Whey to Go! 6 Uses for Yogurt’s Liquid Leftover

Are you making your own Greek yogurt yet?

If so, you’re not alone. Greek yogurt has soared popularity over the last few years and, as Emily’s recent post reminds us, making it at home couldn’t be easier.

Yogurt, and the thicker, creamier Greek yogurt, is made by fermenting milk. In 8 to 10 hours under warm conditions, the milk will thicken and develop that delightful tangy flavor. Strain it for a while and you have yogurt. Strain it even longer and it’s Greek. A gallon of milk will yield something shy of 3 quarts of Greek yogurt and perhaps a quart of liquid. That liquid is called whey.

Admittedly, this cloudy yellowish byproduct of yogurt and cheese-making doesn’t look too appealing, and your first inclination might be to simply throw it away. But not so fast! Whey is a treasure trove of nutrition, full of calcium, potassium, B12 and protein. Instead of sending this liquid gold down the drain, consider some of these great ways to put it to use in the kitchen, garden, or even in your beauty regimen.

Baking: A quick and easy way to tap into the power of whey. Replace part or all of the milk, buttermilk or water in recipes for bread or baked goods. Textures will be heartier, bread will brown evenly and biscuits will become flakier.

Gardening: Diluted in water, whey can be used to water acid-loving plants (like tomatoes) or to reduce the pH level in garden soil. Diluted whey can also be used as a spray to treat plants afflicted with powdery mildew.

Hair and skin care: Use whey as a hair conditioner to add body and texture. Added to bathwater or as a face cleanser, it can firm and tone skin and help clear up acne or blemishes.

Soups and marinades: Whey can be added to soups for flavor and nutritional value. Included in marinades, the enzymes in whey will help break down meat, making it more tender and flavorful.

Smoothie Booster:  Put aside the commercial powders and give smoothies or energy shakes a tangy punch of protein and nutrition with fresh whey.

Lacto-Fermentation: Huh? Lacto-fermentation is a method of pickling that can include whey to help convert the carbohydrates into lactic acid. The resulting pickles are tangy, delicious and probiotic (great for the digestive system). Instead of using vinegar the next time you’re pickling, give this natural, age-old method a try.

Even if you aren’t planning to put whey to use in any of these handy ways, don’t pour it down the drain. That good bacteria will promote algae growth, which is bad for sewer systems. Instead, add it to the compost bin. It’s good for that too.

3 Responses

  1. Yes, the "whey" that collects once the set yogurt is disturbed (or when you intentionally drain it out to make "yogurt cheese"–also called "Greek yogurt"), you can and should if you can use the nutritionally-rich whey.

  2. Shelley says:

    I meant whey, not why; I think my auto correct is over correcting.

  3. Shelley says:

    I have been looking all over for a diy whey shampoo / conditioner or skin cream recipe that uses why. I have so MUCH of it when I make my cottage cheese…..and don't want to throw it away.


About Mick Telkamp 


A former Midwesterner living in North Carolina, I write about my adventures in backyard chicken-keeping and suburban homesteading over at HGTVGardens, and my exploits in the culture of Southern cooking ...

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