How to Make Ricotta Cheese

How to make delicious homemade ricotta cheese at home.

Several years ago in August, which is National Goat Cheese Month, I challenged myself to make a different kind of cheese from goat milk every week.

Some of the cheeses I'd made before and some were new to me. The kind folks at Hoegger Supply Company, my favorite place to buy goat supplies, provided the cheese cultures and other supplies I used in this challenge.

My Nubian dairy goats - Phoenix, Ziva, Firefly, and Felicity - provided the milk I used to make the cheese, but you don't have to be limited to goat milk.

If you're buying milk from the grocery store though, I recommend that you buy whole milk. Skim and low fat milk won't work as well for cheesemaking.

Making homemade ricotta cheese from goats' milk.

Italian traditional cheese makers used fresh whey to make ricotta cheese. In other words, they were using whey that was left over from making another cheese first. In essence, it was free cheese, made from leftovers.

That's how I'd been making it, using the whey left over when I made farmer's cheese or lemon cheese. I liked the "free" part, but the yield when I made it this way was disappointingly small.

Then I found a recipe for whole milk ricotta in a book entitled Cheese Making at Home and decided to change my ways. This recipe calls for:

  • 1 gallon cold milk - I used raw whole goat milk, but you can use pasteurized whole milk from the grocery store. Don't use ultra-pasteurized milk though; it won't curdle correctly.
  • 1 tsp citric acid (available here at Hoegger Supply Co.)
  • 1 tsp cheese salt (available here at Hoegger Supply Co.)

How to make homemade ricotta cheese.

As you can see, this recipe uses whole milk instead of whey.

You'll need the following equipment to make ricotta cheese:

  • large non-reactive pot
  • spatula
  • thermometer
  • colander or strainer
  • cheesecloth (available here at Hoegger Supply Co. Be sure it's actual cheesemaking cheesecloth, not the gauzy stuff used for crafts or painting. That kind isn't woven tightly enough and will allow the curds to slip through.)

There are a few more items I used but are optional. Read through the directions and decide whether or not you'll need these or if you can substitute with other items you have on hand:

  • a large bowl to catch the whey
  • large rubber band
  • wooden spoon
  • tall pitcher

I mixed all of the ingredients in the pot (milk, citric acid and cheese salt) and stirred.

Making sure it didn't touch the bottom of the pot, I attached my thermometer to the side. My "big" pot barely held one gallon. I wished for a slightly larger one, but my next biggest pot was a large stock pot that didn't allow the thermometer to reach into the milk.

I hoped the milk wouldn't go over the edge for some reason, but fortunately it didn't.

Homemade ricotta cheese: heat the milk to 195°F.

Over medium heat, I warmed the milk to 195°F.

The directions said to stir occasionally so it wouldn't scorch, but that if it was stirred too much the curds would be too fine. I'm the kind of gal that likes to stir so this was hard for me, not knowing the fine point between "enough" and "too much."

You can make ricotta cheese at home from scratch.

Almost there...

Making ricotta cheese: allowing the curds and whey to separate naturally.

It took awhile, but finally the thermometer reached 195°. The directions said I'd be able to see the separation between the curds and whey, and sure enough, I did!

I carefully moved the pot off the burner to set undisturbed for the required five minutes. Goat curds are fragile, so you have to be gentle. That explains the "don't overstir" caution above.

Homemade ricotta cheese: ready to separate the curds from the whey.

After five minutes it looked very promising, much better than the whey ricotta I'd been making.

Separate the curds from the whey gently.

I put the colander in my largest bowl in the sink, and lined it with cheesecloth. Then I used a measuring cup to scoop up the curds and gently transfer them to the colander. Gently!

You can make ricotta cheese at home from scratch.

Now that I've scooped out some of the curds (above), you can better see how it should look.

Separating the curds from the whey, making homemade ricotta cheese.

After the cheese drained a bit in the colander, I gathered the corners of the cheesecloth and used a rubber band to close it up into a bag.

I put my spoon handle through the rubber band and rested the spoon on top of a pitcher - see the close-up photo below. The cheese hung in the pitcher and I let it drain for about an hour. The longer you let it drain, the drier your cheese will be.

Draining the whey from homemade ricotta cheese.

What beautiful cheese! From that one gallon of milk I made close to two pounds - TWO POUNDS - of ricotta cheese and had almost 3 quarts of whey left over.

I suppose I didn't really need to catch the whey when it drained off, but I hate to waste anything. I used some of the whey to make bread, and I've found that the dogs and cats love the excess whey, so none goes to waste.

You can make ricotta cheese at home from scratch.

I've been using this recipe for whole milk ricotta ever since instead of the whey ricotta I used to make. The cheese has a great texture and makes a good amount from a gallon of milk. It was easy to make, and the lasagna I made for dinner with it was absolutely delicious.

This fresh ricotta cheese doesn't contain preservatives and won't keep well, so be sure to use it up quickly. You can store it in a covered container in the refrigerator for about two days.

More cheese

If you're looking for a simple, easy soft cheese to start your cheese making journey, try farmer's cheese, also known as lemon cheese. With just two ingredients - milk and either vinegar or lemon juice - you'll find this a beginner-friendly project. Plus you can use the leftover whey to make the ricotta cheese in this post.

While mozzarella cheese is a bit more challenging to make, it's definitely a cheese that we all love to eat and stretching the curds is rather fun. When you're ready for a new adventure, learn how to make mozzarella cheese in this post.

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You can make ricotta cheese at home from scratch! Just 3 ingredients and some supplies you probably already have on hand.  #selfreliant #selfsufficient

DISCLOSURE: The cheese cultures and supplies I'm using were supplied by

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