How to Make Ricotta Cheese from Whey or Milk

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Ricotta cheese is one of the simplest and easiest cheeses to make at home. If you are just starting in the world of cheese making and culturing dairy, I recommend ricotta as one of your first recipes. In this article, we’ll share exactly how to make ricotta cheese from whey or milk.

In addition to being easy to make, ricotta cheese does not require a lot of special cheesemaking supplies and can be made from milk or whey from your own animals or the grocery store. While you can make ricotta cheese with milk for a creamier cheese, making ricotta with whey is a great way to use up one of the by-products of making other types of cheese. This is typically how I make ricotta in our kitchen.

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Understanding Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta cheese, Italian for “recooked,” is a creamy, fresh cheese known for its mild flavor and versatile culinary applications. It originates from Italy, and was normally crafted by reheating whey, a byproduct of cheese production, with added acid to encourage curd formation. This was a great way to use whey and reduce food waste. Ricotta is a versatile and popular ingredient in Italy and around the world.

I love adding ricotta to pasta dishes, but you can also use in pancake, stuffed mushrooms, and parfait to name a few.

How to Make Ricotta Cheese from Whey or Milk

Traditional methods of ricotta cheese production

In traditional Italian cheesemaking, ricotta is made by reheating whey, typically from the production of other cheeses such as mozzarella or pecorino, to near-boiling temperatures. You can also make ricotta cheese from milk. Acidic agents like vinegar, lemon juice, or citric acid are added to the heated whey to precipitate the proteins, forming curds. Once the curds have formed, they are carefully skimmed off and drained through cheesecloth to separate the ricotta from the remaining whey, resulting in a creamy and slightly grainy cheese.

Variations in ricotta cheese-making techniques

While the traditional method involves using whey, some modern recipes call for a combination of whey and whole milk to enhance the creaminess and richness of the ricotta.Variations in acidity agents, such as using different types of vinegar or adjusting the amount of lemon juice, allow for customization of flavor profiles in homemade ricotta. Techniques for draining and pressing the ricotta curds can vary – the longer you drain the ricotta, the drier the texture. This is suitable for certain dishes like cannoli filling, while softer cheese is better for spreads or dips.

I like to let me ricotta sit for a medium amount of time as I don’t like the dry ricotta unless it’s for a specific recipe.

Ingredients and Equipment

You don’t need anything fancy to make ricotta.

Here is a list of ingredients:

  • Whey (or milk) – You can only use whey that was made in a process that doesn’t use acid like vinegar, lemon juice, or citric acid.
  • Acid – I prefer to use citric acid as I have some in my kitchen but you can also use lemon juice or vinegar
  • Salt (optional)

That’s it for ingredients.


  • Large Pot
  • Thermometer
  • Cheesecloth (or strainer)
  • Colander

Step-by-Step Instructions for How to Make Ricotta Cheese from Whey or Milk

Step 1: Heat the whey and milk

In a large pot, combine the whey (leftover from cheese-making) or fresh milk. You can also use a combination of milk and whey. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until it reaches around 180°F (82°C). This temperature helps proteins in the whey and milk coagulate effectively.

How to Make Ricotta Cheese from Whey or Milk

Step 2: Adding acid and salt

Once the mixture reaches the desired temperature, add the acid component, such as white vinegar, lemon juice, or citric acid. Stir gently to distribute the acid evenly throughout the mixture. I use about 1/4 cup of acid for every gallon of liquid.

Optionally, add salt to taste, enhancing the flavor of the ricotta. Stir well to dissolve the salt into the mixture.

Step 3: Curdling the mixture

Once you’ve added the acid to your whey or milk, it will start to curdle. The best way to achieve this is by continuing to heat the mixture over medium-low heat while monitoring the temperature closely with a thermometer. The ideal range for curdling is between 185°F to 195°F (85°C to 90°C).

As the mixture heats, curds will begin to form, separating from the whey. You’ll notice small white curds floating in a translucent liquid.

How to Make Ricotta Cheese from Whey or Milk

Step 4: Draining the whey

Once you see a lot of curds forming in the pot, remove the pot from the heat and allow the mixture to rest undisturbed for about 10-15 minutes. This helps the curds to set further. Carefully ladle or pour the mixture into a cheesecloth-lined colander set over a large bowl or sink. Let the whey drain naturally from the curds for about 15-30 minutes, depending on desired consistency. You can save this whey to feed to your animals or to use in baking bread or pancakes.

How to Make Ricotta Cheese from Whey or Milk
How to Make Ricotta Cheese from Whey or Milk

Step 5: Straining and shaping the ricotta

To maximize straining the cheese, gather the corners of the cheesecloth to form a bundle, then twist and tie the top securely to create a pouch containing the ricotta curds. Hang the cheesecloth bundle over the sink or a bowl, allowing excess whey to drip out. Alternatively, place the bundle in a colander set over a bowl to continue draining.

Once most of the whey has drained, gently press the cheesecloth bundle to further expel any remaining liquid. Be careful not to press too firmly, as this may result in a denser ricotta. I usually find letting it drain for about 30 minutes and pressing the excess liquid is enough for me.

Transfer the drained ricotta to a clean container, ready for storage or immediate use or in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Tips and Troubleshooting

I generally find ricotta easy to make, but there are a few common problems that can occur.

Curds not Forming Properly

If the curds are not forming properly, try adjusting the temperature slightly or increasing the acidity to encourage better coagulation. Make sure your whey was not produces using an acid.

Ricotta is too Dry or Moist

Should your ricotta turn out too dry, consider adding a small amount of milk to moisten it, or if it’s too moist, let it drain longer or gently press out excess liquid.

Ricotta Recipe

Ricottta Cheese Recipe

Make youre own Ricotta Cheese from whey or Milk


  • Large Pot
  • Thermometer
  • Cheese cloth/Strainer
  • Colander


  • 1/2 gallon Whey or Milk
  • 2 tbsp Acid (Citric Acid, Vinegar or Lemon Juice
  • Salt (optional)


  • Step 1: Heat the whey or milk in a large pot until it reaches around 180°F (82°C), stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
  • Step 2: Once heated, add acid such as vinegar or lemon juice, stirring gently, and optionally add salt to taste.
  • Step 3: Continue heating the mixture over medium-low heat, monitoring the temperature closely until it reaches 185°F to 195°F (85°C to 90°C), allowing curds to form.
  • Step 4: After curdling, let the mixture rest for 10-15 minutes, then strain it through a cheesecloth-lined colander to separate the curds from the whey.
  • Step 5: Shape the ricotta by tying the cheesecloth and allowing it to drain for 30 minutes, gently pressing to remove excess liquid. Transfer the ricotta to a container for storage in the refrigerator for up to one week.

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