.e. pretty positive. As is turned out I ended up making them with 100% buckwheat flour which was just fine – still really light. Only change I would make next time would be to leave out adding any salt – with salt in both the butter and buttermilk, I don’t think it needs any extra.Thanks again for the recipe. James

  6. says

    I am making lacto-fermented salsa with some whey that I got from making ricotta. However, the whey still has a fair bit of small particles of milk solids in it and smells a bit sour even though I just made the ricotta a week ago. Is it still safe to use or would the milk solids present a food safety hazard if I use it to ferment my salsa? (The milk was unpasteurized)

  7. Shaina says

    Whey from cheese tends to be sterile, as the cheese is cooked. It would be better to use whey from yogurt or something similar, as that will have active bacteria that can ferment the milk.

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