Whey Ricotta Cheese Recipe

Ricotta cheese is one of the easiest homemade cheese recipes you can make! And it doesn’t even need special ingredients, like rennet or starter cultures, so it’s one everyone can make today. Let’s learn 3 different ways you can make homemade ricotta cheese!

Making cheese at home can be intimidating. Like pressure canning and soap making, it’s one of those homestead skills some folks are nervous about tackling. But thankfully, it’s a skill you can start slow with and build experience and confidence over time.

Ricotta cheese is a great confidence builder! It helps you to familiarize yourself with coagulating milk and seeing the curds separate from whey. Once you have mastered it, then it’s time to think about moving on to a slightly more complicated cheese recipe involving rennet.

How to Make Ricotta Cheese

Unlike other cheese recipes ricotta uses high heat and an acid to coagulate the curds and separate them from the way. This acid can be lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, white vinegar, or citric acid (dissolved in water). Simply stir in a bit of acid into the hot milk at a time until you see the curds start to separate from the translucent, greenish-yellow whey. 

After a resting period in the pot, the curds are ladled into a cheesecloth-lined colander and drained until the reach the desired texture. Mix in some salt and just try to resist snacking it all away! You’re going to be fighting those greedy fingers off like kittens at milking time in the barn if you want any left for your recipe!

Regardless of which ricotta cheese recipe you choose, those basic principles are the same. The difference in the techniques and ingredients simply affect how long it takes to make the cheese, the flavor & texture, and the yield. 

Curds and why separating in homemade ricotta cheese
Curds and why separating in homemade ricotta

Equipment to Make Ricotta

Quick Ricotta Cheese
Quick Ricotta Cheese

Quick Ricotta Recipe

This is the ricotta cheese recipe I make when I need it in a pinch!  If you’re just as horrible at remembering to plan today’s dinner out before 4 pm, as I am, this is the ricotta recipe you’ll be making most too. 

It’s very similar to a paneer or queso fresco cheese except it shortcuts the pressing or long hanging time that make a more solid cheese. 

Quick Ricotta Cheese

Quick Ricotta Cheese

Quick Ricotta Cheese is very similar to a paneer or queso fresco cheese except it shortcuts the pressing or long hanging time that make a more solid cheese, but stll has the sweet, mild flavor or traditional ricotta.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Draining Time 10 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Condiment
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2 cups

Equipment

  • Stock Pot
  • Slotted Skimmer Spoon
  • Instant Read Thermometer
  • Butter Muslin
  • Colander

Ingredients
  

  • 2 gallons milk
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Instructions
 

  • Heat the milk to 180F in a large pot.
  • Slowly stir in the apple cider vinegar for a couple minutes. You will see the curds separate from the whey. The whey should be translucent, not cloudy. If it’s cloudy, add in another splash of acid to increase your yield.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
  • Line a colander with butter muslin.
  • Ladle the curds into the cheesecloth and let it drain for a few minutes until it reaches the desired consistency.
  • Sprinkle the salt over the cheese and use your fingers to break up the curds to your preferred size and work the salt throughout.

Notes

Store leftover cheese in the refrigerator for up to one week. 
Keyword cheese, homemade cheese, ricotta cheese, soft cheese

Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese Recipe

If I have the time, this is the ricotta cheese I prefer to make simply because I like the flavor best. With a family cow on the homestead, I almost always have to ask myself, “What can I do with all this milk?” instead of “How can I stretch this milk even further?”

This recipe for whole milk ricotta cheese does take the longest so I usually take the lazy way out and go with the Quick Ricotta. 

Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese

Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese

Arguably the most flavorful way to prepare homemade ricotta cheese, this recipe does not use whey, but rather whole milk. For acidification and flavor buttermilk is used instead of apple cider vinegar.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Draining Time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr 35 mins
Course Condiment
Cuisine Italian
Servings 2 cups

Equipment

  • Stock Pot
  • Slotted Skimmer Spoon
  • Instant Read Thermometer
  • Butter Muslin
  • Colander

Ingredients
  

  • 1 gallon milk
  • 1 quart cultured buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

Instructions
 

  • In a large pot, stir the milk and buttermilk together.
  • Slowly heat the milk to 185F. Only stir the milk occasionally, otherwise the curds will be too small.
  • Remove the pot from heat and rest for 30 minutes.
  • Line a colander with butter muslin.
  • Gently pour the curds into the cheesecloth, tie up the corners and hang for about 30 minutes or until you like the consistency.
  • Transfer the curds to a bowl and add salt to your taste preference.

Notes

Refrigerate homemade ricotta cheese for up to a week.
Keyword cheese, ricotta cheese

Traditional Whey Ricotta Cheese Recipe

Want to get the most out of your home cheesemaking?

Then make a batch of Whey Ricotta using the leftover whey from other cheese recipes! (Don’t worry homesteaders, there will still be plenty of whey left for the pigs! Now you’re getting 2 types of cheese and bacon out of a few gallons of milk!) 

Ricotta means “re-cooked” so this is the most traditional way to make ricotta cheese. It is sweet and mild with very small tender and creamy curds. It is ideal for spreading or using in your favorite recipes.

I made this Whey Ricotta without the optional milk. I simply used the whey leftover from a 2-gallon batch of cheddar cheese. The final yield was about 12 ounces of ricotta cheese. You can expect up to double the yield with the added milk.

Be sure to use fresh, active whey within an hour or so of cheesemaking or the proteins in the whey won’t gather together to make cheese.

Because of the acidity of the whey will vary depending on the cheese that it came from, the amount of acid you use will vary. Start slowly and add a little more at a time until the curds separate and the whey is less cloudy. 

Whey Ricotta Cheese Recipe

Traditional Whey Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta means “re-cooked” so this is the most traditional way to make ricotta cheese. It is sweet and mild with very small tender and creamy curds. It is ideal for spreading or using in your favorite recipes.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Draining 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 45 mins
Course Condiment
Cuisine American
Servings 12 ounces

Equipment

  • Stock Pot
  • Slotted Skimmer Spoon
  • Instant Read Thermometer
  • Butter Muslin
  • Colander

Ingredients
  

  • 2 gallons fresh whey
  • 1-4 cups whole milk, optional (increases yield)
  • ¼ teaspoon citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup water, OR 2+ Tablespoons apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions
 

  • Heat the whey to 160F.
  • Gently stir in the milk.
  • Continue heating the milk to 180F.
  • Quickly and thoroughly stir in the acid of choice for a few seconds. The curds will begin to form a layer on top of the whey.
  • Without stirring, allow the cheese to continue to heat until the surface cracks and the whey comes through.
  • Remove from the heat and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.
  • Line a colander with cheese cloth and ladle the curd into it.
  • Tie up the ends and hang for about 30 minutes or until you like the consistency.
  • Gently stir the salt in with a spoon.

Notes

Refrigerate leftover cheese for up to one week. 
Keyword cheese, ricotta cheese
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