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Whey Cool

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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.


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?

Tags: How-To & Diy