How to Make Cream Cheese and Whey

See how easy it can be to learn how to make cream cheese and whey, fresh from your own kitchen.

From "Back to Butter"
June 2014

  • Equipment setup for learning how to make cream cheese and whey from whole milk yogurt.
    Photo by John Chester
  • Pouring yogurt into the strainer.
    Photo by John Chester
  • Straining additional whey.
    Photo by John Chester
  • The final jar of whey.
    Photo by John Chester
  • Molly Chester and Sandy Schrecengost bring back the simple foods that nourished us for years, before modern food processing turned health upside down, in “Back to Butter.”
    Cover courtesy Far Winds Press

Yield: 2 cups (470 ml) whey and 1-1/2 cups (345 g) cream cheese

A traditional foods diet is usually where those who have tried others with little success or health improvement land in the end. Back to Butter (Fair Winds Press, 2014) offers traditional food dieters a much needed resource without sacrificing their favorite foods. Molly Chester and Sandy Schrecengost teach how to stock a traditional foods pantry, provide step-by-step kitchen techniques and showcase over 75 mouthwatering recipes. The following excerpt from “Diary” will teach you how to make cream cheese and whey from whole milk yogurt.

Purchase this book from the Capper’s Farmer store: Back to Butter.

This recipe begins with yogurt, which we strain and separate into a tangy, versatile cream cheese, used for delights like Cultured Cream Cheese Olive Dip, and whey, a liquid by-product that holds its own uses and benefits.

Real whey, obtained from yogurt or milk, contains an abundance of naturally occurring probiotics, which are the healthy bacteria that live in our gut and keep unhealthy bacteria in check. It’s funny that some people pay hard-earned money for vitamins filled with freeze-dried probiotics, when eating fermented foods produces the same effect (if not greater), for a fraction of the price! The “live” nature of whey also means that it can be used to activate fermentation in cultured foods, so be sure to keep a jar stored in your refrigerator for that purpose alone. It’s also great for soaking beans and grains.

How to Make Cream Cheese and Whey


• 1 quart (1 L) whole milk yogurt


1. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a large-size (2-quart [1.8 L] or larger) nonmetal bowl and line the strainer with a thin tea towel. Using a thin cloth is important to allow the liquid to seep through.

2. Pour the yogurt into the lined strainer. Cover the strainer with a lid or plate and set aside at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours. If your house is exceptionally warm (above 80 degrees Fahrenheit [27 degrees Celsius]), place this whole setup in the fridge. Check occasionally to see if the whey has stopped dripping into the bowl; once it has, or the 4 to 6 hours is up, move on to the next step. The yogurt at this point will resemble Greek yogurt (which it is!).

3. When the drips subside, remove the cover, place a wooden spoon across the mesh strainer, and double-knot the diagonal corners of the tea towel over the top of the spoon handle. Set a tall container, such as a wide-mouth vase or pitcher, next to the strainer. Carefully lift the knotted tea towel and lower it into the tall vessel, allowing the spoon handle to rest on the rim of the vessel. The tea towel should be a few inches (cm) from the bottom of the container, so it doesn’t mingle with any resulting whey. Be careful not to squeeze the towel. It should drip slowly on its own.

4. Pour the whey from the bottom of the original bowl into a glass jar or container with a tight-fitting lid and store in the fridge for future use. Place the vessel/spoon/ tea towel operation into the fridge as well, and allow it to continue dripping for 8 to 12 hours or overnight. It is finished when the dripping stops and the yogurt “cream cheese” feels firm.

5. After whey stops dripping, remove the tea towel and place on a cutting board. Add the remaining whey to your jar of whey from the day before. Untie the tea towel from the wooden spoon. Scrape the cream cheese into a glass bowl with a tight-fitting lid and use like any store-bought cream cheese. We think it’s just perfect in our Maple Walnut Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting. Keep in mind that it will have a yogurt sweetness but with a bit of tang.

6. Kept refrigerated, the cream cheese will last for about 1 month and the whey up to 6 months.

More from Back to Butter:

Picnic Potato Salad Recipe
Fermented Sweet Pickle Relish Recipe
Simply Homemade Mayonnaise Recipe
• Continuous Brew Kombucha Recipe
• How to Soak and Cook Beans
• Homemade Hummus Recipe
• Raw Chopped Salad Recipe

This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Back to Butter: A Traditional Foods Cookbook—Nourishing Recipes Inspired by Our Ancestors by Molly Chester and Sandy Schrecengost and published by Fair Winds Press, 2014. Purchase this book from our store: Back to Butter.

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