Whey: What It Is and How to Get It

Whey, also called milk plasma, is the watery part of milk remaining after the separation of the casein. The liquid is a by product of cheese making and contains lactose, vitamins, protein and minerals along with some traces of fat.

Some Good Uses for Whey

Whey is a good addition to shakes and smoothies to give a protein and mineral boost. Whey also helps in the culturing, or lacto-fermentation of vegetables/fruits to ensure consistently satisfactory results, as discussed by Sally Fallon in her book Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.

Lacto-fermenting eCourse

How to Obtain Whey

The best whey is fresh whey that you get at home (and fresh whey is a must in some applications, such as lacto-fermentation). Their are multiple ways to obtain whey yourself…….one of the easiest is from yogurt, either homemade or good-quality store-bought. See the instructions below on the easy process of obtaining whey from yogurt.

Fresh Homemade Whey

You Will Need:

  • homemade plain yogurt OR good-quality plain store-bought yogurt
  • bowl
  • strainer
  • coffee filter OR clean kitchen towel OR double-lined cheesecloth/muslin

The Process:

  1. Line the strainer with coffee filter or kitchen towel/cheesecloth. I use the coffee filter because it is easiest for me, and I only strain a couple of cups of yogurt at a time. So if you would like to strain a larger amount, simply use the kitchen towel or cheesecloth and a larger strainer/bowl.
  2. Place strainer over the bowl. It should be sized so that the strainer sits on the lip of the bowl and does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
  3. Pour the yogurt into the lined strainer and allow to drain for several hours, to overnight. I place mine in the refrigerator and allow it to drain all night long.

The liquid remaining in the bowl is your whey. Pour this whey into a jar, cover with lid, and keep in fridge for upto 6 months.

The thickened yogurt left in the strainer makes a good cream-cheese type substitute. Simply sweeten with a little stevia, maple syrup, or raw honey and use as a dip for fruit or spread on some homemade sourdough bread.

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Disclaimer: The information in this post is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the opinions are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. You should always consult your healthcare provider.


  1. You referred to multiple ways to make whey and I really wish you had touched on more than one for better reference. I am a novice trying to make cultured buttermilk from raw milk and am questioning my consistency of the curds and whey, and that is how I found your material on making whey from yogurt.

    • Kathy, thank you for the comment. When I wrote this article I wanted to keep it basic for beginners. I really appreciate the comment and may look into updating and expanding the article in the near future 🙂

  2. You can also use dairy kefir to obtain your whey. Dairy kefir contains way more probiotics than yogurt and is quicker to make as there is no heating involved. You will need to get hold of some dairy kefir grains though.

  3. We love Greek-style yogurt, and the taste of the strained yogurt is very similar. Love it with a bit of honey or fruit!

  4. What kind of good quality store bought yogurt would you recommend? Thought about making my own later, but wanted to get started with lacto fermenting some salsa as soon as I can, so I thought about buying this time and straining it.

    • The kind of yogurt we use and recommend is Brown Cow, Plain Cream Top Yogurt. This yogurt is very good and produces the best “homemade” yogurt as well, in our opinion.

      NOTE: You really want to look for a yogurt that says it “CONTAINS Live Cultures” not that it was “MADE with Live Cultures”. If it says “made with” then it probably is not “alive”, ie. has been pasteurized after it was made.

      • Brown Cow, Plain Cream Top Yogurt has pectin added to it specifically to prevent the whey from separating from the rest of the yogurt. As such, I do not recommend it for this application.

        Sadly, almost all store bought yogurt has pectin added to it. The only brand I’ve found that does not is Seven Stars Farm, which I HIGHLY recommend!

        Pectin, which is generally derived from fruit, is nonetheless a processed food, and it negatively alters the texture of yogurt imho.

        • James, I have not seen or tried the Seven Star Farms brand yogurt. It must not be available in my area. Yes the Brown Cow Cream Top Yogurt does have pectin added to it. Though I can say that it does separate just fine. I’ve used it to strain for yogurt-cheese/whey and also to make my own homemade yogurt. I do recommend this brand because I know it works. It also produces some of the best tasting homemade yogurt imho. Thanks for your comment 🙂

        • Margaret says

          Plain, whole milk (not non-fat) Danon Yogurt has nothing in it but milk…and it is easy to find in many stores.

          • Margaret, thanks for the comment. Yes that may be true about Dannon, but we don’t really recommend it or other brands of its type because they are “low end” yogurts. We only recommend higher quality brands like Brown Cow, White Mountain, and Mountain High. With the healthy “real food” movement, many stores are beginning to carry these and other higher quality yogurts. And another option is to make your own yogurt, it is so easy, and of course it would be of the very best quality.

  5. Hi,
    I strained my yogurt and put the whey in a clean glass jar. When it settled it had two layers, a yellowish clear one and a white one. It was in the fridge for about 3 weeks and when I went to add more I noticed a small spot of mold on the lid. What did I do wrong? Was I suppose to strain out the thicker white liquid?

    • What did you use to strain the yogurt with? Cheesecloth or paper coffee filter?

      It is normal to have a little white residue in the whey, but it sounds like you had more. Which could be yogurt solids…this could be the reason for the mold.

      Try straining it through a thicker layer… of cheesecloth or double or triple thick coffee filter. And let me know how it turns out.

      • I used a yogurt strainer box. I will get something else to help filter it. Thanks

        • I’ve never used one of those before, my guess is that it let some of the yogurt solids through.

          Try just using a fine-mesh strainer lined with a double layer of coffee filter. This has always worked for me. 🙂

    • Kathy Hutton says

      I also make my own yogurt. Every morning there is whey on top, I just pour it off. Save it in the frig till I need it.

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