How to Make Whey & Cream Cheese

how to make homemade whey and cream cheese from yogurt at home

I’ve talked a lot about fermented foods and drinks lately, from my favorite water kefir, to homemade sauerkraut. Lately, I’ve been enjoying trying things like fermented condiments, salsas and more.

Most of these recipes use whey to speed the lacto-fermentation process and for a long time, I avoided these recipes because I simply didn’t have and didn’t know how to make whey.

A friend and lacto-fermenting veteran shared an easy way to make whey, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t started doing this sooner! The best part is, you can make whey at home in any kitchen with ingredients available at any grocery store.

4.7 from 11 reviews
Whey and Cream Cheese Recipe
Prep time
Total time
How to make whey for fermenting vegetables and other foods and get probiotic cream cheese!
Recipe type: Fermented
Serves: 4+
  • One 32-ounce container of full fat organic PLAIN yogurt
  • Cheesecloth or thin dish towel
  • medium-size bowl
  • string or rubber bands
  1. Pour the yogurt into cheesecloth or thin towel. You can pour the whole container, or just use half if you don't need much whey. Make sure the towel is thin, as it will absorb too much of the whey if it is a very absorbent towel.
  2. Pull the ends of the towel up and secure with string or a rubber band.
  3. Tie the towel with yogurt in it to a cabinet handle above the bowl.
  4. Leave it alone overnight to drip.
  5. In the morning, if the dripping has stopped, pour the liquid in the bowl (this is the whey... yay!) into a glass jar and store in the fridge for up to six months.
  6. The "yogurt" left in the towel is actually cream cheese now. Put in its own container and use as you would store bought cream cheese.
  7. Use the whey for homemade salsas, sauerkraut, fermented veggies or pickles and more. (all recipes to come soon.... just waiting on the garden to start producing!)

Have you made whey before? If so, what is your favorite recipe using it? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. I use why for fermenting, but also love to add it to other foods I am eating, especially smoothies!


  2. I make a homemade yogurt, a gallon at a time, and always strain a quart or two. I just line a sieve with a coffee filter, put it over a bowl, and pour the yogurt in; let it drain for as long as you want, the longer the thicker. My husband loves strained yogurt (it’s like Greek yogurt, really creamy) and I also love having the whey.

    • This is called lebany. In the middle east it is a staple food.

      We add a bit of pink or sea salt to it. We cut scallions (the entire thing), grape tomatoes (1/2’d or 1/4’d) marinate them in olive oil and white balsamic vinegar. Mound the very thick creamy lebany in the middle of a serving plate. strain (reserve a spoon full) the veggies and heap in a ring around the lebany. dribble a small bit of reserved liquid over the mounded lebany. It is so pretty. Scoop veggies and lebany onto your favorite read or cracker.

  3. Thanks for posting this! I may have to give this shot. I will soon make awesome foods like this as I have the time to make fermented foods.

  4. Question – what happens if you make this with Greek yogurt? That was the only organic yogurt I could find when I went to get some for this recipe. I have fermented my lemonade for 2 days now, and am now wondering if using Greek yogurt would affect how this works/doesn’t work. What say you? Thanks!!

      • Thanks! I am drinking it right now. It turned out great! Just a bit tart, the way I like it. I used half lemons and limes. Yum! I also followed Laura’s suggestion that she linked above, and did the extra draining. I got about half a cup from half a carton of Greek yogurt. We’ll see how this helps over the next couple of days. 

      • You could bring milk to a rolling boil, take it off the burner and add some acid like apple cider vinegar. When the curds form strain the mixture saving the liquid. Now you have whey as well as ricotta cheese. Fastest and easiest step to get whey. Really good cheese as well.

          • I think it is ricotta. Paneer is ricotta that has then been pressed to make it drier. At least that’s what I read on some websites.

    • You can use young fresh coconut water. In a jug combine coconut water and water kefir grains and leave covered on bench for 1 to 2 days. When cloudy and some bubbles it is ready, strain out and bottle then refrigerate for a minimum of one day. Keep 1/4 cup to transfer to next batch.

      • Im interested in the coconut yogurt as well..Q. cant buy young fresh coconut water all year round??

  5. My dad is Turkish and claims the Turks invented yoghurt! He makes his own every week and strains it in a cheesecloth to make ‘Greek’ yoghurt. But he pours away the whey! He dies make his own pickles but I think he uses vinegar. Must tell him to start using the way instead of wasting it.

  6. Is it ok to leave this out on the counter overnight, or does it need to be refrigerated? Seems like dairy left out all night will have gone bad by morning…?

    • I’ve never had any trouble with it. It just sours more since it is a living fermented food rather than rotting, but you can just leave it out long enough to drain and then put it in right away.

  7. Hi! Loved the post! Thank you!
    I just made my first attempt at whey & sour cream. I would love some feedback/tips from those more experienced than I. I’m just a newbie. 😉

    • It does, but even pasteurized yogurt contains the live bacteria needed to lactoferment. Raw milk yogurt (or when) would produce a faster ferment and a wider variety of probiotics.

  8. I see the whey lasts for about 6 months. About how long does the cream cheese last? Or would it be about the same date that’s on the package of yogurt?

    • Not very long, as it is really good and doesn’t last long before you have to make more. Yum! I know this is an old post, but just couldn’t help but answer.

  9. Does it have to be full fat yogurt? I accidently got organic fat free will this still work?

  10. wowwwwww ! I didn’t know u can make cream cheese out of this! I have homemade yogurt just waiting to do this !

  11. How many hours is that if I do it right now? and can I half it, if I have only have 2 pints of yogurt?

  12. Just tried this for the first time…what do you do with all the leftover cream cheese? I can only eat so much of it plain…

    • You can also blend a bit with a few strawberries and a touch of maple syrup to make whipped strawberry cream cheese. So yummy!

    • Add pesto to it or pour sweet chilli sauce over it for a dip Oh so yummy.
      Make cheesecake, use on breakfast – thin with a little milk if very thick. On crackers, bread as a spread.

    • Here’s another tip…In my curds (cream cheese) I put just a little garlic powder and onion powder. Tasty that way, but then I put a few scoops of that into my homemade whipped cream. Gives the whipped cream a subtle taste. Everyone likes it that way, so I don’t tell them there is onion and garlic in it. I put mine over fried apples or fried pears (no added sugar) just a little butter and apple pie or pumpkin pie spice. I also super-duper my yogurt with psyllium, put a little flavored kefir water or flavored kefir milk over it with a dab of the cream cheese whipped cream. A big Yum!!!

  13. I am very excited…I am trying my first whey production tonight. As we speak my whole organic natural yoghurt is drip dripping over a bowl. I am trying with a 500g carton and hope to make the half cup of whey to make fermented salsa…this will be my first time to make this also!!! My Q. is the same as Kelly’s below…how long will the cream cheese last? How should the cream cheese be stored – in a sealed glass container? And lastly, how can it be turned into sour cream – as someone mentioned below?
    Thank you Wellness Mama for your time. I am a newbie and just loving your web
    site xx

  14. Does anyone know if you can successfully make whey with yogurt made from organic goat’s milk? I’m finding that it slips right through the cheese cloth!

    • Use a coffee filter or tighter weave cloth. I myself never use cheesecloth for draining mine, because it is such a course weave. I’ve found I’m not a fan of cheesecloth for very much of anything, tho I do try to keep it on hand. Muslin is good. I used to use coffee filters (in a colander) all the time, but had some muslin on hand, and cut it into a circle larger than the coffee filter (I used a large one when I used them), about 1 1/2″ – 2″ larger than the colander. Works very well, and should be a tight enough weave to strain your goat’s milk yogurt. (I now use milk kefir rather than yogurt!)
      I belong to a culturing group on Facebook, and quite a few people make kefir out of goat’s milk, and strain to make “cream cheese” or other cheeses.

  15. ive made this a few times and for some reason my whey keeps molding… i am using a really good organic plain yogurt and after a week it molds. Any suggestions?

    • I freeze mine in a baggie inside of a tight fitting container. When you are ready to use it, thaw in the fridge for a day then it is ready for use. I do the same with extra lemon juice. I took some frozen on vacation with us, and by the time we got to our destination (driving), it was thawed out in the cooler. Added 1/4 cup sugar and let it sit out for a day.

  16. I see the whey lasts for about 6 months. About how long does the cream cheese last? Or would it be about the same date that’s on the package of yogurt? I see this question below but no answer. I’ve made the whey a few times now and love the lemonade made with it! Just wondering how long the cream cheese will be good for?

  17. This didn’t work for me at all! 🙁 I tried cheesecloth and then I tried butter muslin for a finer cloth and both times all the yogurt just went right through the cloth. I am using raw milk yogurt from a co-op is that a problem? Thanks.

    • I use clean flour sack cloth; I’ve found it them easier to work with than cheese cloth. My guess is that the raw milk yogurt is a lot runnier than store bought yogurt is; I know mine was when I used to make it.

  18. I tried this technique yesterday as I needed some fresh whey culture to ferment some mango chutney. I let it go about eight or nine hours using cheese cloth and then refrigerated what was left over night. I started with about 1.5 cups of fresh, jersey-cow, full-fat yogurt from a local farm; I only needed a 1/4 cup of whey but got about three times that so I have some saved for the next ferment.

    What was left is really like cream cheese. It’s not quite as thick as store-bought but I actually like it better. I mixed some with raw honey and then stirred in some left-over mango chunks and almonds for my breakfast and it is absolutely delicious.

    I’m sold on this technique. Now I’ll always have fresh soft probiotic cream cheese and never run out of starter culture for my vegetable and fruit ferments.

  19. We make our whey from raw milk. Simply leave a glass jar of raw milk on the counter, at room temperature, for a day or two until the solid separates from the liquid. Then proceed with the drip drying process. The solids are cream cheese, the liquid is the whey!

  20. Curious since all I have in my fridge is some old buttermilk. Is it possible to make whey and cream cheese with buttermilk?

  21. My significant other LOVES cream cheese, but I try to limit how much we buy because, well, have you read the label. Yikes! Finally, I can make some that I feel good about feeding him. And bonus, we get a nice whey to make fermented foods. Thanks Katie!

  22. To make straining easier I use an old white pillowcase that is only washed with dish liquid, that or a cut up white tshirt. I started using these when I didn’t like the cheesecloth. I just dampen them a little first.

  23. Hello,

    i’ve made whey months ago, and i haven’t finished using it.I stored it in a glass jar in the fridge. Today, i looked at the lid, and there is a lot of blue,white mold growing. I wonder why, it scared me so much. it is only on the lid.Should I continue on using the whey? I smelled it and it doesn/t seem to have a big yogourt smell, as i used to get when the last time i opened it though.Should I continue to use it? I dont understand why though. Should i discard the lid or wash it?
    i dont know what to do. Please HELP!

    • I personally wouldn’t want my food running through plastic. I use old flour sack towels as I don’t like working with cheese cloth that much.

  24. Hi, have you tried making kefir yogurt with the milk kefir plant? This is the only yogurt I eat now as you make it with organic milk, so there are no preservatives, additives, colorants, etc in it and contains all the probiotics you talk about. I also drain it with a cloth to get the whey on the one side and cottage cheese on the other side 🙂

  25. I am allergic to whey so I have been doing this to make cream cheese for years. I use an unbleached coffee filter in a colander and set it over a bowl to catch the liquid. I use plain organic yogurt without the tapioca, just milk and cultures. I leave it uncovered I the fridge for a few days so it dries out really well. Otherwise it will still “leak” whey out after a few days but you can just pour it off the top. To make really good cream cheese I add salt just like you would for making cheese. You can add dried herbs to some of it for a cheesy taste or sometimes I make a powder out of dried strawberries and mix it in for a fruity taste, I find the longer you let it drain the nicer the cream cheese will be. Sorry I don’t know about the whey since I can’t eat it. That is how I found out about making the cream cheese was because I was in search of foods I could eat without it. Almost everything packaged has whey in it as a protein source so I had to make things myself. Good luck on your fermenting. Blessings………………..D

  26. And by the way, do you think that I can make the whey from store-bought milk kefir? I think that it might have more beneficial bacteria than yogurt.

    • Yes, I think you can. Tho I’ve never bought commercial milk kefir, I’m thinking you will get a lot of whey vs cream cheese.
      I make my own milk kefir, and I use 1/2&1/2, and get a thin yogurt consistency. Every so often I drain it to make “cream cheese”, and also get whey.

  27. My whey has some drops of yogurt in it. Should I filter it again before I store it? I thought whey should look more like water than milk .

  28. We have a bit of a pest problem that we are trying to resolve so i can’t leave anything sitting out all night. Can i still do this in the fridge or do i need to rig up an airtight container so the bugs don’t get in?

  29. Mine has a few yogurt drops too, its not completely clear, this is my first attempt…. But it should be ok..? i hope so, been putting this off WAY too long… lol

    • You have to repeat. Although I’ve been making my own yogurt and milk kefir and since I like mine on the thick side i have lots of whey almost a gallon, since right now I’m having dentures made and am not sure on how well I will be able to eat the harder vegetables and if you heat them first, you kill the beneficial bacterias in the vegetables that allow them to ferment.

    • Yes, I think you can. Tho I’ve never bought commercial milk kefir, I’m thinking you will get a lot of whey vs cream cheese.
      I make my own milk kefir, and I use 1/2&1/2, and get a thin yogurt consistency. Every so often I drain it to make “cream cheese”, and also get whey.

  30. The cheese you get from this is really tart and doesn’t taste like cream cheese at all. I think it taste more like goat cheese. So I couldn’t figure out how to use it and decided to top a burger with it and it tasted pretty good.

  31. Hi there!

    Im making my first batch of whey using raw milk. Have you ever tried this before? I let it clabber for 24 hours and now have it straining. The whey doesn’t look clear at all. So Im thinking I need to let it sit longer? Could I bottle the “whey” I got and let it clabber longer and then try again? Thanks so much!

    • I was wondering the same thing! We have found raw milk (FINALLY! :)) and I’m wanting to make whey from the milk.

      • I was wondering the same thing ….. I’ve got raw goat’s milk that I can 1) drink plain & 2) make into yogurt… drain part of it to make whey & cream cheese or 3) just make the whey & cream cheese from the raw milk itself. I suppose I like the idea of making it out of the yogurt, since it’s already been cultured, added probiotics, etc. but it sure would be nice to make the whey straight from the milk.

  32. That’s because it is not cream cheese. Cream cheese has cream in it! This is strained yoghurt, despite what many comments say.

    • If you only leave it overnight like the article says it’s Greek yogurt. If you strain it 24 hours it is actually called “yogurt cheese” but it has the same consistency as cream cheese at that point.

  33. Not sure why many people say the left over part is cream cheese. It doesn’t even taste like cream cheese and cream cheese has cream in it.

  34. Can whey been made like this from raw goat’s yogurt? Would there be any issue either with the ‘raw’ part or with the fact that it’s goat’s instead of cow’s?

    I have seen a few others comments above asking this question about using goat’s milk/yogurt, but haven’t seen any replies either way.


    • Yes, you can use goat yogurt to make whey. Goat yogurt is a thinner consistency than cow yogurt. It’s more of a drink. I used a cloth to strain my yogurt and it worked just fine. I don’t think that my yogurt is raw by the time I get done with it because I heat it up, then let it cool. I’ve never tried to make it raw, just because the success of the yogurt is more iffy. If you have successfully made raw goat yogurt then I would imagine that you would still be able to strain the whey out. Once you’ve strained out the whey, the yogurt that is left seemed more like sour cream to me than cream cheese.

  35. Can you use goat milk yogurt to make whey? And do you know if it would work the same in recipes??Thanks for your time!

  36. I love this and made so much yummy fermented salsa with it. Unfortunately we ran out of good ideas for the cream cheese? I’m loathed to try it again until I know I can put the cream cheese to use. Any ideas?

  37. Trying my hand at fermentation recently. Loving it. Was reading up on lacto fermenting and it occurred to me that it’s essentially sippy cup cheese, or at least the water part of it. Allllll these years I knew there was something you could do with that stuff. (not that I’d use that for actual fermenting but….) DOH!!

  38. My whey is yellow. I let it drip for over 24 hours. In the bowl it looked like it had separated somewhat. i just wisked it together and poured it through a strainer. Will it separate again? Did I do something wrong? It was definitely not clear. I used Stoneyfield Farm whole milk organic yogurt. The cream cheese tastes good though. I think I got that part right;-)

  39. Dear Katie,
    I had to improvise with kefir, since I didn’t have yougurt and had already cut the cabbage for sauerkraut.
    The kefir cheese is great too!
    Thanks for your amazing contribution to mankind!

  40. I just made this and the “cream cheese”/”yogurt cheese” is delicious! Although, I started thinking, if all the good stuff is in the whey… what nutrients am I getting from the leftover “cream cheese”?

  41. Hi Katie
    I’m straining my first batch of yogurt ever and my whey is super milky at the bottom and can see semi clear liquid on top. Can I still use this in my Kvass? Plz HELP 🙁

  42. What if I use lactose free yogurt or kefir? Will that change anything?usually the lactose is broken down to glucose and galactose so there are still sugars in there.

    • I drink my Kefir for the millions of microbes present in it and also because it is easier to digest compared to milk….also Useful for people who have problem with digesting lactose.

  43. I’ve been making the ‘Greek Yoghurt’ for quite a few years. I use the whey when:
    • Making homemade aioli, (extends fridge life);
    • Making pancakes (150 milk + 100 ml whey, they are unbelievable!);
    • Marinating meat, mix with garlic, herbs etc;
    • Soaking grains & beans prior to cooking;
    • Using in any recipe which calls for sour milk or buttermilk;
    • Replacing/adding to liquid when making pizza dough;
    • When making bread, (e.g sourdough starter; bigga starter; ciabatta bread etc);
    • Add to homemade cream cheese frosting, extends the fridge life considerably;

    The uses just carry on.

  44. When using whey as a starter can i still use plain live yogurt if it has thickeners added? I cant have cows milk so i use goat yogurt which is generally thickened with guar gum so i wasnt sure if it was ok to use for whey.

    • I’m not really sure; I can’t see it making that much difference though; I would give it a try, just make a small amount first time. Give some feed back with the results. Bread with the whey starter really does taste awesome, it is worth a try!

    • That will vary with the consistency of the yogurt, as well as how long you let it drain. Wish I could be more definitive than that.
      Maybe someone will see this, and give you a closer estimate, but will be what it will be, an estimate!

  45. Does anyone know if this whey is casin free? Lactos free? I would love to be able to make fermented products but I can’t have casin.

    • You don’t have to use whey to ferment. For veggies all you need is salt and water. The probiotic jar had a great chart you can print out. For beverages and fruits you can use ginger bug, brine from a finished veggie ferment, a starter culture like Caldwells, first ferment water kefir and spate query kefir grains. All began options and free of any dairy

  46. this might sound silly…can I use the whey from my milk kefir? Or Could lemonade be made with water kefir instead of whey? As in just add fresh lemons to water kefir and be considered probiotic?

  47. this makes great whey for the probiotic lemonade recipe you posted. wondering if i didn’t have time to make my own if you would recommend any specific type to purchase. seems like they are all geared toward body building, etc. and i want one that focuses on the gut-promoting attributes of it!

  48. Forgive me if this was already addressed, but it makes me nervous to eat a dairy product that was left out overnight. This is generally ok? The FDA has me worried about what I eat ; )

  49. Its very easy to make whey. Take raw milk in a pan up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Add a few drops renner, take it up to 104, then take off heat. You’ll have raw mozzarella and raw whey.

  50. I am so glad I found this site. I wanted to make homemade ginger ale and this blog has opened my eyes to so much. I’m not a health nut not of particularly ill health, but I do like to consume some good stuff like pro-biotics. I’m a big pickle, Kimchi and sauerkraut fan and this is taking it to a new level for me.

    I cannot believe how much whey I have poured down the drain! Never found something I though I would like to use it in. I make my own Greek yogurt when I do gyros and souvlaki and I am sick now over the wasted whey.

    Also, my wife got on me the last time I ate some of her yogurt because I stir it…like most people do. She pours off the settled whey and likes it as the yogurt thickens up as she goes through the tub of it.

    All that wasted whey…I wish I had learned this 30 years ago.

  51. I read someone say, you CAN’T use sour cream to do this, I beg to differ. Just made my first batch of Kimchi, used whey from SC, worked great!
    I had lots of leftover juice, drink or save for next batch?

  52. I made some whey about 2 months ago. At the time it was completely clear. It currently has some white, fluffy/flowy stuff floating near the bottom. The rest is the same consistency and smell as before. Is it still good to use?

  53. Hello Mama!

    I have been so perplexed about the difference between sweet whey and acid whey and which to use for fermentation. Apparently the best way to propagate lactobacillus is to use sweet whey derived from soft cheeses as opposed to acid whey derived from yogurt. Check out below for a bit of background info if you haven’t come across it already.

    Whey Too Much: Greek Yogurt’s Dark Side-

    Can you clarify this with your fermenting veteran friend pretty please?

    Many Thanks in advance!! 🙂

  54. Confused. Is the resulting product Greek yogurt or cream cheese? Commenters seem to be saying both like it’s interchangeable…

  55. I take raw milk and make butter from it. I have been told the liquid I have left after extracting the butter is whey. Others call it butter milk. I think it is to thin to be buttermilk. What do you think? Is it whey?

  56. Amazing thread, I’d appreciate if someone can provide instructions how-to make home made yogurt either from raw or organic store bought milk. Is the yogurt machine a must?

  57. I hope this is not a dumb question, forgive me if it is. I am just trying to find an alternative for ginger bug to make cultured drinks that is dairy free as I can’t have dairy. I just haven’t had any luck since my very first ginger bug. All the rest have never made it or died during the 5-7 day period. I’ve wasted so much money on ginger and sugar trying to make it work again. I can’t get organic ginger here and that may be the problem. I don’t know. I know this is whey and kefir is made from milk also but would either of these, after the straining process be ok for dairy free or is there another alternative?

  58. Hi, I lined a colander with cheesecloth and let my full-fat organic plain yoghurt drip all night. They whey has dripped out into the glass bowl I sat underneath the colander however, some of the yoghurt has seeped into the whey also :-/. Is this ok considering I want to use the whey mix to ferment Veges or will it spoil my Veges causing mold to develop?

    Would love your help

    • I don’t know if it would hurt it or not, but maybe put it through the toweled sieve again to catch what came through. Other than that, I don’t know. I used cheesecloth the first time I made it, and when I went to squeeze out the rest, the cheesecloth broke and I was left with a mess. Maybe I squeezed too hard. Now, I use a cotton towel similar to a dish towel that doesn’t leave lint. Hope that helps somewhat.

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