Homemade Ricotta

Fresh ricotta is my latest food obsession. It only requires a few ingredients and is very quick and easy to make. Once you have seen how simple it is to achieve a rich and creamy ricotta at home (unlike store-bought which tends to be dry and “rubbery”) you will find no reason to buy ricotta ever again; unless you live in Italy of course! :-)

Traditional ricotta is made from the milk whey leftover from making cheese (after the milk curds are separated to make the cheese, the leftover liquid is known as “whey”). Italian ricotta is usually made from the whey of cow, goat, sheep, or water buffalo’s milk. Ricotta means “recooked” in Italian, as it is not really a cheese, but the recooked whey leftover from making cheese. At home, you can simply use milk (and cream) and a little lemon juice (and/or vinegar) to make a delicious ricotta in less than 1 hour.

My inspiration
I recently returned from Italy where I had creamy, luscious, fresh ricotta. Upon returning to the US, I had what I called “gastronomic depression”… my stomach was very sad as it realized it had to adjust to the lack of amazing Italian flavors and foods of my recent trip to Milan and Modena.

The day after I returned, I started researching how to make ricotta and found, to my surprise, it was amazingly simple! I was so happy! Ignoring my jet lag, I ran to buy some cheesecloth and a cooking thermometer to start experimenting right away…

About this recipe
I tried (many) different recipes and proportions of milk, cream, lemon juice and vinegar to make my ricotta; I found mixing equal amounts of cider vinegar and lemon juice creates a more delicate flavor than just using one or the other. My favorite combination is to use whole cow’s milk and a little bit of cream; I have also tried with reduced fat (2%) cow’s milk with good results. Some natural dairy fat is necessary for the creamier texture and richer flavor to be achieved. I didn’t try making it with skim cow’s milk or goat milk, nor did I try it with lime juice instead of lemon juice. I would suggest using the best quality of milk available, as that is the main ingredient and the one you will taste (I use organic local farm’s milk and cream).

You can spread the ricotta on fresh bread (with honey or olive oil if you wish) or use it for any recipe that calls for ricotta such as pasta filling or torta di ricotta (recipes coming soon). The leftover liquid after straining the ricotta is buttermilk, which you can use for many other recipes including breads and cakes (in substitution for water or milk in the recipe).

Homemade Ricotta
Yields approx 2 cups (approx 400-440g) of ricotta (depending how long ricotta is strained) and 3 cups of buttermilk.
Prep time: 2 min
Cook time: 10 min
Inactive cooking time: 40-60 min (straining)
Cooking temp: 175°F/80°C


  • 4 1/2 cups (1 L) organic whole cow’s milk (see above for other types of milk)
  • 1 cup (250ml) heavy whipping cream (approx 30-36% milk fat) (click here for information on different types of creams)
  • 1 TBL freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 TBL organic filtered apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt

Tools needed:

  • Sieve
  • Cheesecloth* (click here for care and cleaning tips)
  • Cooking thermometer* for liquids/candy/deep frying (or follow directions below)
  • Non-reactive pan (made of ceramic or stainless steel). Do not use an aluminum pan as the liquid will not curdle (and you won’t have any ricotta). If you only have aluminum pans, follow recipe up to the point of adding the lemon juice/vinegar mixture.   Once liquid has reached desired temperature, pour liquid into a glass, ceramic or stainless steel bowl and THEN add the lemon juice/vinegar mixture.  Continue as indicated below.

*Note: You can find cheesecloth and cooking thermometer in most house goods stores and supermarkets.  If you don’t have a cheesecloth, a heavy-duty paper towel can be used in its place (once done, be careful not to rip the wet paper towel when removing the ricotta).


  1. Set up the thermometer to the side of the pan (if using one as shown in the picture). Pour milk, cream, and salt into non-reactive pan and stir constantly over medium-high heat, until the thermometer reads 175°F/80°C.
    1. Note: Without a thermometer – this is the point just before boiling when the liquid steams and turns into a creamier consistency (approx 10 minutes).
  2. Remove pan from heat and add lemon/vinegar mixture. Stir only a couple of times and let liquid rest for 10 minutes. You will then see the milk begin to curdle right away.
  3. Set up a sieve over a bowl and cover the sieve with the cheesecloth. Slowly pour liquid over the cheesecloth. Depending how much you make, either use a large sieve or set up two separate stations to make the ricotta.    
  4. Let it rest for approximately 30-40min or up to 1hr depending how soft you want the consistency to be. You can leave it longer if you would like firmer ricotta.
    1. Note: Ricotta will continue to firm after it cools. Do not overstrain or ricotta will be dry. IF you overstrain, and the ricotta becomes a little “drier” than you would like, you can take a teaspoon or two of the strained liquid and slowly add it to the ricotta (add more until you achieve desired consistency).
  5. Once cooled, transfer to an airtight container and store it in the fridge for up to 1 week (best to consume within 4-5 days for freshest flavor).

I like having fresh ricotta so much, I’ve been making it every week since I returned from Italy over a month ago! It has become a staple item in my kitchen. I hope you make it soon, as I know you too will enjoy it!


About Food Cookture

Alessandra - food blogger at Food Cookture (www.foodcookture.com). Passion for cooking, inspired by cultures and travels.
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18 Responses to Homemade Ricotta

  1. Tamika says:

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  2. So the leftovervwhey, can you use in in replace of vinigar, I just made idna gardners with white wine vinigar and it came out good, but yous looks good too. I already used the whey in soup. I heard you cant reuse the whey for ricotta even though its buttermilk cause it wont curdle once the citric acid is added. But could I stir it in at the end instead of vinigar. Also I use raw milk which can be soured, but can I use soured raw milk in place of vinigar.

    • Excuse my typing, but Im on a touch screen. I meant can the left over whey be used instead of vinagar?

    • hi Kristin, apologies for the delay in replying to your comment. I tried making it with just lemon juice or with just vinegar, and I prefer a mixture of both – but have fun experimenting and see what you like best. Since the leftover liquid already has lemon/vinegar to it, you may need to add more lemon/vinegar to the new batch of milk you cook. Adding too little citric component won’t make the hot milk curdle as much…adding too much will leave your ricotta with a very strong acidic taste…. I would save the “buttermilk” from the ricotta to use in recipes that call for water or milk such as cakes, scones, and breads. Adding it to soup is brilliant, i will try it myself :-) thanks for the tip!

  3. Jessica says:

    So the remaining liquid, is that what you are calling butter,ilk? Can it be used in recipes calling for buttermilk once cool? Can’t wait to try this! I’m in Australia and just bought some lovely firm organic ricotta, was great but at $6 for 200gm I know I can muck 4 times that for the same $$$.

    Also I have a thermomix, have you heard of this? I will let that do the mixing, heating and cooling for me!!

    • Hi Jessica, yes the liquid left over from making ricotta is buttermilk – I use it in cakes and breads also as a substitution for water or milk. Oh how lucky you have a Thermomix! They don’t sell them in every country yet :( you can use it for heating and stirring the milk – but once you add the lemon/vinegar mixture, make sure you only stir once or twice no more otherwise the curdling will take longer and be thinner. You don’t need to cool it, just allow it to sit and curdle (it starts immediately but I wait a good 10 min to make sure it’s well separated) then you sieve it to separate the ricotta from the buttermilk. It’s really lovely to make it at home :) you will enjoy it so much more :) let me know how it turns out! Enjoy!

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  6. capricornweb says:

    Thank you for the recipe – I’ve been on a similar journey and tried various ratios of milk to cream, vinegar, lemon juice and citric acid. I love the tang of the lemon juice but don’t always have enough lemons in the pantry so a combination of juice and vinegar will suit me. Also, I agree with your description for visually reaching the heating point. I find there’s a few bubbles forming around the rim of the saucepan but I usually take my milk to 90C.

    I must take a look at some of your other recipes too. Keep blogging :)

    • Thank you for your kind words :-) I hope you enjoy the other recipes on the blog!

      Regarding the ricotta… i’ve since made it without cream and fat-free milk (works, but not as creamy of course, a little drier, but ok for ricotta filling)… and next i’m going to try making it with goat milk since I had some goat milk ricotta last week when I was in Milan. Really delicious. I find the mix of cider vinegar and lemon to be perfect. If you run out of lemons… you can try a bit of lemon juice concentrate (just do 1:2 lemon/vinegar ratio instead of 1:1)…. I bought the lemon juice concentrate once when my local supermarket had run out of lemons! and it was ok… especially if you make the creamier version, with more fat. The lemon juice concentrate is not as sweet as a real lemon, so I increase the cider vinegar ratio :-) Enjoy and thank you for visiting the blog :-)

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  9. meredith says:

    i just had some local fresh ricotta that i got in my farm share, and it is SO much better than store-bought! i will definitely be trying your recipe! thank you!

    • I hope you enjoy this recipe! You are lucky you can get fresh ricotta, though its good to know how to make it in case they run out :-) Ever since I started making it, I have to have it in my fridge at all times, I eat it with everything! And it’s so simple and so fast (and SO yummy)! Enjoy it!

  10. Jacqueline says:

    I love the recipe! A quick question, why use heavy cream? Will I need to use it if I am using goats milk?

    • Glad you like it :-) The cream gives it an extra touch of creaminess to the texture; however, you don’t have to add it. You can certainly replace the cow milk for goat milk as I have seen some recipes with it (though I didn’t try it myself) and I’m sure it would taste great. However, be mindful that you may need to cook or strain it for a longer period of time since their composition differs (goat milk is higher in fat, but has smaller fat molecules, and less curd 2% compared to 10% cow milk). Yes, i did a little research to make sure I had a proper answer for you :-) check this site I found: http://www.everything-goat-milk.com/goat-milk-vs-cow-milk.html. Also, i would only add the cider vinegar instead of the lemon, since goat milk has more of a “tangy” taste already (unless you are able to find fresh goat milk), Try it out (perhaps with a smaller portion) and let me know how it turns out! :-)

  11. Fabi Neves says:

    I love the way you make complex things look sooooo easy! I’m learning a lot with your blog! :)

    • Thank you so much Fabi! That is the nicest compliment! :-) My goal is to simplify recipes so people actually try making them :-) But I will always try to provide simple recipes whenever possible. I love to cook and I want to share that passion with others… I’m glad you are learning a lot from the blog! See you back here soon :-)

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