Whey cheese

Whey cheese is a dairy product made of whey, the by-product of cheesemaking. After the production of most cheeses, about 50% of milk solids remain in the whey, including most of the lactose and lactalbumin.[1] The production of whey cheese allows cheesemakers to use the remaining whey, instead of discarding it as a waste product.

Ricotta is most likely the oldest whey cheese
Geitost cheese is prepared using leftover whey

There are two fundamentally different products made of whey and called whey cheese:[2]

  • Albumin cheese, made by coagulating the albumin in the whey with heat and possibly acid: ricotta, mizithra, and so on.
  • Norwegian brown cheeses, made by boiling down the whey to concentrate the sugar, and consisting primarily of caramelized milk sugar: mysost and the like. Since these are not primarily made of coagulated milk proteins, they are technically not cheese.[3][4]

Cheese and whey cheese are distinct categories in the Codex Alimentarius.[5] In the appellation system of the European Union, protected whey cheeses are included in class 1.4 for other products of animal origin instead of class 1.3 for cheeses.[6]


Urdă is a Romanian whey cheese

Two different methods are used to produce whey cheese:

  • The whey can be concentrated and then moulded. Cheeses produced with this method possess a relatively high lactose content. Typically, they have a yellowish to brown color and possess a sweet, cooked, or caramelized flavor.
  • Heat can be used to coagulate the whey and optionally adds acid. This type has a relatively low lactose content and a white to yellowish color. It is possible to ripen whey cheeses made with the coagulation method.

With both methods, the whey may be pre-concentrated prior to the further concentration or coagulation of the whey. The process may also include the addition of milk, cream, or other raw materials of milk origin before or after concentration or coagulation.[5] Depending on the production method used, whey cheeses range from soft to hard consistencies.[5] Fresh soft varieties contain a lot of moisture and expire quickly. Ripened hard varieties have a much lower moisture content, making them preservable for much longer.[citation needed]

The production yield of whey cheese is generally lower than ordinary cheese because whey does not possess as many nutrients as milk.[citation needed] Yield is dependent on the composition of the whey, the addition of milk or cream, the production technology, and the composition (moisture content) of the final product. With efficient modern methods such as ultrafiltration, 10 to 20% of solids or more remain after the whey is mixed with cream and reduced.[7]

Because almost all varieties generally contain significant amounts of whey, they are unsuitable for consumption by people who are lactose intolerant. Brocciu is lower in lactose.[8]


Whey cheese is produced all over the world. Ricotta is the most important and popular cheese of this type. It originated in Italy, but has become popular in many parts of the world.[9]


  1. ^ Marth, Elmer H. (1999). Fundamentals of Dairy Chemistry (Third ed.). Gaithersburg, Maryland: Aspen Publishers. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-8342-1360-9.
  2. ^ Charles Thom, Walter Fisk, The Book of Cheese, 1918, reprinted in 2007 as ISBN 1-4290-1074-6, p. 295
  3. ^ Fox, Patrick F. (2004). Cheese: Chemistry, Physics and Microbiology. 2. Academic Press. pp. 18–19. ISBN 978-0-08-050094-2.
  4. ^ Scott, R.; Robinson, R. K.; Wilbey, R. A. (1998). Cheesemaking Practice (3rd ed.). New York City: Kluwer Academic\Plenum Publishers. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-7514-0417-3.
  5. ^ a b c Codex Alimentarius Commission (2011). Milk and milk products (Second ed.). Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization. p. 83. ISBN 978-92-5-105837-4.
  6. ^ "Geographical indications and traditional specialities". European Commission. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  7. ^ Fox, Patrick F. (2004). Cheese: Chemistry, Physics and Microbiology. 2. Academic Press. p. 532. ISBN 978-0-08-050094-2.
  8. ^ "Delicious Corsica: Sampling the best of Corsican cuisine". National Geographic. April 3, 2018.
  9. ^ Pintado, M. E.; Macedo, A. C.; Malcata, F. X. (2001). "Review: Technology, Chemistry and Microbiology of Whey Cheeses". Food Science and Technology International. 7 (2): 105–116. doi:10.1177/108201320100700202. hdl:10400.14/6879.

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