Kitchen Confidence

Whey Cool

By • April 10, 2012 • 22 Comments

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Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. Today, we're showing you what to do with whey.

Whey

If you have ever experimented with cheese-making at home, you might have found yourself with a small wealth of whey and not a single use for it. There's no need to dump this mystifying by-product of cheese. In fact, we can think of quite a few marvelous ways to get the most out of it. Here, we share some of our favorites. 

What exactly is whey?

When cheese is made, enzymes are added to milk, causing the milk to separate into solids and liquid. The solids, or curds, are strained and turned into cheese. The remaining liquid is a watery, high-protein substance called whey. Whey has a mild sweetness and faint acidity that complements a wide range of flavors, both sweet and savory.

What can you do with whey?

Make ricotta. While our go-to recipe for ricotta uses milk and buttermilk, many ricotta recipes call for whey. Try this recipe from our friends at Serious Eats.

• Bake something delicious. The Prairie Homestead suggests substituting whey for milk or water in breads, cakes, and biscuits. According to a Chowhound user, the active cultures in the whey add depth to the flavor of breads, and the acids contribute to a softer crumb. One of our Twitter followers, Courtney Carlson, says that using whey in bread allows for a higher ratio of wheat-to-white flour without sacrificing moistness. Try using whey in place of the milk in our Heavenly Oatmeal Molasses Rolls.

Ricotta Heavenly Molasses Oatmeal Rolls

Cook up some polenta or rice. FOOD52 member AntoniaJames suggests using leftover whey to make polenta for a lighter, more tender texture. You can season your whey and use it as a liquid for cooking polenta or rice, with creamy, comforting results. AntoniaJames even cooks potatoes in whey to give the potatoes a light dairy flavor. This also allows her to recycle the whey further, using the potato-enriched whey for baking sandwich bread. Try our Blueberry Almond Breakfast Polenta, using whey instead of milk.

• Try out some Iranian recipes. FOOD52 editor Nozlee Samadzadeh recently taught us about an Iranian type of fermented whey called kashk, which comes both in dry and liquid forms. It can be found in many Middle Eastern stores and has a tangy taste and thick texture like a cross between yogurt and sour cream. It's used in lots of Iranian dips and soups, including this recipe for Roasted Eggplant Dip by onetribegourmet.

• Give lacto-fermentation a whirl. FOOD52's Christina DiLaura likes to use whey to jump-start the fermentation process in foods like kimchi and chutney. After a class on lacto-fermentation with Brooklyn ethnobotonist Leda Meredith, Christina sang praises about the process, and shared several recipes on her blog.

Blueberry Breakfast Polenta 

Water your plants. Whey is great for acid-loving plants like azaleas, rhododendrons, garlic, horseradish, dogwood, and many types of berries.

Freeze it for later. If you have a surplus of whey, freeze it in ice cube trays and then transfer the cubes to zip-loc bags for future use.

We also wonder -- what whey tricks are we missing out on? What do you do with your whey?

Jump to Comments (22)

Tags: how-to & diy

Comments (22)

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about 2 years ago daisybrain

New use for whey. I've been using it on my face in the evening to exfoliate with the lactic acid present. It's less expensive than commercial AHA pads and out of the fridge feels wonderful in this heat. In the morning my skin is super smooth and my exercise and heat induced blemishes are going away. So as not to cause contamination since I do still use the whey for cooking I pour a little into a small glass dish before sticking a cotton ball into it.

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about 2 years ago GoodFoodie

So creative! Do you just swab your face with the cotton ball or do you keep it on your skin for a few minutes?

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over 2 years ago tslubner

Russian cooks use whey in place of milk in blini (crepes, not the buckwheat flour ones) recipes. Actually, I don't know about the buckwheat flour version and whether or not using whey is traditional. Anyone?

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over 2 years ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

and i just made my oatmeal with it (with raisins and a little brown sugar), and it's wonderful. definitely unique, a slightly cheesy flavor but it works!

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over 2 years ago Omeletta

Ruthy is a Recipe Tester for Food52


Such a useful article! Have just dipped a toe into cheese making and I saved my whey in the freezer, knowing I could use it for something. We eat a lot of grits and polenta- will definitely be substituting whey for milk next time, for sure.

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over 2 years ago A Raisin & A Porpoise

Like other commenters I love to bake with it--rolls, flatbread, pizza dough, even pancakes. Whey makes an excellent soup stock, too, especially for lentil and bean soups as it enhances digestibility as well as adding a depth of savory flavor.

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over 2 years ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Rice pudding!

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over 2 years ago BocaCindi

What great ideas. Thanks.

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over 2 years ago eljaybee

My dog LOVES whey, so I freeze it and in batches so I can give it to her with her kibble. She is a very spoiled dog.

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over 2 years ago daisybrain

You don't have to make cheese to have an abundance of whey. If you ever strain yogurt for dips like tzatziki, the liquid you collect under your yogurt strainer is similar stuff. Use it the same ways as suggested in this article.

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over 2 years ago GoodFoodie

After reading these comments I used whey in my bread. Not sure I tasted anything different?! Question: how long can I keep whey in the frig?

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over 2 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I keep it in the back of the fridge (coldest place in mine); if it's not used after 5 days or so, I put it in the freezer. About the difference in taste . . . . I find that whey adds a subtle sweetness to my Pullman loaves, but the real benefit, to my mind, is its effect on the texture/crumb. ;o)

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over 2 years ago cinleeken

I've got a couple of recipes for whey too. http://cindyversion2.blogspot...

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over 2 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Since this thread is way whey-centric (hee), I have a question:

The liquid that collects at the top of my greek yogurt - is that whey? I usually pour it out, but now I will think otherwise.

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over 2 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

As noted below, whey also makes outstanding creamy vegetable soups. I use it all the time for lightly spiced or herbed cauliflower and/or broccoli soups. It works particularly well with Merrill's Saag Paneer, to make an Indian-spiced cream of spinach soup. The saag has buttermilk in it; by using whey, you don't lose that wonderful tang as you might otherwise, using stock. I make double batches of Merrill's Saag Paneer, and freeze half without the paneer just for this purpose. ;o)

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over 2 years ago rcakewalk

I'm not positively certain, but I believe for lacto-fermenting, you should use uncooked whey (also known as sweet whey) as your activator. This is the type of whey resulting from draining yogurt, or whey from cheeses to which no acid was added to make them.

I love using whey as a base for vegetable soups, but I have to be careful, since my lactose-intolerant husband still can't eat it!

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over 2 years ago BWG

When face with a gallon of whey I make myost a type of Norwegian Carmel cheese. Excellent with apples or pears. Boil the whey down till about 1/4 the original quantity, add1/2 cup to one cup cream ( depending on how creamy you want your cheese) and a little sugar. Continue to boil stirring the whole time untill thick and golden. Pour into heat proof dish and let cool. Keeps well in the refrigerator. This was one of our kids favorite deserts. Enjoy!

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over 2 years ago CarlaCooks

Mysost! My husband and I love this cheese. We live in Denmark and it's funny how few Danes like it; it's definitely a Norwegian thing. We also love it on apples; it's like eating a caramel apple!

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over 2 years ago Nicole Easterday

I'm glad people are talking about this - I've heard too many store of cheese-makers (/gasp) tossing it down the drain. I also wrote a post about this last week if you're looking for additional ideas: http://www.farmcurious...

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over 2 years ago Kateq

I love using whey in bread as a substitute for milk or water;.

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over 2 years ago Nicole Easterday

I'm glad people are talking about this - I've heard too many store of cheese-makers (/gasp) tossing it down the drain. I also wrote a post about this last week if you're looking for additional ideas: http://www.farmcurious...

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over 2 years ago Panfusine

Whey is a fabulous liquid for making roti & paratha dough!