No Way. Yes, Whey!

My guilt first surfaced a couple of years ago, when I started hearing reports and seeing articles about the environmental problem associated with disposal of acid whey, a byproduct of making Greek yogurt. Apparently it pollutes waterways and destroys aquatic life. I realized this was really an issue for those producing it in vast quantities and not people like me, making my weekly quart. But even so, I felt bad every time I poured the stuff down my kitchen drain. I felt even worse when I learned that the yellowish liquid was rich in protein, calcium and other nutrients. So I did some research. And was very surprised at what I found.

whey1Whey can be used as an ingredient in baking instead of water or milk, in creamy soups and sauces, or in marinades. Watered down it can be food for house and garden plants. Throw it in a smoothie. Boil pasta or potatoes in it. I’ve read that dogs like it but I have no four-legged friend that can confirm this.

So I don’t throw my weekly whey away anymore. If I’m not going to do something with it fairly soon, I freeze it in Ziploc bags. So far, I’ve had great success substituting it for buttermilk in my favorite Irish Soda Bread recipe, a tried and true one from the Sunset Cook Book of Breads, a vintage volume that I’ve been using for decades, and making ricotta cheese with it, which was incredibly delicious. Below are instructions for both.

whey4Irish Soda Bread

3 cups unsifted flour, plus extra for kneading

1 cup corn meal

1 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon cardamom

1/3 cup to ½ cup butter

1 egg, beaten lightly

1 ¾ cups whey

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Cut butter in with a pastry blender or two knives until crumbly. Combine egg, milk (in this case whey), add to dry ingredients and stir until blended. Add more flour if the mixture seems too wet. Turn out on to a floured board and knead until smooth. Divide into two equal portions, shape each into a round loaf, place on a lightly greased cookie sheet or in a circular cake or pie pan. Cut an X into the top. Bake at 375 degrees 35-40 minutes.

whey3Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Yield: 2 cups

½ gallon whole or 2% milk

2 cups whey

Stir milk and whey together in a large saucepan. Heat on stove to 180 degrees. Milk will curdle. Remove from stove and allow to stand for 10-15 minutes.

Gently retrieve curds from pan using a slotted spoon and place into a fine-mesh strainer or one with larger holes lined with two layers of cheesecloth.*

Let curds drain until they reach a slightly moist, spreadable consistency. Refrigerate in a covered glass jar or plastic container. Good for 4-7 days.

*The remaining liquid in the pot either goes into the compost or becomes plant food.


Journalist and author Laura Taxel started writing about local food before it became a trend, a  movement or a scene. And she still hasn’t run out of stories to tell or wonderful things to cook and eat that are grown and produced in Northeast Ohio. We’re delighted that she’s agreed share her enthusiasm and her discoveries with a monthly blog.

Photos by Barney Taxel of Taxel Image Group