Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Homemade Ricotta

We’ve been working on another homemade dairy project over the past few weeks.  This one is our first cheese – ricotta!  This fresh cheese doesn’t require any aging, special equipment or ingredients, and is amazingly fast and simple to make.

Here’s what you need:  whole milk, fresh lemon juice, and salt.  That’s it!
Interesting side note: I compared our homemade ricotta with store bought organic ricotta and was very surprised at how different they were.  The store bought has a kind of pasty texture, and is a little gritty.  The homemade stuff is more firmly curd textured, more creamy and fresh tasting, and doesn’t have any grittiness to it.

The process is simple.  Heat milk and salt, add an acid to curdle it, then drain the whey from the curds.
The first step is to heat the milk.  No thermometer is required, which might seem a little nerve wracking but it’s actually very easy.  Use a large sturdy pot with a thick bottom (to avoid scorching) and heat the milk until it is  just about to boil – but not quite.  You’ll know it’s the right temperature when the milk gets all foamy and puffy and almost seems to be expanding in volume.  Right when you start to wonder “Is this milk coming up higher in the pan?  Why is it getting higher…is that an optical illusion, or am I crazy?”  That’s when you remove the milk from the heat. 
With the milk off the heat source, get out your lemon juice and slowly drizzle it across & around the whole surface of the hot milk.  Then take your spoon and very gently stir the milk to incorporate the lemon juice.  Don’t do any vigorous stirring, you really just want to do one gentle swirl to get the lemon juice dispersed throughout the liquid.  Let the mixture sit for a minute or so and you will see tiny milk curds beginning to form.  Like so (pic on left):

2011-03-04 ricotta
You can do another very gentle stir at this point.  It’s hard to resist poking at those newly forming curds!  They’ll continue to coagulate and after another minute they’ll look more like the above right picture.  Beneath the white curd will be the whey – it’s a yellowish clear liquid.  If it’s milky that means the curds haven’t fully separated from the whey.  Wait another minute and if the whey is still milky put it back on the heat source until it’s back to that just below boiling point.

When the curds are well formed and the whey is clear yellow, skim the curds off with a slotted spoon.  Look at that pretty steam!


Spoon curds directly into a strainer lined with cheese cloth.  We folded ours so the cheese cloth was 4 layers thick.

Let the ricotta drain in the cheese cloth for 1-2 minutes for softer cheese, and 15-20 minutes for drier firmer curds.  We let ours drain for 20 minutes while we went outside to play with the babies and were surprised by how firm it became during this time.

We thought the ricotta could have been a little more salty to fit our tastes, especially if you’re planning to use it in a savory dish.  If you want to create a sweeter creamier ricotta, stir in 2 Tbsp of heavy cream at the end (after draining the curds).  This would make it delicious as a spread on toast for breakfast.

Homemade Ricotta

  • 1 gallon whole milk, pasteurized  (that’s 16 cups)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • optional, 2 Tbsp heavy cream (to make a sweeter, more rich ricotta)
Heat the milk & salt in a large pot until just below boiling.  You’ll know it’s the right temperature when the milk starts to get foamy and appear to be expanding upward.  Remove from heat. Drizzle the lemon juice slowly all over the surface of the milk.  Give it one very gentle stir, then let sit for 2 minutes or so, as the curds separate from the whey. Spoon the curds into a colander lined with cheese cloth.  Let drain for 2 minutes for moist ricotta, or 20 minutes for more dry ricotta. Stir in 2 Tbsp of heavy cream if you’d like a sweeter, more rich ricotta. Yield is about 2 cups of fresh ricotta.  We’ve read other online reports of a 3 cup yield but definitely didn’t get that much.  We maybe got 2.5 cups…but probably closer to 2.

Need more ideas? Here are our Top 10 Ricotta Recipes



  1. Very cool. Will have to do this soon.

  2. Did you see the post on strawberry ricotta muffins on the Parsley Thief? / could be a great next step!

  3. I am loving your site, Sarah. Just wish I could find time to try your recipes!

  4. Taking homemade to a whole new level. :) Looks like a ton of fun to play around with.

  5. yum!!!
    i made strawberry jam today, but this might be next on my list!! i love ricotta.... its so good in crepes. and just IMAGINE how good it would be homemade :o

  6. How long does the homemade ricotta last for?

  7. I just finished making this and it's fantastic. You have no idea how excited I am. I do have a question though, what is the reason for needing an entire gallon of milk since so much of it seems to be wasted in the end?

  8. Your photos really make your post so enjoyable to read...


  9. This looks delicious and i can't wait to try it, but i should point out that it tastes different because this isn't actually ricotta. Ricotta is made from whey left over after making another type of cheese, changing the protein and fat portfolio.

    I don't like albumin and higher fat is always tastier, so im hoping this will make a more delicious alternative to ricotta, so i can start cooking with it again.

  10. Forgot to mention, the distinction above only matters because someone who is alergic to milk but can eat ricotta can't eat this.

  11. i made this for the first time.... i added twice the amount of salt and twice the cream at the end and it came out great. thanks for the recipe.... TRONCONE & PERRY'S FUSION BISTRO & BAKERY


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