A few weeks back I made Greek yogurt. Not really knowing what to expect, I ended up with this beautiful Creamy Crack (what I call it). It was by far the best yogurt I have ever eaten hands down. Going through the process, I was not sure what to do with all of the whey which was the byproduct en route to yogurt-y goodness. There was so much of it the first time that I poured it down the sink, not knowing what else to do with it. It seemed so wasteful. I decided to do some investigating to see if I could use it to make something else.
Low and behold!! I hit the jackpot! All of a sudden making the Creamy Crack took me to a greater high and the experience was whey better because I had whey more options to use my leftover whey. Gone are the days of pouring that liquid green gold down the drain.
So, What Is Whey?
The straining process is what helps yogurt thicken up to the desired consistency—the longer you strain, the thicker the yogurt, and the more whey gets extracted. There are two distinct types of whey. Acid whey is the stuff that gets strained out of yogurt and ricotta-like cheeses. Sweet whey, which is often used to make the whey protein powder supplements you’ll find at any health food store, is leftover from the process of making harder cheese like cheddar and Swiss.
Greek yogurt is now a staple at grocery stores in Europe and North America after being virtually nonexistent as recently as 15 years ago. Explosive growth over the last decade accounts for more than half the yogurt category according to the dairyreporter.com. This is primarily due to the high protein counts for each serving. Because of the high demand for Greek yogurt, there is whey too much whey to go around. (Sorry my attempt at a little humor).
Yogurt makers are trying to capitalize on the whey market by introducing pre-bottled flavored whey drinks, which are packaged and branded just like the bottled juices and iced teas you can find in the refrigerated section at Whole Foods Market. For those of you who are interested in trying bottled whey beverages, Whole Foods carries plain whey manufactured by The White Mustache. The White Mustache is located in Brooklyn N.Y. and caters to a couple restaurants locally that offer a small selection of beverages containing whey such as smoothies or a green juice. Our daughter attends Pratt in Brooklyn so I will be on the hunt to visit Smith Canteen to try one of their whey drinks on our next trip.
Chefs love cooking with whey. It may not show up on the menu, but whey is making its way (No pun intended) into the food and drink at a handful of restaurants around the country where chefs are using it to ferment eggs and other leaf vegetables, substituting for lemons in dishes that call for a high acidity component and brine for tenderizing meat.
From trolling all over the internet, here are 19 of my favorite uses for using strained whey:
Substitute whey in any baking recipe that calls for water (or even milk). I love making fresh breads. I look forward to trying this the next time I make a loaf. You can substitute whey for water in any baked good recipe to make a softer, tenderer crumb, but keep in mind – especially with yeast breads – that it will make the crust brown more quickly and more deeply. You can also try whey in your cornbread, pancakes, waffles, muffins, homemade biscuits, homemade tortillas, and more!
Use whey to lacto-ferment vegetables, condiments, sauerkraut, chutneys, jams, etc. I have not ventured into this area as of yet, but I am interested in experimenting with my vegetables. This is an incredibly healthful form of preservation that increases the nutritional value of so many things. I also read that adding it to your homemade mayonnaise can prolong its useful life. This was a really interesting article on the subject. Note: Raw whey should be used for lacto-fermentation instead of acid whey or cooked whey. Eating fermented foods is an essential part of keeping your colon healthy and thus allowing your body to absorb the nutrients it needs.
Note: Whey derived from cheese making is not the best for lacto-fermentation, merely because it is separated from the milk solids quickly due to the coagulant and the slight heat. Whey derived from cultured dairy products like yogurt or kefir carries all the benefits of the culture plus has the time to naturally separate from the milk solids, allowing the time for the good bacteria to proliferate. The latter is definitely the preferred method in this case.
Additionally, the “strength” of your whey is also significantly impacted if you use pasteurized milk – since all the bacteria was killed in the heating process and most of the enzymes damaged, pasteurized whey just doesn’t have the same “oomph” as other whey’s. Yet one more reason to drink raw milk!
Use whey to soak grains, Nourishing Traditions style. Depending on your recipe, several tablespoons or more can be added to your grain and legume preparations. An acidic medium is needed to break down the phytates in grains and flours and make them more digestible in our bodies.
Freeze it for future use. Try freezing in an ice cube tray or small cups to make the proper portion sizes. Once frozen, you can store in freezer bags.
Feed it to the dogs. My dogs love when they get an extra treat mixed into their dog food. Every so often I mix fish oil in their food for their coats and they eat it up. I can’t help but wonder if they are not drawn to the stinky smell. If that is the case, they will like the pungent odor of the whey. The added bonus is there are extra vitamins your pets can benefit from.
Make whey lemonade. I’ve seen several delicious-sounding recipes for lemonade-type drinks using whey. I may have to try the recipe. I found a probiotic lemonade on the Wellness Mama! It looks like it would be a great summer beverage.
Hippocrates was said to have recommended drinking whey to many of his patients, specifically for its beneficial and healing properties. It is full of beneficial bacteria to heal the gut, it is chock full of protein, and it no longer has lactose in it, since it has been separated from the milk solids, making it easy to digest.
Use whey to water your plants. Dilute it with a good amount of water; straight whey will “burn” your plants. You can check out this article for the details.
Make ricotta. Ricotta cheese is traditionally made from whey. And it’s so incredibly easy! Your whey will need to be heated, you will lose all of the raw enzymes due to the heating process. Making ricotta cheese is great when you have a ton of extra whey. The fresher the whey, the better with this one, and cheese making whey is definitely preferred. It’s great to use in desserts and Italian dishes. Ricotta can be eaten fresh with a bit of salt, or is scrumptious in the morning with a bit of fruit. And of course, there’s the traditional lasagna and other Italian pasta dishes.
Pour it in your compost bin. Whey is excellent as a fermentation starter in the compost pile. Due to its acidity, use it sparingly – perhaps 1 liter once a week on a large compost pile just before turning it.
If you’re using the Bokashi method of composting, don’t add it directly to your Bokashi bucket, as you want to keep the contents of the bucket as dry as possible, but add 1/4 cup to the Bokashi water that collects at the bottom to enliven and multiply all the lovely microbes present.
In vermicomposting, use it only if your food scraps are too dry and at that point, only a tablespoon or two – those little worms don’t like much acid and you want to keep them happy, multiplying, and pooping.
Use it in the garden. Some call whey “Nature’s Miracle Gro,” as it contains nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and other minerals that are essential to plant growth. However, use it with care – a little goes a long whey! Once a week, make a 1:1 ratio of water and whey and pour about 1/4 cup at the base of each plant, being careful not to get any on the leaves. Reportedly, tomatoes especially need and benefit from the extra calcium
Make a whey marinade. Add your favorite spices and seasonings (garlic, salt, pepper, maybe some rosemary…Yum!) to the whey and allow it to marinate your steaks, chicken, fish, or pork chops. The enzymes in the whey help to break down the meat and add flavor.
Use whey to stretch your mozzarella. If you’ve ever made mozzarella before, you know that you must stretch the curds at the end of the process. Some recipes say to use the microwave. Although I have not yet tried to make my own mozzarella yet, I would not recommend using the microwave for this. There is something about the microwave that changes the composition of the food. I would opt for using a pot of hot whey to stretch your curds–I assume it would add more flavor, plus it’s just sitting there anyway. When I try this, you will be the first to hear about it!
Use it for hair care: Many commercial shampoos and facial creams are labeled as “protein rich,” but you don’t have to look any farther than whey to get fantastic protein for your skin hair. Comb some whey into your tresses after you shampoo and let it sit for 10 minutes and then rinse. I’m not sure that I will ever try this one but from what I have found, folks love it!
Use it for you skin: For skin, use it in the bath. Add 2-3 cups into your water and soak for 10-20 minutes. The acidity of the whey helps balance your skin’s pH and the whey proteins help rejuvenate skin cells. Nothing like a whole body skin toner! This could also be used as a facial toner. Just toss some on a cotton ball and tone away.
Thicken gravy. Chances are if you’re making gravy, it’s topping something unhealthy. Boost the nutrition by using whey. For every one cup of way, there are 2 grams of protein.
Make pizza dough. Add a sourdough-ish tang to your dough for a delicious pie. Because the high acidity in the whey, when added to your pizza dough it will not have to rest as long, your dough is super pliable in a short period of time.
Make Dog Treats. I love my fur babies. Because I take the time to make treats for the humans in the house, they also get treats. I like making their dog treats. The next time I make them a batch I am going to incorporate the whey and see how they like them. I’m super excited to try this one!
Make chicken stock. Substitute not just for the apple cider vinegar, but for some of the water too! Trade up to half of the water (or more, depending on your taste preference) for whey and come out the other side with a richer, more flavorful stock.
Substitute buttermilk with whey. Oh no! You have a recipe that you are making, it calls for milk or buttermilk, you go to the fridge only to find that you don’t have enough. Well, don’t sweat it. If you have whey on hand, just use it as a fast and cheap substitute. You may decide that you like the recipe better that way.
Equipped with this newfound knowledge and whey too many options to choose from, I set my sights on making my first batch of Ricotta Cheese. I’m not sure that I have ever eaten fresh ricotta before but this batch is smooth and creamy and tastes delicious. Making this is super easy. When I told my oldest son what I had done, he said I was out of control, lol. It was just another adventure in a day in my kitchen. Once you make it fresh, you will never want to buy it again. Wait for my next post to see how I used my fresh ricotta cheese.
Keepin it fresh!
Traditional Ricotta Cheese
- March 27, 2019
- 1 hr 15 min
- 297 Cals/Serving
- Print this
- 2 gallons fresh whey (use within a few hours of straining)
- 1-gallon milk, (optional)
- ½ cup distilled white vinegar
- Cheese salt or non-iodized salt
- Step 1
- If using both whey and milk, combine the two. Using milk isn’t necessary but does substantially increase yield. (I added 1/2 Gallon of whole milk)
- Step 2
- Gently heat whey/milk to 195°. I used my Power Quick Pot. This makes it easy because you do not have to worry about your why overheating.
- Step 3
- Remove whey from heat and stir in vinegar. The whey will begin to curdle and some of the curd will rise to the top.
- Step 4
- Place a colander in the sink and place butter muslin cheese cloth in the colander. Gently pour or spoon the mixture into the cloth and allow the whey to drain away. Pour carefully, as much of the curd will likely settle on the bottom of the pot.
- Step 5
- Once the pot is empty, continue to drain ricotta. One hour is generally enough for a soft ricotta. Six or more hours may be needed for a firmer ricotta.
- Step 6
- Mix the ricotta with salt, to taste.
- Step 7
- Store ricotta in the refrigerator and use within 1 week.