What to Do With Leftover Whey

Recently I’ve started to delve more deeply into the world of cheesemaking, which naturally results in a lot of extra whey. Since I’m always striving to be more sustainable and make use of “extras” rather than throwing them away, I’ve amassed a collection of ideas for what to do with leftover whey.

Last week a friend gave me a half gallon of raw goat milk that her family didn’t care for. Since we have milk goats and store-bought goat milk never tastes as good as fresh from the goat, I wasn’t really interested in drinking it.

So I decided to make goat cheese instead. That half gallon of milk resulted in about a cup and a half of cheese… and 6 cups of whey! That’s a lot of whey.

While it’s easy to discard this byproduct as waste, its potential goes far beyond the production process. Whey is a nutritional powerhouse, packed with protein and various essential nutrients, making it a versatile ingredient that can add both flavor and health benefits to your meals.

From protein-packed smoothies to garden fertilizer, we will explore ten creative and practical uses for leftover whey that will not only elevate your culinary skills but also contribute to a more sustainable kitchen.

1. Protein-Packed Smoothies

Perhaps the most obvious use for leftover whey is in your smoothies. This is an easy, delicious, and nutritious starting point for using leftover whey and will give your smoothies a frothy texture.

A very common protein powder base, whey is an excellent source of added protein for your smoothies. It effortlessly blends into a variety of smoothie combinations, offering a convenient and flavorful way to kickstart your day or refuel after a workout.

Basic Whey Smoothie Recipe


  • 1 cup leftover whey
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup berries (strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries)
  • Ice cubes (optional)


  1. In a blender, combine whey, banana, and berries.
  2. Blend until smooth and creamy.
  3. Add ice cubes if desired and blend again until the desired consistency is achieved.

Customization Tips:

  • Experiment with different fruits, such as mango, pineapple, or peaches, to diversify flavors.
  • Incorporate Greek yogurt or dairy-free alternatives for added creaminess.
  • Play with spices like cinnamon or a dash of vanilla extract for an extra layer of flavor.

By incorporating whey into your morning routine, you not only elevate the taste and nutritional profile of your smoothie but also reduce food waste.

2. Baking with Whey

Beyond the basic smoothie, leftover whey proves to be a versatile ingredient in the kitchen, providing a nutritional boost and a unique depth of flavor to a variety of dishes.

Whey can serve as a one-to-one substitute for water or milk in your favorite baking recipes, enriching your creations with additional protein and nutrients. Consider incorporating whey into recipes for pancakes, muffins, bread, and even cookies, anywhere the recipe calls for water or milk.

The slight tanginess of whey adds a delightful twist to the familiar tastes of your baked goods.

Whey Pancakes:


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup leftover whey
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter


  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together whey, egg, and melted butter.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
  4. Heat a griddle or skillet over medium heat and ladle the batter onto the surface.
  5. Cook until bubbles form on the surface, then flip and cook the other side until golden brown.

You can also use whey to soak your grains overnight and reduce the negative effects of phytic acid.

Cooking with Whey

In savory dishes, whey can be used as a cooking liquid, infusing your meals with a subtle richness. Try using whey as a base for soups, stews, or even as a braising liquid for meats. Its versatile nature makes it an excellent addition to various recipes, bringing a nutritional boost and a touch of sophistication to your everyday cooking.

3. Homemade Fermented Beverages

As our exploration of leftover whey continues, we step into the realm of homemade fermented beverages, where this often-underestimated liquid takes center stage. Whey, with its natural probiotic content, becomes a key player in crafting flavorful and gut-friendly drinks that go beyond the usual offerings.

Whey Lemonade


  • 1 cup leftover whey
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • Ice cubes
  • Lemon slices for garnish (optional)


  1. In a large jar, combine whey, fresh lemon juice, honey or agave syrup, and water.
  2. Stir well until the sweetener is fully dissolved.
  3. Seal and allow to ferment for two days.
  4. Chill and enjoy.

Fermented Whey Beverage


  • 2 cups leftover whey
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger (grated)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 4 cups water


  1. In a large jar, combine whey, sugar, grated ginger, sea salt, cumin powder, and coriander powder.
  2. Add water and stir well to mix the ingredients.
  3. Cover the jar loosely and let it sit at room temperature for 24-48 hours for fermentation.
  4. Strain the liquid and refrigerate. Serve chilled.

4. Marinades and Brines

As we venture further into the culinary potential of leftover whey, we arrive at the art of marinating and brining. Whey is a master at creating tender and flavorful dishes.

Whey Marinade for Chicken:


  • 1 cup leftover whey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried herbs (such as rosemary or thyme)
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a bowl, whisk together whey, minced garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, dried herbs, salt, and pepper.
  2. Place the chicken in a resealable plastic bag or a shallow dish and pour the marinade over it.
  3. Seal the bag or cover the dish and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  4. Grill, bake, or pan-cook the marinated chicken for a juicy and flavorful result.

Whey Brine for Pork:


  • 1 quart leftover whey
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups ice water


  1. In a saucepan, heat whey, kosher salt, sugar, peppercorns, and bay leaf over medium heat.
  2. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve, then remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature.
  3. Once the mixture is cool, combine it with ice water in a large bowl or container.
  4. Submerge the pork in the brine, making sure it is fully covered. Refrigerate for 12-24 hours.
  5. Rinse the pork thoroughly before cooking to remove excess salt.

These whey-infused marinades and brines not only enhance the flavor of your proteins but also contribute to their tenderness. The acidity of whey helps break down proteins, resulting in a succulent and well-seasoned dish.

5. Soup and Stew Base

I’m a huge fan of a comforting bowl of nourishing soup or stew. Leftover whey, with its subtle richness and nutritional content, can be the perfect base to elevate your favorite cold-weather dishes.

Whey-Based Vegetable Soup


  • 1 cup leftover whey
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup green beans, chopped
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh herbs for garnish (such as parsley or basil)


  1. In a large pot, sauté the diced onion, carrots, celery, and minced garlic until softened.
  2. Add whey, vegetable broth, diced tomatoes, green beans, corn, thyme, salt, and pepper.
  3. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes until vegetables are tender.
  4. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve hot, garnished with fresh herbs.

Whey-Infused Beef Stew


  • 1 cup leftover whey
  • 2 lbs beef stew meat, cubed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 3 potatoes, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup red wine (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish


  1. In a large pot, brown the beef stew meat over medium-high heat.
  2. Add chopped onion, carrots, potatoes, and minced garlic. Sauté until vegetables start to soften.
  3. Pour in whey, beef broth, red wine (if using), bay leaves, salt, and pepper.
  4. Bring the stew to a simmer, then cover and let it cook on low heat for 2-3 hours until meat is tender.
  5. Adjust seasoning and serve hot, garnished with chopped fresh parsley.

Whey’s role in soups and stews goes beyond providing liquid; it imparts a subtle complexity to the broth, enhancing the overall depth of flavor.

6. Pickling Vegetables

Whey’s acidic nature and probiotic content make it an ideal starter culture for fermenting vegetables, resulting in tangy and flavorful pickles.

Whey Pickled Vegetables:


  • 2 cups leftover whey
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • Assorted vegetables (cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower, etc.)
  • Fresh dill, garlic cloves, and peppercorns for flavor (optional)


  1. In a bowl, combine whey and sea salt. Stir until the salt is dissolved.
  2. Clean and chop your vegetables into desired shapes.
  3. Place the vegetables in a clean, sterile jar, leaving some room at the top.
  4. Pour the whey and salt mixture over the vegetables. Add fresh dill, garlic cloves, and peppercorns for additional flavor if desired.
  5. Ensure the vegetables are fully submerged in the liquid. If needed, add more whey or water.
  6. Cover the jar loosely with a lid or cloth to allow gases to escape during fermentation.
  7. Place the jar in a cool, dark place for 3-5 days, depending on your preference for the level of fermentation and the temperature in your home.
  8. Once pickled to your liking, store the jar in the refrigerator.

These whey-pickled vegetables not only provide a burst of tangy goodness but also contribute to gut health due to the natural probiotics formed during fermentation. Incorporate these pickles into sandwiches, salads, or enjoy them as a tasty and nutritious snack.

7. Homemade Sports Drinks

Whey, with its high protein content and natural electrolytes, can be a valuable ingredient in crafting beverages that not only quench your thirst but also aid in post-workout recovery. Plus it’s a lot healthier than the store-bought alternatives.

Whey Electrolyte Drink:


  • 2 cups leftover whey
  • 2 cups coconut water
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon magnesium powder (optional)
  • Squeeze of lemon or lime juice for flavor


  1. In a blender, combine whey, coconut water, honey or maple syrup, sea salt, and magnesium powder if using.
  2. Blend until all ingredients are well combined.
  3. Taste the mixture and adjust sweetness or saltiness as per your preference.
  4. Squeeze in lemon or lime juice for a burst of flavor.
  5. Pour the drink into a bottle or container, and refrigerate until chilled.

This homemade sports drink not only rehydrates but also provides essential nutrients for recovery after physical activity. The combination of whey, coconut water, and electrolytes makes for a refreshing and revitalizing beverage, free from artificial additives.

8. Face Masks and Hair Treatments

Beyond the kitchen, leftover whey finds its place in self-care routines, offering benefits for both the skin and hair. The natural proteins and nutrients present in whey can make fabulous DIY face masks and hair treatments.

Whey Face Mask:


  • 2 tablespoons leftover whey
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon oatmeal (optional for exfoliation)


  1. In a small bowl, combine whey, honey, yogurt, and oatmeal if using.
  2. Mix the ingredients until you achieve a smooth paste.
  3. Apply the mask evenly to your face, avoiding the eye area.
  4. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Gently rinse off the mask with warm water.

This face mask harnesses the moisturizing properties of whey, combined with honey for its antibacterial benefits and yogurt for a soothing effect. The optional addition of oatmeal provides gentle exfoliation.

Whey Hair Treatment:


  • 1/2 cup leftover whey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 5 drops essential oil (such as lavender or rosemary)


  1. In a bowl, whisk together whey, olive oil, egg yolk, and essential oil.
  2. Apply the mixture to damp hair, starting from the roots and working towards the ends.
  3. Massage the treatment into your scalp and hair.
  4. Cover your hair with a shower cap and let it sit for 30 minutes.
  5. Rinse thoroughly with water and shampoo as usual.

This hair treatment harnesses the protein and moisture content of whey, along with the nourishing properties of olive oil and egg yolk. Essential oils come with their own unique health benefits, depending on the oil you choose, and add a pleasant fragrance to the treatment.

9. Fertilizer for Plants

In our final chapter of the whey exploration, we turn our attention to the green realms of gardening. Leftover whey, rich in nutrients, can be repurposed into a natural fertilizer for your plants. This eco-friendly approach not only minimizes waste but also nourishes your garden, promoting healthy growth and vibrant blooms.

Whey Garden Fertilizer:


  • 1 cup leftover whey
  • 2 cups water


  1. In a watering can or container, mix one cup of leftover whey with two cups of water.
  2. Stir well to ensure the whey is evenly distributed in the water.
  3. Water your plants with the whey mixture, ensuring that the soil is well-hydrated.
  4. Repeat every two weeks during the growing season.

The whey acts as a nutrient-rich supplement, providing essential elements like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to your plants. This homemade fertilizer is particularly beneficial for vegetables, fruits, and flowering plants.

Benefits of Whey as a Fertilizer:

  1. Nutrient-Rich Boost: Whey contains essential nutrients that promote plant growth, including nitrogen, which supports leaf development, and phosphorus, vital for root and flower formation.
  2. pH Regulation: Whey can help balance the pH of the soil, creating an environment that is conducive to the absorption of nutrients by plants.
  3. Microbial Activity: The organic matter in whey encourages the growth of beneficial microbes in the soil, enhancing its overall health.
  4. Eco-Friendly: Utilizing whey as a fertilizer is a sustainable alternative to chemical-based options, reducing the environmental impact in your garden.

By transforming leftover whey into a plant fertilizer, you not only contribute to a healthier garden but also participate in the cycle of sustainability. I love this approach to finding innovative and beneficial uses for what might otherwise be considered waste and look forward to trying whey fertilizer in my own garden this summer.

Embracing Whey’s Versatility

There are so many uses for leftover whey that transform it from a mere byproduct to a versatile ingredient! From the kitchen to personal care, whey is a valuable resource in minimizing food waste.

Embracing whey’s versatility is not just about finding creative solutions to food waste; it’s about a mindset, a conscious choice to maximize the potential of every ingredient. It’s a step towards a more sustainable and mindful approach to consumption.

Whether you’re sipping a whey-infused smoothie, savoring a homemade cheese, or treating your skin to a whey face mask, each application speaks to the transformative power of this humble byproduct. By incorporating these practices into our daily lives, we not only contribute to reducing food waste but also embark on a journey of discovery, finding joy and satisfaction in repurposing leftovers.

Here’s to unlocking the potential of the overlooked and celebrating the beauty of resourcefulness in our culinary adventures.

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