With all of the yogurt and cheesemaking we do around here, we have a LOT of extra whey. If you’re not sure what whey is, there are actually two types of whey.
Acid Whey: When you make cheese that uses lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid to curdle the milk, the leftover whey is acid whey. This whey is very tangy tasting. Because of the high temperatures it usually reaches, acid whey does not usually have any live (beneficial) bacteria in it.
Sweet Whey: When you culture your milk or use rennet, the leftover whey is sweet whey. It has a milder flavor than acid whey and usually contains live beneficial bacteria.
Regardless of which type of whey you have, they are both full of vitamins, minerals, and proteins. It’s hard to tell how much of those are in the whey, because it depends on the recipe and how hot the milk became. A good rule of thumb is that the whey has about half of the “good stuff” that the milk itself contained. Sweet whey (not acid whey) also contains some healthy bacteria that may help with digestion.
Now that we’ve determined what whey is, what do you do with it when you have gallons and gallons (and gallons) of it daily like we often do?
- Bread – instead of using water to make your bread, use the whey. Replace equal amounts of water with whey. The bread may taste slightly sweeter depending on the recipe, but most people won’t notice a difference.
- Pasta – we regularly boil our pasta in whey. It definitely imparts a flavor to the pasta that we all enjoy.
- Soup – if you’re just using water for your soup, you can replace with equal amounts of whey. If you’re using chicken broth, I usually replace half the broth with whey.
- Risotto – I usually use 50% whey and 50% broth as the liquid portion in my risotto. You can change this amount according to your tastes.
- Baking (pancakes, waffles, muffins, biscuits, cornbread) – these can all use whey for the water. If the recipe calls for milk, I would use 50% whey and 50% milk.
- Smoothies – Whey will definitely alter the flavor of your smoothie. I don’t like using whey if I’m making a chocolate smoothie. In my opinion, it complements fruit smoothies much better.
- Whey Cubes – Jim freezes whey in ice cube trays and adds the frozen, cubed whey to his smoothies and drinks to cool them down.
- Fermenting Food – I only use sweet whey to ferment food (not acid whey). We mostly ferment cabbage into sauerkraut, but you could use it with any food you want to ferment. Sweet whey will speed up the fermenting process, so keep an eye on it if you’ve never fermented food before. Also pay attention to how much salt you add – you may not need as much if you’re using the whey.
- Drinks – You can add whey to any of your drinks such as lemonade, cider, or tea. Experiment with how much to add. As you start to drink more whey, they flavor will grow on you. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself adding more of it. I like it best as lemonade with sugar and real lemons (about 50% water 50% whey).
- Blueberry Plants -Blueberry plants like acidic soil, so you can occasionally water them with excess whey. Be careful not to over-do it, though.
- Powdery Mildew – put whey in a spray bottle and spray it on your garden plants that are affected by powdery mildew (the white/grey powder that you find on cucumber and squash leaves especially). The whey acidity will discourage the powdery mildew.
- Animals – we feed whey to our chickens. We either put it in their water bucket for them to drink or we mix it with grains and they eat the moistened food. It is a great way (pun intended) to increase the protein in their diet. We’ve only ever fed it to our chickens, but I know people who feed it to all their animals.
- Bathing – if you’re taking a bath, you can add the whey right to your bath water. I’ve never done any studies on it, but I’ve always thought that my skin should be able to absorb some of the nutrients.
- Ricotta – If you have sweet whey, you can heat it back up to around 195 degrees and the ricotta cheese will start to precipitate out. If it’s not separating on its own, you can add vinegar or lemon juice, but we don’t usually have to do that (it depends on the quality of the milk). Strain through cheesecloth and enjoy!
- Soak Grains – if you soak your grains or flour before making bread or eating the grains, whey is a wonderful addition to making the nutrients more bio-available.
- Soak Beans – Soaking your beans in 50% whey and 50% water is a great way to prepare them for cooking. I don’t have any scientific evidence, but I’ve always felt it makes my beans cook faster and have a better consistency.
- Oatmeal – we mix whey into our oatmeal when we cook it. It definitely has a strong flavor, so we usually do it about 25% whey 75% water. But you can adjust the amounts to your taste.
- Mashed Potatoes – we cook potatoes in whey and water before making mashed potatoes.
- Rice – Just as with beans, I feel like cooking rice in whey speeds up the cooking process. It may just be my imagination, but it would make sense that the acidic environment would affect the rice. You will taste the whey in the finished rice, so start with a small amount and increase as you get used to it.
- Marinade – Jim is the chief marinade-maker in our family and I’ve definitely seen him add some whey when we have it available. It would count as one of your acids.
- Hair Rinse – This is one I haven’t tried personally, but whey is a good alternative to rinsing your hair with apple cider vinegar.
I hope that gives you some ideas for how to use whey! Unless you have a herd of goats like we do, you probably don’t have gallons of whey to deal with. But if you ever make your own cheese or yogurt, you should be able to find something to do with the leftover whey!